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Professor loses it at debate event
August 14, 2008 11:50 AM   Subscribe

The Cross Examination Debate Association meets regularly for debate tournaments. Things often get heated, but this year, professor Bill Shanahan of Fort Hays State went nuts. More here and here.
posted by Crotalus (151 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Floydd at 11:56 AM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Discussion on the NDT/CEDA listserv. I think Shanahan judged me at some point, and although I don't remember what the round was like, he certainly didn't seem like the mooning type.
posted by nasreddin at 11:58 AM on August 14, 2008


If this sort of stuff happens regularly collegiate debating could become pretty popular.
posted by oddman at 11:59 AM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


These people are debate professionals? That's ricockulous.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:01 PM on August 14, 2008


My first impulse is to say that the woman looks better because the video started after her part of the fight.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:01 PM on August 14, 2008


/me pulls down pants, jumps up and down, scores perfect 10 in MeFi Debating Points
posted by DU at 12:02 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


To clarify, what happened wasn't what you probably think--the judge being struck and yelling "I'm being oppressed!"

Rather, the Towson team (on the negative) used Reid's striking as an argument within the debate (which isn't something I ever saw when I did debate, but very "meta" arguments are extremely common). The win was awarded to the Towson team because they made that argument work within the context of the debate, and because the Fort Hays team did not respond effectively although there were ways to do so. Shanahan's outburst happened after the round, when the issue was being discussed--and that means the system worked, because the very purpose of these "meta" arguments is to stimulate discussion within the debate community about how the system itself fosters prejudice.
posted by nasreddin at 12:05 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Sometimes people care so much that it bubbles over," he says in the video. "I'm not ashamed of my behavior. I don't think I'm acting immaturely. I think I'm showing how much I care about everybody in this room."

Show us again how much you care. Wait, no. Don't show us again.
posted by dammitjim at 12:08 PM on August 14, 2008


This didn't surprise me at all when I heard about it. I loved debate, but it was full of some insane people. Entertaining times.
posted by Nattie at 12:09 PM on August 14, 2008


totally absurd
posted by Addiction at 12:09 PM on August 14, 2008


Shanahan, who in the video is barefoot, wearing shorts and a ponytail, has an apparent history of outbursts. The Hays Daily News reported that he has been arrested for battery on at least two occasions, one of which stemmed from a dispute with his eye doctor.

Uh, loose cannon, maybe?

I hadn't seen a mooning like that since high school, when we would drive around downtown at night with bare asses hanging out both back seat windows, just for giggles.
posted by Forktine at 12:10 PM on August 14, 2008


If someone accused my students of racism within the context of an official competition in order to beat them at that official competition, I'd probably behave a lot like Bill did. More importantly, I'd recommend to my department chair that we seriously question whether these contests are the place for serious debate.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:10 PM on August 14, 2008


What I find astounding is that when the gloves come off, all these fancy debate speakers can think to do is say "fuck" a lot. How eloquent!
posted by Nelson at 12:13 PM on August 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


If someone accused my students of racism within the context of an official competition in order to beat them at that official competition, I'd probably behave a lot like Bill did. More importantly, I'd recommend to my department chair that we seriously question whether these contests are the place for serious debate.

Mutual accusations of racism are part for the course in debate. In fact, it's impossible to go two rounds anywhere without being accused of being an apologist for genocide, nuclear war, patriarchy, homophobia, capitalism, and the destruction of humanity.
posted by nasreddin at 12:16 PM on August 14, 2008


...all these fancy debate speakers can think to do is say "fuck" a lot. How eloquent!

I'm also thinking that you won't bring home the Forensics League State Trophy based on the argument "I'M AN ASSHOLE I'M AN ASSHOLE I'M AN ASSHOLE I ADMIT IT"
posted by DU at 12:17 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Guy needs a haircut. Damn hippie!
posted by a3matrix at 12:19 PM on August 14, 2008


So... the more you care, the more right you are. Got it.
posted by LordSludge at 12:20 PM on August 14, 2008


"Sometimes people care so much that it bubbles over," he says in the video. "I'm not ashamed of my behavior. I don't think I'm acting immaturely. I think I'm showing how much I care about everybody in this room."

This gives me a whole new way to interpret MetaFilter.

But seriously - my brother was in intercollegiate debate, and it was pretty intense, and, yes, full of insane people. It was still really neat. Just the other day I was idly wondering if there were debate teams or clubs for adults who aren't in school any more. I think I'd like it, but then again, that's kind of insane of me.
posted by Miko at 12:20 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]



The dispute at the tournament began after each team was given the opportunity to strike one judge from the panel during a quarterfinal match. The Fort Hays team was accused of turning down the only African-American judge because of her race. Mr. Shanahan's team denied a racial motive, arguing that its request was made for competitive reasons because the judge had been tough on the team in the past.


