[eDebate] Let's start a fight....

scottelliott at grandecom.net scottelliott
Wed Jan 21 17:39:02 CST 2009

First, let me say that I think Matt Stannard's and Gordon Mitchell's independent
treatment(s)of Hicks and Greene regarding switch side debate rock. Both articles
reaffirmed my personal commitment to debate--and switch side debate in

However, my reading of the Hick and Greene article has me at a loss. It really
does. I think people are taking them out of contaxt. Not as an ethical lapse,
but just as a misreading. Why? because, like an idiot, I read, and re-read the
conclusion of the Hicks and Greene article. It seems pretty clear that although
the authors give a historical analysis of how policy/switch side debate can be
co-opted by forces most would argue are oppressive; their conclusion is a
DEFENSE of switch side debate.

Let me be clear. I am a supporter of switch side debate for many of the reasons
articulated by both Stannard and Mitchell et. al.; But I have seen too many
debate rounds in which the Hicks and Greene article is misquoted----and I have
seen too many articles that appear to misinterpret their conclusion. This
creates two problems. First, it creates an easy straw-person to strike down.
Second, the misappropriation fo Hicks and Greene's HISTORICAL analysis is being
used to advoacte arguements that are contrary to the Hicks and Greene article's
actual conclusions. In other words, I think the assertion that Hicks and Greene
would conclude that "switch side debate is bad" is out of context and is not
consistent with the conclusions they draw.

It matters because people lose topicality debates and other "personal advocacy"
debates every weekend because of the the strategic use of this article.

Let me just give one of the clearest quotes from Hick and Greene to illustrate
my Point. I honestly do not understand how anyone, ANYONE, can misinterpret the
conclusions of Hicks and Greene on this point:

"Reading Muir alongside Dennis Day, we can appreciate the explicit
transformation of debate into an ethical pedagogy. Debate training, without
the requirement to debate both sides, locates the act of public argument too
closely to the personal convictions of the speaker. The gap created by debating
both sides between the embodied speech act and his/her convictions makes
possible the emergence of debate as the proper method of adjudicating disputes
in a democratic culture. Debating both sides transforms the student-debater by
developing a post-conventional morality / one capable of making moral
judgments based on reason and not authority or personal convictions. In this
way, the debating both sides controversy pre-figures how a deliberative theory
of democracy requires a moral theory of the subject to prepare that subject for
the transformational potential associated with the ?gentle force of the better

The rest of their conclusions are consistent with this quote. There is a danger
that the Dick(s) Cheney's of thw world will recruit debaters, but I think Hicks
and Greene conclude in favor of switch side debate.

Scott Elliott, Ph.D., J.D.

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