It’s been an interesting couple of months of discussion here in Cochrane about the implementation (or not) of a public transportation system. Thankfully, members of Town Council have seen the light a bit and realized that a public plebiscite on the matter is not in the interests of anyone and have rescinded that plan. Public engagement is moving forward though, which should have been the approach in the first place (not just with transit).
What’s been most interesting is listening to the arguments posed by opponents and proponents of transit, and asking some questions about the kinds of arguments. Not everything that people say or write is a valid reason that ultimately supports their point.
The DON’Ts and DO’s of debate:
Don’t make it personal. It’s called an “ad hominem” (personal attack), and is a staple of elections the world over. When trying to build a community, it takes the community out of it and makes it about individuals.
Don’t try and oversimplify. It’s not simple. That’s OK. Trying to reduce complex decisions down to “it’s all about my taxes” doesn’t do the discussion, or the community, any favors.
Don’t provide misleading information. Apparently there was a time when we were going to build the bus barns on top of the Lion’s rodeo grounds in Glenbow. Because that was likely to happen.
Don’t throw the kitchen sink into the mix. Remember the logo “fiasco”? What about the Humane Society funding? Unrelated but emotional arguments are called “Red Herrings“. They may have a ring of truth, but because they’re not actually related to what’s being discussed, they help to distract people from the matter at hand
Do present your case with facts, figures, stories… evidence works in the courtroom, and should be provided to back up arguments wherever possible.
Do stay focused and find agreement on what is actually being discussed. Obviously some people in this town want to talk about tax increases. Others want to discuss mobility for youth. Still others wonder about increased economic opportunities. Finding agreement on the topic at hand helps immensely.
Do get informed. The information is out there, usually at your fingertips on the internet or an easy phone call to someone involved.
There we are, my top couple of favorite false and misleading kinds of arguments. For more on these and other types of argumentation, I highly recommend checking out Anthony Weston’s “A rulebook for arguments”.