I'd be pissed too. She pulled the race card with no justification to do so. Maybe not that pissed though. Usually laughing at such allegations is the best response.
posted by Pseudology at 12:23 PM on August 14, 2008


Mutual accusations of racism are part for the course in debate. In fact, it's impossible to go two rounds anywhere without being accused of being an apologist for genocide, nuclear war, patriarchy, homophobia, capitalism, and the destruction of humanity.

Huh. Maybe I didn't know that. The only type of debate I was actually exposed to in college was Parliamentary, with the "government" and the "opposition" and the silly pretending to hold your nonexistent wig on. I get the feeling this type of debate draws a slightly different crowd.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:24 PM on August 14, 2008


I'm pretty sure that mooning your opponent is one of those logical fallacies.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:25 PM on August 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


Mutual accusations of racism are part for the course in debate. In fact, it's impossible to go two rounds anywhere without being accused of being an apologist for genocide, nuclear war, patriarchy, homophobia, capitalism, and the destruction of humanity.

Wow, I must've been in the boring debate club. Our topics usually involved things like "I scream for Ice Cream," "Bush Wins," "the merits of Spandex" and "they got what they deserved."
posted by Pseudology at 12:30 PM on August 14, 2008


Hmm, after watching it again, it looks like the black woman is definitely at fault as much as the hippie professor. At least with the footage we can see.
Someone should have just ejected the pair of them.
It was entertaining though!
posted by a3matrix at 12:31 PM on August 14, 2008


Miko writes "I think I'd like it, but then again, that's kind of insane of me."

JaneMiko, you ignorant slut.
posted by orthogonality at 12:31 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Shanahan didn't go nuts, he's always been nuts. He just doesn't usually get national media attention for it.
posted by spiderwire at 12:32 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Couldn't mooning your opponent rightly be considered "Begging the Question"?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:34 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


William Shanahan: When keepin it real goes wrong.
posted by cashman at 12:37 PM on August 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


What is the capital of the state of Fort Hayes?
posted by Eideteker at 12:40 PM on August 14, 2008


In fact, it's impossible to go two rounds anywhere without being accused of being an apologist for genocide, nuclear war, patriarchy, homophobia, capitalism, and the destruction of humanity.

By thinking that one of those things is not like the others, do I demonstrate a belief system that's unsuitable for the debate scene?
posted by Kwantsar at 12:45 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]



I'm pretty sure that mooning your opponent is one of those logical fallacies.


Argument ad sphinctorum.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:47 PM on August 14, 2008


Mutual accusations of racism are part for the course in debate. In fact, it's impossible to go two rounds anywhere without being accused of being an apologist for genocide, nuclear war, patriarchy, homophobia, capitalism, and the destruction of humanity.

Pointlessness.
posted by Mblue at 12:50 PM on August 14, 2008


Ad posteriori.
posted by klangklangston at 12:51 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I liked:

The longhair jumping up and down

The big black guy giving everyone hugs

That someone, off camera, starts crying

The world's tallest woman giving a speech about bridges or architecture or something
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:56 PM on August 14, 2008


Were the debaters talking like this? Because I might get violent after listening to too much of this debating style myself.
posted by bibliowench at 12:57 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


part for the course
posted by Addiction at 12:57 PM on August 14, 2008


That should, of course, have been "par."

By thinking that one of those things is not like the others, do I demonstrate a belief system that's unsuitable for the debate scene?


Nah, you can debate it out, but the whole capitalism argument is so well-worn that it's always the same debate. (depending on how each team argues, either the pro- or anti-capitalists win, but, speaking as someone who ran "Cap Bad" for my entire 1 1/2 years of debate, if the latter lose it's generally because they dropped the ball.)
posted by nasreddin at 1:01 PM on August 14, 2008


There's a lot of context in nasreddin's link, particularly here.

I find it interesting that apparently, "bill and Ft. Hays represent a very public and private group of individuals that make very, very public statements, both inside and outside of debate, that they are in solidarity with the goal of Black participation in debate. No one can question bill shanahan's overt support, both as a judge and a loyal follower regarding these issues."

