[eDebate] Winks and movements
Thu Nov 15 11:34:38 CST 2007
Ede, I do not believe Kade thinks you love debate any less than he does. All
I think he was pointing to is that there is some sort of love of the
activity that drives many of us as former debaters and him as a debater to
keep working and keep thinking and keep loving being in debate.
You think that love of the activity is the love of white male privilege. But
that's the problem. Debate's not as simple as racist or not-racist. It's not
as simple as game or not-game. Ironically, I think that's what Kade means
precisely when he calls it a game. I think the reason he called it a game
was because debate should not be held hostage to what other people tell us
is "productive." Instead, we should be able to dictate the rules ourselves.
When people tell us it's a game, it puts the agency back in the players. If
it's a game, the players can do what they want with it. Imagine if people
told us, "school is a game, and you can argue about the rules." It would
fundamentally change the role of the student and the teacher.
At least for me, that's what I love about debate. I don't like its isolation
per se. I don't like its exclusivity. I don't like the inequity. But I like
that I have some control instead of someone grading me on a report card
where I have no input as to what counts as an "A."
As far as I see it, that's exactly what makes debate so awesome for
activism. It gives you the tools to grab the game and change it for
When I first debated Louisville in '03, I was among the backlashers. But as
time went on I started to enjoy debating Louisville more and more. I liked
the challenge of changing my style. I was moved by the music and the power
of the words beyond their initial logical content. There was only one thing
I didn't like. It was the assumption that Louisville is in an apocalyptic
fight with the Devil and everyone who isn't Louisville is the Devil. Maybe
those were just my particular debates and the emotions that I felt, but the
feelings were there nonetheless. And the reason is this: debating the
"game," whatever that means, had been really important for me during an
emotionally difficult time in my life. Despite the fact that debaters are
only supposed to care about winning, friends of mine stayed up most of the
night at tournaments when I was upset even though they would be debating the
next morning. Yet, to pretend that people's love of debate can be reduced to
just the arguments they run instead of the loving context of people and
friends in which they run it is to ignore what makes those arguments
worthwhile: that it's fun to be with these people and struggle
intellectually with them.
Debate as the "game" you disparage in 2007 helped me when I needed it in
2003. Your apocalyptic description of debate cannot acknowledge that because
it's got its eyes on the prize and nothing else. If there's one thing that
makes debate beautiful for me, it's that we can challenge each other to
think differently and see what we normally refuse to. The beauty of theory
debates is not that they regulate debate - it's that they allow debaters to
be in charge of the regulation. The existence of "fairness" as an argument
in debate is precisely why your teams can change the rules of the game. They
get to question fairness for what and fairness for whom.
But your willingness to attack my friend by turning him into a scarecrow is
the type of steamrolling that erases a real history of meaningful
experiences for many people that can't be reduced to just white male
privilege. And that's a real part of what causes a lot of unncessary
backlash in people that really should be allied with you.
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