[eDebate] eDebate Digest, Vol 27, Issue 16
Tue Dec 18 15:31:37 CST 2007
To Mr. O'Donnell and Mr. Kittredge of NAUDL:
I am very happy, delighted indeed, that Oprah Winfrey, a former debater
herself, has bankrolled and produced a film about the Wiley College
Debate Team national championship of the 1930s.
However, the factual record is that Wiley College defeated the
University of Southern California for the championship, and not Harvard
University. The website of the film clearly states that the debate at
Harvard and the championship round at Harvard is entirely fictional and
a figment of the collective imaginations of the writers of the film and
possibly Ms. Winfrey herself (beating USC wasn't good enough? Wiley had
to beat Harvard?).
As a Harvard Debate Alumnus, I am somewhat disturbed that the film
fictionalizes in this manner. While I am certain that James Farmer Jr.
et al. the Wiley debaters were outstanding, the notion that the Harvard
Debate Team in 1935 or any other year would have been weaker than USC or
Wiley is ridiculous. Harvard, along with Northwestern and Dartmouth,
has won numerous NDT championships, and when they have lost, it has
usually been on 3-2 panel decisions that were close or hard-fought.
More pertinently, the NAUDL website states flat out that Wiley College
defeated Harvard for the debate championship in the 1930s. It actually
simply repeats the fictive movie version of history as if it were truth,
instead of carefully distinguishing that the actual winning round was
Wiley v. USC, and that the movie version is fiction. For a trained
group of debaters, this is an unforgivable error. NAUDL should be
cautioned from making such a horrible error and then passing it on to
their readership in such an awful fashion. This is the kind of sloppy
thinking that debate, logic and philosophy are designed to prevent, not
encourage. Perhaps the film version of the Great Debaters does not have
a sufficiently large disclaimers on it as to the fictive nature of its
In any case, because Will Smith is not in it, it probably won't be seen
by that many people...
More generally, of all the universities in the nation, Harvard
University was probably the one place in 1935 that was most actively
working on civil rights. It was the alumni university of President
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the source of 90% of the cabinet members
who served with FDR on the New Deal, and more importantly, the election
of 1932 and the New Deal marked the demographic shift of african
american voters away from the Republican party, to whom they had been
loyal since the Civil War, to the Democratic Party, whom they now voted
for due to economic and social reasons, and because FDR spoke to them
and adopted policies which were pro-civil rights. The New Deal cabinet,
influenced profoundly by Harvard ideas and Harvard theories, did more to
advance African-Americans than any presidency before it in the past 75
years; and Harry Truman, FDR's successor, finally did enact substantial
Civil Rights reform as well as integrate the army, etc. Again, these
were all ideas pressed from Harvard academics serving in the FDR cabinet.
Consequently, the enemy in 1935 wasn't Harvard. It was the rest of the
country, particularly the south and west.
Were I filming this piece, I would have fictionalized it as follows;
Ronald Reagan leads Eureka College into the quarters, Richard Nixon
leads Whittier College into the semifinal round, and Wiley College
defeats Reagan in the quarters, Nixon in the semis, and George Bush
Senior of skull and bones and Yale University in the finals on their way
to the national championshionship.
See how much better this version of the film would have been? Wiley
and James Farmer Jr. and Tollson defeat three archenemies of civil
rights. We could even have altered the facts a little and make William
Rehnquist Nixon's debate partner at Whitter. That would have really
been good fictional debate. They're dead. You can defame them.
Dr. Arthur Kyriazis
molecular biologist and sometime debate coach
edebate-request at www.ndtceda.com wrote:
> Send eDebate mailing list submissions to
> edebate at www.ndtceda.com
> To subscribe or unsubscribe via the World Wide Web, visit
> or, via email, send a message with subject or body 'help' to
> edebate-request at www.ndtceda.com
> You can reach the person managing the list at
> edebate-owner at www.ndtceda.com
> When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is more specific
> than "Re: Contents of eDebate digest..."
> Today's Topics:
> 1. 4 rounds available at TX swing (Ruth Zisman)
> 2. The Great Debaters & Community Building - See:
> http://www.thegreatdebaters.org/ (Timothy O'Donnell)
> 3. USC 'Alan Nichols' Tournament updates (Gordon Stables)
> 4. Rounds for sale Cali Swing (Martin Harris)
> 5. ndt rankings update--SAT 8PM DEADLINE (Jim Hanson)
> 6. Changes to Fullerton invitation (Bruschke, Jon)
> Message: 1
> Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2007 14:27:08 -0500
> From: "Ruth Zisman" <ruth.zisman at gmail.com>
> Subject: [eDebate] 4 rounds available at TX swing
> To: edebate at ndtceda.com
> <cb273e0712141127w318395c7v624dad6b6e3798b6 at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> sherin varghese from bard college has 4 rounds at UNT and UTD to sell. email
> me at zisman at bard.edu if you need judging.
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Size: 397 bytes
Desc: not available
Url : http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/attachments/20071218/03caf852/attachment.vcf
More information about the Mailman