[eDebate] reply to bryant

Tue Aug 5 18:14:08 CDT 2008

Dr. K,
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 
debate norms.  
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,
Louisville, KY
In a message dated 8/5/2008 5:55:02 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
akbiotech at comcast.net writes:

Dear  Bear:

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 
possible light.

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 
of grooming.

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 

--art  kyriazis

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  
interviewed for 
> 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.
>  Bear
> Louisville, KY
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