[eDebate] Observations from the Outside

Mason Miller mmiller
Wed Aug 13 16:38:43 CDT 2008

Some of you know me and some of you don't; I think this is the first time
I've ever posted to eDebate (and frankly, I'm not even sure who reads these
posts).  For those who don't know me, it's been about a decade since I
stepped foot in a college debate as a coach or participant.  I won a few,
lost a few, and had fun the entire way.


That being said, having first seen a snippet on CNN, and later the full
display, of the video of the debate at the quarters of CEDA Nationals, I
couldn't help but comment.  Let's start with some background about what/who
I know:


1.        I know very little, if anything about anyone that was shown on the
video - - I don't know the names, race or really anything else about any of
the debaters, and know nothing about the teams involved.  I think I
recognized Hester (but only by the red hair that shows through even on a
low-tech film), and I do know both Ede (well) and Bill (somewhat).


2.       I have no clue what sparked the argument, although there appears to
be a significant amount of peripheral commentary about strike sheets, prior
judging experience and Ede's prior involvement with some of the
debaters/coaches at Towson, as well as some mention of Omar G. being in an
argument before the video started.


Against that backdrop, some observations from the outside looking in:


1.       The behavior I saw on the video is not the way I think people
should treat other people.  I don't care what Bill wears or how he dresses,
but his ass should stay in his pants unless otherwise invited to be
revealed.  Likewise, calling Bill an asshole does little to advance any
argument in a constructive manner.  The scene I saw reflected poorly on an
activity I used to champion to others, and it's not what debate is about
(Please note, I do not want a bunch of responses about the "meaning of
debate" or whether the use of expletives or public nudity challenges
assumptions about what debate "is" - - my point is simple - - step back from
the activity from a minute, and I think most people will agree that
interpersonal relations do not need mooning and name-calling as a general
principle, in debate or otherwise).


2.       Why was the argument permitted to continue for 2-3 minutes before
someone stepped in to de-escalate it?  I probably personified "laid back"
for the better portion of the decade I was involved in debate, and I would
like to think even I would have stepped in.


3.       Bill - - you may or may not lose your job.  I suspect you don't
care that much about it (at least on a personal employment basis).   Shanara
- - you might also lose your job.  I suspect you do care, at least more than
Bill.  It's a shame eight minutes of your life might impact the rest of it
(but I suppose that is always the case).


4.       To Bill and Shanara - - together, you both appear to care dearly
about the activity of debate.  If I can read people's personalities well, I
think you might both be a bit stubborn.  That being said, I hope you can
accept responsibility for what could be a serious repercussion on the
activity as you know it.  Maybe I'm wrong, but if that video made its way
onto the computer screen of a guy ten years removed from the activity,
quietly minding his own business at work, then I'd guess it has found its
way to administrators, parents, deans of schools of communication, etc.  Can
the damage be repaired? Probably.  Should it have to be? No.


5.       Finally, take this for whatever you think it's worth.  What I saw
on that video wasn't about race, inclusion/exclusion, whites or blacks, or
anything of the sort.  What I saw was two strong personalities that let
their emotions overcome their reason.  There were two things I enjoyed about
debate when I was involved - - the friends I made and the argumentative
process I learned (well, 3 things if you counting winning some debates, that
was ok too).  What I saw on that video was a bastardization of both.  If
that is what debate has become (and I hope it isn't), I think I would prefer
my children did NOT follow in my footsteps and did not participate in the
activity, which is a shame, and something I never thought I would say.


Mason L. Miller


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