Arguing about arguing

Indulge me in an intellectual exercise. Begin by assuming there is room in the curriculum for an addition – a different course or at least a learning activity requiring a significant commitment of time. Ignore the typical reaction of “we already have far too much to do”. Without taking on the issue of time, just assume that it is useful to be open to considering priorities as they exist and to consider the possibility of how best to spend whatever time is available.

The task I am proposing to evaluate the value of adding either coding vs argumentation.

I am not certain I know what the outcome of this choice should be. I do think I know enough to know that a sound case can be made for both alternatives and that others should at least recognize this same point before assuming they can promote either of the alternatives. In the circles I most commonly frequent, I assume that most would be willing to promote coding. However, this is because coding is the option most think they understand. Without intending to offend anyone, I would propose that most coding promoters are not actually coders themselves and most are nearly unaware of argumentation.

Let me quickly provide a brief description of argumentation. I would describe argumentation as the processes involved in taking and defending a position. It requires the capacity to explain a position, offer reasons for this position, and offer evidence in favor of this position. It requires the recognition that others may not share this same position, the ability to recognize the reasons and evidence offered in support of this alternate position and the ability to compare and contrast the reasons and evidence for these opposing positions. Developmentally, we know that argumentation skills are acquired slowly and that the more advanced skills of analyzing the rationale offered by others is late to show up if this capacity develops at all. I hope this brief description allows a connection of what are likely more well known concepts such as critical thinking, persuasion, deep reading, and scientific reasoning.

It might even be possible to return to my initial challenge and use it as a “meta” example of argumentation – arguing about arguing. Having taken one position or the other, what are the reasons and evidence likely to be advanced in support of each alternative and what are the likely counters to these reasons and the supporting evidence.

I will give you some time to think before I offer my own analysis.

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