The Book that Makes Kids Love to Argue!

Posted by hlinfield on March 5, 2013 at 12:10 AM

The Book that Makes Kids Love to Argue!

(And I Mean That in a Good Way...)

I was in my twenties the first time someone accused me of being argumentative. It confused me, as I couldn’t see how if TWO people were arguing, that only one of those people could be considered argumentative. Didn’t it take two to argue?

But no, a third party apparently agreed that I was the one being argumentative.

We were arguing about something extremely important: whether or not Ilsa made the right decision at the end of Casablanca. Should she have stayed with Rick, who was passionate about her, or was she right to have left with her husband, who was more passionate about politics and the world than his beautiful wife?

Unlike many, I had the unromantic nerve to suggest that she made the right choice, and not only because Rick talked out of the side of his mouth and seemed like the type of man whose passion might induce him, one day, to strike her. Victor Laszlo was a great man and he and Ilsa clearly loved each other. Rick seemed like the type who would have made her deliriously happy for a couple of years, and then put her through hell.

Anyway, I refused to give on my position (and fifteen years later I still stand by it). And so I was dismissed as argumentative.

That wasn't the last time such an accusation was leveled at me, and over time I've learned to think of my argumentative nature as a positive trait.


Of course, being argumentative can backfire. In Grade Six, when our class was learning about Values, Influences, and Peers, we were asked to fill in a short survey. Question number one asked, “Is personal grooming important to you?”

“Personal grooming?” What the heck did that mean? We were in Grade Six. We didn’t know what “personal grooming” was? We asked around. The word came back up and down the aisles to, “Just put yes.”

Well, that wasn’t good enough for me. I wouldn’t put “yes” until I knew what it meant. I asked the police officer who was conducting the class. He sighed, looked uncomfortable for a moment, and then replied, “Just put yes.”

Well screw that, I thought! I’m putting “No!” So I did.

After we took up the answers, the question was finally explained, and I immediately regretted my “No.” I can remember the feeling of my burning cheeks as the other students, who all felt cleanliness was important, stared at me. (At least I wasn’t alone. The classroom dirty boy who always came to school with visible ear wax and smelling of pigs had written “No” as well.)

I don’t know if argumentativeness is a natural personality trait or if it’s learned. My hunch tells me it’s genetic, but even so, I blame (or credit) one particular book for, if not creating this aspect of my personality, at least augmenting it a bit.

The Monster at the End of this Book.

By Grover.

I’m serious.

It was one of my favourites as a small child. It was on our bedtime reading roster almost every night. Throughout the book Grover begs us and begs us not to turn the pages, and of course, we do. I can remember my excitement as my mother would read it to me. I would be just itching to defy Grover. With gleeful insistence, I would turn those pages and then laugh and laugh as his stacked up wall of bricks came tumbling down on top of him. Stupid old Grover!

I’ve read The Monster at the End of this Book to my own sons, and I’ve seen that gleeful defiance in their own faces. It’s the same look they give me when we play the “Don’t Eat That” game. “The asparagus on that plate? Don’t you dare eat that?” I say mock-angrily. Then I turn away to get something and when I turn back the asparagus is gone! They try to suppress their giggles but I can see the gloat in their eyes.

I’m always surprised when we have young guests for dinner who are unswayed by the “Don’t Eat That” game. I’ve read “The Monster at the End of This Book” to children who are inclined to follow Grover’s suggestion and not turn anymore pages! Maybe my kids are on the road to a life of being accused of ‘arguing for the sake of arguing,’ but I’d rather they be over-critical than under-critical.

Argumentative types get a lot of sighs and eye rolls. People shake their heads at us in frustration, but when it comes down to it, being argumentative is a good thing for the world. There are far too many people who will agree with anything you feed them, who’ll adopt whatever opinion is in vogue, never anaylzing it critically for themselves. They’re the types that regurgitate statistics with no thought to the methods involved in formulating them, the types that spread around banal Facebook memes because they can’t come up with their own original thoughts. They want whatever product is popular without even wondering if said product is actually worthwhile. (How else can we explain the tremendous success of Fifty Shades of Grey or the Slap Chop?)

Maybe I’m being a little harsh, but if you don’t agree? Well, argue with me.  It’ll make my day.

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