[eDebate] reply to bryant
MWBRYANT at aol.com
Tue Aug 5 18:14:08 CDT 2008
I'm sure you don't know me, though I am very aware of most of the people you
refer to as examples. I coached NDT, CEDA and parli for over 20 years and
qualified 25 teams to the NDT.
I understand your "real-world" analysis of how professionals should look. I
am required to wear a tie daily as the Department Chair in an urban university
setting and I actually teach classes on how students need to act and behave
in professional interviews.
But, in the 20+ years I was a part of college debate, I never wore ties or
blazers. Not as a competitor or as a coach. That was one of the things that
attracted me most to NDT policy debate - no matter what one looked like, one's
arguments were the focus of any evaluation. If we had been judged on the
quality of our suits, I would never have even had the opportunity to win a debate
scholarship to a small eastern Kentucky university and be the first member of
my family to ever graduate college.
Many of the students I coached during my career were also from poor
families. If they had been forced to adopt your standard for debate appearance, many
of them would've also been denied the opportunity to compete in college
debate. I remain convinced that debaters should dress comfortably, and in a manner
they can afford. My job was to help them develop arguments, not appearances.
Some of your examples leave me shaking my head - Tuna and John Meany, for
example. A fact I bet you don't know: Both Tuna and I have hired Bill Shanahan
in the past to work with our debaters. We both knew that while it was always a
challenge to co-exist with someone so capable of scrutinizing the ethics of
every decision, Bill was capable of accomplishing far more with debaters
than anyone known for their dapper trendy clothing. Bill put on no pretenses -
he showed up for his hiring interview dressed virtually the same as you saw on
the video. His sample lecture shocked a group of young Mormons by drawing
semantic equivalencies between GOD and DOG. He mesmerized a campus by refusing
to wear shoes, despite the sub-zero winter weather of northern Utah. The real
irony is that Bill was the first coach to have debaters run race kritiks of
And you have obviously missed some periods of John and Tuna's sartorial
evolution. 'Nuff said there.
Look, if you don't know Bill, you are likely to think he looks strange. I
understand. But that's just part of Bill's approach to life. He pushes EVERYONE
to question their assumptions. Bill and I did not get always get along, but
focusing on his appearance seems to be, simply put, shallow. Have you noticed
how not a single person in the video (CEDA Execs included) met your
appearance standards? I think you simply may have to accept the fact that there are
different community appearance norms in college policy debate than there are
on the high school circuit.
One last thing I need to say: I am very troubled by what I saw on the video.
Like others, I wish I could've seen the entire video. I think that
understanding of the conflict that immediately preceded the current video would
provide a fuller context of understanding. Still, there is no excuse for what took
And, to be absolutely honest, I felt personal guilt as I watched that video.
Seven years away from debate allows me the perspective to understand that
many of my own actions as a coach were indefensible. I recognize that a lot of
what I thought I was doing to defend my debaters from the various forms of
of institutional debate simply helped establish a groundwork for the norm of
uncivility that seems to currently prevail. I feel like shouting out props
to the Towson posse for exposing just how bad behavior has become. I know I
need to apologize to my own students, associates and colleagues for allowing my
own belligerence to make their experience with debate less civil than it
needed to me. Particularly to Steve Clemmons and Doug Dennis, I expressly want
to apologize for actions I now believe were rooted in racism. Maybe others
were even worse than I was, but that doesn't negate that I feel ashamed for the
part I played.
My sincere hope is that the debate community can learn from the current
experience and learn to act as if there was always a camera pointed at them. If
this could possibly happen in a way that doesn't sacrifice people's careers, I
think it is possible that some real progress might transpire.
In any event, these issues are too significant to be linked to shallow
concerns over appearance.
Back to work,
In a message dated 8/5/2008 5:55:02 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
akbiotech at comcast.net writes:
Well, I am for real. I was an attorney for fifteen years and I've
worked in private industry the last ten years and I teach business
school on an adjunct basis, and my students dress well because they want
to work in business. I do so accordingly because I need to set an
example for them. In the high school and college debate leagues around
philly and locally here we dress quite well. I was a prep school debate
coach last year and I can assure you that last year and this year at
PCFL and interac league matches many coaches wore ties, and the vast
majority blazers. All the years I organized urban debate for the
Philadelphia Bar Ass'n, I always wore a tie, unless we were down to the
last round of policy debate and it was finals and we had like five
judges, I might then loosen my tie. My supervising dean at my prep
school wore a tie and jacket each and every day and this year he's
working at an even better prep school in new york. Upwardly mobile
people dress the part.
I went to prep school. I wore a tie every day for six years. I believe
in a dress code. And, incidentally, so do many charter schools, urban
debate leagues and urban reform movements, as well as faith based
movements. They all believe in dress codes. Dress codes at the high
school level are very successful in reducing the incidence of crime
especially in urban areas, and I'm certain I could get a cite on this if
I spent more time on the issue.
And yes, I believe educators including debate coaches should dress well
and act well and act as role models for their students.
