Common mistake: Addressing the wrong debate

12 08 2011

To what extent has technology had a negative impact on the skill levels of people? (2010)

A common mistake occurs when one tries to argue the “small extent” stand – that technology has not had a negative impact on the skill levels of people.

When this stand is taken, a common error is to argue that technology has had a positive impact on the skill levels of people.

Why is this wrong?

Consider this:

Is the question asking

  1. Is the impact (of technology on skill levels) positive or negative? OR
  2. Is the negative impact (of technology on skill levels) significant or insignificant?

In other words, what should your train of thought look like?

1.
Technology
–> positive or negative impact?

OR

2.
Technology
–> What are the arguments for negative impacts?
——> Are these valid arguments?

The answer is option (2), and that’s where the debate lies. Not in whether it’s impact is positive or negative, but in whether or not it is negative. And there’s a crucial difference between the two.

Sample paragraphs

Wrong:
Technology has not had a negative impact on the skill levels of people; in fact its effect has been positive. Thanks to the technology that supports globalisation, we are now more exposed to other cultures. This has increased our understanding of different cultures, and with the help of mass communication technology, we are actually more skilled in communicating with people of other cultures. Thus, technology actually has a positive (rather than a negative) impact on the skill levels of people.

This approach is incorrect as it merely talks about the positive impacts (Option 1). 

Better, but still wrong:
Some might argue that technology has had a negative impact on the skill levels of people because electronic devices such as our computers and hand phones have made us less skilled in communicating with people, face-to-face. Instead , we hide behind computer screens and are no longer able to discern subtle changes in a person’s body language. We omit articles,  garble grammar and scramble syntax, all for the sake of “convenience” in texting our messages across – our ability to craft language is eroded. We lose all these once-valued social and communication skills, all because of technology. However, we also are now more exposed to other cultures. This has increased our understanding of different cultures, and with the help of mass communication technology, we are actually more skilled in communicating with people of other cultures. Thus, technology actually has a positive (rather than a negative) impact on the people’s communication and social skills.

The approach here is correct – start by acknowledging the negative impact, then debate on that point. However, the logic makes no sense – the counter-argument and rebuttal are both talking about different types of social skills. The fact that we can now communicate to people in different countries better does not in any way reconcile the fact that we can’t read body language or string sentences together.

Correct:
Some might argue that technology has had a negative impact on the skill levels of people because electronic devices such as our computers and hand phones have made us less skilled in communicating with people, face-to-face. Instead, opponents point to the fact that we hide behind computer screens and are now unable to discern subtle changes in a person’s body language. We omit articles,  garble grammar and scramble syntax, all for the sake of “convenience” in texting our messages across – our ability to craft language is eroded. We lose all these once-valued social and communication skills, they argue, all because of technology. However, what they fail to appreciate is that technology advances. It evolves with the needs of society. One could argue that it was precisely because of these complaints that we now have Skype and Face Time; that we now have iPhones and iPads with qwerty keyboards so that iTypeInFullSetences. Technology responds to our needs such that we do not lose any of these skills. No, technology has not had a negative impact on our skill levels, and those who believe so are blind to the fact that technology advances.

Correct approach, coupled with logic that makes sense.


Actions

Information

16 responses

12 08 2011
Ms De Souza’s 2010 Paper One Review « PROGRESS IN G.P.

[…] Common mistake: Addressing the wrong debate (Technology) […]

12 08 2011
livreordie

I’ve been telling this FOREVER.

They can also argue that the negative impact is limited (deal with the extent) and that it may be premature to deem technology’s impact on our skills as negative overall (deal with temporal context / time).

13 08 2011
Adrienne de Souza

One idea that I really liked was by a student who conceded that we’ve lost some skills, this isn’t actually a negative impact because most of the skills we’ve lost are obsolete anyway.

13 08 2011
thefoo

I have many essays that don’t even deal with skill, perhaps being almost self-referential in the process.

13 08 2011
Reinforcements Have Arrived… « Gee Pee Land

[…] what extent has technology had a negative impact on the skill levels of people?” This post from Ms. De Souza talks about how you have to deal with the skeptical opinion that the impact has […]

14 08 2011
Mike

I really appreciate your posts as they are very helpful for my GP study.But I still have some confusion regarding your approach to the topic,could you please help me out?
1.As you mentioned early that the correct approach to the question is to expound on the viewpoints on the negative effects brought about by technology,and examine their validity,whether it is correct to rebut the view of “tech causing negative effect…”and conclude that “tech actually has posed no threat to the skill levels…”

2.Did you mean that if I talk about the positive impact of tech,i have fallen into the pitfall,and what i can argue are merely whether tech has negative effect or to what extent, as opposed to both sides of the tech impact?

14 08 2011
Adrienne de Souza

Hi Mike,

To answer your second question, yes, it’s very likely (or rather, I’m quite certain) that you have fallen into the pitfall. And yes, you’re right about what you were supposed to be arguing instead.

14 08 2011
Mike

Thanks a lot!^_^

21 08 2011
Terence

Hi i was wondering how do we then assess if the argument for negative impacts is truly negative.The approaches in the examples given are mostly rebutting the validty of the negative impact.But what if the argument is rlly valid,there seems to be nothing to assess about.Or do we bring out the counter arguments for negative impacts and rebutt these arguments and then conclude that what i argue about the negative impacts is true

21 08 2011
Terence

What i mean was for eg:Some might argue that technology has had a negative impact on the skill levels of people because electronic devices such as our computers and hand phones have made us less skilled in communicating with people, face-to-face. Instead, opponents point to the fact that we hide behind computer screens and are now unable to discern subtle changes in a person’s body language. We omit articles, garble grammar and scramble syntax, all for the sake of “convenience” in texting our messages across – our ability to craft language is eroded. We lose all these once-valued social and communication skills, they argue, all because of technology.

Then from here on how do we continue if it was rllty true?

21 08 2011
Adrienne de Souza

The simplest way would be to omit the rebuttal – so just end the argument before the “opponents point to the fact” bit.

The other way would be to counter the rebuttal, making the argument three-tiered instead of two-tiered.

Sent from my iPhone

30 08 2011
Apple

Does involve a yardstick when we access on the extent of the negative impact?

30 08 2011
Adrienne de Souza

Sorry, I don’t understand your question.

Sent from my iPhone

30 08 2011
Apple

Can we determine the extent that technology has had a negative impact “negative” an impact by establishing a yardstick?

Eg. Technology has had caused people to lose this skill… that skill… but because these skills are becoming less important (Possible yardstick due to the skills being unnecessary in today’s society—less amount of emphasis is being placed on students being able to memorize vast amount of info from textbooks, for example,than to apply the knowledge they learn.), technology may only have a small negative impact on the skill levels of people because it does not affect the essential skills required of an individual to survive in today’s world.

31 08 2011
Adrienne de Souza

Yes, that’s fine.

Sent from my iPhone

28 09 2011
Dealing with two ideas: ‘Air travel should be discouraged, not promoted.’ Discuss. « read, think, write.

[…] consider the benefits of air travel – while this shows why it should not be discouraged, it addresses the wrong debate when considering the second idea – on whether or not it should be promoted. Advertisement […]

Leave a Reply

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

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: