Off Duty Mom

Thoughts from an exhausted mom who is NEVER really "off duty"

Archive for the tag “advice”

Be A Better Arguer: Lesson #3

“I read somewhere…”

“Studies show…”

“I’ve heard from reputable sources…”

“They say that…”

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Ahhh… the “Appeal to Anonymous Authority.”

This is a logical fallacy (definition: a flaw in the structure or line of reasoning in an argument that renders it invalid). It’s probably the one I see most commonly on social media…where all the “experts” (wink*wink) are.

People on the internet always have opinions, don’t they? But, see, most people are using that word wrong. An opinion, in its truest sense, is an idea based on an appraisal of available circumstances or data. I mean, anyone can have an opinion in the sense that they can have likes, dislikes, faith, beliefs, or interests. But if you want to be in an ARGUMENT, an “opinion” is different and you just gotta have some sources, proof, evidence…ya know…stuff that isn’t just randomness from your own head.

Here’s what to do when faced with someone whose argument is invalid because of the use of the “Appeal to Anonymous Authority” fallacy:

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1. You fight facts with facts. You fight “opinions” with…facts.

To have a quality, reasonable, logical argument, you need to have evidence or data to support your claim(s). Data/evidence can exist in several forms including, but not limited to:

—numbers,charts, graphs, and figures from recognized experts in the field most relevant to the issue at hand

—conclusions, studies, and opinions (in the true sense of the word) from experts in the field (even better is when you can find the same conclusions drawn by multiple experts).

—quotes from reputable news organizations and written by reputable writers (click on the name of a journalist on any article – you’ll be taken to their credentials. If there’s no writer listed, run away. If there are no credentials listed, run away.)

—scientific studies that are peer-reviewed

2. Comment reasonably and intelligently on your data.

Don’t merely provide a list of facts. Explain simply and clearly HOW those facts support your claim. This is actually tougher than it sounds. I consider myself lucky if I can get 75% of my students (who avidly study and practice this) to write good commentary. But, really, if you don’t connect the dots, clarifying what you suggest the data you’ve presented shows about the claim you’ve made, you’re just listing facts. Lists don’t persuade. They bore.

3. Evaluate the potential holes in or objections to your argument. How would a good arguer respond to my words?

If you can think objectively about defense, you can build a stronger offense. This, in turn, can shorten the duration of the argument as a whole and can make it clear that you just may be the only one who came truly ready to play. However, upon presenting a well-researched, supported point of view that’s pretty failsafe, you might be met with an attack on your intelligence, looks, age, etc. That’s another logical fallacy: the ad hominem attack that I covered in an earlier post. Sometimes people just feel the need to have the last word and, “bite me, donkey face” can feel better to them than letting your claims rest without retort.

So, come to an argument armed with facts, science, expert opinions, news sources, and support. And, most importantly, stay calm, stay on-topic, and keep it classy.

You’ve become so much smarter already from my Masterclass, haven’t you? 🤪

#thanksforcomingtomytedtalk

Next time: “No, Becky, ‘The Onion’ is not a Reputable News Source,” or, “How to Bring Good Data to the Argument”

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I Taught During a Pandemic and Then I Ranted About Shit on the Internet

If you’re joining our program already in progress, let me catch you up…

“Off Duty Mom” refers to being a mom who is tired all the time and thus needing to go “off duty” every now and again. It also makes a reference to what I do when I am “on duty” in the sense that I am getting paid to put up with children. I’m a teacher. I taught during the pandemic. I didn’t love it.

When the pandemic forced us out of schools in 2020, I started blowin’ people’s minds on the interwebs via my personal Facebook account. I started handing out free lessons about how to better argue with people since I wasn’t able to teach that content in school, ‘cuz, like, there kinda wasn’t really school at the time.

This is the second lesson in a series I published starting in May of 2020. It is republished here for your viewing and learning pleasure…

Enjoy.

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

Lesson #2

The ad hominem attack

The phrase “ad hominem” translates to “to the man.” When someone attacks you personally, rather than addressing your position, that’s an ad hominem attack. Weak arguers use this logical fallacy mostly because they:

#1 hope to hurt or anger you, or

#2 can’t sufficiently argue against your points.

If you’ve been called “snowflake,” “boomer,” “sheep/sheeple,” etc., your opponent has shown his cards: he’s got nothin’.

These attacks can get even more personal depending on age, race, sexuality, gender, religion, and so on.

Yesterday, in response to a dumb joke I made on a friend’s Facebook page, I was called “sweetheart.” Sometimes terms like these (honey, sweetie, etc) are flung at women perhaps- and I don’t really know for sure- because if we can infantilize a woman, she’ll be put “back in her place.” The issues will be left to the big boys. Silly girls thinking they can say words. Haha.

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Another example might be tweeting about a group of people calling them “THUGS.” This word is racially-charged. Culturally, this term has come to mean “Black men who…cause trouble…mostly by wearing hoodies and…looking SUSPICIOUS.” Other racially-charged words (aside from the obvious) might include “homie,” “brother,” and even “boy” which again, historically was/is used to keep someone “in his place.” A “boy” is not a MAN, after all, and “man,” in a weak debate, is the highest life form (according to those who resort to these kinds of tactics).

Slurs, name-calling, and other personal attacks are attempts to suggest that you are weaker, less-than, or too stupid, too uneducated, too uninformed, or too ignorant to be worthy of speaking to the person slinging the insults.

