Summary of Deborah Tannen’s the Argument Culture Essay Example
Summary of Deborah Tannen’s the Argument Culture Essay Example

Summary of Deborah Tannen’s the Argument Culture Essay Example

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  • Pages: 4 (871 words)
  • Published: November 13, 2016
  • Type: Essay
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Have we become a world that has forgotten how to listen and debate? Why are people so quick to argue? Everyone wants to prove their point these days. In “The Argument Culture,” Deborah Tannen discusses how today’s society no longer honors the noble American tradition of debate. She explains how we no longer want to take the time to listen to both sides and definitely not all sides of an issue.

We have become a society that would rather fight and argue, often to the point of violence. 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,” affirms Tannen. We approach the world in an argumentative frame of mind. ” Why do we feel that the b


est way to discuss an idea is to set up a debate? “Without thinking, we have plunged headfirst into what she calls the argument culture. According to Tannen, we are becoming a society that believes the best way to settle a dispute is with litigation that pits one party against the other.

We would rather criticize and attack instead of rationally discussing our differences of opinion. Tannen states that, “conflict can’t be avoided in our public lives anymore than we can avoid conflict with people we love. ” But we should remember to settle our differences without offending others or causing real damage. Tannen agrees that there are times when it is necessary and right to fight and defend ourselves or our country especially when we feel that something is offensive or dangerous. But sh

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warns that we have become a generation that approaches any issue or problem with confrontation.

Tannen states that people are much more likely to call into radio or talk shows or write argumentative letters if there is a verbal confrontation taking place. We see this every day in our culture. It is what sells. Society loves to be argumentative. Consider all the television shows where ordinary people are paid a small amount of money to go on national television and fight with their friends, spouses, neighbors. Sadly, the more violent the argument is the more people want to watch it. Tannen believes that much of this breakdown is caused by the lack of people interacting face to face.

She feels that our high tech world infused with social networking, email, cell phones, texting and more has given people a way to communicate without actually connecting with each other. “The proliferation and increasing portability of technology isolates people in a bubble-” warns Tannen. “The Argument Culture shapes who we are and has a defining impact on our lives and on our culture. ” She believes it causes us to distort facts. As an example she cites the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding story. After the original attack on Kerrigan’s knee, news stories focused on the rivalry between the two skaters instead of portraying Kerrigan as the victim of the attack. ”

Tannen also says it causes us to waste valuable time, as she cites the case of scientist Robert Gallo, who co-discovered the Aids virus. He was the object of a groundless four year investigation into allegations he had stolen the virus from another scientist.

He was exonerated, but the toll was enormous. In his words, “These were the most painful and horrible years of my life. So, ultimately Gallo spent four years fighting accusations when he could have been fighting AIDS. Tannen also states that it limits our thinking and encourages us to lie.

“Military metaphors train us to think about and see everything in terms of fighting, conflict and war. ” “If you fight to win, the temptation is great to deny facts that support your opponent’s views and say only what supports your side. ” It encourages us to misrepresent and even lie. ” Tannen claims. How do we end “The Argument Culture? ” How can we overcome our insatiable urge to see things in absolute?

Tannen asks. “We must expand our notion of “debate” to include more dialogue. ” She believes to achieve this we need to stop thinking in twos. She uses the example of Mary Catherine Bateson, an anthropologist at Virginia’s George Mason University, who has her class compare three cultures, not two. Then students are more likely to think about each on its own terms, rather than as opposites. Tannen proposes that television and radio producers set up their debate sessions differently, by not having two guests discussing an issue, but instead invite three guests or just one.

She believes that we need to stop asking, “What’s the other side? ” but instead we might ask, “What are the other sides? ” and instead of insisting on hearing both sides of a debate, we need to hear all sides. Tannen knows it won’t be easy and will take creativity on

all our parts. We will have to use our imagination and creativity to find different ways to seek truth and gain knowledge. If we work together as a rational and productive society we can convert the argument culture to a dialogue culture. Tannen believes this is an effort we must make, “because our public and private lives are at stake. ”

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