[eDebate] On Stannards thoughts on Hicks and Greene

debate at ou.edu debate
Sat Jun 16 08:56:48 CDT 2007

Hi Matt,

Interesting post and definitely deserves a response.

, Hicks and Greene's critique has several problems: First, as J.P. Lacy once pointed out, it seems a tremendous causal (or even 
rhetorical) stretch to go from "debating both sides of an issue creates civic responsibility essential to liberal democracy" to "this 
civic responsibility upholds the worst forms of American exceptionalism.

I understand the explanation.  Debate is great for society, but can be used to uphold, mold and creat individuals with a certain 
perspective needed to maintain the ?american way of life? over other ways 

"Second, Hicks and Greene do not make any comparison of the potentially bad power of debate to any alternative. Their 
implied alternative, however, is a form of forensic speech that privileges personal conviction. 

I can?t speak for either Hicks or Greene, and do not want to be interpreted as such.  I have my perspective how this falls into 
my larger view of the world which I will share.  I don?t think that there will ever be no debate.  There will always be debate, in 
many different forms and styles.  I think the question then becomes about  how debate can also be used to mold a specific 
type of culture.  My view of debate is to move forward, not with the old CEDA topics per se ? ?violence is a justified response 
to political oppression?    but to have something where we see a problem area, we choose an actor (I grant USFG at this point) 
and we tell that actor to fix a problem.  How we fix it should be debated out in debates, not pre-researched in my mind  
(whole different topic)  

The idea that students should be able to preserve their personal convictions at all costs seems far more immediately tyrannical, 
far more immediately damaging to either liberal or participatory democracy, than the ritualized requirements that students 
occasionally take the opposite side of what they believe. 

I am not sure how this is tyrannical to say they should have a choice?  I am not saying they shouldn?t say things they disagree 
with ever, I am saying they should have that choice.  Some people want to be pulled to the middle.  

Third, as I have suggested and will continue to suggest, while a debate project requiring participants to understand and often 
"speak for" opposing points of view may carry a great deal of liberal baggage, it is at its core a project more ethically 
deliberative than institutionally liberal. Where Hicks and Greene see debate producing "the liberal citizen-subject," I see debate 
at least having the potential to produce "the deliberative human being." 

I agree debate is good, what scares me is when people like one of the US state house reps gets these amazing skills from 
debate and then use them to take away all the rights of those from Mexico.  We teach decision making, but not how to 
approach this ethically.  This cant be practiced if the game is rigged,, or say ethics/values are already chosen and implicit.
The fact that some academic debaters are recruited by the CSIS and the CIA does not undermine this thesis. Absent healthy 
debate programs, these think-tanks and government agencies would still recruit what they saw as the best and brightest 
students. And absent a debate community that rewards anti-institutional political rhetoric as much as liberal rhetoric, those 
students would have little-to-no chance of being exposed to truly oppositional ideas. 


I agree that debaters get access, and some them have a huge impact on society.  What scares me is when debaters become 
decision-makers and real peoples livelihoods become ?impacts? and defending things you know is wrong becomes politics.

Moreover, if we allow ourselves to believe that it is "culturally imperialist" to help other peoples build institutions of debate and 
deliberation, we not only ignore living political struggles that occur in every culture, but we fall victim to a dangerous 
ethnocentrism in holding that "they do not value deliberation like we do." 


I guess this is an issue of interpretation.   I have a former debater and close friend who works on the west bank helping to 
promote debate in the area we know as the Middle East.  He is Jewish, so traveling is dangerous.  If he were to promote topics 
saying ?Israel is a legitimate state? and made the Palestenian children argue pro-Israel, would that be good debate?  No, not in 
my mind.  However, that is not the process nor the goal, nor even close to the topic choices, and so I don?t really think I 
myself would say promotion of debate globally is bad,  it just depends on what model we export.
If the argument is that our participation in fostering debate communities abroad greases the wheels of globalization, the correct 
response, in debate terminology, is that such globalization is non-unique, inevitable, and there is only a risk that collaborating 
across cultures in public debate and deliberation will foster resistance to domination?just as debate accomplishes wherever it 
goes. Indeed, Andy Wallace, in a recent article, suggests that Islamic fundamentalism is a byproduct of the colonization of the 
lifeworld of the Middle East; if this is true, then one solution would be to foster cross-cultural deliberation among people on 
both sides of the cultural divide willing to question their own preconceptions of the social good. 
I got no disagreement there.

Hicks and Greene might be correct insofar as elites in various cultures can either forbid or reappropriate deliberation, but for 
those outside of that institutional power, democratic discussion would have a positively subversive effect.
We can read such criticisms in two ways. The first way is as a warning: That we ought to remain cautious of how academic 
debate will be represented and deployed outside of the academy, in the ruthless political realm, by those who use it to dodge 
truthful assertions, by underrepresented groups, of instances of material injustice. 
I see this live, on a daily basis where I live.  My example above is about the politician who uses debate skills to help get Pat 
Buch?s backing.
In this sense, the fear is one of a "legalistic" evasion of substantive injustice by those privileging procedure over substance, a 
trained style over the primordial truth of marginalized groups.

I think the categorizing of procedure over substance is very relevant, but not the only part of the decision calculus that has to 
be developed.  I am not sure how the margninalized groups are the only substance, but I think that is just your example.

 I prefer that interpretation to the second one: That the switch-side, research-driven "game" of debate is politically bankrupt 
and should give way to several simultaneous zones of speech activism, where speakers can and should only fight for their own 

I don?t think this is what I am envisioning when I see debate that is absent the poison of the current the process.  Like I said, I 
cant speak for Dr. D Hicks or Dr. Ron.

 As Gordon Mitchell has pointed out, such balkanized speech will break down into several enclaves of speaking, each with its 
own political criteria for entry. In such a collection of impassable and unpermeable communities, those power relations, those 
material power entities, that evade political speech will remain unaccountable, will be given a "free pass" by the speech 
community, who will be so wrapped up in their own micropolitics, or so busy preaching to themselves and their choirs, that they 
will never understand or confront the rhetorical tropes used to mobilize both resources and true believers in the service of 
continued material domination. 
I think this is where everyone double turns themselves or contradicts themselves.  You are saying people should not have to 
confront those who claim, say ?racism is bad? or ?sexism is bad?.  But then people will miss out on have to defend racism good 
or sexism good, -- you know, the other side.   I am not against switch side debate per se, but against politically motivated 
topics that put the game over the participants.  If you really believe switch side good, to understand racism is bad we need to 
defend racism.  Or is this only true of certain topics?  You can substitute colonialism or sexism or homphobia for racism.  It is 
just one example I am using, and not making accusations at Matt.  You have to go negative, so you can only ?preach to the 
choir on the affirmative?.  In the status quo, the moderates  and conservatives get all of the advantages I am saying the 
radical/leftists/liberals should have.   Is that really that unreasonable to ask the one type of excluded perspective get the same 
grounds to advocate a solution to a problem that they think might work?
Habermas?s defense of the unfinished Enlightenment is my defense of academic debate: Don?t throw the baby out with the 
bathwater. Instead, seek to expand this method of deliberation to those who will use it to liberate themselves, confront power, 
and create ethical, nonviolent patterns of problem resolution. If capitalism corrupts debate, well, then I say we save debate. 


Same goals, different paths.



More information about the Mailman mailing list