[eDebate] Reply to Massey-Switch side et al

scottelliott at grandecom.net scottelliott
Mon Apr 7 10:37:21 CDT 2008

For three years I have asked for you to state just one, just ONE resolution,
that would meet your concerns. I have yet to see you articulate an alternative
to the dysfunctional resolutions you and I complain about. This is like
listening to a kritik with no alternative. How can I evalaute or compare your
vision of the world versus the current world we are stuck in unless I see an
example of what the hell you are talking about? You have "openned up the
critical space for possible alternatives," in kritik-speak. Now all I see is a
black hole that has resulted from opeening the door. Why is it so hard to give
the world an example of a resolution?

On switch-side debate: "I'd love to debate you on this, but I agree with you
that switch side debate is evil. But you should not award the affirmative the
win just because they spoke first and chose to argue the same arguments that
we, in our heart of hearts, believe in too. The only alternative is to flip a
coin for the ballot."

In the  preceding hypothetical, we see the rub. In order for a "debate" to
occur, there has to be a contest of ideas. What happens if both sides agree?
(Example: Resolved: First Americans got jacked by Europeans. Example: Rape is
bad. Example: Genocide is not that good a thing to do.  Example: 2 +2 is 4.) If
both sides agree, and switch sides debate is bad, then no debate occurs.

If we only debate what we feel like debating, we end up having non-rounds like
the one Louisville had at Wake--rounds in which both teams agree not to debate
and the round is decided by the tabroom via a coin toss. Little to nothing is
accomplished. That was certainly educational. That really advances the learning
process. If we allow debate to become  contests of our "personal beliefs" and
our "projects," we end up with rhetorical and actual violent outcomes. We have
seen this already occur and I predict it will only get worse. When people are
challenged about their personal beliefs, and are forced to defend things on a
personal level, there is a greater likelihood of people resorting to violence,
refusing to engage and/or refusing to debate.

Any person writing on critical thinking can attest that the ability to analyze
one's own arguments (i.e. to argue the other side, just for the sake of
argument) serves to strengthen one's defenses and sharpen one's arguments when
it comes down to really having to advocate one's position in the real world.

The problem is how one views competitive debate. If one views it as real world
advocacy, then I think you have a point about switching sides being bad. If,
however, you view debate, specifically competitive debate, as a game, then
switching sides serves the larger purpose of forcing people to confront their
own hidden biases and to sharpen their "good reasons" for the day when they
have to advocate for their beliefs in a real world forum.

If we only argue what we already believe to be "correct," and we do not have to
argue against things that we support, then no debate occurs and no testing of
assumptions occurs. I thought Demosthonese took care of this argument 3,000
years ago.

I will agree with Jackie that the topics should be written to allow affirmative
teams maximum leeway. But it can be balanced with giving negatives some stable
ground. Because what we do is by nature a competitive activity, interests such
as fairness and a balance of ground is necessary. We can argue what we
"believe" every day. But, when argumentation is recast as a game, with wins and
losses, the goals of fairness within the game should trump your personal belief

Scott Elliott

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