[eDebate] The View From Baltimore
Mon Apr 14 09:25:58 CDT 2008
Part 1 in which Rodrigo and I drive to louisville to meet with Dr Warner and
"Good Morning Rodrigo- You ready for this drive"
"I need some coffee, there is a little cuban shop in alexandria, can we go
"Well is it on the parkway"
"No but DC is amazing this time in the morning lets take the surface
I agree, but after a brief and frustrating detour in which i can't find all
the streets rodrigo tells me to turn on i become frustrated.
"Rodrigo, do you ever drive when you are in dc"
"No i take the metro and i run, i'm sorry i didnt know about some of these
one ways, but arent these beautiful neighborhoods, with the cherry blossoms
and all the people and all the little bodegas, and corner shops, and
"I guess, i grew up in this area so its not new to me"
"I thought you grew up in northern virginia"
"I did, just outside the beltway"
"But outside, turn here"
"Do you think that means you are from this area"
"Whats this neighborhood called"
Thinking about this all i can come up with is northwest, i see a banner
hanging from a lightpoll.."Adams Morgan"
"What where you going to say before you saw that sign, i know you old
friend, and we both saw that sign at the same time, but good try"
"Well you are young and suave and Latino, rodrigio. So saying Adams Morgan
was probably a pretty good bet"
Sensing the Joke and my frustration with the surface streets my travelling
companion says "You must have read that in the washintonian or the city
paper, why dont you just get on the freeway and we will go to starbucks."
We get to starbucks, venti ethiopian for me, something fancier and stronger
for rodrigo, we get our coffees and sit down
"Andy What is wrong, we have been together for a good half hour, and while
you still havent asked me about me, my work or my family, you also havent
talked non stop about debate or race, usually i have come to expect that a
greeting or a car ride of any length with you will inevitably center around
"I don't know since we have won ceda, since all the backlash and support,
since all the press and attention, and especially since this edebate
conversation i have been unsure about that stuff, you know when we where on
the outside i could convince myself that i was pretty much only responsible
for me, and if i was willing to risk that in order to speak i could, but now
i am worried that my words will be listened to so i feel this immanent
pressure to be right when i speak now"
" I can understand its a lot to process, let me ask you something, i have
read some of dr warners messages, it seems like one of his criticisms is
that you don't seem to have a strategy for this discussion, or in general
what you are doing."
"I will be the first to admit, when we flew to wichita i didnt think CL was
gonna win ceda, jackie had told me something at JV/Novice nats that made me
see a possibility, but seeing a possibility is different than expecting to
win, i think we have planned for and discussed back lash arguments, public
strategies, and all the things he asks about, but in those processes had we
spent serious time thinking about how to interact in the community if we won
ceda? I certainly hadnt, maybe CL had, but probably not."
"Thats fair, do you have a strategy"
I nudge my friend and say "what do you think we are going to talk about for
the next 14 hours"
"My wife, my classes, my scholarship"
A bit uncomfortably i ask "How are they"
"All of its great, im sure you cant talk about debate for the next 14 hours,
so we will have time to discuss it"
"Hmm well ill try but there has been a lot to think about from the last few
weeks and who knows what will happen if you get me started"
Back in the car heading toward the interstate "Rodrigo we dont have to meet
dr warner for a few days so we are gonna go in an interesting way to
"is there an interesting way to get to louisville?"
"What i figured was that we could go through harpers ferry, see the john
brown museum, then maybe a slight detour to blair mountain, then to ohio to
see some famous sundown towns, then down to louisville"
"wow thats intense, can't we just drive through the mountains, and have some
good old dialouge?"
"Well i'm a student of history, and i feel the need to see these instances
of suffering as a part of our living and active history of america
constituted as a white supremacist state."
"Don't you want to see this stuff, to me its part of white history and i
feel that i need to come face to face with both heros like john brown, and
evil forces like ohio sundown towns."
"Well its not that i dont want to see it, its more that i see it all the
time, every day, and i dont really ever get to see the shendohah valley."
