Tarry for the Nonce

December 6, 2005

I Was a Minority!

Filed under: News — lmwalker @ 11:28 pm

Here’s some good, old-fashioned ego flattery for the conservatives in the room:

Because of their minority status it is far more difficult for conservative students to entertain the illusion that all smart people think like them. They are exposed to many obviously bright young men and women whose opinions on almost every issue vary radically from their own . . .

Being forced to recognize that there are different points of view helps make bright young conservatives such good debaters. They learn early on the limited persuasiveness of shouting at someone with whom they disagree, “You’re an idiot.” Of necessity they have to develop the ability to cast their arguments in ways that appeal to those starting from very different premises.

Yes, indeedy do. College was an interesting time for me, being Catholic and Republican and mighty straight-laced.

I think I enjoyed collegiate debate a tad too much, though, as evidenced by the fact that I ended up creating this outlet for my vain rambles. And now you all must suffer . . .

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13 Comments

  1. When did you ever do debate, speechie? 🙂

    Comment by Matt — December 7, 2005 @ 11:27 am

  2. When did you ever do debate, speechie?

    There was more to college than forensics . . . 😉

    Comment by laura — December 7, 2005 @ 11:38 am

  3. Okay, but you never actually competed at debate tournaments, right? U of I doesn’t even do debate.

    Comment by Matt — December 7, 2005 @ 12:13 pm

  4. There was an expression that certainly while not all conservative people are stupid, most stupid people are conservative.

    Comment by Howard R — December 7, 2005 @ 1:53 pm

  5. And now you all must suffer . . .

    Hmm, that’s not true. We don’t have to come back to your site and read your tripe. But we do. Now Howard is a different matter all together. I think I’m going to just ignore him from now on….

    Comment by Andrew P. — December 7, 2005 @ 2:45 pm

  6. Okay, but you never actually competed at debate tournaments, right?

    You are correct. In competition, I was limited to presenting my arguments in seven to ten minute chunks of time, to be critiqued without the opportunity to respond. 🙂

    But that’s not what the linked article is about and wasn’t the point I was making anyway. I was referring to non-competitive debate – y’know – the real day-to-day stuff with professors and peers when you present your own ideas in conversation.

    Comment by laura — December 7, 2005 @ 3:32 pm

  7. Now Andrew, how boring would this site be if everyone agreed with everyone else?

    Comment by Howard R — December 7, 2005 @ 3:48 pm

  8. “You are correct. In competition, I was limited to presenting my arguments in seven to ten minute chunks of time, to be critiqued without the opportunity to respond. 🙂 ”

    Most debaters are actually dismissive of individual events for the two reasons you immediately provide:

    1. No opportunity to respond. There’s no clash, so therefore your ideas are never tested. The most interesting speeches in debate rounds are the second constructives because that’s when the underlying warrants for the first constructive speeches are flushed out – the critiques, the warrants, the disadvantages, etc. all of which serve to contextualize arguments. You don’t have any of that in speech competition, and in impromptu and extemp the content of your speech is only one of many judging criteria, whereas in debate speaker awards are a distant, distant second to winning and losing your rounds.

    2. They’re your ideas. One of the bedrocks of debate is that, save for coin flips in outrounds, you aren’t given the opportunity to choose sides. So regardless of the resolution, you often have to brainstorm arguments in favor of something you do not believe in and brainstorm arguments against that which you do believe in, in both cases having to listen to your opponents’ arguments are respond with cogent, logical, and thoughtful arguments.

    So this adds up to a third point, call it an impact/critique, which is that in speech competition you never have your ideas challenged. Speech was great, and certainly a solid foundation, but there’s absolutely no substitute whatsoever for debate competition in terms of teaching you how to think, reason, and consider. Comparatively, I think that speech is much more of an exercise in therapy because everyone gets their time to present their ideas, whereas in debate you constantly have to respond to your opponents’ arguments and prove to the judge that your arguments are better. They’re both great activities, but if I had to choose, I’d choose debate, and policy debate at that.

    “But that’s not what the linked article is about and wasn’t the point I was making anyway. I was referring to non-competitive debate – y’know – the real day-to-day stuff with professors and peers when you present your own ideas in conversation.”

    Sure, but that’s why debate matters. You always have to present your ideas (though in a more tactful manner than debate competition reinforces), and equally important, you have to understand other peoples’ arguments and why they believe those arguments. Debate isn’t just about arguing, it’s about understanding underlying values and assumptions which shape debate arguments. A few months ago, Anna Quindlen wrote about the Columbia University class of 2005 (who entered college just as 9/11 struck) and about how many college students believed that one of the purposes of college was to make them comfortable, whereas debate does anything but that. I tend to think of it in terms of something one of my college professors said, was that if you walk in smaller and smaller circles, eventually you’re going to disappear up your own rear and, and that’s what I see in many people I know. There’s a strong value in having your ideas challenged, which is something that speech competition and regular classroom discussions never really do, because the real debate in debate rounds is in the second constructives when the underlying arguments and assumptions are revealed, and classroom discussions almost never get that far.

    Comment by Matt — December 7, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

  9. Sign me up…this debate thing sounds rather fun… :o)

    Comment by Andrew P. — December 8, 2005 @ 2:49 pm

  10. I’m going to assume that you are in the same age bracket as Laura and me, which would mean that you’re out of college. So unless you want to go to grad school and petition for one year of eligibility, then you’re out of luck. But yes, debate was and is an awful lot of fun as far as nerdy school activities go. 🙂

    Comment by Matt — December 8, 2005 @ 4:51 pm

  11. Oh, that makes sense. I tried to avoid as many nerdy school activities as I could. And yes, I am slightly older (but oh so much wiser ;o) than Laura. Grad school, eh? Hmm…..perhaps one day.

    Comment by Andrew P. — December 9, 2005 @ 1:16 pm

  12. I am more of a fan of the second rebuttals.

    Comment by Troy — December 12, 2005 @ 10:13 pm

  13. Troy, did you do debate?

    (FYI, Laura, parli and LD only have one set of rebuttals whereas policy has two sets of rebuttals.)

    Comment by Matt — December 13, 2005 @ 3:36 pm


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