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BOTD 5/6/17 "Simon's Situation" A Plagosus Production

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David M. Katz

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Marshall
SIMON'S SITUATION
A Plagosus Production


Your adolescent son, Simon, is pretty bright academically. You have a dinner party for some friends and include him. He performs well without showing off. Encouraged, you include him in a dinner party you hold for your senior employees and their wives. The conversation turns to everyone's favourite poem. One of the wives says the only poem she can remember from school is Shelley's “Charge of the Light of the Light Brigade”. Simon points out, entirely without condescension, that, actually, that poem is by Tennyson. The lady insists it is by Shelley. Simon says he knows it is by Tennyson because he had to write an essay on it. The lady continues to assert that Shelley wrote the poem. You cough discretely clearly indicating that Simon ought to leave it there, but Simon, continuing to be polite, points out that it cannot possibly be by Shelley because he died more than thirty years before the Crimean War began. The look on the lady's face shows she realises she is wrong, but she insists she is right. Simon opens his mouth ready to speak again and it is obvious he is not going to back off. Before he can speak you intervene saying there is clearly a difference of opinion on the question and start to introduce a new subject. Simon, however, says it is not a matter of opinion but of fact and the fact is that Tennyson wrote the poem.

SIMON
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You have a dilemma. You know Simon is right and have always told him he should stand up for the truth, without actually going into any detail about what that might involve. You have also instilled in him the need to show proper respect and not make people feel uncomfortable and in the past, though not recently, given him a good hiding when he failed to do so.

Which of these principles is going to triumph? Do you back Simon or send him out of the room and give him a good hiding when the guests have gone?



** This BOTD is based on the story "Jack Is Highly Embarrassed" by Plagosus.  Jack is Highly Embarrassed by Plagosus


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David M. Katz

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Marshall
I am going to excuse myself and Simon from the table. When my son and I are in a private space I will acknowledge that I know he is correct but tell him to drop the subject or else. He will know what "or else" means. I will suggest that Simon open a new topic of discussion. We will then return to the table where we can discuss less controversial subjects.


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Jack

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Admin
Simon has done what I taught him to do, and he's apparently done it in a polite way. Apparently I do need to talk to him about when it's time to just let something go.

As for now, it'll go something like - "You're right, it's not a difference of opinion, and I should have phrased it better. However, since this is a party, I think it's best we change subjects, and you two can look it up this evening. In the meantime, lot of weather we're having lately, isn't it?"

There is no way I'd punish an adolescent boy for doing what I've told him to do.


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Y Lee Coyote

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Deputy
I can’t have my cake and eat it too.  Simon is either a kid or an adult.  If he is a kid, then telling him to drop it is fine.  If he an adult then there is not any justification to make him -- rather than her -- back off.

He has been invited to an adult (not a family or community) dinner and therefore is of adult standing.  Thus he is correct in sticking to the correct facts.

Sticking to a wrong position is unreasonable.  Frankly, that she did not back off is more embarrassing than admitting the fact.  It would be of great help if someone else supported the correct position especially her mate.  I may need to consider his capabilities to act when other employees disagree.

Simon needs to learn that sometimes adults need to be left to wallow in their ignorance as that is consider being polite.

Y>.

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Adric

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Cowboy
At Simon's age, I would probably have persisted like he did until Dave Katz took me aside and threatened me with the "or else".  At my age, I would probably drop the subject much sooner when I realized that I had backed the woman into a corner and was about to intellectually stab her.  In any case, I don't think it will be necessary to punish Simon for standing up for himself unless he defies me when I tell him to drop the subject and talk about something else.

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AFinch

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Sherrif
If this were 1970, I'd like Jack's solution.

In 2017, it's a very easy thing to take out one's phone, consult Google, and have the answer to the "matter of opinion". I'm not punishing Simon for being right, or for standing firm, politely, when he is. I believe the indicated wife owes SIMON the apology--he has no reason to apologize to anyone.

Kat

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Editor Extraordinaire
I don't want to punish Simon, but I do want him to be a tactful person who doesn't put being factually correct about trivial matters ahead of being kind. It's all well and good to say the guest is in the wrong, but I need to consider two points: 1) teaching the guest to be wise and tactful isn't my responsibility; and 2) she is a guest in our home, so Simon owes her courtesy. We didn't invite her to our home to have a pissing contest over the dinner table. Just because she is a bad guest doesn't entitle us to be bad hosts. This sort of thing makes everyone at table uncomfortable.

If Simon isn't where I can give him a gentle kick to communicate he needs to drop the matter, then I'll have to be more direct. I'll do my best to be subtle, as I don't want to cause anyone any more embarrassment than they've already had -- though that ship has pretty much sailed.

Kat

ivor

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Marshall
On the basis that the guests are 'senior employees' it is perhaps surprising that one of them (or their spouse) would wish to pursue an argument with the son of the boss to that extent. "Onward, onward, into the valley of death rode the unwise employee........."

In this situation all I need to do is indicate that Simon is correct. Yes, she'll be embarrassed but I expect she as had worse experiences.

