[eDebate] [CEDA-L] The costs of a game, part 1: An unethical, amoral center

Ede Warner ewarner
Thu Nov 15 22:00:57 CST 2007

Ah, back to old times.  Hi, my friend.  Let's talk about experts pushing experts with stronger arguments for a second.  Don't disagree at all.  Believe that the policy wonk who can push another wonk, but can't relate to other fields or the public, is both dangerous and ineffective.  I had a class in mortuary school from a chemist who wasn't a teacher.  He needed a broader debate training beyond speaking to other chemists.  Debate overly insulates students to one type of judging and just like the chemist, that insularity is problematic.
As far as "taking it to the streets", I've never believed that debaters talking to untrained people is the only educational experience.  I believe a student should have debates in front of a diverse audience, including but not limited to: debate experts, experts on the topic not trained in debate, and groups with a personal interest or connection to the topic, like special interest groups, as well as lay judge's.  Preparing for the real world, means a debate career should have all those experiences, and I will defend that if competition is good, and I believe it is, it's good in all of those environments. That's a well rounded debate education.
All of this is a diversion from my point, simply to say that when we lost the debates in front of lay judges, the community, in particular Ross and others, were publicly willing to hyposthesize that trained, fast policy debaters should beat less trained students, like mine.  However, when his hypothesis was disproven as Louisville consistently defeated the trained teams, there was no concession that it failed.  In fact, the smart, logical outcome should have been that the rest of the community continued to say yes, and they learned to improve their speaking skills to match Louisville's.  Instead, the lay judges were criticized as inferior, and justifications were made that the ability to win justified the choice of the community to stop having the debates.  Unethical and poor educational choice for the best interest of the non-Louisville debate community students in the name of "winning".

From: Josh <jbhdb8 at gmail.com>
To:"Ede Warner" <e0warn01 at gwise.louisville.edu>
CC:<CEDA-L at ndtceda.com>, <edebate at ndtceda.com>
Date: 11/15/2007 5:55 PM
Subject: Re: [CEDA-L] The costs of a game, part 1: An unethical, amoral center
I only have a small comment to one part of this email.  On the whole, I agree with much of the idea that it is more valuable to look at debate as an important academic exercise then just as a game.
Dr. Warner says:

"Or the suggestion that we'll "take you to the streets" because our students trained in fast rigorous policy debate are superior on debating a topic to your students "alleged" by you the community to only to be trained in style?  But when the Louisville debaters start winning all the debates in the time period between Harvard and Wake, everyone starts not accepting the challenge, keeping their insular judges to debate the question of whether the debate community judges bias certain privileges not relevant to whether the public, including experts, thinks are necessary values of good policy debate." 
I say:
We never were in any of these debates - and I assume you are talking about year before last and not this year - so I can not speak to the strategy of how others approached this question.  However, I think you are conflating two different subjects here. 
Subject One: Should debate train debaters to speak primarily to laypersons
Subject Two: Should debate be a game
I will fully agree that speed, tech, insider language etc can be seen primarily as a gaming phenomena...But it also, alternatively, speaks to being able to reach a level of experience where you are using "technique" between people experienced in the highest level of public policy analysis.  In other words, if you had a public policy discussion between three experts in a particular field - they would not see that conversation as a "game" and at the same time not speak in a manner that would necessarily be digestable by people "on the street" per se.  The advantage to that discussion is those experts can use that EXPERTISE to push each other to make stronger arguments.  Perhaps not more persuasive arguments to the person "on the street" but stronger arguments for those who ultimately try to craft policy for solving public policy problems.  
I think it is very dangerous to say debaters should only be able to make arguments that people "on the street" should be able to easily understand.  If done with acadmic rigor debate pressures two teams to make public policy diamonds.  In addition, as has been said elsewhere, it creates an atmosphere where people can make arguments that they might not be able to make in public forums (about heteronormativity, about class, about race, about sex, about structures of government etc.). 
While I think debaters should be able to speak in front of a variety of audiences...The assumption that the only alternative to debate as a "game" is "taking it to the streets" is an idea I will never think is a great idea (all due respect to Dr. Warner who I do respect greatly). 
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