[eDebate] Shame On All of You! You are all responsible for this

Tom Tavegia edebate2008
Sat Aug 23 13:58:23 CDT 2008


I've gone back and forth over the last couple of weeks trying to decide if I
should make a post on e debate. Honestly, I have a feeling that this post is
either going to receive a wall of negative feedback or entirely ignored ?
but I still feel compelled to make this post. Understand I am writing this
post anonymously not because I fear my own reputation is at stake (who knows
if any of you remember me anyway), rather because I fear the potential
negative ramifications against of my collegiate debate program.

In a lot of ways ? you all (mostly) deserve this. I'll say that one more
time ? you, being the majority (although not entirety) of the community
deserve this. You've made your bed ? live with it. I've long been upset with
the direction of the activity, and discussed with many (mostly to deaf ears)
that college debate was slowly rotting. Now, it's on a fast-track towards
that end, and it's depressingly sad.

A number of years ago I quit the activity in the middle of the year during a
potential NDT first round bid. I remember crying for hours after the
decision, and for weeks following I'd cry for no reason. I wanted to think
it wasn't true, but I knew it was over. I knew it was over because the
activity I joined no longer existed. I had given years of my life to the
activity, years attending and coaching summer institutes, dozens if not more
than a hundred sleepless nights cutting cards, and while my decision to quit
was drawn it, it seemed as fast as a blink of my eye. The activity of debate
as I knew it no longer existed to me.

I can't even begin to count how many times I was called a sexist, racist or
accused of some other "ism" because of how I debated.  I loved to debate
"policy".  I enjoyed standing up reading an Aff that promoted engaging
another country or creating an alternative energy resource. However, somehow
that made me a racist?? Here's the thing ? I'm white. I went to a private
high school and a well to do college. Does it mean I am racist for standing
up and wanting to debate an aff that falls within the "framework" of
traditional policy making? Sorry, no. It just means it was something I
rather enjoyed. But then, at some point in time, the activity decided it was
more than just an academic forum for intelligent discussion. Somehow, a
debate round itself was about activism. Somehow, a white guy from a good
high school running a "straight up aff" was racist or sexist.  Sorry, call
someone a racist or sexist long enough, you're going to have some problems.
Try long enough to spark a fire close to leaking propane tank, and an
explosion is bound to happen.

I realize that the argument to be had here is that debate is structurally
racist. The solution, so I have been told, is something many like to call
the "project".  We need to change the structure of debate due to its
exclusionary nature. Ok, I have debated these teams time and time again.
Sometimes I had coaching, sometimes I didn't. However, every time (I was aff
anyway) I tried to make it as inclusive as possible. The 1AC was pretty much
just prose, an open discussion about whatever aff I happened to be running.
Inevitably, whether I read at top speed or just float some ideas
conversationally, the same arguments are made against me. I support a racist
style of debate, I haven't recognized my privilege, etc. But these type of
arguments are the same ones that garner negative criticism against Aff
Action. Kids are capabale of sitting down for a couple of hours and talking
about a policy ? no type of coaching is necessary for that. It's a sit down
debate, no different than throwing back a beer at Thanksgiving talking
politics with family. Ultimately, whoever is more persuasive wins the debate
according to whatever judge is in the round. I know most schools in debate
welcome this type of debate, and have made sure to be as inclusive as
possible. But still, year after year after year the same argument is made.

 Despite the activity doing nearly everything it can to be inclusive,
ironically "project" schools have made it exclusive. As a friend pointed out
to me, all forms of inclusion are necessarily exclusive. The only deduction
I can make ? it's all about the W, baby.  So what exactly happens when a
team stands up and reads an argument that says the other team is racist or
sexist? The team has one of two options. First, they can defend they are not
sexist or racist ? but ultimately, let's face it ? defending yourself as a
non racist or sexist isn't an argument one takes lightly in an academic
setting. Call me a racist or sexist, I take it personally. I'm going to get
really pissed off. At some point, I might snap. Apparently, so did Bill. Of
course, the second course is simply to argue that certain behavior is
acceptable ? E.G. racism or sexism is good. Well, that's not exactly going
to happen? unless of course you claim patriarchy key to hegemony, hegemony
good ? but last time I checked, that hadn't won many a debate rounds. I quit
because there were enough schools that called me a racist or sexist that if
I heard that again, I was going to lose my cool. And more importantly, I
quit because even if you didn't make these types of arguments, you condoned
them.

So this is where most people are going to go off on me if they read this
post. You all, meaning most in the debate community, have let the activity
go way too far in what is and is not considered acceptable arguments in the
activity. No one has ever stepped back and asked whether or not what we (the
activity) does in debate is really intelligent or acceptable. Does it really
advance our knowledge as academics to the best of potential? Somehow,
discourse in the activity has been given free rein to travel wherever it so
desires. I'm not surprised of that in a liberal activity, but at some point
a limit must be made. If I want to strip off my clothes in a round and read
vagina monologues, so be it. Never mind the fact that if administrators in
schools ever found out breasts and panties were exposed in a round the
school's reputation is at stake and the participants could be criminally
prosecuted; combined with the likely firing of debate coaches of the
university and suspension of all further debate related activities at the
school. But hey, it's a liberal activity that is supposed to be "inclusive".
Of course, it's also ok to call me a racist for wanting to talk about the
resolution in a traditional debate format. But hey, that's where inclusion
necessarily becomes exclusive. Sorry folks, I'm not trying to be exclusive,
and I'm well aware of the privilege I've been awarded to participate in the
activity, it's just that I'd really like to talk about middle eastern
policy.  I'll slow down; hell I won't even debate line by line. But if you
stand up and read the same strategy (that I am a racist or sexist) every
time I say wind power good, I simply don't respect your school. Try walking
into the real world, hell even a college classroom and making that argument.
See how far it gets you. No wonder some administrators question the utility
of college debate.

