[eDebate] Sorting it out...

David Marks dgm2109
Mon Apr 14 23:00:26 CDT 2008


Thanks for the thoughtful response.


My view on what it means for debate to be a game can be seen here (
http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2007-November/073130.html) and here
(http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2007-November/073141.html). Your
emphasis is on rules, my emphasis is on who gets the power to dictate the
rules. The best part about debate, for many people, is the creativity and
power in the hands of the participants. More on that in a sec.

People seem to assume that (1) refers exclusively, or primarily, to policy
framework types. Nope. I am including people who refuse to consider the
value of standard policy debate wholesale, just as I am including people who
close their ears when they hear the word "ontology." I am including people
who sit in a round and can't possibly consider an alternative way of
debating than what they want. (1) includes the judges I used to get in high
school who would decide they didn't like the way someone was dressed and
refuse to consider anything other than that. Basically, (1) includes people
who want to judge and debate without any compromise, or at least willingness
to listen.

 You can have a typical policy debate round and be a (2) just as you can be
a typical k or a more radical team and be a (2). This is really about
attitudes more than anything else.

Incidentally, I wonder what type of debate you think I privilege.... I
really hope it's more than what I used to read (some assortment of Budget
Deficits Bad, Death Cult, and misc. John Turner cards).


I don't think we need really grand frameworks to resolve a lot of issues.
Everyone likes rules, yet no one seems to think like a court - an
institution that relies on rules all the time. They HATE having to make
grand frameworks for evaluating everything. Instead, they say (at least in
principle), ok here's a rule, and here's the authority underlying that rule.
We're not going to apply it if there is a superceding authority or set of
justifications for doing otherwise. We're not going to try to figure out all
the rules at once, either.

So, for example, you say "don't abandon fiat." OK, but what if one team
engages in really horrible hate speech? Instead of saying, "fiat is a rule,
hate speech irrelevant to ballot," we should have a debate about the
desirability of fiat and whether punishing this instance of hate speech is
more important than that. That's an attempt to see both sides, their values
and assumptions, and it represents and attempt to mediate a conflict. It's
much more focused on that particular debate, instead of trying to manage all
debates at once. The focus on is on those particular debaters, not rules to
guide all debaters in some metaphysical bind.

You don't need an absolutist commitment to "rules" to have policy debate,
just as you don't need an absolutist fear of rules in order to advance an
alternative argument. Why not? Precisely because debate is a game, but it is
one whose rules are in the debaters' hands.

More on values underlying rules can be seen in Branson's good post here (
http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2007-November/073105.html -
criticizing the way we articulate rules and instead advocating a more
value-oriented approach, for lack of better words) and my marginally
limiting response here (
http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2007-November/073124.html -
defending the standard approach to articulating rules, but really basically
agreeing with Josh). I think some permutation of those posts gets to a way
of debating most anything without needing rules in the sense that you seem
to want them.

Analogy for the law-types: it's like the difference between rigid forms of
litigation vs. flexible arbitration where two sides try to contract out
their procedures as they go.


Some level of judgmentalism is inevitable. That's why humility is important
in curbing it. While I do judge (1)'s, I also see myself as a little (1)ish
both in judging (1)'s and in some of my gut reactions to some arguments
(Kathryn's really bad Buddhism files comes to mind).

[Insert laughably fewer qualifications than Dr. Glass]

On Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 11:19 PM, David Glass <gacggc at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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
> and...
> Visiting Scientist,
> Harvard Medical School
> and...
> fellow Columbia person ('81)
> uhm...
> 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
> >
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