"Rodrigo, i know people of color see racism in places where white people
don't see it, but it seems there is a particular history to these sights, a
particular part of the past we must integrate into todays struggles"
"How does going to a sundown town help you in your discussion with dr
"I think it helps me to see as charles mills says "to see the political
nature of whiteness"
"thats not exactly what he says, but i get your point, we also i think
should talk about charles mills, but don't you already know about the
political nature of whiteness? It seems like one of dr warners criticisms of
whiteness is that you seek external affirmations or negations of your
whiteness as a means of distancing not coming closer to a better
understanding of how to interact with your whiteness as it encounters in the
case of his and you's focus black people."
"Is it the black white issue you have with mills?"
"Not really, its that his inverted epistemology repeats many of the original
mistakes of contract theory."
"Well he is descriptive and prescriptive at the same time."
"Look, i know you have read this book, and won nationals coaching at least
partly out of it, and ill be honest you are maybe the tenth of my white
colleagues to appreciate its merit, but its not the end all be all, there is
a vast difference between being a critical race scholar and playing one in
debate. But lets get back to the criticism, you externalize the essence of
whiteness, in order to distance it from you. John Brown situates in your
radical history right along harriet tubamn. Sundown Towns give you something
to oppose so vehemently and a history to meticulously catalogue in order to
prove that you REALLy hate whiteness, but none of that at all gets at the
question of how you encounter black youth and do race as a white debate
educator. So lets talk about that."
"I hear you, we will go down sky line drive and cut across that way. How are
your classes going."
"No. You Dont get it. You haven't wanted to talk to me at all about me until
the discomfort of talking to me about race, and the respect i show you by
engagement, has left you paralyzed. Sometimes you are so bad at doing race i
wonder why i do it with you, i have these conversations with other critical
race scholars about the responsibility we have not just for how for people
of color digest our work but for how white students digest our work. We have
no choice but to live in this world but it requires a craftiness and a
double consciousness, because in addition to the psychological and material
savages of white supremacy on people of color you all make yourselves so
essential to the political success of our movements, so central in your own
minds that we have to work the academic system and the tools of knowledge
production and scholarship with a dedication that most of you have the
privilege to avoid, but its ok its what makes us better."
"Ok,OK, i think i get that, cornell west calls that something like new world
"Yes, good job my debate coach friend,can we take a break, i think we need
to get out of this car for a second."
We drive silently for a bit till we get to a gas station. Rodrigo quickly
steps out of the car, recognizing my slowness and pained expression as i get
out of the car rodrigo says " Whats wrong my friend?"
"I have a herniated disk"
"Well is there anything i can do"
"I'll Be ok"
"Ok let me know if there is anything i can do, I'm gonna hit the bathroom
and grab some awful coffee"
Back in the car Rodrigo says "Tell me more about your back, how long has it
been that way"
"It started last may"
"I can tell you are in pain, have you been this way since may"
"Ouuuuuch, that must have made the season tough, how did you do it"
"Did you do it like normal where you pour the entirety of your sole into
debate, at the risk of the self, more of that externalization you wouldn't
talk about before."
"My friend, i dont know if its the bad coffee or what but you have quite an
edge on your words today."
"The CEDA victory has given you a platform, you have to accept
responsibility now for a lot of things, what you say and do in this meeting
with dr warner and on edebate, and how you represent towson debate has an
effect on all of the udls and all of debate and all the people of color you
claim to fight for, i'm worried that you are a little weak as a leader of a
successful team, and i think dr warner is right if this is handled badly you
could do harm to a lot of people you have the opportunity to step away from,
but since you have chosen to engage debate as you have, im worried about
you, what you all do could effect all of our work in serious ways and we
have no control over how this works, so yeah im a little tense. The list of
complaints you listed the other day reminded me of when you first went to
work with the middle school league and you would tell me all the time about
the material deprivation of the baltimore city schoool system, then as now
i wanted to say to you, yes welcome to another America circa 1974."