So part of the anger here is driven not by "Angry black woman" vs "White man that doesn't get it" but instead is betrayal felt by the Towson team by people who, privately and publicly, "got it" most of the time but couldn't grok what their strike of her (and subsequent arguments) meant here.
posted by shen1138 at 1:01 PM on August 14, 2008


Oh, also, don't confuse the positions you take in debate with your real opinions. Liberty University's team has run some pretty radical arguments over the years...
posted by nasreddin at 1:02 PM on August 14, 2008



So part of the anger here is driven not by "Angry black woman" vs "White man that doesn't get it" but instead is betrayal felt by the Towson team by people who, privately and publicly, "got it" most of the time but couldn't grok what their strike of her (and subsequent arguments) meant here.


No, the striking itself is an accepted move, and no one would have been offended if it had not played such a decisive role in the context of the round.

What you're seeing is a controversy, tinged with racial issues, about the legitimacy of a certain kind of procedural argument--not about whether Shanahan and his team are racist. These are strategic arguments, not ones based on sincere emotion, and if emotion appears it's generally because of the way the round went.
posted by nasreddin at 1:05 PM on August 14, 2008


I eagerly await the Something Awful remix.
posted by doublesix at 1:07 PM on August 14, 2008


Ad posteriori.

You win this round. Goddamn you.
posted by middleclasstool at 1:08 PM on August 14, 2008


From the link I posted:

"Seventh, and perhaps this is where the Black angst comes from (not saying that Andy or Beth and other Whites of good conscience don't share in this angst but this angst is a result of common shared experiences that I choose to define as Black), the reason this escalated in terms of tenor and tone is a feeling of powerlessness and betrayal by Shanara and Towson, and a similar feeling from Ft. Hays. How could Shanara and Towson feel that way, given they made the argument and won the debate? It's easy. For them, bill and Ft. Hays represent a very public and private group of individuals that make very, very public statements, both inside and outside of debate, that they are in solidarity with the goal of Black participation in debate. No one can question bill shanahan's overt support, both as a judge and a loyal follower regarding these issues. Listen to Deven's cry in the background as the chaos exploded, he is astounded that bill doens't see that the argument in this debate is no different than the argument bill repeatedly voted for when made by Liz and Tonia in 2004. And Deven is absolutely correct, there was little, if any, difference, other than the argument was being made against Ft. Hays instead of against someone else with bill judging or watching.
I suspect Shanara's callout was because she expected an apology and for bill to immediately see the hypocrisy. "

That's the full paragraph, and that's where I got the idea from. I understand the mechanics we're talking about (I did a tiny bit of CEDA in college, although I did LD in high school and parli in college), and that's why I said "part of the anger," not "The anger." I'm sure you're right that the argument also stems, in part, from what you're referring to. If I'm not understanding Dr. Warner's words correctly, my bad.
posted by shen1138 at 1:14 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


That is awesome. I went to Fort Hays State. That place actually needs a fight like this just for something to talk about. Well, that and to distract from the perfume of buffalo pats, depending on the direction of the wind that day.
posted by katillathehun at 1:15 PM on August 14, 2008


That's some grade A bullshit right there shen1138.

Hell, based on the video I wouldn't have wanted that women on the judging panel either.
posted by Riemann at 1:16 PM on August 14, 2008


Just to give some context here, when someone IMed me last night and said Bill had gotten on national news, my first thought was, "Oh shit." Then I saw that video and thought, "Oh, that's it?" Seriously, this is like a 6 or a 7 on the Shanahan Scale.

It looks a little crazy on YouTube, I guess, but it's informative that one of the judges was literally falling asleep on the table while this was going on. Bill mostly just likes to argue and push people's buttons (Ede's post on the listserv sums things up well). You get used to it, honestly.
posted by spiderwire at 1:18 PM on August 14, 2008



That's the full paragraph, and that's where I got the idea from. I understand the mechanics we're talking about (I did a tiny bit of CEDA in college, although I did LD in high school and parli in college), and that's why I said "part of the anger," not "The anger." I'm sure you're right that the argument also stems, in part, from what you're referring to. If I'm not understanding Dr. Warner's words correctly, my bad.


No, you're right. I just think this is a typically CEDA-style post hoc rationalization of a procedural conflict.
posted by nasreddin at 1:19 PM on August 14, 2008


That's some grade A bullshit right there shen1138.

Hell, based on the video I wouldn't have wanted that women on the judging panel either.


Meh, maybe you're right. Still, neither of us were there, none of us know these people other than a nine minute video clip, and I've been perusing the heck out of that listserv the past twenty minutes. Frankly, I met very few people who judged / coached CEDA that I was a big fan of.
posted by shen1138 at 1:20 PM on August 14, 2008


No, you're right. I just think this is a typically CEDA-style post hoc rationalization of a procedural conflict.

