UDWPA Questions for April, 2011
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Question 1 In her essay “The Argument Culture,” Deborah Tannen claims, “the argument culture urges us to approach the world, and the people in it, in an adversarial frame of mind.” Do you agree with Tannen’s observation and with her claim that the impacts of this approach are negative?
Write an essay that answers this question with specific reference to Tannen’s text. Your essay should include your own defensible thesis statement and reasons and examples from your studies, experience, or observations that develop and support it.
Question 2. In her essay “The Argument Culture,” Deborah Tannen argues that we need to “find ways to change the argument culture to a dialogue culture.” Explain how this change could be made, and how your solution(s) would address the problems Tannen describes.
Write an essay that answers this question with specific reference to Tannen’s text. Your essay should include your own defensible thesis statement and reasons and examples from your studies, experience, or observations that develop and support it. DEBORAH TANNEN
A professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, Deborah Tannen is also a best-selling author of many books on discourse and gender, including Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk Among Friends (1984), You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (1990), Talking from 9 to 5 (1994), and The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue (1998). Throughout her career, Tannen has focused on how men and women have different conversational habits and assumptions, whether they talk on the job or at home.
THE ARGUMENT CULTURE
Balance. Debate. Listening to both sides. Who could question these noble American traditions? Yet today, these principles have been distorted. Without thinking, we have plunged headfirst into what I call the "argument culture." The argument culture urges us to approach the world, and the people in it, in an adversarial frame of mind. It rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get anything done: The best way to discuss an idea is to set up a debate; the best way to cover news is to find spokespeople who express the most extreme, polarized views and present them as "both sides"; the best way to settle disputes is litigation that pits one party against the other; the best way to begin an essay is to attack someone; and the best way to show you're really thinking is to criticize. More and more, our public interactions have become like arguing with a spouse. Conflict can't be avoided in our public lives any more than we can avoid conflict with people we love. One of the great strengths of our society is that we can express these conflicts openly. But just as spouses have to learn ways of settling their differences without inflicting real damage, so we, as a society, have to find constructive ways of resolving disputes and differences. The war on drugs, the war on cancer, the battle of the sexes, politicians' turf battles — in the argument culture, war metaphors pervade our talk and shape our thinking. The cover headlines of both Time and Newsweek one recent week are a case in point: "The Secret Sex Wars," proclaims Newsweek. "Starr at War," declares Time. Nearly everything is framed as a battle or a game in which winning or losing is the main concern. The argument culture pervades every aspect of our lives today. Issues from global warming to abortion are depicted as two-sided arguments, when in fact most Americans' views lie somewhere in the middle. Partisanship makes gridlock in Washington the norm. Even in our personal relationships, a "let it all hang out" philosophy emphasizes people expressing their anger without giving them constructive ways of settling differences.
SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO FIGHT
There are times when it is necessary and right to fight—to defend your country...
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