"Ok i get all that, in hindsight there is things i heard in the hallway that
i added an urgency to that may have helped spark a lot of this, i wish i had
thought more before sending that message. At the time i was thinking of anne
bradens words about the needs of white people to break the wall of white
silence that maintains psychological barriers to material advancement of
black people, but in hindsight that may have been a process of letting the
literature get ahead of me, you know i notice this alot as people read
whiteness literature, the novelness of anti white racism, a history worth
illuminating often sets off such and epistemic revolution that the next
interaction with a discussion of race becomes the immediate testing ground
for the newly learned strategy"
"Thats an interesting point, do you think its unique to debaters."
"haha, absolutely not debaters barely read whiteness literature."
"i think on that you and dr warner agree. But lets get back to the point you
raised. Do you think there is a danger in a) introducing concepts of
whiteness without a strategy for managing the debate that ensues, a similar
process to the new african modernism you ascribe to west seems to be needed
in engaging these debates as you must use your new conception of the tools
of enlightenment to write to white people while knowing people of color
process your words as well? and b) do you think in that vein that using the
term white as you do in many your posts and much of your discussion is
"Let me take b first"
"Greg Moses articulates it like this, naming conventions have had such a
large impact on the creation of america, that simply ignoring them leaves
their power intact, only a strategy which allows naming to be used in a
transformative way that can change the reality that naming has created can
we get away from the impacts of naming, he specifically says that naming
things white is an important means of vocalizing the politicalness of
"That sounds interesting, and probably a good 2ac response, but i guess this
is what josh branson got at in his post from last year and what i thought
you where getting at in your distance post from november, but the question
is not what greg moses says, but more what do you say about your rhetoric in
"I don't know i think i occasionally use the term white divisively, almost
always inclusive of my self, but almost always negative, ive been thinking
alot recently about positive white identities, and their importance to white
people and people of color"
"I think thats what we are both working on right now, we will get to that in
a second, but do you think i think you know more about what you are talking
about if you name more of the literature you have read."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean sometimes when we talk about folks like you at conferences and
especially when the conversation turns to debate, if it ever does, we sorta
categorize you as the i have black friends crowd, but you are so immersed in
race literature that you dont even see yourselves coming off that way, the
name dropping:Cornell west:Charles Mills: Greg Moses: I'm waiting for bell
hooks and angela davis, oh and there was Anne Braden too.
"Anne Braden is hardly a name drop"
"Precisely the strategic value of it right?"
"i dont follow, and i think her advisor ship of SNCC provides a great model
of a leadership structure close to ours that i think answers a lot of dr
"I dont doubt that and think its great that you are reading her, but her
strategic value in this argument is undoubtedly in an edebate race war"
"Don't guess my sly friend, she is from louisville, she is white, dr king
mentions her as a good white person in the letter from a birmingham jail,
aligning yourself with her makes YOU harder to answer for dr warner, because
he must first explain why you are not her, and thus force him to be divisive
amogst white folks."
"Ok, you caught me, i think im starting to see what you are saying. This
whole time i have barely talked about how i feel about race and debate and
education, but have created a nice bibliography, often as an attempt to
divert the question from turning to me and my role."
"As close as you are going to get to exactly."
"Ok i need a cigarette"
"I thought you where quitting."
"Quitting, its a verb"
Standing in front of a beautiful mountain vista some where on the way to
louisville im smoking a cigarette checking for edebate updates and rodrigo
is at a picinic table talking on the phone, i ponder who he is talking too,
is it someone i know? what is he saying about this conversation we are
having? How do i look in that conversation?...nervous energy and discomfort
compels me to text..."drive to louisville is tough, rodrigo pushing me on a
lot of key issues, but i think its good." Rodrigo approaches me and says
"Andy thank you for letting me see this, i never get to see the woods like
this, it really is a beautiful country isnt it, can we walk down that trail
over there and take it in."
"Sure, but i will walk slow, my back and all."
"Well if you dont..
"No i wanna walk"
"Do you know what this tree is?"
"No rodrigo we dont debate about that"
"ah right" he laughs, we walk."Andy, im enjoying the trip but why did you
bring me to break bread with dr warner? I'm a little perplexed"
" Hmm, thats a good question, i remember encountering you and professor
delgado on the civil rights topic and being moved by the way dialouge about
race could animate different stances that led to productive difference
becoming a method of progress on issues relating to race and all
"Well thank you, the Chronicles where good weren't they?"