Certainly Dean Kathleen Hall Jameison of the Annenberg School believed
this, John Meany believes this, and Tuna Snider, who is as bearded and
hippieish as they come, has never made a fool of himself in the manner
that Mr. Shanahan did in this video; to the contrary, Mr. Snider
conducts himself in a very professional and rigidly academic manner, and
has through his many years of fine academic experience has EARNED the
right to dress any damn way he well pleases.
Charlie Garvin harvard 74, NDT Champion, had really long hair, but he
was a Rhodes Scholar, but when I saw him years later at the harvard
centennial in 1992, he cut off all that hair and had a suit on. In
fact, of the more than 400 people at that centennial, not one single
person had long hair or a long beard akin to Shanahan, and we had many
many professors and law professors. Larry Tribe has a smallish beard,
but I can assure you from having spent time speaking with him that he is
a rather quiet, low key person.
On the video, Shanahan appears to both act and appear like a lunatic
with a rage problem about to strike a defenseless woman. Since she's
african-american, it also appears to amount to a hate crime. I could go
on to list the number of chargeable offenses, but that would be
pointless. The video simply appears to place Shanahan in the worst
Let's talk about Plato's cave and epistemology for a second. Is reality
the world of appearances or is there something other than what we see
and hear? Are you contending that there is some essence or form to
Shanahan other than what we see and hear? If so, what is it? Is there
a Shanahan-form that I am supposed to epistomologize and accept as real,
as opposed to what I see and hear on videotape? If so, is it any less
crazy or weird than what the Shanahan-appearance is?
In my simple Quine--Reichenbach-Popper-Kant epistemology, things are
what they appear to be. If I see evidence of RNAi, there is RNAi. If I
see evidence of craziness because a man hasn't shaven for a long time,
doesn't wear footwear and dresses like a bum, and then acts out
accordingly for eight long, painful minutes on youtube, available
nationally, well, then, into Plato's cave he goes, he is what he appears
to be. I'm not about to theorize /a priori/ that there is a good
Shanahan, like there is god or mathematics. That's just not necessary
to my ontology or epistemology. I believe in god, I believe in
mathematics, I believe that all cretans are liars (and that Epimenides
was a clever fellow) but I don't have to believe anything more than what
I see or hear about Shanahan.
If there is an inner essence-Shanahan that you contend exists that we
should be arguing is the real Shanahan, please, please, please explain
it to me. From what I read on the posts, the Shanahan-appearance on the
youtube isn't the only one with anger problems; at least once of the
posts indicates that Shanahan has had anger problems for a long, long
time and has problems with anger management. People with those
problems generally tend to have serotonin re-uptake issues (see science
magazine and elsewhere) and would do better on SSRIs. He should see a
shrink and get some meds, and some anger management counseling, and stop
giving debate a bad name with such rants on youtube. He may have
underlying depressive issues as well contributing to his anger and lack
Sorry to paint it like a shrink, but that's what I see and hear.
I like to see normal people coaching my kids. My oldes kid is a
straight A+ student in 9th grade. She's already a hell of a debater and
a terrific lacrosse player. If you think I'm turning her over to some
nut job who looks like rasputin, you're crazy. I want her to be with
sports coaches and debate coaches who look and act professional and are
moderate in their dispositions.
I think what you're missing here is the parent's point of view. There's
no way I'm shelling out 50 thousand bucks for some professor who looks
like Shanahan or acts like Shanahan. And be a fundraiser too?
You may not appreciate this, but I'm middle of the road joe. I like
golf, the seashore, watching the ballgame, and I don't decide which
candidate to vote for until the debates are actually over. To me, the
guy appears a little bizarre. If you want to make a kritik argument
about my worldview, go at it. but I would point out that Max Weber, a
long time ago, in Politics as a Vocation, pointed out the virtues of
professors avoiding entanglement in politics. Of course, at that time,
the professors of Germany were entangled in right wing nationalist
militarist politics, and today the university is entangled in left wing
politics, but is not the message of Prof. Weber still to be listened to
MWBRYANT at aol.com wrote:
> In a message dated 8/5/2008 3:23:18 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
> akbiotech at comcast.net writes:
> In addition to the foregoing, I guess I would have to add that in
> addition to appearing to be very much out of his mind during the video,
> Coach Shanahan was barefoot, poorly dressed, poorly kempt, had at least
> several months growth of beard, very long uncombed hair and appeared
> very much like a person who was living on a street or a homeless
> individual. The very last thing he looked like was a responsible
> teacher, coach or person that I would entrust the care
> Are you for real?
> I'm not defending any action on that video (on either party), but the
> that additional blame needs to be focused on Shanahan for the way he
> is, simply, ridiculous.
> Shanahan has looked that way for as long as anyone can remember. I can
> pretty much guarantee that he was dressed in that manner when he
> the position at Fort Hayes. Shanahan has always gone barefoot.
> Your standard was not adhered to by anyone on that video (CEDA executives
> included) and is open to so many angles of kritik that the mind boggles at
> one to launch first.
> Your concerns about the behavior displayed on the video are justified.
> criticisms of his appearance opens a window to your own worldview that I
> think many will find very substantive or appealing.
> Louisville, KY
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