[eDebate] Debating debate

David Glass gacggc
Tue Nov 13 13:05:54 CST 2007

Hi Ede,

With all respect,

in your very long response I don't see any response to the simple
point that was being made: that by refusing to engage - by taking the
opportunity to engage to preach to the converted - you are ceding the
field to a much greater enemy.

Do you have an answer to that point?


On 11/13/07, Ede Warner <ewarner at louisville.edu> wrote:
> David and members of the debate community,
> I think your analogy is even more interesting and requires critical
> thought.  Sunday morning, the day this non-debate occurred, I started the
> morning by severely offending my debaters, or in other words, I inflicted
> pain on them.  I told them they had too much faith in the debate community,
> and that faith would create more pain on them.  I told them that living in
> this world when you choose to be or just are different requires that until
> you inflict similar levels of pain on others, they usually won't stop
> inflicting unintentional pain on you.    I told them that for the last seven
> years, the debate community's one consistent theme, transcending the
> contemporary policy community or the critical/performative community, is how
> we collectively deal with pain.  You might ask: what does that have to do
> with our posture on the Middle East, or a decision to not debate, or a van
> ride to Wake Forest?
> Because at the end of the day, no matter which side of the debate
> ideological spectrum you sit on, avoidance of pain is a fundamental and
> essential part of human nature.  People seeking pain are considered
> irrational in our society.  You see, those four debaters understood
> something on Sunday that your post demonstrates you still don't get.  They
> can't stop the pain of the Middle East by talking about it for a couple
> hours in Manchester Hall sitting on the quad, especially not with the
> worldview of policy debate that I suspect you endorse.  But I suspect that
> my reason for saying this won't be what you expect to hear.  It's not that
> fiat is pretend.  It's not debate should be about keeping it real like
> Louisville.  It has absolutely nothing to do with intercollegiate policy
> debate.
> The reason they can't stop someone else's pain in a faraway place, is that
> they haven't figured out how to stop their own, or each others.  Good policy
> debate should teach us how to make decisions that reduce pain, not only of
> our selves, but of many others.  The simplistic analysis of blaming those
> four debaters for the potential end of debate only demonstrates that you
> too, are in pain.  And I'm sorry to hear that.  At the same time, sometimes
> the inflection of pain is a necessary step for people to stop, think, and
> realize that they too, might actually do things that inflect pain, because
> the truth is, we often inflect pain on others and stand totally oblivious to
> it.  The key that my lovely wife taught me, is to try create policy
> decisions that reduce the unintentional pain in other's lives around us,
> while reserving the right to intentionally inflect pain on others as a
> self-defense mechanism: when others create unintentional pain on you or
> those you care about.  Neither side of the debate ideological continuum is
> close to living by this creed or producing results that minimize pain.
> How contemporary policy debate, what I believe many of you see as some sort
> of salvation, causes pain.  Absent any critical perspective, the standard
> game by definition, rewards bigger impacts and devalues smaller ones.  If my
> interest is on a smaller problem in the Middle East, contemporary policy
> debate finds easy ways, non realistic or relevant ways to outweigh, making
> my issue non-strategic? A recipe for pain.  So while I want to talk about
> dealing seriously about those minority interests, the rigorous policy
> exercise that you defend as a solution to pain, is causing pain.  If my
> interest in a problem in the Middle East, requires persuasion to get people
> to feel the gravity of the issue, and I attempt to slow down or create
> emotion for my policy argument, the contemporary game has a set of norms in
> it's subculture that can assimilate that effort away.  That creates pain.
> If I am the most credible undergraduate student in the country on the Middle
> East, and I want to uniquely debate this topic against the best and most
> strategic minds in the country, and so I enter in the open or varsity
> division, armed with real policy objectives, the game is rigged to ensure
> that I will fail.  So much so, that you likely will tell me that student
> should debate in novice.  If I said, what about a Middle East Professor with
> substantial experience in US-Palestine relations, you would say they too
> should go to novice.  That's pain.  Even further, horrendous policy making
> that our best and brightest contemporary policy debate students currently
> would likely strike that judge, solely because they "want to go fast" and
> "are more prepared to engage the complex strategies of debate" than they
> would make necessary sacrifices to get the possible education that professor
> could offer in a debate competition.  That's pain, internalized pain at
> that.
> But let's not kid ourselves.  When the critical performance becomes a ruse