"yup but how come non of your students interacted with me until deven came
"ohhh, that one stings"
"to be fair the delgado evidence they read about fairness does not include
"thats not my point, but i can see how your diversionary skills where
helpful in wichita and fullerton"
"Ok ill give a more to the point answer to that question then answer your
initial question about why you are on this trip"
"Over time i have borrowed alot from louisville, filtered through my own
white screen, and then redeployed in different ways, arguments, strategies,
and authors they helped create in debate, when i read the chronicles i
thought they interesting but wasnt sure how to use them to prove a point, it
has taken years of listening to dr warner and seeing the way louisville used
professor delgado in order to redevelop my relationship with you, and for
that i am to blame."
"its not about blame, its about moving forward, thats what you said you
liked about the chronicles right?"
"yeah so let me get back to my point, Rodrigo i see in you the potential of
all of the students i work with, the powerful scholar, the ability to self
determine your own future, the constant rethinking of a better tomorrow, and
the constant pressure to account for the reality of difference, dr warners
discussion of whiteness has left me and the most of the rest of the
community in a white chill, too afraid to be called a racist or the other
side of that coin too afraid to hurt the feelings of people they care about,
regardless of race, in this there seems to have been, (at least when we left
on this journey) little response...what a see is an attempt to evacuate
whiteness and not a sense to transform it, i have had little courage to join
the fight and expose my vulnerabilities, but seeing you gives me the
strength to understand my role."
"Because the crunk revolution of today maybe the crunk revolution that
figures out early childhood curriculum's in urban areas down the road,
interacting with those students as they pursue the great black humanization
struggle as dr warner calls it is difficult."
"Ok i get that, i imagine thats part of what you are going to explain to dr
"yup but rodrigo i think you also do a service for me, and i am suspect of
using it, you help me build confidence in my self as a white person."
"People of color are more likely to encounter the psychological scaring of
american whiteness as patrica williams calls it and thus are more likely to
be good at healing the wounds negative identity conceptions can have on
"first who is name dropping now" rodrigo laughes as i move on to"second, yes
exactly thats my point"
"You can't change that, i mean not in the short term, its part of the
knowledge we have, it has to be, what you can change is how much and in what
instances you seek affirmation from people of color you surround your selves
with, we kinda see it as the price of doing business with white allies, but
if the process of doing business becomes too costly, we are likely to turn
away or at least be critical."
"I have been trying to understand dr warners persistent criticisms and my
process of seeking affirmation, and i am starting to see some of his
points.But i get caught up in a pattern of differing to and defending him
until i cant stomach it anymore and then i criticize him as if we where on
"You dont have rules of engagement, and certainly not as it comes to race"
"You have read that chronicle right"
"Yes, the twelfth"
"MMM, good 2ar extension, how has it helped you engage dr warner."
"Well badly i largely think i have done that power evacuating thing i
mentioned before as it relates to whiteness, and i let him set the agenda,
the model and the idea,because i feel i cant know (me) better what to do
than doctor warner, then run into roadblocks when i realize that i am not
nor will i ever be an elder black leader in a social justice movement and in
debate, then when i do engage i do so without any protocol, in some ways
similar to the discussion of civility he initiated with josh hoe, except for
me its an uncivility of whiteness, perhaps a wiggerish whiteness which names
certain things as white and does the opposite"
"I take it you have read crispin sartwell on wiggerism"
"So then what"
At this point rodrigo gets a phone call, i wait at a distance and he after a
while starts to walk toward the car, trying to honor his privacy but still
wondering why he feels he needs it i follow at a distance.
when he finally hangs up on what seems a tense call i ask "is everything ok"
"tenure stuff for one of my proteges"
"i cant talk about it to much, but he works at a mostly white small liberal
arts college, and he speaks and researches with a passion well beyond his
current pay grade, but he crosses lines of acceptable discourse sometimes,
and to be frank casts his net a bit wide for some of his colleagues, i dont
want to restrain him but his tenure committee wanted me to let him know that
there are some things they are worried about. I hate these conversations."
