Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Differences & How One Method of Argument is Used Against Hunting

Responses to my recent posts have given me reason to think about some of the assertions that I made, primarily in the area of verbal and writing skills. NorCal pointed out some very interesting facts from the USFWS and her own experience that run counter my assertions. I’ll admit to being passionate about my belief in the need for learning verbal and writing skills, regardless of the intended profession. Also, because I did teach Technical and Business Writing, both as a lecturer (Northland Community & Technical College) and at UND, it is a field in which I have some experience.

While teaching, I amassed a sizable amount of research suggesting that companies (English speaking and English ESL) were struggling with a need for employees to have better communication skills (English). This was true across the business spectrum. As a result of our discussion here I became curious as to how much the environment has changed and I did a twenty minute online search, without using any academic search engines, and found an impressive number of studies, all concerned about the problem of a lack of verbal and writing skills among employees and prospective employees. One of the quickest scans for information is the PEW Project’s studies on the problem, but other studies, including the 2004 College Board’s National Commission on Writing, all present an increased need for these skills, noting that two-thirds of all salaried workers in large companies are in positions that require writing skills. While I was teaching at Northland and UND one of the exercises I gave my students was to go through the Sunday newspaper’s “Jobs” section and determine how many advertised positions required good verbal and writing skills (communication skills) for the position. The results were impressive, driving the point home for the students, because the percentage hovered around 80% of the listed skilled jobs and it soared to 90% when we factored in ads that did not list that requirement but were for the same type of job in which other companies did list it. I am sure the percentage will vary by region but it will remain impressive.

So, the need for better communication skills exists throughout both the blue and white collar communities. But, the objections NorCal raised is that the hunters she frequently interacts with, while being accomplished in their fields and possessing high levels of non communication-driven skills, did not necessarily have the higher communication skills. She rightly points out that the lack of these skills does not reflect on their intelligence or any other social measurement, only that their careers have not called for the communication skills. There is, I believe, a separation between her experience in the hunting community and my experience and it has to do with my having interacted more with men (and women) with higher levels of communication skills in hunting camps both here and in Africa. Even though many of these hunters were from traditional blue collar jobs, because of their more developed vocational and communication skills, they were more successful in their fields and tended to rise in position and salary. I am not sure how this translates into the broader spectrum of the outdoor community but I do think it is worth pursuing, if for no other reason than it will help us to better understand the role of our media. I will offer my opinion, however, and it is only my opinion, that as higher education reacts to the growth of social media, and its dependency on more finely developed communication skills, the shift to more required communication studies as the basis of more disciplines will spread exponentially at all education levels. I doubt that many of us will recognize exactly what is being taught as communication skills, but it will be there. Every aspect of communication technology is changing so quickly that unless a person is riding on the leading edge of the wave they are in danger of being left behind.

NorCal does raise a wonderful point about personal experience (specifically hers) not being subject to debate. I differ. I maintain that all provable personal experience is axiomatic to any argument. I use, as an example, an apple on a table. In one test, if two hungry people walk into a room in which a single apple, of which they have differing opinions of its edibility, based on personal experience, has been placed on the center of the table, and they sit in chairs placed on opposite sides of the table in such a way that each individual can only see one side of the apple, personal experience will dictate how each person relates to the apple. If one person maintains that in his/her personal experience that type of apple is crisp and delicious and the other maintains that in his/her experience the apple is mushy and is distasteful then the two obviously disagree on the apple’s quality and should try to reach a resolution. If both maintain that their personal experience is not subject to debate and refuse to debate the apple’s merits then only one person will eat the apple and the other will remain hungry. But, if both agree to debate their personal experience, accepting each as axiomatic of the apple’s merit or lack of merit, and each presents the circumstances of personal experience and why each believes the other is wrong, and then defends each assertion with deductive reasoning so that each axiom is presented equally, discussed, and equally reduced to form one truth from the two; they will reach a finite sentence that will be a proof of the argument (discussion). At the end either the two will share the apple and both have something to eat, or they will both leave the room hungry but in agreement. This can only be true if both agree to reach the finite sentence. If they cannot reach that sentence then the discussion will continue until the apple spoils or one of them tires and leaves the room. (Think Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Now, what does this have to do with hunting? If we understand the principle of the apple then whenever we enter a debate with someone about hunting, wildlife management, or any related issue, if the principle of a deductive series of statements to reach a finite sentence by virtue of the provable statement (axiom) is not present, there will not be a successful conclusion with a finite sentence. How do we know the deductive series is being avoided? Simple, if the other person’s argument includes statements outside of axiomatic “personal experience” or science (soft or hard) but are emotive and cannot be proven or disproved, then the debate cannot reach a successful conclusion. A successful conclusion is when both parties of the discussion agree to the same action by reaching the finite sentence. This is why debaters from the hunting community rarely (if ever) best Wayne Pacelle or his compatriots. He is well trained in the art of argument (debate) and always includes elements in the debate that preclude the finite statement, which creates doubt about the validity of his opponent’s argument. In other words, for every one axiomatic element introduced by the pro hunting side, Pacelle (or others of his ilk and training) introduces an un-provable emotive combined with a provable element, claiming both are axiomatic of the same element. The pro hunting side is always left with the task of trying to disprove one part of the element while reducing the other, which is impossible and creates conflict because reduction requires truth which, as Pacelle and others know, will imply proof of the emotive even though it is only implied proof and is wrong.

Anyway, that’s my take on the role of personal experience but it helps me illustrate why I believe the hunting community loses so many arguments.

I can be very tiring, eh?

Any thoughts out there?



Holly Heyser said...

Galen, I still say my personal experience is not subject to debate. That does not mean that facts cannot be called into play to debate the subject at hand; it merely means my personal experience is what it is. There are times my personal experience matches quantifiable data, and there are times when it doesn't. That does not change my personal experience, period. And if I think the freakin' apple is mushy, I'm not going to eat it, no matter what you think of that apple.

It is worth noting that when I witness poor verbal or written skills among duck hunters - my primary hunting group - I am talking about what is statistically the most educated class of hunters there is. Migratory bird hunters are nearly 20 percent more college-educated than the public as a whole. But you'd never know it from reading a duck hunting forum.

The funny thing is that I teach writing in a field where writing is the end, not just a means: journalism. And I still see a great number of college students in this major who struggle with basic grammar (and now, in the age of texting, basic capitalization and punctuation). Unfortunately, top-level verbal skills are not the norm in any subgroup, and the further you veer into writing as a means, not an end, the more you will see that.

My favorite student quote ever, from a woman who was complaining about my basic news writing class: "I majored in communication studies because I thought there wouldn't be much writing involved." Jesus. She was an idiot. Mercifully, an outlier, in my experience.

Albert A Rasch said...

Galen and Holly,

I am going to have to cut and paste this on a word document so I can reread it at leisure. It's like goign to school again, except my brain doesn't do its synaptic merengue as well as it used to!

Best regards,
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles™
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