My last post, "12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes about Grammar Mistakes Makes," drew a lot of comments, some supportive and some critical. But no point drew as much ire as my claim that irregardless is a word.
|Scooped by GoogleLitTrips Reading List|
13 December 2013
I refuse to use the word IRREGARDLESS of the argument presented in this intriguing article!
BUT, I would certainly use this article in my efforts to meet CCSS expectations for informational reading.
Jonathon Owen makes a solid case for his argument that "irregardless" is a word; like it or not. And, in doing so he presents a fine example of every element of an excellent persuasive argument that models what we hope our students will absorb in learning to write persuasive arguments. It has a respectful and thoughtful concession, a clear thesis, many solid examples and reasoned commentary requiring readers to consider arguments that may be at variance from their existing opinions on the matter, and in his conclusion walks readers through palatable reasons for coming to terms with the possibility of the necessity to adjust their opinions. In doing so, Owen relies upon a calm, unemotional discussion of the kind of higher-level critical thinking skills that we profess to promote.
Yet, for so many of us, when we teach persuasive writing, students too often see the task as figuring out how to present some sort of trump card that knocks out counter-arguments and implies the writer has the right do take a victory lap while the losers hang their heads in shameful defeat.
We can certainly look to the concept of assuming argument should result in a black OR white, winner or loser outcome. Our judicial system is based upon an effort to determine guilt or innocense. Those of us who follow trials of note are often disappointed when one side or the other does not walk away having "won." A hung jury is almost always disappointing to both sides and thereby resented by many. We don't like games that end in a tie or a draw. This is not to be criticized. There ARE subjects where expecting a clear "winner" and clear "loser" can be expected.
We even try to encourage students to employ tricks to influence those judging our arguments that truthfully can be used to misdirect attention in hopes of influencing the critically inattentive.
"Appeal to emotion!" as in...
I'm thinking "I want you to let me slip in this questionable statement without thinking too much about it."...
...when I say, "The American People don't want ___________.(fill in the blank with a proposal made by the "other side's candidate")
Or, other emotional appeals based upon overgeneralization and misdirection such as...
, "Anyone who cares about children would want this book removed from the curriculum regardless of the foolishness of some silly literary society having given it an award so Mr. _________ has to be fired for imposing it on our children in his AP English course."
Where is the critical thinking when the implication of a persuasive argument is that anyone who professes an opposing view to his or her own opinion is to be thought of as:
or (whatever other emotional word can be counted upon to trigger a desired Pavlovian response from the less critically thoughtful)?
OH MY! Did you catch that? I could have used a much more neutral term to describe the misdirective influence of appealing to emotion rather than logic, than using a term loaded with negative connotation like "Pavlovian response," and thereby implying that responding to emotional appeals without question is the sign of an unthinking person; a characteristic upon which those with the weaker argument can hope to garner support from the undecided.
Okay, I've been playing a sort of game in the last couple of paragraphs. If I ended my comments at the end of the preceding paragraph leaving readers to assume that my position is that emotional appeals are always bad, I would be guilty of the same "uncritical thinking" I appear to be condemning. There are reasons to use emotional appeal that are not malicious and misdirecting. Emotional appeals can amplify and clarify the facts so that they can or will be considered more thoroughly.
But I had something else in mind when I scooped this article.
In terms of exemplifying and encouraging higher-level critical thinking, Owen's article provides an interesting example of how persuasive argument might provide satisfactory outcomes even when intelligent people disagree. Compromise where neither side gets a complete victory over the other, frequently leaving both sides dissatisfied and/or put on the spot in having to explain to their various supporters why they "flip-flopped" WHILE ALSO supplying their opposition with devastating opportunities via targeted talking points to "prove the other side's inconsistent position statements. Persuasive argument need not always be seen as a winner take all by any means game.
Owen's argument neither calls for a winner or lose judgment call. Nor does it ask proponents of either side of the controversy to sacrifice strongly held positions for the mere sake of compromise.
Owen's argument offers both sides some satisfaction without calling for either side to "sacrifice" strongly held beliefs. He does this by shining a new light on the subject. He accomplishes this by recognizing that there are TWO facets to the controversy rather than one. The first being whether "irregardless" is a word or not? The second being "If it is a word do I have to give in and allow my students to use it?
The outcome is more satisfying to both sides when there's a real and clear win for everyone. Those who come to recognize that there are excellent reasons why "irregardless" does qualify as a being a word, yet there are still good reasons to maintain that its use ought to be discouraged as nonstandard English. While those who are already in agreement that the word is a word, can also accept that there are good reasons to discourage its use.
Everybody wins AND we can put the argument to rest.
Ain't that great?
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