Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 11.59.31 AMWhile the reasoning and argumentation skills you learn are valuable, the ethos of debating can be corrosive. CNN’s innovative and idiotic 20th century talk show, Crossfire, encouraged us to sharply divide issues into left and right. Its adversaries would entertain audiences with stark, contrasting ideological positions that they (usually) understood were grossly oversimplified. But the popular program accelerated the cultural and media impulse to divide the world in two – left and right, red and blue, liberal and conservative, and other phony binaries.

 

“I’m Right. You Must Be Wrong.”
National politics and some global confrontations today often reflect the, “I’m right so you must be wrong,” polarization that made Crossfire popular. Former U.S. House Speaker, Newt Gingrich, embodies the madness. For years, he was one of the most thoughtful proponents of healthcare transformation; when Obamacare became an object of debate, Gingrich suddenly abandoned his own longstanding leadership to vociferously advocate the very opposite.

“Collaboration
rather than
debate needs to
be the 21st
century model””

Our 21st century world defies binaries.  Contemporary issues are multi-dimensional. Today’s most powerful challenges require us to tightrope through competing interests and perspectives that have equivalent but different rationale and merit. Collaboration rather than debate needs to be the 21st century model. Progress through compromise rather than winning represents the ethos that must emerge. If the left or right had all the answers, history wouldn’t be such a muddle.

Binary or Multi-Dimensional
Even disruption, the rapid and dramatic replacement of one solution by another usually results from a series of collaborations – overt or iterative. In fact, it’s questionable whether our paradigm of breakthrough discoveries and inventions as the work of singular individuals isn’t an exception rather than a rule. It’s fodder for, ahhh, debate: has human society always has been more collaborative than competitive, and multidimensional rather than binary?

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