Gotcha. Never had this sort of thing happen to me in NPDA rounds, but then again, I never made out-rounds at Nats.
posted by shen1138 at 1:23 PM on August 14, 2008


The actual debate. I too am totally unfamiliar with this debate format (have only seen the often yawn-inducing parliamentary format).
posted by Gnatcho at 1:34 PM on August 14, 2008


No, you're right. I just think this is a typically CEDA-style post hoc rationalization of a procedural conflict.

It's really just that there's a lot more going on behind the scenes there than anyone can decode if they're not familiar with the people involved. There's nothing post hoc about it -- it's just that some people disagree vehemently with Bill's somewhat idiosyncratic theory of competitive debate and a weird confluence of circumstances brought it to the forefront in that round. The explanation of why everyone was pissed is just boring to normal people.

Gotcha. Never had this sort of thing happen to me in NPDA rounds, but then again, I never made out-rounds at Nats.

This sort of thing doesn't happen in NPDA rounds; just in NDT/CEDA rounds, and especially in rounds involving Bill Shanahan. He's really a lot to handle, particularly at the end of a debate tournament when everyone's tired. :)
posted by spiderwire at 1:37 PM on August 14, 2008


Couldn't mooning your opponent rightly be considered "Begging the Question"?

It's begging for something, but I don't think "the Question" is that something.
posted by Forktine at 1:45 PM on August 14, 2008


See, this is why I stuck to Speech.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:49 PM on August 14, 2008


The actual debate.

That is debate? I have it playing in the background, and it sounds just like the last time I went to see a poetry slam, or one of those crazy evangelical street preachers in Latin America.

This is performance art, not debate, and now I understand how the mooning fits right in.

He's really a lot to handle, particularly at the end of a debate tournament when everyone's tired. :)

As someone who has had to work with a few "characters" like that, I have no patience for it. It's not cute, and it can really easily cross the line into deeply unacceptable behavior.
posted by Forktine at 1:51 PM on August 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


My high school didn't have a football, basket ball, or track team. We did, however, have a kick-ass debate team. They were the jocks at the school, picking intellectual fights with other kids, completely derailing in-class discussions with their tactics. It would not surprise me at all to know they now roam the halls of MetaFilter.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:53 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


shen1138 writes "Deven's cry in the background as the chaos exploded, he is astounded that bill doens't see that the argument in this debate is no different than the argument bill repeatedly voted for when made by Liz and Tonia in 2004."

So these master debaters just repeat the same arguments year after year? So it's more no-costume, no-scenery, no-paying-audience drama club? Well clearly, it's drama club.
posted by orthogonality at 1:55 PM on August 14, 2008


Back in college, my friends and I were approached by your typical proselytizer. Always one to welcome confrontation, I heartily swung back on every rhetorical softball he lobbed our way. This caught the attention of someone snacking on the bench next to us. After I wore the kid down, he bid farewell by letting us know he'd pray for us. "Doesn't invoking God's will work against the free will you were clamoring about earlier?"

The guy at the adjacent bench came over, introduced himself to me, and told me I'd be the type to totally enjoy being on the debate team. It'd always been one of those things I considered doing for awhile, so I told the guy I'd give it a shot and check out the team's next meeting. My friends all supported the idea. "Yeah man, go for it."

I brought a girl from my dorm with me who I thought would also enjoy partaking, and we both sat in the back of the room. When it all began, we introduced ourselves, and neither being acquainted with the "sport" of debating, we were offered to pick a topic for debate as a demonstration. "Uhh...teachers being allowed to carry guns at school to defend from another Columbine catastrophe."

What followed was the equivalent of two chickens squawking at one another for 20 minutes about whose feedbag had more meal. It was all about who could talk the loudest, fastest, and with the most condescension. There was very little focus on substance, which basically amounted to the end of the world from both perspectives. The worst part is all those who engaged in this mess had this beaming look of pride from a job well done.

"When we're in season, we meet up several times a week and share news clippings on current events. You never know what topics the judges are going to throw at you!" Sounds like a heavy commitment, what about school? "Hehe, well...you have to make sacrifices to succeed at debates. Our school was ranked 30th last year; that's really good!"

I turned to my friend, and, with a dour look on my face, mouthed, "I'm sorry." I took her by the hand and walked out of the room, making sure to tell my "recruiter" thanks-but-no-thanks. Judging by the apathy from the team as we walked out, I think they were pretty used it.
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 1:55 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


nasreddin: These are strategic arguments, not ones based on sincere emotion, and if emotion appears it's generally because of the way the round went.

This may actually be closer to the truth than you know. :) You may understand some of this, so I will take a stab at explaining it.