My point is this ? you all wanted to make this more than debate. Well, you
did, and now it's come back to bite you all in the ass. It's really ironic
that as the K debate has progressed in the activity, debate graduate
students and coaches have climbed atop the very ivory towers debaters like
to criticize. Do you ever just sit back and think about what you say? Or
have you become so close minded and sheltered that you all simply live in
your own world? Half of debates today exist debating about the way we ought
to debate. And in a fair number of those debates, people are called racists
and sexists. These people you call racists are almost entirely liberals that
proactively advocate liberal rights outside debate. You all wonder what's
wrong with the activity? I quit in the middle of a potential first round bid
because if another team called me a racist or sexist because I just wanted
to say,  "Hey, we ought to think about the government doing the following",
I was going to do something I regretted. Bill did just that, and he's an
unfortunate scapegoat, but I can't say I ultimately feel all that sorry for
him or the rest of the activity.

I will quickly make a few things clear. First, as has been written by others
this month ? there's little money or family life for debate coaches (or
graduate students? both of which I am well integrated with). They give their
lives to the activity, and for that I respect. Second, I debated Fort
several times and Bill was always exceptionally kind to me despite the fact
one of my coaches was perhaps the biggest dick in the world to him. I won't
pretend to know Bill well, I didn't. But, I know Bill loved(s) the activity,
and has dedicated his life to it, and for that I respect his love for the
activity. But I can't say I am at all surprised this happened, and really, I
can't say I feel all that sorry for him ? likewise, I wouldn't be sorry if
it happened to many of you. You all condoned this type of debate to go on
for far too long.

You are all to blame for this. At some point, some of you need to ask the
question, "are we in this for the win, or for some other end". Undoubtedly,
the answer you'd give me is both. Forgive me? bull shit. You're in it for
the win. And again, I feel here is another situation where I am going to get
hell from you all, but I honestly don't care ? its true and most of you
agree with it, even if you won't admit . I'd strike any judge, hands down,
that I thought hindered my chances to win a debate. If that means striking a
black judge I thought hindered my chances to win the debate, because of the
fact they were black, female or some other category of minority, so be it.
I'm in it to win it. The set up of debate forces me to make those types of
decisions!!! If the Fort in fact struck Shanara due to a consideration of
race, so be it. The competitive nature of the activity demands you give
yourself the best way to win. If you don't like it, don't give out strike
sheets. Every school in the history of debate has struck judges because they
won't vote for their type of argument. It's not racism, it's competitive. Of
course, here "project" advocates again point to the structure of debate
being racist. Bull shit. You all strike judges that won't vote for your
argument but prefer judges that have already accepted it. What good does it
do to prefer a judge that promotes your argument if your argument is about
social activism. You really ought to try persuading the ones that have yet
accept the project. Of course, if you all bothered to debate? oh, I don't
know, the resolution, this wouldn't matter ? but I'm a silver spooned white
boy, so what does it matter? Here's the fact ? the nature of debate FORCES
you to argue against one side or the other, and that a judge decides who
won. If you didn't care about the win, you simply wouldn't be in the
activity. But all schools fill out judge strikes discriminately. It's not
because they are racist, I certainly do not consider myself as such, but
they do it because they want to win. Maybe this means debate is the wrong
forum for activitism? actually, it does ? but you all are too far up on your
ivory tower to realize it.

Bill made an ass out of himself. But in all honesty, when I see Bill in that
youtube clip, I see all of you, not only him. Who did anything when two
females stripped several years ago? How often do debates result in
competitors yelling vulgarities at each other because of the type of
arguments made? I wasn't around 30 years ago, but something tells me, just
as Fort's University President implied ? this s*** didn't happen back then.
It didn't happen because people weren't calling others racist and sexist for
the purposes of the W.

A number of things have been written in the last month on this forum. A few
things to be said: Ede, you pontificated about how you were so disappointed
not to be chosen as a judge for the final round of CEDA several years ago.
Someone said something to the effect of "well spoken Dr. Werner". Bull shit.
I don't know how many times you ranted about you being the only black debate
coach in the activity, being the only black debate coach with the following
credentials, etc. Sorry, but you being black means nothing. Judges should be
selected solely on merit. Now, I am not disputing you didn't have the merit,
you likely did, but every argument doesn't need to be preceded by your race.
If you had the credentials, argue on the credentials. The fact you are black
isn't a reason to add you into the round. The fact you are (and I really do
mean this) a quality debate coach and respected academic is a reason to add
you to the round.

I don't know who, but someone wrote something about how they would ban all
cameras from debate, force the sponsors of the tournament to be liable if
someone recorded rounds, and that all rounds that are recorded should be
signed off by the participants of the activity. Are you honestly arguing
censorship? If so, maybe the activity isn't as liberal as I claimed it to
be. Either that, or you are effectively saying whatever we want to do in our
own world is alright, we are our own sovereign entity and will patrol
ourselves ? LEAVE US THE HELL ALONE? really? Yea? see how far that gets you.

Hammond was right ?at some point someone needs to say enough is enough.
Indeed, the kind of display witnessed did cross the line of respect and
proper decorum. The thing is, Hammond doesn't even realize what just
happened is the tip of the iceberg.  You all simply don't debate anymore.
Perhaps it is that you are too high up on your ivory tower to know it, or
that you simply don't have what it takes to admit it ? but the activity has
turned to shit. It's shit because you all have stopped debating about the
resolution and replaced that with arguments that make personal attacks
against debaters style and the colleges they represent.  Eventually, someone
had to be the scapegoat ? Bill was that person ? but all of you were equally
responsible. Shame on you.
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