Bo Seo Makes Strong Arguments With “Good Arguments: How Debate Teaches Us to Listen and Be Heard”

David Wilson For the

Bo Seo was 8 years old when his family moved to Australia from Korea. “I had a handful of English phrases and words, but I really couldn’t speak the language,” Seo said. It was the tumult of playground arguments that helped him begin to learn. “It was really a disagreement that showed me how little I understood the language and how limited my capacity for self-expression was.”

In “Good Arguments: How Debate Teaches Us to Listen and Be Heard” (Penguin Press), Seo describes debate-seeking as a shy, conflict-averse fifth grader, and details how discipline could help us all communicate better. , whether on a personal or personal level. public life.

Now a resident tutor at Harvard, where he just completed his first year of law school, Seo has won two world championships as a debater. Discipline is one in which he firmly believes. “It starts with self-expression and then extends to the other person,” he said. “When two people come together and argue over one point, you hope they don’t end up defaulting to one position or the other, but end up somewhere else. That seems like kind of progress to me.

The debate, he added, is useful at the national and even global level. Of course, it’s about how to settle disagreements, but “on the higher level, how to deal with the fact that we are different but have to coexist”.

In a world awash with misinformation and alternative facts, can debate still help us? “I struggle with it,” Seo said. “But having a population that understands argumentation as a kind of craft, I think it’s a population that’s much more immune to the kind of misnomer and argumentation that we’re seeing right now. .”

Ultimately, he said, “these things matter because human relationships matter. I think the main concern is the health of democracies and our civic culture.

Bo Seo will read at 7 p.m. Tuesday in person at Brookline Bookstore.


Kate Tuttle, freelance writer and critic, can be reached at [email protected]

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