" I hear you we should talk more about that some times"
"i imagine its even harder for you."
"well i often wonder about it, i think its an inherent thing you have to
account for in the work i do, as much as i have at times let doc set the
lead, im also pretty self reflexive alot of times , when i get past the
distancing, i have pretty good conception of how white debate educators can
work with students from udls, not to say i dont make mistakes, but at this
point i have learned a lot, from working with the students through these
"That seems like the part you are good at explaining." Rodrigo's phone rings
it seems like the same call...this time i try hard not to listen, its (for
your sake if you are still reading a verrrrry long call, )over as we are
pulling into louisville.
I say "there is one more thing i wanna talk about before i break bread with
doctor warner, i kinda feel like he is doing towson badly on edebate, his
heartfelt apology post, seemed sincere, but in it there is no apology to me
or the towson team or nick brady, it seems like he is doing work to claim
our victory,claim baltimore success, and then distance him self from it,
that i think is unfair, plus puts us in a bad position strategically and
kinda forces us into an irresolvable bind. It even seems like in his early
posts he mentioned and understood the importance of this difference, but
recently it seems like he is taking public swipes at our staff and model
almost forcing us into the edebate arena "
"Perhaps he wants you to explain what you think, to respect him enough to
engage him on questions he sees as critical to his self interest and the
interest of large groups of students"
"Yeah, but our model, which i think honor's and looks to louisville as an
example, trys to account for some of the same goals with a leadership
structure as is in place here"
"YES. Tell him why you do what you do well and why you do it, not why what
you do is better than what he does."
Part 2 Breaking Bread With Doctor Warner
In part not being involved in the conversation has given me the ability to
see what messages are being sent, and what messages are being received and
to design and think about in my mind where conversations go.
I want to talk about Dr. Warners criticism of whiteness and educational
processes, of debate and movements.
Lets Come to some points of agreement
1) Many UDL's are run by white people. With this comes a whiteness in
pedagogy, politics, and social justice.
2) Many college debate programs that work with udl students are run by white
directors, and coaches, and with this comes a whole new set of patterns
infused with whiteness.
3) A debate team that runs as a social movement with a specific cause is a
different identity than a debate team.
4) Whiteness has a tendency to channel opposition into a liberal radical
dichotomy, that tends toward anti Establishment anti institutional
5) Whiteness reads frier and hooks to make the teacher just another
participant in an educational setting
6) Coalitions are required to make self interested change.
7) Movements with a goal need a specific plan.
Where id like to have the conversation revolves around the following
1) In a world where the above are descriptive of the current configuration
of power within the community, how do those of us who are white debate
coaches or debaters, not specifically those that work with udl
populations-there will be more on that below, work to use those descriptions
of the status quo to create a more inclusive community.
2)How do those most described in 1 & 2 work ethically and justly with
students in an organizational structure which lacks elder black leadership
but seeks to contribute to the students desire to participate in the great
struggle for black humanization?
3) Most models provided by doctor warner and many studies on white anti
racist or racial justice struggles do not provide an effective model for
white educators who find themselves in positions of educational and decision
making power.This is not Dr. Warners job, as leader of any movement, his
contribution to how we theorize and transform our own white identity is to
the point that it interests him. When he has provided a model...earlier in
the fall, it fell on mostly deaf ears. I suspect the possibility of
collective purpose is just to much of a demand for change that has yet to be
able to be seen through derrick bells lens. The point being this. Right now
and likely until we can as white debate educators figure this out, most of
the leadership positions in the community come from a perspective of and a
legacy of whiteness. What is needed then is a method of thought and practice
which we can engage in at our debate teams that works to make 1-5 and maybe
6 & 7 less true as opposed to more true.
