Thu Apr 19 14:59:39 CDT 2001
Aaron, I think you jumped to a conclusion about my post and missed the
point; or at least a part of it.
Too many times in the past I have made comments on the L and had them
misinterpreted as being anti-critique as a form of argument. This is simply
not the case. I love critiques that are truly critiques of something that
relates to the resolutional question. The specific complaint I was trying to
voice in my response to Nate's experience is that too many of the arguments
I am forced to listen to in rounds these days do not relate to the
resolution at all. What you describe regarding the epistemoloigcal value of
debate is very important in my opinion. My complaint is that this is rarely
related, argumentatively, to the resolution being debated.
Some claim that this cannot or should not be done, and with this I disagree.
I think our affirmative this year was the perfect example. Our aff was a
critique of the way in which Americans come to learn what they think they
know about Africa. It was inspired by a student that I believe was the only
native-born African from the Greater Horn to debate on this resolution. And
I think it was particularly valuable because we were able to engage in this
critique without having to argue that the resolution was irrelevant. In
fact, the resolution provided the impetus and the opportunity to learn about
Africa and this particular critique. My objection is to critiques that can
be run on any resolution and begin with the perspective and the claim that
the resolution does not matter and that there is no value in debating the
resolutional question. It is these arguments to which I object. In my
opinion, these arguments have no value in our activity and are causing a
significant degradation in the quality of our activity. My lamentation about
the state of debate is partly a result of this type of argument. On the
whole, I think you give too much credit to some of the critical arguments to
which you refer. My experience has been that most of the teams running these
arguments are doing so only to win rounds because they know the strategy
will be successful. I think the instances in which teams run these arguments
becasue they are truly committed to them is rare. And to those who really do
believe in the critique, I think it still only has value if it seeks to
answer the resolutional question.
But this is not my only complaint regarding the growing neg tendency to
ignore the resolution and the affirmative case. I also find it sad, that
some of the most popular and successful "substantive" (non-critique)
arguments being run these days also largely choose to ignore the
resolutional question and, in particular, the aff case. And though my next
statement is going to make me sound older than I am, I am going to say it
anyway: In my day, it was considered not only valuable, but mandatory to
directly attack the aff case. I can count on one hand the number of debates
I have judged in which the neg clashed directly with the case evidence and
claims over the last 2-3 years.
Your final comment re: the ascendency of agent counterplans doesn't really
explain why argumentation of the resolution is avoided. A good/legitimate
agent counterplan must still address the resolution. The reason these
counterplans avoid the resolution is because bad decisions from judges allow
them to do so. If we required better argumentation from debaters, we could
and would get better argumentation. One of the most bothersome observations
I have made over the last couple of years is that is has become not only
commonplace, but acceptable for judges to work for debaters. Too many
decisions these days are being made on arguments not issued by the debaters.
It seems to me that our standards for arguments have sunk so low that most
judges don't find it necessary to require debaters to provide warrants in
their arguments. I am really tired of hearing debaters make assertions such
as "topical counterplans are ok" without providing even a hint of analysis
as to why this would be true. We can have debate about the resolution if we
simply require debaters to make actual arguments instead of unsupported and
Director of Forensics
Los Angeles City College
From: Aaron Klemz [mailto:ehrlenmeyerflask at hotmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2001 2:49 PM
To: edebate at ndtceda.com
Subject: "Personal" Critiques
First of all, I want to congratulate Nate on his decision to pursue real
action in Africa (regardless of whether in the "topic area" or not) as a
result of his experiences debating Africa. I think it is extremely important
for members of the debate community to take their knowledge with them into
the world, and it is heartening, to say the least, that debate has inspired
people to take action.
That said, I'm quite concerned with the tenor of some of the discussions
that revolve around what I see as a strawperson characterization of an
argument that ISU and other teams were invested in. Both Ken and John Fritch
earlier have indicated their dissatisfaction with debate on this topic as
not being "about Africa." Ken indicates that he believes that critiques of
debate practice obscured debate about Africa and that Nate's experience is
an answer to those critiques. John Fritch, in a post about two months ago
(my memory is foggy) indicated that he thought that less debate about Africa
occurred on this topic compared with the earlier NDT topic on Africa.
Personally, I didn't see this topic in the same light as these criticisms.
If anything, I thought that the injection of criticisms of how we come to
"know" Africa was an important part of this topic that I hope continues to
shadow the way we practice debate. Ken's argument that this topic was too
much about "ourselves" and not enough about "Africans" misses the importance
of problematizing the way that debaters come to apprehend the world and the
people that live in it through their research and discourse. Too often,
we've played a game that assumes that we can come to understand and "fix"
the problems of people we've never met by deploying quotations from
newspapers and wire services. This criticism can be made in an overbroad
way, to be sure. At it's root, this critique problematizes the way we do
research - it's an antidote to arrogance of those who see people as numbers,
and the world as a geopolitical chessboard to be played. As such, I find
such criticism valuable.
The sad fact is that beside Nate, very few folks who have debated and
researched on this topic will ever visit the "Horn," to meet the people
whose words and experiences they've stolen and hopes and aspirations they
have represented without any direct knowledge. Can the social sciences in
general, and academic debate in particular, find ways to avoid the trap of
shamelessly speaking for others without ignoring people we don't have direct
contact with? This topic, I hope, started to make some inroads on this
question. In particular, teams that engaged in these "personal" critiques
were the ones who began this process.
Last take: seems to me that the primary reason that this topic wasn't as
much "about Africa" is more closely related to the ascendancy of agent CP's,
particularly in the context of John Fritch's comparison between the 1988?
Africa topic and this one.
Director of Debate
Illinois State U.
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