In Defence of Rudeness

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MY WRITING FALLS into several categories. There’s the paid, professional writing I do for others, on a range of topics. There are historical pieces, obituaries and profiles of famous people and places. There are meditative or reflective articles, what are sometimes called “human interest stories,” concerning parenting or ageing or travel, and so on. Then there are my political and polemical works, digging into a position and attacking an idea or a public official. Today, we’re going to consider this final category, and the charge it invariably engenders, from a small minority of readers, that I’m impolite, judgemental, arrogant and mean.

This essay is an apology for rudeness in the old sense of the term apology – an account, explanation and defence.

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There’s much talk about debate these days, but do we even know how to do it?

WHEN I was in high school, I had the good and (even in those days) atypical experience of passing through the classroom of a teacher who held fast to the discipline of the formal debate. Looking back, I regret that I hadn’t had more of it, and I wonder to what degree today’s students are similarly deprived by a culture which mechanically genuflects before the shrine of debate while refusing to nourish the conditions which make it possible.

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