Great Debaters

They say you can’t win an argument with a liar, but I disagree: I say you can’t win an argument with a debater. Which is why I’ve never been a big fan of debating. I’m all for arguing: if I think I’m right (and I usually do), I can argue for hours. But debating–the bloodless back and forth between two people who don’t even really believe in what they’re saying (they’re not trying to be right, they’re trying to win) has always seemed to me rather cold when compared to a full scale argument. I mean, in a traditional debate you don’t even get to choose which side you’re going to be on–they tell you what your position is. To me, that just seems plain contrary–which is what makes it the perfect occupation for children.

So perfect, is it, in fact, that I don’t know why they wait until the later grades to offer debate clubs; no one is better at arguing a point they do not believe in–just to win “points”–than a child. Consider, if you will, just a few of the “debates” I have gotten into with my elementary-aged children:

Jackets don’t keep you warm.

Food doesn’t satisfy hunger.

Rain won’t make you wet.

Now, as I mentioned before: I love to argue. I understand completely the unwillingness to concede even the smallest, most insignificant point if that point might make it possible for you to hold on to a position long after it has been proven untenable, but even I must bow down before the masters who can insist, as they stand dripping on the carpet, that taking an umbrella to school would not have changed the outcome because “It’s not the rain falling down that gets people wet, but rather the puddles splashing up (thereby rendering umbrellas nothing more than quaint little affectations).

Or consider what happened the other day, when my daughter, Clementine, managed to burn through $75 of Bookman’s credit in one trip the store, and yet had nothing of any real value to show for it. Although I conceded that the credit, having arisen from the blessed removal of all things Junie B. Jones-ish and Magic Treehouse-ridden from her shelves, was entirely hers to spend, I lamented the fact that the majority of it had been spent on movies so bad that were we to rent them from Netflix they probably would have come with a note that said “Please flush after viewing.” I’m talking about movies like Anacondas. (Not, Anaconda, a movie dreadful enough in its own right, but rather its sequel, Anacondas, a movie so bad that even Ice-T wouldn’t agree to be seen in it.)

Now, I know that taste is an entirely subjective matter–I realize that the world is somehow big enough to encompass both Fratelli’s and Dominos’ pizza (okay, that one’s still a little hard to wrap my head around)–but the thing is, not even Clementine liked these movies. They were simply the first objects to touch her hands once the spending lust took her–which is what really annoyed me about the purchase.

“Money just burns a hole in your pocket, doesn’t it?” I sighed when she came back with her stack of F+ movies.

“No,” she shot back. “I like these movies.”

And there it was: just like she had reached her hand into the bag and pulled out “Resolved: Anacondas does not suck,” she was ready to debate. Forget the fact that those movies would be sitting unopened next to the TV for the next month (“I’ll watch those later; America’s Funniest Home Videos is on again”); right here, right now, she was ready to debate her position with the cool certainty of the captain of the forensics team. And all the credibility of someone who doesn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain.

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