So as we continue to discuss the events of Ferguson, its ramifications and what it teaches us about American society, avoid speaking with maxims. Regardless of your opinion on the verdict, consider the other side honestly, even when it seems that no one does the same.
When challenged about the effect on their psyches of what I generically dub anti-social media, students assure me that they are fully social, but their integration and communication is with a society other than the one in the room.
Josh Weinstein thinks about rhetoric and argumentation with more nuance and subtlety than anyone I know. At the moment, he's developing Argmaps, a web-based platform for structured inquiry into really hard questions.
Some insurance companies are canceling policies, so therefore our president must have lied. Nope. Not true. It is a handy talking point for the opposition, but it is in fact, just another logical fallacy. Once you start listening for them, you'll find them everywhere.
The economy doesn't actually have needs, desires or preferences - we do. If our elected representatives, now working on the economy's behalf, want to screw us, we at least deserve dinner first. Something a little nicer than you can purchase with food stamps.
The whole point of providing reasons to justify privilege is to raise it beyond critique, take it out of the realm of politics and place it in the realm of nature, where it can be seen as normal, "nobody's fault," as natural as morning dew or death.
New York Times columnists David Brooks and Thomas Friedman's columns highly critical of whistleblower Edward Snowden share the same deceptive rhetorical tricks intended to muddle our understanding of the issues involved.
I cannot imagine a circumstance in which he would get my vote. (Well, maybe I can -- if for instance he were running against Ted Cruz.) But there are things about the man himself that I greatly admire.
"Reform" is a word we have lost and conservatives have taken over. Reform has become a code word for decreasing Social Security and Medicare benefits, for commodifying, marketizing, and privatizing public education, de-funding public higher education and insuring that no rich child is left behind.
If you want to learn from the world's great orators and become a more compelling, memorable writer and speaker, Joe Romm's "Language Intelligence: Lessons on Persuasion From Jesus, Shakesphere, Lincoln, and Lady Gaga" is the place to start.
I reject the premise that rational argument on gay rights has outlived its usefulness. Watching the rapid shift in public support lately -- a recent poll suggests that 58% of Americans favor marriage equality -- it's easy to forget that plenty aren't there yet.
The way we talk about rape in the media often illustrates the crime as a violent crime that occurs in dark alleys (which it is) but this neglects the idea it can happen at a party, or a date, or at a friend's house. Our words affect how people perceive issues.
No one in his or her right mind would spend over a billion to win an election unless the value of victory was much higher than that, which in the case of winning the presidency includes influence over trillions in spending (not to mention the other extraordinary powers and perks of office).
Far from being some form of esoteric knowledge, critical thinking turns out to be one of the more easy-to-learn and pragmatic skills available to all. Or at least all those willing to put in the reasonable amount of work needed to achieve success.
Why would members of a political party repeatedly antagonize potential voters? One reason: in their hearts they really do not believe that members of these groups are, or have any right to be, included as active participants in the political conversation of this country.
Occasionally, candidates for electoral office seem even less aware than the rest of the populace about what "democracy" means or ought to mean. Once in a while -- not often enough -- they pay a price at the polls for their obtuseness. This election was one such time.