Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Closure Rule in Critical Discussion

The US is going to pay off down $35 billion of debt in the third quarter.

You heard that right. Despite our decision early in the recession to go with stimulus instead of austerity, the US is going to reduce its debt this year.

This flies in the face of the predictions conservatives made during the 2012 election.

I was told by the conservatives around dinning room tables, on internet forums, and over the airwaves that Obama's re-election was going to lead to increased debt and deficit.

There was no doubt. Obama's policies, in the eyes of conservatives, would lead to nothing but more debt.

I was told he wasn't cutting spending - he was increasing spending. Any claim the President made about cutting spending was trickery according to those with whom I argued.

When I told these conservative I thought they had it wrong, they told me I didn't understand the math. I suggested those conservatives were bending the truth, and they told me the President and the media were bending the truth.

Now we are paying off a portion of the debt.

This is happening around the same time the economic argument for austerity has been exposed as shoddy, and around the same time research has demonstrated the very rich have done just fine despite accusations of Obama's policy being class warfare.

According to the Closure Rule from Pragma-Dialectics rules of critical discussion, "A failed defense of a standpoint must result in the party that put forward the standpoint retracting it".

I'm waiting... but I'm not holding my breath.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Now We're Cooking

The tremendous and undeniable benefits of cooking your own food were on display in Mark Bittman's recent piece on Michael Pollen. But it was Pollen's call to bring back Home Economics Class that prompted me to write today.

I cook. My wife cooks. Sure, we occasionally go out or grab take out, but most nights we spend an hour or so preparing a meal. We enjoy it. We often talk about food and cooking.

But here's what struck me while reading Bittman's piece: My wife and I don't think about cooking as an optional activity. We assume that 4-6 nights of our week will involve cooking. Most of our breakfasts and lunches are made at home.

For us, cooking is an essential skill, and we have trouble understanding why anyone would think otherwise. It is, after all, the ability to prepare you own food. 

It's true; we know people that don't cook, but we cannot understand how they live in the world. We are baffled by the economics, the health, and the lifestyle brought about by an inability to cook. In this way, it is not all that different from illiteracy - different, sure - but not as different as I thought before I started writing this. 

When I stumbled over that analogy I realized what Pollen's call means.  
 Teaching young people to cook is something society has done for thousands of years. It is considered, historically, one of the most basic of skills. 

For today's young people, however, for whom only academic skills are evaluated and/or rewarded, where education is about creating a "job-ready" population, cooking as a skill has lost its essential status. 

The discussions about education have become focused on such a narrow set of skills and learning environments, that we need a progressive 'food thinker' to remind us that grownups should know how to make their own dinner. 

We should probably be embarrassed. 

In a Facebook comment about the Bittman piece, I wrote that cooking should be considered an essential part of the most basic set of competencies: Reading, writing, math, exercise, music, creative problem solving, and cooking.

Are there any other skills you'd add to that list?