[eDebate] Debate is NOT Activism

philogelos philogelos
Sat Jun 30 01:50:10 CDT 2007

A former debater, I notice this slew of absurdity with a mixture of amusement and horror. What is stupefying to me...is that no one seems to realize that the essential and paradoxical motivation behind the obnoxious drive to undermine the resolution (and the core of debate itself) is a gross overestimation of the importance of debate. The insight at work appears to be that we only learn and challenge ourselves as people by the content spoken of in the debate round itself. This peculiar belief results from the desire to justify the infinite hours spent on debate work. No other activity has illusions of grandeur to the extent that debaters do; the intensity of the work required to compete has led many to go to absurd lengths to attempt to make themselves feel like they're doing something meaningful. But to think that the mere act of debating makes one a better social or political activist is so astoundingly self-serving. The issue I gained the most education on from the Africa 
topic was female genital mutilation...and I never ONCE heard an affirmative speak about that issue. The topicalty standard or counter-standard of education is 99.9% about things you discover outside of debate rounds, and ways you can approach learning as a RESULT of debate. The activity can contribute to making one a better person...the research and critical thinking skills you gain by researching and working out argumentative criteria can then be useful in becoming the kind of person who does meaningful action that makes the world better. But no matter how pressing the issue of genocide, one using that as their affirmative in lieu of the decided upon resolution does absolutely NOTHING to help address that issue. There are infinitely better ways to go about being a social advocate.? All it does is wreck the competitive structure that compels people to work and research; which are the activities that provide the real training grounds to go about and potentially do some good on 
the rest of one's life. People need to be honest with themselves about the limitations of the activity of debate in order to avoid obscuring its potential benefits. If you think people need to talk and think about Darfur more, and you want to devote your life to making that happen...then debate is a foolish activity to take up. If you want to become more proficient in communication and learning, then it doesn't matter what the hell the resolution is so long as it fuels indepth research and maintains competitive equity so that people will still see a purpose to showing up to this tournaments. Why people think that everyone else needs to hear their speech act no matter how much it nullifies the thousands of hours of work...is sheer arrogance (or just an attempt to win rounds by skirting the normal structures of competitiveness, which is even more pathetic). So debaters who want to be liberated from the oppressive resolution that precludes their absolutely crucial ability to 
talk about whatever: get over yourselves. The activity has some value, but just because you want it to feel more earth-shakingly dynamic, and judges want to retroactively make it seem as if their involvement was some kind of GREAT POLITICAL WORK (in the ancient greek sense of politics which emphasises action, not the hyper-complicated sophistry of debate)...does not mean you should feel free to wantonly fuck with fair competition; the lynchpin to there being any good to come from debate whatsoever. Ironic that over-estimation of debate is leading to its destruction. 

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