For years, Bill's whole schtick has been this vaguely poststructuralist argument about the importance of individual resistance and performativity in a competitive context. That position or some variation on it is pretty much all he argues and it's all his teams have ever argued. But, somewhat perversely, this means that his teams can be somewhat cautious about judges that actually have a stake in arguments about privilege and critical theory, like Shanara, who's one of very few black women in the upper echelons of the community.

From a strategic perspective they're right to be worried about her, since she (a) their entire argument is that she should take an "emotional," personal position in the debate, and (b) she actually understands the issues. In elimination rounds, they often want judges they can control, and she's not one of them. So they "strike" her from their judge list and then they make the mistake of admitting during CX that they did so for a "strategic purpose." Ooops.

Of course, Shanara sees that as hypocritical since Shanahan's always argued that privilege concerns should trump strategic/competitive concerns, and here his teams are striking a black female judge because they know she'll vote on their actual argument rather than purely on the flowsheet -- they go for more technical judges like Omar instead (who, ironically, dropped them). After the round, she lit into Bill for agreeing with that strategy, and Bill defended himself because he's never seen any sort of contradiction between the strategic and the personal positions -- you can either buy his argument or not, but it's definitely pretty idiosyncratic and a lot of people disagree with it.

Frankly, I'm not entirely sure it's consistent, but I do know that he'll never stop defending it to the hilt because of who he is (and really, that's probably the point -- he probably loves the fact that this made the national news), and usually people just kind of accept that and move on. But sometimes his hard-headedness just pushes people a little too far and it explodes like this.

It's not the first time it's happened, and it probably won't be the last unless he gets fired over this. He may have finally just done something too high-profile for Fort Hays to ignore, but we'll see. If this was the end, it'd be a bit of a letdown, really, but I'm sure he'd find somewhere else to coach. It really is pretty much par for the course.
posted by spiderwire at 1:55 PM on August 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: It's about being enlightened within the framework of competition.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:55 PM on August 14, 2008


This is performance art, not debate, and now I understand how the mooning fits right in.

Ding. Shanahan's argument is that debate is performance art, and in a sense he's right. However if the other side really doesn't want to play that game, it can be a problem.

As someone who has had to work with a few "characters" like that, I have no patience for it. It's not cute, and it can really easily cross the line into deeply unacceptable behavior.

But if you enjoy the "normal" style of debate, you wouldn't want to be forced out by someone acting out, right? Bit too much of a concession. So most people just ignore it 99% of the time -- and Bill's actually a good guy, frankly, so usually it's not too bad. He's just really adept at pushing people's buttons and sometimes he goes too far.

So these master debaters just repeat the same arguments year after year?

The coaches are there for year after year, and people often debate for 4 years in high school and 4 years in college, and then many move on to coach afterwards, so there's a lot of... continuity.
posted by spiderwire at 2:01 PM on August 14, 2008


Christ, in the video they all look like chimps making threat displays.

And I'm all for business casual, but couldn't they at least wear slacks and button-down shirts? I'm not even asking for suits and ties, but they all look like homeless potheads.
posted by orthogonality at 2:08 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


And I'm all for business casual, but couldn't they at least wear slacks and button-down shirts? I'm not even asking for suits and ties, but they all look like homeless potheads.

Some people do, but at that level it's mostly an issue of purism. Unless it's an integral part of your personality, dressing up just looks like pandering. There are lots of formalities, they just aren't aesthetic for the most part -- you just argue and nothing else.
posted by spiderwire at 2:14 PM on August 14, 2008


I'm just a few minutes into the opening argument, and I'm ready to moon someone.

Did everyone know from the start that Pittsburgh would be pulling the super-race-card on Bill? I'm becoming more and more sympathetic with the guy.

Also. I don't care how fast you can talk, or how awesome your musical intro is. Use correct pronunciation and grammar.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:16 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


What is the capital of the state of Fort Hayes?

This is a pretty common naming pattern for state colleges/universities of this size & general description in the U.S. At least on the Great Plains. Nebraska has Wayne, Peru, and Chadron State Colleges. A lot of them started out as normal schools.
posted by brennen at 2:25 PM on August 14, 2008


spiderwire writes "For years, Bill's whole schtick has been this vaguely poststructuralist argument about the importance of individual resistance and performativity in a competitive context. That position or some variation on it is pretty much all he argues and it's all his teams have ever argued.... It's not the first time it's happened, and it probably won't be the last unless he gets fired over this. He may have finally just done something too high-profile for Fort Hays to ignore, but we'll see. If this was the end, it'd be a bit of a letdown, really, but I'm sure he'd find somewhere else to coach. It really is pretty much par for the course."

