This IQ2 debate, ‘Our Children are Over Diagnosed’, is fascinating and instructive and not just for the immediate content…
For the proposition: Jane Caro, Martin Whitely and Dr Jon Jureidini
Against the proposition: Nicole Rogerson, Katie Allen and Jane Burns
Watch the debate at http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2013/08/05/3816937.htm and you really do need to watch it, not just listen to the audio.
Here are a couple of things that I found interesting about this debate…
The make-up and presentation of the panelists
On the “for” side you have Jane Caro, Martin Whitely and Jon Jureidini – three very different people offering their own thoughts, arguments and perspectives. They come from different professions, they operate as individuals and not as at team.
On the “against” side, you have Nicole Rogerson, Katie Allen and Jane Burns – three women who were much more aligned with each other. Watch their body language you will see the supportive glances between them and the team unity against the other side.
The presentation styles of the speakers is also noteworthy. Of the women, there were two distinctive styles – Jane Caro presents herself as a social commentator and routinely uses comedy for shock value and to get her message across. The other three women presented as more mainstream, as professional, as practiced speakers, earnest, proper, serious, caring. The difference in dress between Jane Caro and the other three women reinforces these images.
The two men are completely different from the women and from each other. While Jane Caro uses humour and Nicole Rogerson uses emotive language and many rhetorical techniques to try to sway their audiences, the men talk about their ideas about diagnosis in their respective fields and try using reason and logic to argue their case.
The merging of issues
There are two ways of looking at this debate – as an overall topic on over-diagnosis – which is the slant that Jane Caro takes – or as the field in which your expertise or experience lies. Changing attitudes and expectations of parents and children is a worthy and complex topic but it is a very different topic to any individual diagnosis. This leads to the unproductive situation where the participants are actually debating different topics and refuting a point from one topic with a point from another.
The merging of the issues also shows up the problem of professional solidarity. You can accept the increasing rate of diagnoses of food intolerance but question the increasing rate of diagnoses of autism or ADHD. Yet these were bundled together by the topic as well as the unity of the “against” side.
I think both debates are worth having, indeed to understand why diagnosis of ADHD, Aspergers, ASD and similar disorders is increasing, it is necessary to look at the bigger picture of the social and technological changes that have been happening on a more cerebral level than the “kids should stop playing computer games and go kick a ball around” or “there’s just no discipline these days” comments that you see too often under stories about children’s welfare.
The pressing of buttons
It is important to recognise when people are pushing your buttons – in both a positive and negative way. Both Jane Caro and Nicole Rogerson used rhetorical styles which do this because they target the emotions of their audience. If they succeeded you would have felt your positive buttons humming. If not, you would have felt your negative buttons sparking. Either way, you have to counter the effect when evaluating the argument.
I have to disclose that both Caro and Rogerson pressed my negative buttons. Caro because of her wholesale dismissal of parents’ opinions reminded me too much of the attitudes I had to battle while advocating for my children in schools. What she said could well be true about some people but not all. What she said, though, was a good reminder of the stereotypes that you have to understand and deal with in any negotiation or advocacy so the sparks extinguish quickly.
The button pushing by the “against” side, and particularly Rogerson, was more difficult. I have an automatic reaction when someone uses emotional blackmail, derision, sarcasm, assumptions of moral superiority, and logical fallacies. So trying to convince me that you are right because you care about children more than your opponents, you understand because you’ve been there and they haven’t, or that those who disagree with you are callous or stupid is the wrong way to go about it. The task then for me is to try to assess your message without letting your rhetorical style put me off.
Have a look – what do you think? Here’s the link again http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2013/08/05/3816937.htm