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Friday, 4 February 2011

A rule about rhetorical questions

At intermediate and high school we learned the basics of debating. One technique we learned about was the rhetorical question; and we also learned an important rule for their use: Don't ask a rhetorical question if there's a chance your audience will respond with the 'wrong' answer.

@libsmatter reported from an ALIA panel:
What if when our budgets were cut we asked - "so - what do you want us to stop doing?"
which I used to agree with. And I still agree that if our budgets keep getting cut then we'll have to cut services. But that doesn't mean the argument will make everyone say, "Oh, right. Um, we didn't think of that. Here, have an extra million dollars."

Because if an institution wants/needs/thinks it needs to cut the library's budget, it can really easily reply, "You need to keep providing the same service. Be more efficient. Work smarter. And if you can't figure out how to do that for yourselves then well, we'll send in our favourite efficiency experts and cut your staffing for you."

And if we're not prepared to accept that answer then we should be very careful about asking that question.