[eDebate] Sorting it out...

David Glass gacggc
Mon Apr 14 22:19:05 CDT 2008

Hi David,

You use the term "closeminded" .  That term implies a judgement that people
should be "open" to arguments that they are not open to.  Also you are
explicit that people should listen to what debaters want to do.

What this speaks to is a framework that rejects the idea of an ordered
theoretical paradigm for debate.  The "close-minded" people you are
referring to operate from a particular matrix which orders arguments in a
certain way.

This "close-minded"  paradigm is used by these individuals because it
"works" in a particular context.  Historically, since it evolved so that
people could model particular policy options, it functions to make that sort
of debate "workable"... and it is applied iteratively to maintain a
particular consistency that people can operate in and prepare for, in order
to do that type of debate  - just like other games behave.   Some people
deny debate is a "game", ridiculing the term because of its
less-than-serious implications, but the "game" terminology is used more
profitably to reference a common context within which people can operate,
and have operated.

This rules-bound, "close-minded" setting is only "closed" in the sense that
any game-framework is closed.  When the idea of rules is rejected,  we get
pies in the face, and at the point someone has a pie thrown in their face
during a debate round  even most of the "open minded" see the need to say
that there should be some rules... like not making it impossible for your
opponent to operate as she wants to, within her  time constraints.   And
from that simple idea... that people in a debate round should be allowed to
speak...  comes the idea of "privileging"...      if we want to make it
possible for each other to speak, this goes for those who want to propose
policies as well...  and then you once again are faced with an examination
of fiat, and how that either "privileges" that type of approach, or its
rejection "silences" that approach vs others.

Anyway, I'm just pointing out that even your rather theoretical construct is
itself guilty of being "privileging" and judgemental, and implicitly values
or "privileges" the type of debate you prefer vs the "closeminded" category
that you criticize...   to those who take the resolution at face value, and
desire to operate within its constraints, the call for "open mindedness"
is a power play to privilege a distinct format, that has the effect of
silencing, or relatively discouraging the policy-oriented approach  (since
no one seems to have managed to find a framework that allows both
preferences to operate simultaneously on the same playing field).

This is the struggle going on.  I'm not saying either side deserves to be
called "right"... but I think it is a mistake to prejudice things at the
outset by calling those who prefer one framework "close minded..." since it
just invites the reciprocal bit of name calling from the "other" side.  ....
which isn't very useful.

Personally, I think it would be helpful to have some sort of  retreat - a
workshop, where people can get together for a weekend and discuss debate
theory, and see if  the different strains can be harmonized.     The thing I
like most about the Towson approach is that it models protest vs an
establishment.   It seems this has an allegorical role in a policy framework
- where you have some trying to operate within a constrained system, and
others on the outside of that system pointing out its deficits.  That
definitely happens... and if we can catch a way to find a lever, where the
role of protest in the face of a particular system that the protestor views
as unjust can be evaluated vs those trying to operate within that system...
then it may be possible to consolidate things in a more orderly way.

In my opinion, such a framework would absolutely not reject fiat... because
one thing citizens always have to weigh is what a government can actually do
for them vs the perceived value in tearing the system down.  Admittedly,
such an analysis almost always result in a vote for the system - but there
have been settings where injustice did result in social upheaval... and
settings where the system saved itself by changing in fundamental ways in
response to particular forms of protest.  It would be great if that struggle
could be modeled in debate.

... so anyway,   I just think we can do a lot better than the current
framework arguments, which are all about rejecting each other's framwork,
calling each other crazy vs closeminded, when it seems that in real life
these different approaches actually do go on simultaneously in particular
settings of political discourse.

best regards,

David Glass, M.D.
An assistant coach, Harvard Debate
Visiting Scientist,
Harvard Medical School
fellow Columbia person ('81)
yeah and I have a job in a large multinational corporation...