4) No matter how much we may wish to avoid or explain away our whiteness, to
evacuate the power from its painful meaning, to deny or resist the
privileges it infers, we must not accept that it can any more easily be
wished away than the material reality of blackness or any marked named
difference. Many of us tend to be paralyzed by the critique of whiteness
especially when it is delivered from elders in a movement which we are an
ally, we tend to see critiques of whiteness as motivated personally , as not
recognizing how much we have done, as a lost opportunity to be revered by
much respected movement eldered, we tend to be blind to the love with which
those critiques are delivered. One other consequence can be self loathing,
such an acceptance of the critique that you despise your own identity, that
you transfer that denial of identity and the responsibility for affrimation
away from your self and toward people of color who you seek out to like
you...this evacuation of whiteness leaves many of its components unexamined
untransformed and despite the best attempt of the evacuee still imposing a
structure of whiteness...i speak here from personal experience as a udl
advisor, who myself has been subject to this, but has seen other debate
people and the most well meaning of white teachers in urban classrooms, or
people working with udl students in labs all go through parts of this
process. What is seldom seen or encountered is people who have lovingly
listened to the criticism and worked to transform the power of white
privilege into a positive white identity. When i say whitness i refer not to
some bio racial determinism, but to a political system which requires
choices on a personal and institutional level, but is also shaped materially
by the results of an imposed social construct. Positive owned white
identities can expose the political nature of whiteness by showing white
people and people of color the possibility that white people can do positive
work in alliance with people of color for justice.That there is a way of
being white which does not support existing racial power structures. But it
requires aggressive confrontation and transformation of the political act of
whiteness, there is a long history in every era of white people who have
defied the white way of the world, and in those identities, not those
evacuated by white people does the best path forward lie, for us white folks
5) From my social location and given my power and privilege plus an attempt
to account for whiteness in education and debate while working with students
seeking part of the great black humanization struggle i have made decisions
on collectivity versus individuality that are similar to many in the udl and
college debate community. Given the choice of imposition of a decidedly
white way of knowing debate but an organized collectivity, and a model in
which students have more say over argumentation structure and team
direction, i have chosen the later. This choice is not without its pitfalls,
for a team, for an individual, and for others in the community, in one way
it is a question of which w(h)it(e)ness i will impose, and what effects it
will have on the goals of students involved. While a misreading of friere
can lead to an absolute devolution of power to students, and leads to the
very insightful critiques of such educational practices in donald macedo's
introduction to pedagogy of the oppressed(by the way im absolutely amazed
people dont read these as framework arguments...i know some of you do...but
really come on now), and an interpretation through whiteness furthers this
misreading because liberation is read through in part an individualistic
lens, there is something in friere of a hybridity and fluidity of pedagogy
which i think can speak to white educators faced with the choice i have
described. What i will argue is that in the absence of a elder movement
leadership structure pedagogical decisions should be made with a presumption
toward student self determination. This is not to call for an abandonment of
known debate leadership structures, but a willingness to let them be
informed and transformed by students. It has been my experience that such a
strategy can create a collectivity from below, student leadership and
development patterns that help the decison makers to craft a method of
exerting leadership that serves students interest first. It also creates an
additional level of burden on students and a demand of leadership and focus
which may be wholly unfair to impose and may lead toward certain students
excelling and validating the model while others seemingly unexplaianbly
fail. I don't take such chocies lightly, nor do i fail to recognize the
power i have as a sometimes decion maker but given my educational goals and
my strategies for social movement they are chocies i think are defensible.
6)If coalitions and interest convergence have any possibility of taking off
in the status quo we must have models that account for white decision makers
interacting with non white populations. With such a realist focus, we can
work toward a place where that power of whiteness works to undermine itself
instead of reinforce it, but constructing a model of social justice that
lacks the capacity to speak to this specific question makes coalitional
politics a non starter. Let me be clear, i dont think anything about dr
warners model excludes the possibility of positive whiteness, i read it as
criticism that makes that more possible, but these are the questions that
have to be worked out if we are to move past the arguments that have been
sticking points up untill now.
7)I will never nor should i ever be the leader of a black movement. Its
taken me a long time to admit that. Thus, i dont really see the debate teams
i work with as a unified social movement,at least not one i lead, i see it
as an institution which can provide critical skills to an individuals
advancement. For me there is a material benefit to UDL work which involves
individuals, which cannont be denied. When a question is posed of white run
udls or no udls i will without a doubt side on the white udls side of that
equation. I have watched too many students get too many benefits in their
day to day life to believe that the whitness of udls is enough to make them
less productive than not. If its framed as how do udls given that they
should exist, negotiate whiteness, in the empowerment of urban students and
communities, then its a much more interesting debate and one that links with
much real world thought in the non profit and social work sector.In this
literature the individual focus often accounts for the "triage" stage and
the collectivity which comes beyond it accounts for "empowerment" I think
thats where the discussion lies.
