[eDebate] Bad Publicity & Reply

Kuswa, Kevin kkuswa
Wed Oct 1 14:29:35 CDT 2008


Good comments Jason.

 

I judged this debate and voted for Towson.  It was a partial octo and
the Towson debater was debating maverick.

 

The reporter was not too interested in asking for explanation and it
seems from the article that he already had a slant to pursue.

 

At any rate, if anyone thinks that censorship and argument-content rules
should be used to "improve" or "clean-up" debate, they should question
the meaning of education and their own participation in the process.

 

This debate may have been "unruly" in ways, but it was also another
great example of the intellectual desires and energized argumentation
that bring college students to an empty classroom on a weekend to have a
clash of ideas.

 

The NYU debaters, the Towson debaters, and the other judges on the panel
were all about debating/learning/educating and giving it their best
effort.

 

This particular Chronicle article (like most articles) got it right in
some ways and got it wrong in some ways.  I do not think it is
devastating press, but something to consider.

 

Look at the energy behind the presidential and VP debates-and they
aren't even really debates...if that process can be defended then it
should be easy to defend competitive debate.

 

Sincerely,

 

Kevin 

 

 

 

From: edebate-bounces at ndtceda.com [mailto:edebate-bounces at ndtceda.com]
On Behalf Of Jason Russell
Sent: Wednesday, October 01, 2008 2:23 PM
To: edebate at ndtceda.com
Subject: [eDebate] Bad Publicity & Reply

 

I received an email from a faculty member yesterday re: the Chronicle
article Tuna was talking about. I've maintained that I dont think that
these accusations are that hard to reply to. Here's me putting my money
where my mouth is:

 

Yeah, I think I can defend it. First, keep in mind that what this
article is discussing is an isolated incident at a specific tournament
with particular judges. The quality comparison of the talent of the two
teams, the experience of the judges, and the execution of the arguments
is obscured in this article to the point where no reasonably intelligent
person could make any decision from this snippet of 15 seconds of a 2
hour long debate round. Second, judges in debates are not called on to
make decisions about the truth of an argument, but about its relative
execution, as truth, by the teams in the debate. Debate would be stupid
if we judges just ratified our opinions in each debate. The educational
value of the 2 hour long competitive round would be limited under those
conditions. Judges in debate offer advice before rounds as coaches and
after rounds as observers, but attempt to disconnect themselves from the
round as much as possible. Third, the vast majority of these arguments
are not directed at debate as generic but at argumentative forms or
practices employed by particular teams. For instance, the suggestion
that speed reading in debate rounds is not neutral, but is an attempt to
favor quantity over quality and to isolate debate to an expert audience
as opposed to improving its accessibility for all is an attack on a
specific practice employed by a particular team, an attack on their
methodology. These arguments "clash" with their opponents on form and
implicate content in a way that is relevant to questions of advocacy, a
potentially crucial debate skill. Fourth, what debate is for is up for
grabs. Debate could be just a competitive game, an educational forum, a
tool for training future policymakers, a device for actualizing social
movement activism, or some or all of the above. Debaters need to know
what they're debating for and why. Part of what these arguments do is to
unpack the simplistic assumption that debate is a neutral conveyor of
policy knowledge and to reveal that it is simultaneously a part of
implementing an educational agenda that is contestable and a potential
tool for improving social justice. Finally, as an outside observer, what
do these practices do for debaters? They force them to be able to defend
their epistemological choices rather than simply executing them. They
expand the amount of things that debaters need to know about, which is
good. The expose debaters to ideas that are not frequently shown to
undergraduates or especially high school kids that get them thinking.
And, they hone panoramic advocacy skills, teaching debaters to defend
their ideas from the far-right and the far-left. The alternative is
obviously inferior: a debate with deeper content restrictions, carving
out exceptions for legitimate knowledge and paternally dictating the
best ideas, either from judges, the organization, or self-regulation. As
a final aside, few teams are successful on arguments like this. It
requires a great deal of "against the grain persuasion" and immense
talent in execution. Those that do are to be applauded precisely because
these ideas are so counterintuitive. Debate has for a long time been a
forum where unpopular ideas can get a fair shake, and I hope we keep it
as such.
 
I received a prompt reply back stating:

 

Thanks for your insightful response. I can see why youre the debate
coach. Keep up the good work. 

 

Yes, these conversations are happening and will continue to happen. No,
they are not the end of the world. We've always had to fend off
accusations that our content should be more "real world", that debaters
talk to fast and are messy and gross. That's nothing new. Unconventional
debate is good because uninterrogated conventions are bad. Allowing
profanity is good because the alternative to allowing it (speech codes)
is so much less desirable. Debaters can and have successfully challenged
the use of profanity in debates without the assistance of judges, team
policies, or the organization for years and should continue to do so. 

 

Ultimately, the open contestability of debate content and practices is a
strength of our game, not a weakness and convincing administrators as
such should be less hard than people make it out to be. The sky is still
not falling. 

 

J

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