[eDebate] debate and public speaking

Donald Bryson anabaptist
Wed Apr 25 17:55:22 CDT 2007

I absolutely agree with the two replies.

I have a couple of observations.

1) Debate is fundamentally a competition.  There is always a judge with a ballot that decides a winner or a loser.  Yes, there have been occasions where one side honestly did not care if they won or lost as long as they were heard (I was in a round like this at the D6 tournament on the China topic).  However, no one sets out to lose debates.  No one argues to lose, everyone starts out wishing to gain competitive success.

I think the remainder of my points may branch out from this one.

2) A2: Good Ol' Days
I don't think that the "debate was better back when" claim was ever explicitly made in the original post, but it was most definitely implied.  I am a relative newcomer to the activity (I don't have the decades of experience that others who will probably reply have, heck my coaches were relative newcomers in the sense), however I've read enough and have observed enough in/on the activity to make the statement that there were no "good ol' days" in policy debate.  There never will be.  It is the nature of the activity.  The activity critiques and changes itself.

Ya know, at one time, people didn't speak fast in debates.  However, the activity changed itself and became faster.  The activity will inevitably become faster still.  And that's probably okay.

3) Lay Judges and Parents

The argument was made that "lay judges" can't understand what's going on and parents often don't understand what's going on.  At the NDT, this year, I spent a good deal of time talking with the parents of Georgia CR.  These parents had shelled out, I don't know how much money for these two guys to go to camps and tournaments in high school and less so in college.  They hadn't spent a good deal of time around the activity (from what I could tell) and had a more difficult time than the rest of us following what was going on, but you know what happened......they asked questions, just like novice debaters do.  So that they can learn more about the activity.

Yes, policy debate is specialized, but that is what makes the activity special.  It is the essential of what argumentation is, but the activity also critiques what proper argumentation should be.  In effect, the activity cleanses and upgrades itself.  No other competitive activity does that because every other competitive activity (including certain types of debate) has rules.  Aside from speech/prep time, we don't have any.

4) Lay Judges Bad

As I've stated before, debate is fundamentally a competition.  Nothing will make novice debaters quit faster than the ability to be competitive.  Yes, we all have to take our knocks and that's to be expected.  But when a novice debater goes from being judged by a good, specialized judge who gives advice on argumentation and research/evidence usage to a "lay judge" whose decision is "I just felt them more" (*true story:  it happened to me.  The judge said, "I believe that you won this topicality thing, but I felt them more.") what is that debater supposed to do?  

I'm sure that someone is going to say, "Well, that's an isolated incident."  However, it should NOT happen.  Debaters put in entirely too much research and writing into this activity to get screwed over by someone who doesn't understand what just happened in front of them.  This is not an exclusivist/elitist argument.  I wouldn't expect to walk into a figure skating competition or gymnastic competition when I've never competed in those events and I don't think that it should happen in policy debate.  Policy debate judging is and should be specialized so that it can be equitable to the competitors.

5) Speed/ Audibility (Yes, my line by line sucks)

Yes, speed may sound like that to a "lay" person.  However, that argument is tantamount to saying that the way in which we vocalize a word gives the word its meaning rather than the word itself.  The word sun means "the star that is the central body of the solar system" whether it is said in a sentence going 120 wpm or 350 wpm.  If we make the argument that words are given meaning by the way we vocalize it then why don't we just make random grunts and groans to communicate rather than words....or for that matter, the words then have no meaning and the tone in which we speak them does.  This perspective makes us see the "I Have a Dream Speech" a lot differently.  That speech would fundamentally be different with different words.  The power of the words would be the same.  Admittedly, the historical view of the speech would be different if MLK had delivered it at "policy debate" speed, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it would be viewed negatively.  Those words still would have been heard, the text of the speech would still be read and the words still would resound in history.  What matters is what was said and who said it, not how it was said.

I'm going to let brighter minds continue this discussion.  I'm done.

Donald Bryson
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