On 4/14/08, David Marks <dgm2109 at columbia.edu> wrote:
> Theoretical (as in, overly simplistic but maybe useful?) model:
> (1) Some debaters/judges are just completely close-minded. They refuse to
> consider any conception of debate besides the one they think is best. When
> they hear something other than what they want to hear, they just shut
> off. They don't really care what the debaters want, because they think they
> know what's best.
> (2) Some debaters/judges really try to be open to most any argument. I'd
> include in that category some people who have been a really big part of
> current debate's theory and evolution and who you might not think would be
> as sympathetic as you'd find out.
> (3) Some debaters feel and undergo a different set of standards than
> others have to deal with. This can be in the form of aesthetics, content
> (privileging "substance" over "stupid" aguments, or vice-versa), or
> otherwise.
> My proposed explanation:
> (3) get mad at things that (2) and (1) both do. They then happen to
> characterize (2) and (1) as if they're the same people, because they feel
> the effect of their actions to be similar even if the intent is not.
> In response, (2) gets mad for being lumped with (1) and begin to protest
> (after all, some in (3) have been quite willing to say they want to "kill"
> the way (2) debates, and that's not just me trying to find little tidbits
> where people contradict themselves in the past).
> So, (2) talks about their frustration in being lumped with (1).
> (2)'s attempt to shift the discussion really pisses off (3), because their
> issues are being deprioritized in favor of (2)'s relatively privileged
> issues. This causes escalation and impasse because (3) gets mad at (2) for
> shifting the discussion, and (2) gets mad because (3) doesn't really care
> about (2)'s issues.
> (2) proposes to eliminate the impasse by telling (3) that they should have
> just tailored their argument better to address the difference between (2)
> and (1).
> (3) is infuriated because (3) thinks that (2) is nitpicking from a
> position of privilege.
> (2) gets mad that (3) isn't happy about the peace offering. Again,
> escalation and impasse.
> My proposed solution:
> (A) We need a lot of discussion, on edebate and elsewhere. This discussion
> should, as Jonah eloquently suggested, work on details more than we have so
> far. By details, I mean point to specific things that (2) should do better.
> Who should do the pointing out? (3) need to help (2), but (2) needs to be
> proactive. (2)'s behavior isn't harmless just because (3) doesn't feel
> comfortable speaking out; however, (2)'s behavior isn't automatically wrong
> just because (2) doesn't always debate in the same way as (3), and (3)
> should try to appreciate (2)'s efforts as well.
> (B) Stop this war metaphor. Replace with appreciation AND humility.
> I don't get why there are soldiers and battles and what not. This isn't a
> war. There really aren't just two camps here. Thinking there are is just
> part of the incorrect lumping of (2) and (1), and part of the assumption
> that motivates (3) to want to "kill" all of (2).
> I think a lot of debaters are in (2), and a lot of debaters are quite
> willing to change how they think. That doesn't mean they are flexible
> enough, and often times they are WAY too defensive when they're told,
> "you're not good enough - in fact, you're racist" --- I'm certainly guilty
> of this.
> But, the fact that many in (2) aren't perfect doesn't mean they aren't
> good. It doesn't mean their feelings should be entirely discounted even if
> they should also not be used to deprioritize (3)'s issues.
> I think the community can go a long way if it begins with appreciation for
> difference AND takes on a lot of humility in assessing its own ability to
> appreciate that difference. We need less judgment (about arguments, people,
> style, whether we're in a debate war, etc) and more humility (about our own
> failures to appreciate the impact of our actions and assumptions on other
> people).
> I don't think we don't need legislated truths to tell us an overarching
> goal for debate. Mutual appreciation and humility can go a long way, as long
> as they are accompanied by a commitment to really working on the details and
> specific practices that are harmful.
> The inability to communicate seems to come, at least partly, from
> overreaction and defensiveness whenever people get lumped in service of a
> grand meta-solution either way.
> So, for example, (3) does not need to discard everything that (2) might
> otherwise do in a debate. I do think there is value in some technical policy
> debates that aren't about race. But, the value depends on the participants.
> So, we need to ask, in this debate, what are we doing, what are the
> assumptions being brought to the table, why is it valuable? A lot of that
> can be left to the debaters without the judge. It usually is. Sometimes it's
> valuable not to make the debate personal; it creates a safe space for some
> people. Alternatively, sometimes it's both necessary and valuable to make
> the debate personal. Sometimes there's going to be a conflict over the value
> of making a particular issue personal, and debate doesn't need a pre-defined
> answer to that conflict, it needs to find ways for both sides to feel
> comfortable in speaking their conflicting concerns. We need judges who are
> ready and willing to accept the role as both critic and mediator in a humble
> and appreciative fashion.
> Fact of the matter is, A LOT of judges strive for this. If that weren't
> true, I don't think Louisville or Towson would have had the success they
> had. I don't think they had success because they ONLY had judges who were on
> their side of the so-called revolution --- there has to be something more.
> The fact that they feel so much frustration demonstrates we have a long way
> to go, but the path may not be that difficult to see one proactive step at a
> time.
> _______________________________________________
> eDebate mailing list
> eDebate at www.ndtceda.com
> http://www.ndtceda.com/mailman/listinfo/edebate
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/attachments/20080414/1cbb7508/attachment.htm 

More information about the Mailman mailing list