I see the word "poststructuralist" being applied to a debating format -- a structure-- that is rigidly prescribed and structured and in fact judged, not so much on the arguments made, as on the debaters' adherence to norms and formats.

So what, exactly, is this guy teaching? What benefits does he offer to his students or his society, by hoping around like a monkey on crack, spouting "poststructuralist" mumbo-jumbo? I could see how he might make for a transiently amusing reality show, but I fail to see how his "scholarship" or "teaching" make the society, which pays his salary, in anyway a better place.

And this, really, is why liberals lose elections. Because the guy on the family farm (or who has lost his family farm and now works for minimum wage at Wal*Mart) looks at this and looks at how his taxes subsidize it, directly or through student aid, and sees all intellectual endeavor as a high-falutin' sham that quickly degenerates into a guy who desperately needs a haircut jumping around showing his ass, his big words forgotten as he screams obscenities and grunts like an animal.

It's this "poststructuralist" BS, these vague and flabby ideas that even their proponents cannot agree on any solid definition of, that gives real intellectualism (the kind that requires hard numbers and hard work and demonstrable, repeatable results) a bad name and poor reputation and slashed funding.

If this guy wants to jump around and pose and show his ass, let him do it as a hobby -- SCA, Cosplay, community theatre -- after he get a real job.

Because he's making real intellectualism, real teaching, real scholarship, look like a joke -- because that's how he treats it.
posted by orthogonality at 2:30 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Maybe when they said "Show us a good debate" he thought they meant "Show us your hairy date".
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:37 PM on August 14, 2008



That is debate? I have it playing in the background, and it sounds just like the last time I went to see a poetry slam, or one of those crazy evangelical street preachers in Latin America.

This is performance art, not debate, and now I understand how the mooning fits right in.


Right! This is no beuno. I can't even hear what Deven is saying to determine whether his "arguments" are rational or well-thought. I don't see how this style of debate could yield anything but a total clusterfuck.

How does one rebut? "In response to your third verse, from which I could make out the words 'white, black, The Press and oppressors', I would like to point out that while white and black are adjectives, The Press and oppressors are nouns."

I guess if I had the patience to watch the whole debate, or the desire to scroll forward, I would indeed see how one rebuts, but alas ... I have wet paint to supervise.
posted by diablo37 at 2:45 PM on August 14, 2008


orthogonality writes: And this, really, is why liberals lose elections. Because the guy on the family farm (or who has lost his family farm and now works for minimum wage at Wal*Mart) looks at this and looks at how his taxes subsidize it, directly or through student aid, and sees all intellectual endeavor as a high-falutin' sham that quickly degenerates into a guy who desperately needs a haircut jumping around showing his ass, his big words forgotten as he screams obscenities and grunts like an animal.

I don't know if its like this at all colleges, but at my school, the funds for teams to travel, and salaries for coaches (not all coaches are professors for their schools), and any other amenities were 100% funded by contributions and hosting high school debate tournaments. The only thing the school provided were rooms used after school hours, and of course the campus on the weekend for the tournaments, where we had to pay for the overtime for the janitors, vendors, everything.

Maybe some public system colleges do pay money for their teams, and in that case, ortho, your critique may be accurate. But at least for my school (public university in California), nothing for our debate teams was paid for by a taxpayer.
posted by shen1138 at 2:47 PM on August 14, 2008


diablo37 writes: How does one rebut? "In response to your third verse, from which I could make out the words 'white, black, The Press and oppressors', I would like to point out that while white and black are adjectives, The Press and oppressors are nouns."

Typically, the teams are reading pre-written arguments, and they exchange them during the debate (that's why, if you watched long enough, you saw that guy walk behind the debaters in the first speech, and why they passed the paper around). So you don't have to listen to anything, you get to refer to what they read off of. Judges are able to do the same, I believe.
posted by shen1138 at 2:50 PM on August 14, 2008


>>He's really a lot to handle, particularly at the end of a debate tournament when everyone's tired. :)

>As someone who has had to work with a few "characters" like that, I have no patience for it. It's not cute, and it can really easily cross the line into deeply unacceptable behavior.


I wanted to expand on what I wrote there.

My experience has been that these guys (and it's always guys) who act like this guy — who lack restraint and really enjoy being all in your face — are not the benign and mischievous "colorful characters" that they and their friends think they are.

Instead, they tend to come across as really threatening, particularly to women, as they get inside your physical space and violate social norms of behavior. I can back them down simply by being bigger and scarier-looking than they are, but those encounters have left me shaking from adrenaline afterward. Particularly women, but also less imposing men, can find it really terrifying. (Notice the moment in the video where he pushes away the woman who is putting herself between him and the woman at whom he is yelling — that is the kind of moment that skirts right up next to a big "do not cross" line of behavior, without his even noticing it.)

