[eDebate] Winks and movements

David Marks dgm2109
Thu Nov 15 19:01:16 CST 2007


I'm not sure, but I don't think you really answered anything I said. I said
what I perceive as your apocalyptic, epic battle between Good
"Critical/Peformance" debate and Bad "policy" debate is a way of describing
debate that is ineffective and ironically counter-productive.

First, it precludes seeing what makes debate beautiful. I think that's why
you may have had such a violent reaction to Kade's post. You assumed Kade
thought a certain type of debating was beautiful and nothing else. This
assumption caused you to lash out. I'm not saying your emotions weren't
genuine, but I'm also asking you to consider my emotions and Kade's emotions
when you make him a rhetorical scarecrow for your argument. For a lot of
people, debate is amazing and a lot of it for things you refuse to consider
worth mentioning. Like the times in between cross-ex when you laugh with the
other team and forget to prep (remember that octas round, Whitman BM?), the
ridiculous memories you have (remember that elim when Hunter made me hold
his nose while it spewed blood during Chestnut's 1AR?), the challenges you
face (OMG Brenda and Luis are going to kick our ass - they went to China for
God's sake!), and the friends you make.

Second, and this kind of buttresses the first point, is that fairness
debates (which is what Kade had been talking about) set the stage for
activism in debate. This is an indict of your criticism of debate as a game
because it misunderstands the point of theory in debate. Fairness puts the
power back into the hands of the debaters. Learning about theory is the
first time I ever thought about WHY rules are what they are, and maybe why
they should change.

You may be right that many debaters use claims about fairness to attack your
arguments. But isn't your argument fundamentally about fairness even if you
don't use that label? That it isn't fair that one team can talk the talk but
doesn't have to face a reality of racism when they leave the safe space of a
debate room? In fact, whenever I debated Louisville, I noticed your teams
had clear standards and rules regarding the way we should debate, the
benefits of debating that way, and a comparison of who better met those
standards. That's a theory debate! That's the game of debate! And that's
what makes debate awesome - you can question it. The irony of this all is
that I love debate as a game and that's precisely why I think I'd be a hack
if I ever judged y'all. Maybe it's that calling debate a game asserts we can
take the reigns of a microcosm of our lives.

Theory debate is NOT the same thing as debate where black people are told
"the rule is you have to debate like a white person." Yes, it does inhabit a
structure that may have evolved from there, and there are certainly massive
economic and social disparaties (and gender) throughout debate that emerge
from histories of oppression. That doesn't mean that "debate as a game" is
the source. It's the solution. It says: you can't just make up rules without
explaining why and for what end. That's what's been so powerful for many of
your arguments. It questions: what is this education and what is it for? And
how is it fair?

I believe (I suspect not entirely accurately) that your desire to
characterize this all as a dichotomy is part and parcel of the urge you have
to "kill" something in service of an epic story about radical change. But
meanwhile you are stomping on the emotions and memories of a lot of people
and seem not really to care that much about alienating people who I really
think aren't that far away from you. We live in a really complicated, fucked
up, beautiful, and horrible world. Things just don't shake out in simple
Good vs. Evil camps. I'm not saying you shouldn't take a strong stance
against certain types of debating or attitudes in debate - just get them
right instead of lobbing bombs at anyone who approaches.

As for Scott Elliott's comments, I have to disagree. I think maybe you're
giving Ede reasons to believe most people think like you, when no offense
I'm guessing they don't. Debating Louisville had a big impact on my life. I
appreciate and continue to appreciate the importance of ethos and pathos in
debate. Seriously. I believe I would have gotten one more ballot in my last
debate at NDT if I had slowed down and connected with the judges instead of
trying to just go faster to read another card. But on an even more basic
level, I can understand and feel the power of emotion as a form of argument
when dealing and talking with people - whether in the law classroom, with
pro bono clients, or frankly arguing with my mom.

I believe your arguments elevated the level of kritik debate generally. I
don't think it's adequate to talk about theory in the abstract anymore and I
emphasize this when I teach students. Maybe that's the thurst of Josh's
original challenge. When we talk about framework or theory, we have to talk
about so much more than just "but then we lose Biz Con ground." I think you
helped demolish the credibility of someone saying "this is policy, go join

Maybe the best example of how my idea of debate doesn't fit in your grand
epic scheme is how I explain debate during my job interviews. I usually
start by saying it's a crazy cult of people talking really fast, but then I
invariably talk about racism and sexism in debate. Why? Because what I love
about the activity is that it's so malleable you can do all kinds of stuff
and debate about WHY it should be that way. That's what makes the activity
so different from others, and that's what a theory debate is, at its best.
And that's what Kade was, as you say, "winking" at. He was winking at the
love we all have to struggle together to do something with our time that
we're going to try to make meaningful and good.

I'm going to try not to get drawn in too much further for the sake of said
law school, and I apologize if I have offended anyone by expressing how I
feel about this all.


On Nov 15, 2007 5:03 PM, Ede Warner <ewarner at louisville.edu> wrote:

>  David,
> I'm not sure what Kade believes or thinks, and I'm in no position to judge
> his intent, so I won't try.  What I can do is express how his words, as he
> wrote them made me feel.  My posts expresses that and my feelings can't be
> judged persay.  They are what they are.
> I do think Kade is expressing his love and because the fairness debate as
> expressed in the conversation is used substantially more on the "policy"
> side of the debate house, with me being position by the house on the
> "critical/performance" side, there is reason to believe that he was
> affirming a certain group of people having a love.  His choice of words made
> an argument, and it created an emotion for me.  And while you can't "judge"
> how it made me feel, you can judge whether his statements were "productive"
> for our community, given the injury I felt.  And in fact, I think judge's
> must, when these offenses occur, must judge their productivity.
> Now, somewhere in what I wrote, you decided that my criticism of David was
> his love for white privilege.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  My
> criticism is with the willingness of the community to play "pretend" with
> the legacy and history of racial oppression that contributed to his ability
> to have a game to love.  My criticism is not about how wonderful the game is
> for you, or me, or anyone else.  It's about a policy examination of whether
> playing a "game" is a "productive" societal use for debate, or are there
> others.  Given the legacy of debate, and the honest recognition, that debate
> was stolen from a democratic America by a few, and then changed in ways that
> made it less accessible to America, means that whatever fun or benefits you
> speak of, are illegitimate and you must give them back.
> You see, when a debate team wins on the argument that we stand on stolen
> property and must recognize that Native Americans deserve their land back,
> but then we walk out of that room, and spend little if any time acting on
> that recognition, we are recommitting the atrocity of land theft all over
> again.
> And when the debate community plays "pretend" that they have a right to
> this game, ignoring the oppression created in the educational system and
> broader societal to legitimate this version of the game, Kade, you, and even
> me, as someone who played the game for many years, still has the moral
> obligation to give it back.  So no, I don't think that Kade likes his white
> privilege, I think that he likes the benefits of his white privilege, and in
> turn begins to believe he is entitled to such benefits.  And that is the
> problem.
> >>>
>   *From: * "David Marks" <dgm2109 at columbia.edu> *To:* <edebate at ndtceda.com
> > *Date: * 11/15/2007 12:35 PM *Subject: * Re: [eDebate] Winks and
> movements
>  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
> something different.
> 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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