Rebirth of Reason

Reversing the Motive
by Joseph Rowlands

The technique I used in my article "An Educational Game" involved asking what actions you would take if your goal was the opposite of some proclaimed goal. I think the reason this is an effective argument is that people often forgive bad method if the intentions are correct. Just look at school teachers. They're praised if they work hard and mean well, but very few people talk about how effective their teaching method is.

This means that even if you show that someone is doing something horribly wrong, and it'll lead to unintended consequences, people will try to give it a positive spin if there was good intentions. They'll try to brush off the criticism as not very important, and they'll give the benefit of the doubt.

So Reversing The Motive asks the question, what if you were trying to accomplish the opposite? You could make a list of activities that you'd perform, and you'd show how this is the same method that is adopted. In the case of public schools, I showed how so many of the seemingly innocent policies make sense only if your goal was the destruction of education.

The effectiveness of the argument stems from the fact that it shows the results aren't accidents or flukes, but are caused directly from these choices. It also shows the if the actions are continued, the results will be the same. People may think that bad results happen when people don't do their jobs right, or something unexpected happens. This argument shows that the results are to be expected, and they'll continue to happen.