What makes it so hard to handle is that these guys don't at all realize how threatening they can be, with their imposing body language and being fast to attack with words. My guess is that they are just barely on the autistic spectrum, and have problems with empathy and reading body language, but I could be totally wrong about that.

I have an uncle who is fits this pattern, and the sad thing is that even after he has had numerous encounters with the police, he doesn't get it at all. In his case, he yells at (predominantly female) clerks, who call the police, who defuse the situation. He just simply can't grasp that what he thinks is an invigorating exchange of views is seen by women as "scary guy who is going to attack me at any moment."

Anyway, I don't know if this guy needs to lose his faculty appointment over this, but I do hope that one outcome is a series of mandated anger management and social behavior classes, because it is clear from the articles and the comments here that he has displayed a pattern of not-so-great behavior; to remain a part of the university community he needs to learn how to moderate that behavior.
posted by Forktine at 2:56 PM on August 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


shen1138 writes "But at least for my school (public university in California), nothing for our debate teams was paid for by a taxpayer."

Oh, I'm sure you're right.

But it's perception that matters. We all know that college professors work hard to get PhDs, to get published, to get tenure.

But what Joe and Jackie Middle-America see is somebody who never gets a callus, never gets his hands dirty, whose tenure means he never fears getting fired.

Add in those provinces of Liberal Arts that seem more concerned with perpetuating obscurantist language and impenetrable "theories", while providing no tangible benefits -- indeed, nothing even understandable, and "professors" who look and dress like dirty crack-heads, and you create understandable resentment in the hearts of people making $40,000 a year, that these "professors" get paid to act like animals while Joe and Jackie pick up the tab with their taxes.

And in the end, it's real scholarship -- the sciences that really do need millions for MRIs and lab animal care and telescopes and computers -- that get shafted by budget cuts, budget cuts based on the public's resentment of poseur "performance artists" like Billy Shanahan.
posted by orthogonality at 3:04 PM on August 14, 2008


I'm pretty sure that mooning your opponent is one of those logical fallacies.

Yes. "Argumentum ad gluteus" or "appeal to the buttock." Duns Scotus first accused Cardinal Matthew of Aquasparta of this fallacy in 1292, prompting Aquasparta's exile from Florence and the derisive mention of him in Dante's Paradiso.
posted by el_lupino at 3:05 PM on August 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: We're not ashamed when it bubbles over.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:09 PM on August 14, 2008


And this, really, is why liberals lose elections. Because the guy on the family farm (or who has lost his family farm and now works for minimum wage at Wal*Mart) looks at this and looks at how his taxes subsidize it, directly or through student aid, and sees all intellectual endeavor as a high-falutin' sham that quickly degenerates into a guy who desperately needs a haircut jumping around showing his ass, his big words forgotten as he screams obscenities and grunts like an animal.

Really? This is why liberals lose elections? I'm at a loss here. I haven't really been aware of a plethora of YouTube videos of university faculty losing their marbles. Also, while a lot of conservative politicians work the anti-intellectual angle, sure, a lot of hardcore Democrats come out of a blue collar background, e.g., labor unions. They might look at a college debate team with the same disregard as the family farmer you describe (although there's no reason to think they wouldn't admire it), but that doesn't mean they'd look at a YouTube video of Professor Moon here and think to themselves, "That's it - I'm voting Republican!"
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:10 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Who gave that crazy homeless man access to the building? Seriously. That is a crazy homeless man. I notice some people are saying he is a professor. That's not correct either. Some strange error has been made.
posted by Ragma at 3:12 PM on August 14, 2008


But it's perception that matters.

I'm sure much of what you say accurately reflects the way a lot of people feel. However, what do you propose we do about it? Should people who have careers in these fields that generate resentment (and that you apparently disdain), or the students who enjoy things like CEDA, and who can only find these crack-head dressed professors who are willing to coach / chaperon them, be told "Sorry, none for you?"

Should public universities be restricted only to those disciplines that will appeal to Middle America? I personally enjoyed being a debater throughout high school and college; I might have even learned a thing or two along the way. Should I have lost out on those experiences because of the probability that because a professor / coach at some school looks like a hippy, it will eventually cause the engineering program to suffer budget cuts? More generally, should public universities have their curriculum structured, in whole or in part, by concerns about what voters / taxpayers will object to (assuming we can accurately gauge that)?

