[eDebate] RE-OPEN THE DEBATE ABOUT SWITCH SIDE

Gary Larson Gary.N.Larson
Thu Apr 13 11:38:15 CDT 2006


Assuming that I accept Jackie's warrant (which incidentally I don't but
that's a long discussion from a previous life when I pretended to teach
rhetoric), Jackie's critique is more properly a critique of tournament
debating rather than switch side debating.  From both practical and
ethical grounds, it is even more problematic to follow where his logic
will take us.  Presumably it would be as bad or worse to require any
particular institution to send an equal number of affirmative and
negative teams to a tournament.  In 1954, USMA presumably could not as a
condition for sending negative teams to a tournament be compelled to
send an equal number of affirmative teams (or any for that matter). 
Given the ethos at OU, I can't imagine how we could or should require
half of their teams to take a position that none of them might support. 
So assuming that we no longer require any institution to send a balanced
number of affirmative and negative teams to a tournament, why should we
assume that the 50% aff / 50% neg split should exist nationally or in
the entry pool for any given tournament.  Imposing that as a condition
for holding the tournament is just as inimical to Jackie's values as
requiring any individual debater to debate both sides (particularly
since the latter is predicated on a different rhetorical justification
than the former).

Beyond the practicality or ethics of imagining that at any given time
there are an equal number of genuine affirmative and negative advocates,
I sincerely believe that the model of advocacy Jackie supports is quite
inconsistent with the premise of "contest" debating where no matter how
we might rationalize it, debate carries all the accoutrements of being a
game.  While I admire the personal agency that Jackie supports, it
inherently gets confused when we assign wins, losses, rankings and
trophies to the exercise.

Finally, I think that the process of topic creation (as we've noted in
the Roe v Wade excursus) becomes extremely confused when we try to
simultaneously identify things for which personal agency and public
advocacy coincide while also imagining that we are to identify issues
and wordings where there will be a equal number of affirmative and
negative advocates (both within and between squads).

GARY





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