> to create confusion for the sole purpose of stopping a good policy debate.
> That's pain.  When a performance goes past the classroom level of discomfort
> necessary to create balanced critical thought, and students start running
> out of rooms and wearing t-shirts justifying actions which create that
> effect, it's time to say enough.  That's pain.  When people start pushing
> the competitive excesses we have in rigorous policy debate in the opposition
> direction until the creativity and shock value become more important than
> the argument.  That's pain.  Shitting in bags, taking clothes off,
> simulating sex acts, perhaps even playing offensive rap music (I do it in my
> classes so I'm hesistant to include), all of these are past the boundaries
> of what the few of us left would do as academics in a classroom, meaning the
> competitive extreme has gone way too far.  That's pain.
> But the MOST pain unquestionable right now, is what happens when the two
> civilizations clash.  Both sides are so willing to dehumanize, marginalize,
> and eliminate the other, they quickly forget that their efforts to make the
> other go away, always inflict pain.  We ignore that how we evaluate one
> another stands at the essence of our personhood.  It was hard enough getting
> the community to see that their exists racial differences that sometimes
> inflict inappropriate pain on one another.  But ironically, that pains in
> comparison to the ideological pain this community bombs on each other
> currently.  So the escalation and war you speak of, is already occurring.
> And the more you talk about how to fix it, the more it moves nuclear.
> I've been a part of that war myself, intentionally creating pain recently on
> several people that I care deeply about, not to hurt them but to try and get
> them to see that their were doing things that was creating unintentional
> pain on me.  I suggested to my debaters, who continue to exist here in
> pain,  because they have a vision of policy debate that is different from
> most others and the response by this community to that difference, while
> certainly unintentional, clearly produces pain for them.  Is that the best
> approach, I dunno.  It's the only one I know.
> My suggestion to my debaters was: you need to inflict sufficient intentional
> pain on others so they can see open themselves to the possibility that they
> can and do act in unintentional ways that create pain on you.  Can that be
> throwing the sole purpose of competitive debate, the ballot, into disarray?
> Sure it can.  Can it be looking someone in the face and saying the way you
> evaluate my difference destroys my personhood, and as such, I'm not longing
> willing to allow you to evaluate my difference until I feel safe?  Of
> course.  Can having a single harassment policy for debate in place only work
> if it allows any student at any time to say I'm being harassed?  It must.
> Can the resolution for this charge stop the debate as an ethical challenge
> to resolve if the pain inflicted is warranted or some type of productive
> societal good?  Without question and thanks to Sherry for figuring that out
> before I did.  I was too busy inflicting pain that I couldn't hear all of
> what she was saying.
> So yes David, perhaps my students inflicted pain upon you, Ross, and Jason
> by their choice to not debate.  Perhaps their choice to express their
> feelings, whether accurate facts or whether just their misguided
> perceptions, did create some pain and run inconsistent with what you feel
> debate should be.  But if that's all the pain you see David, you too are
> completely incapable of generating any policy decisions that will reduce the
> pain of the Middle East.  And you too, are unconsciously inflicting plenty
> of pain yourself with your simplistic reductions of the problem, as are most
> who engage this listserve.  So you, nor anyone in this community, is an
> innocent victim that stands above all of the pain being inflicted, whether
> intentionally or unintentionally.
> How does it change?  I'm not sure I know the answer.  But eventually I
> suspect the collective pain will become intolerable and unsustainable and
> something will change.  Or perhaps someone will create necessary leadership
> for some serious policy making about policy debate to address the issues
> using critical thinking and research to come up with a balanced solution.
> Or perhaps competition will continue to drive the train, and the pain
> inflicted by the unrestrained value of winning at all costs, not balanced
> with other societal values, like education or diversity, will inflict enough
> pain that people leave and create other organizations as Jason suggests,
> without fixing the problem?  Then new pain will start showing up in those
> organizations as well.
> This has been the "m.o." for debate over the last 50 years in America.
> Jason's call for an HCBU debate league has been tried.  HCBU had vibrant
> debating societies during segregation, as leadership training to fight the
> war on black life that existed at the time.  The irony is that their PRIMARY
> goal, just as Malcolm believed and used debate, was created a format where
> truth could be spoken to power.  They wanted to use debate as a vehicle to
