[eDebate] My debate about debate; rd. 5

Donald Bryson anabaptist
Mon Nov 12 22:48:28 CST 2007

I was assigned Louisville PR v. West Georgia CP in round 5 of the Shirley.  Louisville's 1A stood up and read a couple of pieces of evidence about disparity in the debate community and problems with the style of speech and argumentation in policy debate. The 1A then said that after the day he had had before he no longer wanted to debate and was frustrated. What seemed to be the same sort of conversation that Brian Huot outlines took place afterward except; there was no set agreement.  Neither side came to an agreement, but there was a discussion for about 90 minutes.  I participated only at points where I thought I should either a) interject a point of clarification or b) answer a question.


I made a decision of a winner, which I will defend in a moment and then I'll answer some issues brought up by Huot's earlier post.


I chose West Georgia as the winner of the round.  My initial thought is that West Georgia came into the round prepared to debate.  They mentioned arguments that they had prepared for Louisville specific to Palestinian engagement, as well as the metaphor that Louisville had listed on the case list.  Louisville, at this point, had said that they would not "forfeit" the round, but I never understood why I should fault West Georgia just because Louisville didn't want to debate anymore.  Conversations about diversity and disparity are just fine to have, but they are no reason to 1) shut down a tournament and 2) make another team lose just because they drew you as an opponent.


I agreed with some of the arguments brought forward by both sides.  I don't mean to paint the picture that both teams disagreed at every turn because there was some agreement.  However, I also disagreed with some of the arguments made and I'll list them below along with other thoughts.  I'll start with Huot's post.


-         Stylistic marginalization


I think this argument is misrepresented.  If I just say Louisville had an argument about "stylistic marginalization" it sounds like some argument was made about how speed hurts diversity in debate or something along those lines.  The argument is that judges (to borrow a term from Bill Newnam) are too "flowgocentric" and rely too much on evidence.  Some of this argument is probably true.  Lindsay Harrison made some good arguments (during the Harrison 06 court link controversy) about how debaters should be able to make some arguments without evidence (i.e. if Bush signed the Kyoto protocol, I bet he'd gain PC).  However, there has been a backlash in the last few years to "independent voters" and other similar arguments and I think that that backlash checks back a lot of the offense this arguments garners.



-         Financial Disparity


I used to be on the "small school" side of this debate.  I thought that "big-time" programs such as Harvard, Emory, Cal, etc. all had the goods because they had the money.  I thought they could afford all of these coaches that you will inevitably see in the room before a round and they'd pound the little school I went to (Piedmont College) into the dust.  This scenario is not necessarily true.


Yes, a lot of schools have lots of money and can afford more coaches.  And?  If you spend anytime around the "top-tier" teams or potential first-round teams, you'll notice one continuous detail - GOOD DEBATERS CUT THEIR OWN CARDS.  They don't cut them all mind you, but they cut most of them.  Why can Big School KL crush you on this Grand Bargaining Bad debate?  Because they've cut the cards and understand what's going on specifically with the issue.


I also think that economic disparity is inevitable in any sort of competition.  I'm a college basketball fan, so I'll use that as an example.  The University of Kentucky has a lot of money tied up in basketball, I mean LOT of money.  In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, let's say they play, Winthrop.  I don't know for a fact, but I'd be willing to say that UK Basketball has more money than Winthrop Basketball.  If UK beats Winthrop, did they win because they had more money?  No.  In the end UK won because 1) they had more talent and 2) they put more work/training into their game.  I think that this is the case in debate.  I'll grant you that big schools may have more talent due to more money, but they also probably have that money because someone kicked their butt into gear and brought home some competitive success.  I fail to see an educational disparity.  I think the disparity is created when debaters choose not to debate or focus on the topic, which was created (even if you don't like the topic) for educational purposes.


I don't understand this "debaters are turned into machines" argument.  I know what you're saying, but I don't know why you're saying it.  Is the argument that all Emory debaters basically have the same files so, they all argue the same way and with the same style or something like that?  I think this argument is flawed because 1) it essentializes the personality and styles of entire squads of debaters and 2) the same argument could be made for performance squads.


-         Global Harassment

Agreed.  Harassment is bad.  I don't think that anyone should be harassed or prejudicated for any reason.  I think that it's a same that some teams find it necessary to run arguments that make other people uncomfortable, but I also find it puzzling that some teams run arguments (to make change in the community) that essentializes the judge in the back of the room.




 Those are my general thoughts on the issue and the round I had.  I'm more than willing to answer any questions.



Donald Bryson

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