8) Here is how i have negotiated both sets of 1-7 above. Let me first take a
moment to say that the description of mostly white udl leadership is taken
as a given in this conversation largely because i want to speak to those
folks, but that leadership is as differential as it is the same, different
white people have taken different approaches and that totally doesnt mention
the non white udl leadership and their choices and decisions, but for the
sake of discussion i will take it as a starting point. That being said here
is my vision for how debate works as an educational activity as part of the
great and long struggle doctor warner references.
To me the first component of my role as a white educator is a material and
institutional one. Before we can have movements in and around debate, before
we can debate about debate, aesthetics, ethics or politics there must be
opportunities to debate. Because of intentional and unintentional sins of
our forefathers those opportunities have been closed off to students from
urban public school systems. This means that almost always existing debate
structures are mostly controlled by white people, a whole variety of white
people but white people none the less. This means much of the institution
building work by nature falls on white people. To me the long term goal of
this institution building process is to have established debate teams at a
network of high schools, middle schools, and colleges within a particular
geographically isolated urban area. I was fortunate enough to work with the
Baltimore Urban Debate League for two years as a Middle School Program
Coordinator, Baltimore in case you don't know about it has built a UDL the
right way. 60 high schools and middle schools throughout the city,
tournaments the size of ceda many times a year, a network of teachers
without prior debate experience with what now amounts to decades of debate
training. I could go on for as long as i have written so far about the
organization that has been built by BUDL in baltimore and its connection to
real social justice work, and i could spend hours detailing students who
have benefited from debate in real and material ways, for whom this
conversation is of zero relevance, but everybody knows those stories, and
they never seem to matter. Let me say this if you are ever in a place to
work with a UDL or you wanna talk about how important udl's are you should
talk to pam spiliadis and visit the budl. (Please don't publicly attack her,
or any one else not on this list, last time you did that nearly irreparable
damage was done to potential coalition building)
On the college level the UDL's provide perhaps the other model outside of
the academy that doctor warner advocates, public private partnerships funded
for their effectiveness at achieving educational goals first and foremost
and almost never for their novel intrigue. The academy broadly and the
academic department specifically often regards the debate team in the
esoteric language we package it in, and perhaps the dwindling budgets josh
discusses are a result of our continuing isolation in an academic insularity
that leaves us convinced we are essential to the education process even
while we fall further and further from university missions as expressed in
2008. However; if your debate program "increases college completion and
graduation for minority students" or "attracts diverse student bodies" or
"establishes mentorship relations with local urban high schools" it is more
likely that you can open up new funding streams, within the college and
beyond. Another thing that can address josh's concerns while at the same
time learning from the udl model is localism. In baltimore we have started
hosting local tournaments, so that debate opportunities can be provided at
first to students and then institutions at the local colleges that udl
students (plus a whole lot of other people) attend. The goal is to have a
debate cooperative ala wyoming plus a debate season that can provide the
material benefits of a debate education to as many college students as want
it. This year we hosted a coop ,three regular season tournaments, districts
and jv novice nats, a baltimore college with very little budget could have a
great little season. This shouldnt be new to any of you, i have been talking
about it as the solution to the problems josh talks about for two years.
Most of the community pats me on the back and encourages me, but no one else
is adopting the model, but everyone is still complaining about gas prices.
But i digress, the point is this building institutions where debaters can
participate is the first part in the material aspect of my politics.
We think we have a good model at towson and in baltimore for increasing the
institutional access to debate at a whole lot of levels, and its taken us
time to build it, and most of the work has been done by people other than
myself. Nonetheless i work to create access opportunities in the company of
some of the best debate organizers and advocates in the country (white and
One of the goals of building powerful institutions is the creation of the
communities next generation of leaders. I think Nick brady could be a great
college debater, coach, and leader in the future, but he choose to go to
johns hopkins(a very good school) and if scotty gottbreht has to run the
team until nick can take it over (hypothetical everybody) i still think
encouraging and supporting the growth of this institution is worthwhile.