> have personal confrontations with whites over issues like segregation,
> slavery and the like.  Ironically, the death of segregation destroyed HCBU
> debate.  In part because the personal confrontation with whites was less
> necessary, and in part, because the stylistic evolution of white debate,
> made it less relevant to Blacks.  They didn't want to have fast, technical
> jargon ladened debates with whites, so the political leverage to justify
> continuation of the programs died to.
> But in spite of all of this, I too, believe that good balanced, rigorous
> policy debate can and will one day, be a vehicle for reducing the world's
> pain.  It has too.  It's the only hope of survival.  It's the try or die
> necessary to create true effective political leadership and stop the
> politics you correctly identify as faulty. But debate can't do it today. And
> not with simplistic selfish solutions that just call for one's personal pain
> to go away without an acknowledgment and confrontation with our collective
> pain.
> Still with love,
> Ede
> >>>
> From: "David Glass" <gacggc at gmail.com>
> To:"Brian Huot" <brian.huot at gmail.com>, <eDebate at www.ndtceda.com>
> Date: 11/13/2007 4:20 AM
> Subject: Re: [eDebate] Debating debate
> The fact that such a round took place, when the Resolution on the table
> involves what the United States's posture should be in the Middle East,
> a place where we have recently started two wars, and are threatening to
> start a third, is a good metaphor for how the Left has lost its way, and how
> the Right managed to take over the governing process over the last 25 years.
> If you refuse to engage in the problems of the day and offer a real
> alternative,
> you literally give up the game, and clear the field for those willing to
> engage - and,
> as Cheney and his friends have shown to great effect, engage they will.
> So I have no respect whatsoever for such a result, and feel that those who
> waste an opportunity to show a better way forward are in fact complicit with
> those
> who push a worse way forward.
> This is without even starting on the implications for how such a distortion
> of the debate process
> destroys the activity...
> David Glass
> On 11/11/07, Brian Huot <brian.huot at gmail.com> wrote:
> > In round 6 of the Shirley Classic at Wake Forest, Leon and Phil from
> > Illinois and Brian and Rosie from Louisville, as well as Beth Skinner
> > from Towson reached an agreement not to participate and legitimize the
> > dominant structures of debate. Both teams and the judge agreed to
> > either a double win or double loss ??" that neither team deserved to
> > solely lose because of the fundamental inequalities in today's debate
> > community.  The tab room at Wake Forest was understanding of our
> > concerns and responded with a positive attitude.  However, they were
> > obligated to decide the round for pairing reasons and did so with a
> > coin flip.
> >
> > Among the inequalities:
> >
> > ???       Stylistic marginalization:  This community is accepting of
> judges'
> > ability to vote against dropped arguments presented in a traditional
> > style ??" usually with cards only, while ignoring when the stylistic
> > majority drops arguments presented in the non-traditional manner.
> > Sometimes this is intentional, sometimes it's not ??" judges often don't
> > feel that they know how to evaluate those drops. We must find ways to
> > evaluate these differences equally, beyond the acknowledgement of a
> > speaker's singing skill, ignoring the argument within.
> >
> > ???       Financial inequalities:  This community privileges the larger,
> more
> > expensive tournaments. The institutions with more money are then able
> > to compete more at these tournaments, and gain the prestige that comes
> > with hosting these tournaments. We find also that there is often a
> > direct correlation between available finances and team success ??" such
> > as Northwestern and Wake Forest, among others.  This creates an
> > educational disparity at the point where these teams are able to hire
> > more coaches and assistants to cut cards ??" debaters are functionally
> > turned into machines.  In addition, the debate experience at these
> > places is much different than one found at a smaller or less
> > prestigious debate program, who have to deal with tenuous budgets and
> > lack of resources ??" affecting the feelings of comfort and security.
> >
> > These are clearly not all of the inequalities within this debate
> > community. However, we believe that these, along with other
> > inequalities, highlight the necessity for change and a global
> > harassment policy.
> >
> > We send this e-mail as an attempt to garner the support, feedback, and
> > criticism of the entirety of this community. We stress, though, that
> > this criticism must not extend to collective punishment of coaches,
> > debaters, and/or affiliates of our respective schools. We all accept
> > personal responsibility for this choice.
> >
> > Brian Huot
> > Rosie Washington
> > Beth Skinner
> > Phil Hoffman
> > Leon Eydelman
> > _______________________________________________
> > eDebate mailing list
> > eDebate at www.ndtceda.com
> > http://www.ndtceda.com/mailman/listinfo/edebate
> >

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