Now had the situation been reversed in that Simon and I were guests at a dinner party held by my boss, then my response would be much different.

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MemoryMan

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Sherrif
I see this incident as indicative of lack of maturity rather than lack of courtesy. Simon may be knowledgeable but still has way to go in acquiring wisdom. Most, but far from all, adults would have acquired the social skills to have refrained from correcting the lady in the first place; or at least commented in a way that would have left the topic open to the table rather than turn it into a personal confrontation.

".. actually, that poem is by Tennyson" is quite a confrontational statement whereas a remark such as "Oh! I thought that was by Tennyson" would have left the discussion open to the company and may well have elicited some support from others round the table (including perhaps yourself)

This I shall tell Simon after the guests have left but, it will be advice rather than censure and I don't see any need to exclude Simon from future social gatherings.

In the immediate situation though I will send Simon out on an errand and by the time he returns the conversation will have moved on.

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db105

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Trailboss
Before talking about the actual incident: Does Simon really enjoy these adult dinner parties? If he actually enjoys them that's OK. But I wouldn't want to pressure him if he does not.

Having said that, this is a matter of unfamiliarity with social conventions. I need to talk to him as soon as possible, perhaps right away, if I can find a discreet excuse. I'll explain to him that, while he is right and she is wrong, insisting on it any further doesn't make him look good. Even if you are right, letting it go in this situation is much more graceful and worthy of admiration. It's bad enough that she is obviously wrong. This is not a quiz show. Humiliating her for being mistaken is not good social behavior.

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Plagosus


Cowboy
All thoughtful replies and along the lines of my thinking for a "real world" situation.

Here is another story with a conflict of principles: http://www.malespank.net/viewStory.php?id=10924. I wrote to the author Ripping Yarns saying that in real life I would not have taken the action the father did. RY replied to the effect that deference to the elderly was more important than standing up for your brother. Any views on that?

Kat

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Editor Extraordinaire
I'm familiar with that story, Plag, and it always arouses a lot of ambivalence in me. I can't like the father in that series. Someone at MMSA once pointed out the problem with the father is that he imagines himself to be authoritative, when in reality he is authoritarian.

In principle, yes, deference to the elderly is right. However, punishing Dan because he stands up for his brother doesn't seem the right thing to do either. Of course, in the story, the elderly neighbor is in pain, which provides an ex post facto justification for condemning Dan. In my opinion, the parents abdicated their responsibility by not intervening in the situation with the neighbor much earlier.

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
-- Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"



Kat

Plagosus


Cowboy
Kat wrote:I can't like the father in that series. Someone at MMSA once pointed out the problem with the father is that he imagines himself to be authoritative, when in reality he is authoritarian.

It was me: http://www.newforum.malespank.net/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1810&start=15

Kat

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Editor Extraordinaire
Plagosus wrote:
Kat wrote:I can't like the father in that series. Someone at MMSA once pointed out the problem with the father is that he imagines himself to be authoritative, when in reality he is authoritarian.

It was me: http://www.newforum.malespank.net/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=1810&start=15

Well, you hit the nail on the head. Growing up in that household would be intolerable.

Kat

Jack

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Admin
Plagosus wrote:All thoughtful replies and along the lines of my thinking for a "real world" situation.

Here is another story with a conflict of principles: http://www.malespank.net/viewStory.php?id=10924. I wrote to the author Ripping Yarns saying that in real life I would not have taken the action the father did. RY replied to the effect that deference to the elderly was more important than standing up for your brother. Any views on that?

I do have a rather long answer, and one that I've shared here (someplace... I think) before.

Respect is like a bank account. People start with so much in their account for each person with whom they deal. Some people (adults, teachers, coaches) start with more than others. When you meet any given person, that person should be treated with the respect due their station, and they should treat you the same way (two children are going to give each other a different level of respect and show it in a different way, than a student would show a teacher, for instance).

The problem is, if you want to maintain that behavior, you have to continue to make deposits into that account. In this case, the deposits are made by deserving the respect you're given, returning the respect that is due, and by earning more respect (a teacher who goes above and beyond to help you, for instance). If those donations are not made, then you run out of respect and, while you might be shown diffidence, depending on the relative stations, you will not be, and do not deserve to be, respected.

In the case of the dinner party, you are dealing with a young man who's trying to help a person by offering her a polite (according to the scenario) correction. While there might be better ways of doing that, I'm not sure I would have thought of it, so it would be pretty ridiculous of me to expect a 12-year old to do so.

In the case of standing up for one's brother - it would take a lot for me to cite someone as wrong for that, and 'respect' for some neighbor wouldn't be even close to enough to overcome that.


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squarecutter

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Sherrif
David M. Katz wrote:I am going to excuse myself and Simon from the table.  When my son and I are in a private space I will acknowledge that I know he is correct but tell him to drop the subject or else.  He will know what "or else" means. I will suggest that Simon open a new topic of discussion. We will then return to the table where we can discuss less controversial subjects.



I agree with that and also introduce Simon if not done already to the idea of the white lie. H can come back in and you will suggest to the assembled company that the matter is dropped or if Simon cant face them he may retire to his room with dignity

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