Secondary to the question of material access is what the debatescape looks
like, i may differ with dr warner about the sequencing of this, but i think
that the students i work with frequently have an idea of what they want out
of debate, sometimes i can work within the structure that exists within
debate to provide that for them, and sometimes i need to take what i know
and work with them to make the relationship they have with debate to be
dynamic one. I try not to promise that debate can be all things to all
people as i think thats one of the mistakes white educators have frequently
made, but i also try to not underestimate the potential of the students i
work with to work the system to transform it in to one that suits their
needs. I worry that bringing students into a situation that requires them to
negotiate the identity hurdles dr warner elaborates could be
disadvantageous, but usually believe that at least for some of them
shielding them from a real world that is new to me, but encountered daily by
them, is a net counterproductive utilization of my whiteness.
When students feel the need to challenge debate structures it is quite
frequently so that they can have more space for themselves to have a good
relationship with debate, however it is often because they want future
generations to have a wider more argumentatively diverse and inclusive
debate space, in this sense student leaders build student movements within
debate that do work for other students, this may not in itself create social
justice on the scale that dr warners movement aims to, but it magnifies the
material benefit of access mentioned and allows student leaders to test
their skills at movement building in a small but some what typical academic
community, while creating space for others to have to fight less in the
Nick Brady likes arguments that disagree with dayvons arguments who likes
different arguments than hong mei who likes different arguments than adam
who likes different arguments than fernando, and thats ok, they have been
debating with each other as they grow as debaters and students for years. My
goal as an educator is create a climate in which they can each work on their
development as it relates to their interests and goals.
Do i worry about the heatedness and division amongst debaters i know...of
course...but perhaps that is the civility thing ede speaks of...i think i
know for sure that everybody on our team is excited for next year after cl
won ceda this year...has the process been easy? No, one issue i have pushed
as a leader is that they need to hit the ndt circuit with an attempt to win
national tournaments this resource allocation given our budget often times
angered our dozens of other debaters, didint seemingly make sense to younger
teams, and if i had only listened to my students point blank would never
have happened. Similarly, i don't listen to what ever my students say their
argumentative choice is and just affirm it, i push them to develop it, to
work on it as a debate argument, and to ask themselves what their purpose
is. But i find this is much easier with students who get to to determine and
shape the course of their own arguments.
How does winning tie to all of this. Winning of course is important it shows
material possibilities of escaping the inferiority, that we often so forget
can be created in the udl climate, it provides role models, it provides
material affirmation of the model, internally and externally (after winning
ceda our proposal for all maryland colleges to build on the towson model,
udl scholarships, local and national travel budget, team built around an
eventual partnership with local udl's) will probably have more
attractiveness and more success. More high school kids think college debate
might be for them. Yes obviously there are material benefits to winning, and
we all know this. Let me put it this way, if your team is mostly made up of
white debaters, and they attract other white debaters, and you mention the
material benefits of winning, and you win, is your argument vote for us
because we are white? of course not...similarly while winning is a goal of
our movement, and there are huge material benefits to it, the argument is
never vote for us because we are black, if you think thats the argument JM
made at ceda you really do not understand the nuance with which they
answered the belief that this was "towsons argument" or you don't understand
that it is "towsons argument" to answer.
In the end of the day i believe that towson and baltimore have built a model
which develops student leadership skills well, which allows students to
direct and guide their own research, and which allows them to have the
ability to contribute to the direction future and climate of the team. To me
this is a good way for baltimore to have black debate leadership in the
future generations, that leadership can influence this league and this city,
this team and this community, and this university and campus. When posed
with nick bradys demands i say how can i help you meet those, i felt as if
dr warner said. You can only be successful if you have elder black
leadership who can outcoach anybody in the country. I dont know where this
leaves nick, or dayvon, or shawntia, or deven, as they aim to become that
next generation of leaders?
I'm sure i have missed some things, but thats where i come from
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