[eDebate] when teachers take over the asylum

Kevin Sanchez let_the_american_empire_burn
Sun Aug 3 03:33:23 CDT 2008


first, let's all admit, this what real arguments look like. these are
the visceral emotions underlying all decorum and always
threatening to overstep the bounds of propriety. there's no rule strict enough to
prevent this type of outburst which would not also risk extinguishing the fire in
the activity's belly. some will argue (i among them, usually)
that decorum is crucial: when two participants approach physical violence, it
violates the norms required to keep the 'competitive
backdrop' intact. yet we shouldn't forget that argument is war, no matter how
fancily dressed, and that far from being dead, debate is still a place of conflicting passions.


i disagree with dr. warner's solution to "fix the real problem":
"[t]ake the competitive and procedural decisions out of solely the
students hands via a system that has been created to destroy diversity
of perspectives, and give back some real teeth to educators and other
participants who often have just as much, if not more of a vested
interest in the system than students"

funny, my initial reaction after watching a video like this is the
opposite one: it isn't time to start distrusting students; it's time to
start distrusting *teachers*. in fact, what's lost in the symbolic exchange
between hardcore gamers and radical truth-sayers is the student
perspective - those for whom debate is neither a contact sport nor an activist
struggle, but something which might actually be fun to do.

my criticism of shanahan would be nietzschean: where he invokes a care
for the activity, i discern the vicarious desire to live through his students. isn't there something sickening in this over-protective
attitude, ready to step in at a moment's notice and fight his debaters'
battles for them? when did educators forget that this activity is made for
those who actually debate?

one can't help seeing in all this a vicious fight between parents over whose kid should've made the cheerleading team. so you got struck - it has nothing to do with how qualified you are, and it isn't a reflection on you as a person; it just means that some debate team isn't positive they can squeeze a ballot out of you. so you got called full-of-shit - it's no reason to indecently expose yourself, among other cheap theatrics.

this isn't a petri dish for you to grow enlightened human beings in (and
here i'm definitely not talking about shanahan, who is the best of
teachers precisely when he does not set the best of examples), nor is it a
stage for you to steal whenever your students pause for breath (...ok,
that one's intended for shanahan). teachers aren't owed a ticket to the dance; you had your shot and now you're workaday *assistants* - nothing more glamorous.

what "vested interest in the system" do you have, dr. warner, other
than your students' education? what could "giv[ing]" back some real
teeth to educators" mean exactly? does that video really argue for trusting one's elders - as a judge and a coach, both full adults employed by universities, almost come to blows over *a debate round*?

in my opinion, teacher's teeth are sharp enough. you should be
humbled by the immaturity displayed by your colleagues, who were loud-mouthed, possessive, self-possessed, pathetic, and violent. my reply to warner is freireian: be careful you're not legitimating one hierarchy (teacher-over-student) to fight others. teachers already have
all the say their little hearts desire, but this round shows to me that the activity would do well to grant them only the trust they earn, as they seem quite willing to tear the baby of debate to shreds in the course of their dispute over parental rights.

one instance, however, where educators might consider using their
infallible teacherly wisdom is the following: should a student wish to strike a
judge because of a professed 'discomfort', you might advise them that one
of the most beneficial aspects of the activity you love is it's way of
taking participants out of their comfort zone. debating in front of a judge
that's voted you down in the past... this is where one has to reach deep
down, pull up something extra, and perhaps, surprise oneself. in this
sense, we might say the problem with shanahan's defense of competition is it's still not
competitive enough. a true love of the game welcomes a diversity of


one final point about 'self-referential' kritiks. personally i feel the
ballot is a fine way to call out counter-competitive practices, and i include in the realm of such practices all of
the following: fabricating cards, grossly violating the topic of
discussion, interrupting or badgering your opponents, not disclosing one's case, not publishing one's evidence
online under a public license, striking judges on ideological grounds, and so
forth. i wouldn't have a problem with awarding a double-loss for the antics displayed by both sides in this fiasco, for instance.

many will argue, especially after adultish incidents like these, that once we allow kritiks of this sort in, the
very structure of debate will be up for debate, and you all will be
doomed to more rounds like the one youtubed above. i don't
disagree, but my response is 'non-unique & turn': the fact that
there's already rounds like the one above speaks to the need to
revitalize the structure of debate through kritiks of this sort. if you don't want to see the next white asshole get his nuts kicked in, these grievances will need a formal outlet, one minimally balanced by equal speech-times and a basic sense of decorum. conventions of civility aren't the result of rules written by teachers who know best; they're forged round-by-round.

so don't shut up. keep talking it out. either something good will
come of it or it won't, but if solutions are stumbled upon, they'll have nothing to do with a top-down imposition of stricter rules or even with 'building bridges' - they'll come from a rich history of conflict that carves out a new terrain
for argumentative battle. my gamble is that this new terrain
will be reflexive, enjoyable, and with any luck, civil.
Reveal your inner athlete and share it with friends on Windows Live.
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