a revolution

Michael A. Krueger mkrueger
Wed Jan 26 13:53:19 CST 2000

Dear debate community:

This is an open letter calling for a revolution of sorts, and if not
calling for a revolution, perhaps calling for a devolution or maybe even
an evolution.  Regardless, it a call for change.

This is our argument:

Criticisms (or Kritiks as some call them) are grounded often in moral
philosophy. Generally, criticisms examine the nature of an action and
call into question the fundamental assumptions guiding that action, and
ask for a rejection of that action on moral grounds. Compare that to the
natural response: Utility is the better option because consequences are
more important than the action.

This letter is to inform the debate community that Middle Tennessee State
University is engaging in criticism of debate as currently practiced. We
believe that moral philosophy, and the understanding of moral philosophy,
can guide us to better praxis in debate. Moral philosophy has a purpose,
and a system of ethical behavior has a purpose, and the purpose of both
is to promote human flourishing. Unfortunately, there are times when
people are dehumanized in the debate community, and we are taking an
active role to reject dehumanization.

First, an explanation of what we perceive as the critical problem. Sadly,
we have too often seen (and we are not unstained) people treat each other
simply as non entities, as non humans, as objects to be overcome, without
dignity or respect. The practice of debate is supposed to move us past
such dogmatic behaviors. We are not to resort to name-calling and the
raising of voices. Instead, debate and argumentation is to teach people
to treat each other with respect and dignity, and to recognize the
subject in each of us. These are a few of the practices that we perceive
as objectionable: being rude, cutting others off when they are trying to
speak in c-x, not letting others ask questions in c-x, cutting off your
own partner, speaking over people, talking loudly while others are
speaking, name-calling, excessive bad mouthing of arguments, being
physically imposing, and so on. An ancillary problem is the treatment of
judges. Debate is not a hypodermic needle; debaters need to take
responsibility for the lack of clarity, the lack of explanation, and so on.

A caveat: this does not mean that you cannot ask questions of the judge
after the round, and this does not mean that you cannot challenge the
arguments of the opposing teams. We only ask that you do it in a manner
that treats the other team with dignity and respect. This type of
behavior makes debate a community that many people choose to reject
instead of embrace.

We have lost too many debaters, and we have almost lost several more
because of verbal brutality. MTSU will not stand for that any more.  And
we mean the debate community has lost too many, not MTSU.

Certainly, MTSU is not without fault, as mentioned above. However, we can
learn. From listening to womyn debaters be belittled-to the point of
crying, which was the intent of the action in the round-and not taking
any action to chastise the offenders-to having debaters that stray across
the line of civility, we know that we have been involved and are culpable.
But we want challenge that framework.  We want to learn from our
transgressions and move forward.

Second, we want to acknowledge the utility in those actions. Some people
claim to do it to intimidate their opponents, and they do it because that
is the only way they know how to win. There is utility, if the goal is a
"w." There is utility in as much as some people are trying to find a
voice. It is difficult for young people to find a voice, to learn to
assert their ideas, to not take things personally, and so on. However,
there is a line between aggression and assertiveness that can be crossed,
and when that line is crossed is when there is a problem.  There also is a
problem when a person is domineering, and others are silenced, made to be
felt as if they are inferior, etc.

Third, our "solution." Take an action. Have people read this letter
before rounds. Discuss specific behaviors that can be seen as
objectionable. Give warnings during rounds. Deduct speaker points if need
be. Give a loss. Completely take away the utility.

Our stand is that dehumanizing behavior is unethical and unwarranted. If
you believe that you should be able to engage in such behavior, this is a
warning. But we are taking this seriously. We hope that others will heed
our call. Promote being human.


MTSU Debate Staff

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Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 14:55:45 EST
To: Team Topic Debating in America <EDEBATE at LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: Michael Bear Bryant <MWBRYANT at AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: Satire and Censorship
Comments: To: West at suu.edu

In a message dated 1/26/00 12:21:01 PM Mountain Standard Time, West at SUU.EDU

> Likewise, the person who chose this anonymous rhetorical stance has no
> to expect others to accept his discourse without comment.  I don't call for
> censorship.  I call for countering this person's cowardly bigotry.
>  Terry West

Here, here!

I was distressed with the tone taken by Schnall and Glass. While I agree with
their condemnation of censorship and removal actions, I strongly disagree
with their critique of community response to such a juvenile action as the
production of the "Myn's" page. Frankly, I think the responses have been
fairly reasonable, except for a few calls to clearly illegal action.

We have the right to communicate to these "oppressed" myn that we don't find
their humor funny and that their "perspectives" are, well, juvenile.  What we
shouldn't think we have the right to do is call for their removal.

If it's bad speech, fight it with good speech. Not censorship.

quoting Andy Ellis, ''...you really must be drugged out and crazy" One of the
two, Andy, one of the two...

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