A word doesn’t have to be a slur to be a demeaning ad hominem attack, either. Consider name-calling and “jokes” meant to poke “fun” at stereotypes: Asian drivers, Rural “hillbillies,” etc., as examples. Unless you’re arguing about whether or not Asian people are good drivers (and don’t argue that, come on), bringing a cultural stereotype into the mix is irrelevant and useless.

Look — this guy is smiling. I’m going to call him “Sam.” Sam looks like he’s enjoying being on the internet. Sam is probably being very nice to people online. You should be like Sam.
Photo by Good Faces on Unsplash

What to do about it?

1. Do NOT play their game. If you’ve been attacked personally, rather than your opponent pointing out flaws in your argument, don’t respond in-kind. He’s dragged you down to his level and then you’re fighting instead of arguing if you do. Don’t just make an insult-fest.

2. Know that if someone has gone this direction, they’re either out of things to say that are valid or are more concerned with hurting your feeling than with having a dialogue. It may be best to walk away. This might prompt more name-calling, but remember how Marty McFly’s responses to being called “chicken” didn’t turn out well. Learn from Marty’s mistakes.

3. Realize that bullying and being a general meatball aren’t, you know, GOOD things. So, resist the urge to escalate the situation. Do not threaten to go to the guy’s house and punch him in the throat. This makes you MORE wrong now. Once you become the bad guy, that’s pretty hard to reverse. And, now you’ve lost credibility. Either go back to your point, calmly, or end the interaction.

In the end, pity the man* who has nothing to offer to the world or to your discussion other than insults. And rest comfortably in the knowledge that you’re better than that.

Thanks for your attention to my Masterclass. 😋

#thanksforcomingtomytedtalk

Next topic: when your opponent has no sources, just “opinions”…

*”man” used generically in reference to mankind. Don’t come at me with your “you’re a reverse sexist” bulldoodoo.

What not to do

After reading a hilarious list of recommendations one parent makes for her growing children, I decided to search my own past in an effort to see if there might be a way I could pass on the lessons I’ve learned from making mistakes and seeing people close to me make them, too.  With luck, my children won’t have to repeat some of these most embarrassing, dangerous, stupid, thoughtless, illegal, and careless moments.

So here it is:  things you should learn NOT to do…

Good times…

1.  At the age of 19 do not get rip-roaring drunk on St. Patrick’s Day and then throw up in front of a city police officer.  He may chuckle at your misfortune at the time, but he is only not arresting you because the paddywagon is full.  Know your limits, kids.  The next time there just might be a seat for you.

2.  Pulling the fire alarm in a dorm full of students – multiple times – over multiple days – is not funny.  And it is a felony.  Ooops.

3.  When you get your first real job, keep your mouth shut for the first three months.  This is a hard-and-fast rule.  Learn it.  Live it.  Your new coworkers are not your friends yet and you don’t know who is the office snitch, who is the office kiss-ass, who is the office gossip, who is the office backstabber and who is the office slut.  You do not want to find out who these people are the hard way.  Speak to no one about anything other than your immediate projects for at least three months.  For realsies.

4.  Everyone needs therapy.  EVERYONE.  So, when you navigate through life, do not waste time here.  Be jealous of no one.  Everyone is carrying baggage.  Some of us are just better at hiding it.  Take making friends seriously.  Only a few people, in the end, will truly be there for you, so choose them very wisely.  And, if you choose to allow the people with the wrong kind of baggage into your world, you’ll learn some valuable lessons, but only after cleaning up a whole lot of crap first.

5. Do not trust people who do not have real names.  If you know a bunch of guys who are known only as “Iggy Fresh,” “The Sandman” and “Blue Cheese,” you should think of keeping them at arm’s length.  If you find that as a college freshman, after a night of partying, you are no longer able to see your own reflection in a mirror, but are able to see everything else in the room, you should stop hanging out with these guys altogether.  They are bad news.

6.  Under no circumstances should you believe that there can be such a things as “friends with benefits.”  I have seen this situation end in every possible scenario from simple jealousy to date rape.  Stop it.

7.  Speaking of this…If you own a penis, keep it to yourself.  There is no limit to the trouble that thing can get you into.  Make a commitment and fuck only the woman who you also plan to take to dinner the next night and introduce to your friends.

8. Do not be a bump on a log.  In childhood, the teen years, college and young adulthood, laziness and inactivity lead to everything from obesity to an inability to form meaningful relationships.  You need to learn teamwork and discover your interests and talents.  Join a club, play a sport, volunteer.  Get out of your mama’s basement, yo.  Walk away from the X-Box.

Like, totally…

9.  Dumb is not sexy.  Ladies, if you think that the way to snag a man is to twirl your hair, giggle and say that math is hard, you will surely attract only men who like vapid, useless, mindless women.  Can you think of the kind of men who prey on vapid, useless, mindless women?  Do they sound like keepers?  Read a book.  When the right time comes, the right man will find your extensive knowledge about re-purposed fossil fuels and the Electoral College process to be intensely attractive.

10.  Finally, do not ever think that you are “grown up.”  When you are young and naive, you want everyone to think you are “grown up” so that they will give you responsibilities and trust and respect.  When you get older and wiser you realize that being “grown up” sucks.  If you keep a sense of humor and remember to try to stay (appropriately) youthful, you’ll remember that you are never a completed model, there is always room for growth and there is always time for FUN.  Never be too busy to make snow angels.

 

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