Screaming matches and personal attacks are an indictment of bad schooling


Is it me or are we impolite, unpleasant, and unwilling to debate intelligently? On Saturday, The New Times ran an opinion, ‘Why I hate Miss Rwanda’ , which I ran on this blog the previous day, that caused plenty of public consternation, which of course, is what a good piece of writing is supposed to do. When we write, we aim to start a conversation and when this doesn’t happen, we’ve failed in our duty. However, I’ve noticed that the standards of discourse, when this conversation commences, is extremely rudimentary.

Often, what one notices is a deluge of personal attacks on the author and nary a word actually challenging the points raised by the author in the text. Instead of revealing the inconsistencies of the author’s argument, the young writer was instead called “ugly”, told to get off her “high horse” and it was insinuated that she was unpatriotic.

You know what they call people who do that intentionally? Trolls. Defined as ‘someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community’, their primary intent is to provoke readers into an emotional response and disrupt normal on-topic discussions. While I might begrudgingly admire some people’s mischievousness, I actually believe that the vast majority of the name-calling, mudslinging and inability to debate and reason logically are a direct result of the weakness of our educational system.

Think it’s just an issue that writers face? Let’s take a look back just a few years ago during the last presidential campaign. In 2010, FDU-Inkingi head honcho, Victoire Ingabire, flew into the country to campaign and instead of actually attempting to give people a political alternative, she flew off the handle. She acted recklessly, went about name calling and got herself in trouble. But of course, that was how she thought ‘playing politics’ was all about.  To her school of thought, politics is more about bombastic rhetoric and riling people up, and less with giving them a ‘viable’ alternative.

Officials from the Rwanda Education Board are travelling to Washington DC on Friday to attend a literacy conference. While they might share certain best practices with other attending delegations, I think that they should also study certain best practices from other nations. When I was in elementary school in Uganda, we had a weekly debate in class. While the topics were rather rudimentary (for example ‘why salt was better than sugar’), these weekly sessions helped us learn how to formulate an argument reasonably and how to put our points across in a sober manner. These lessons have proved invaluable as I’ve gotten older. It’s my humble belief that if some of the debating skills I learnt in elementary school were compulsory parts of the Rwandan educational experience, we’d produce more sober-minded citizens, able to distinguish nuggets of truth from the inevitable rhetorical flotsam.




7 thoughts on “Screaming matches and personal attacks are an indictment of bad schooling

  1. Blue says:

    This is all noted and not at all surprising right now. What is sad though is that you fail to mention that anyone in any way critical of the Rwandan govt (e.g. on Twitter) gets the same abusive treatment or worse. There was a time when social media discussed Rwanda in quite a civilised way but no longer. It was once an argument for the development of more “civil society” but as I say no longer. It is widely assumed that the likes of “Phil Quin” (a nomme de plume perhaps?) is paid by GOR to dish out this sort of treatment but whatever he is not the only one. Abuse just omits or obscures the valid arguments that can be made and encourages many fair minded people (and there are many) to just opt out. It also makes Rwanda look bad. Doubtful TNT would print it but a subject for another/a guest column perhaps?

  2. Blue, I too feel that Twitter is quickly becoming a place where abuse is hurled and debate is stifled. But what do you expect when you’re given about 180 characters to formulate a reasoned argument?
    I don’t think that this type of conversation makes Rwanda look bad because, at the end of the day, Rwanda is more than a few individuals shooting to the rooftops. Does the US look bad because Fox News and MSNBC spout partisan rhetoric? Not really.
    I know that Mr. Quin isnt a nom de plume by the way. That’s his real name.

    • Blue says:

      Although social media about Rwanda is not the only place spoiled with abuse 140 characters is not an excuse. You can debate or disagree in 140 characters. If Fox is abusive or unfair no one suggests it is govt orchestrated. With Rwanda it is different. The fact that certain commenters are refused entry to Rwanda also suggests, rightly or wrongly, that it has something to hide. So the abuse does make the country look bad.

  3. Well, I cant really comment whether or not the name-calling is government orchestrated. However, what I can say is that it wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest if that was true. Plus, I don’t know of any commentators who are refused entry into the country.I live here don’t I?

  4. Foreign nationals huh? You mean Laura Seay? I personally don’t know whether that is true or not, therefore I can’t really comment on that. However, if we are talking about her, she actually blocked me on Twitter because I politely disagreed with her and dared to tweet her back. You really can’t have dialogue when someone simply doesnt want to talk. She isnt really a ‘dialogue hero’. At least in my eyes anyway

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s