What about other disciplines that Middle America might find objectionable? Like Islamic studies? Surely there's some utility there for people who want to work in government and foreign service in the post 9/11 era, but I can see the Middle Americans you describe objecting to that as well. Maybe there's also a significant number of creationists, with votes, that strongly oppose the evolution being taught at the state university. Since we're working with the rubric that we don't want to lose voters, we should curtail evolution teaching as well?

I'm not trying to be flippant or antagonistic, and I'm aware there's slippery slope objections you could point out in my line of rhetoric here. But I'm curious as to what you think should be done.
posted by shen1138 at 3:29 PM on August 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


>The actual debate.

Whoa...
posted by jpdoane at 3:37 PM on August 14, 2008


What about other disciplines that Middle America might find objectionable?

This is one of those comments that I wish I could favorite over and over and over again.
posted by spiderwire at 3:39 PM on August 14, 2008


Talk to the hand Appeal to the buttock.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:46 PM on August 14, 2008


What is the capital of the state of Fort Hayes?

there ya go bringing capitalism into it again
posted by yort at 3:51 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Something in this about how postmodernism dialectically transforms into Orwellian semantics when someone yells about how much he cares about people while his material body proves it exists by knocking the free will of another material being aside.

See "A Post-Modern Rhetoric in Support of Wifebeating."
posted by dragonsi55 at 3:59 PM on August 14, 2008


shen1138 writes "I'm not trying to be flippant or antagonistic, and I'm aware there's slippery slope objections you could point out in my line of rhetoric here. But I'm curious as to what you think should be done."

Good points.

The problem is that we have too many "Communications" professors chasing too little real knowledge. The professor that Shanahan is arguing with in that video wrote her PhD dissertation on the use of "hip hop" in formal debates. Now, I haven't read her dissertation, and maybe it's great stuff, but my assumption is, it's one more instance of academic BS, bottom-scraping to get a degree, that does nothing to increase our shared knowledge as a culture.

By producing crap, by coming up with stuff like "poststructuralism" that explicitly rejects any objective measures of validity, we (as a culture) are simply propping up a market in useless trivia and pseudo-intellectual masturbation. It's similar to,and as harmful as, our going into massive debt to China to buy cheap and useless and disposible plastic geegaws sold at Wal*Mart.

And people outside academics see this, and all of scholarship becomes devalued because of the buncombe practiced in a few departments.

I'm not saying very student should be an engineering student. But BA degrees, especially in the Liberal Arts, hae become a joke because teachers call canting teaching, and students believe the bull and go on to perpetuate it.
posted by orthogonality at 4:00 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was going to make a post about this. Damnit. Anyway, there's also been a discussion on the high-school policy debate website Cross-x.com. Furthermore, the Towson team went on to win CEDA nationals, I believe, which prompted two article about how the team "cheated" in order to win by taking advantage of white guilt and expecting lower standards on the white-supremicist (as in, maybe NSFW) news site VDare.com(cross-x thread talking about that here; I don't have the original articles handy, but I think they're linked in-thread).

Anyway, as an ex-policy hack who debates in college (not NDT/CEDA, thankfully), this strikes me as a really sad and bizarre incident. The 'debate community' (for lack of a better term) tends to view itself as being relatively immune from outside criticism; people who publicize these events in the media are dismissed as just "not getting it" or "not bothering to understand debate." Although there is probably an element of truth to that - debate is a complicated, weird activity, with a lot of arcane vocabulary and styles of argumentation, and is probably too much of a pain in the ass to explain correctly in a blurb on CNN - the fact is that there's a lot of elitist snobbery and ego in the activity as well. Sometimes members of the community- whether they're students, judges, or coaches - forget that their activities reflect on the institutions they're associated with, and that at the end of the day, stuff they do can't be contained to the community. I doubt that this incident will serve as a wake-up call for anyone; at the end of the day, Bill Shanahan will either lose his job and find another one coaching somewhere else or Fort Hays will slap him on the wrist and call it a day. People will cut answers to the Towson arguments and beat them next year, and participation in high school and college policy debate will continue to dwindle as it becomes increasingly inaccessible to the public and harder to justify in the budget.
posted by dismas at 4:07 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying very student should be an engineering student.

1) I'll assume, for the sake of argument, everything you say is true: these PHDs are a joke, there's no merit to them, they're crap, there are too many "communications" professors.

You still haven't told me what we should do about it. Ok, not every student should do engineering. Fine. What do we do?

2) If you really think losing voters is the problem, what about the other possibly objectionable fields I pointed to, like Islamic studies and evolution?

I guess I have a problem with the notion that what people want to pursue in college and life should be held hostage by "perceptions" harbored by a nebulous, amorphous notion of "Middle America."
posted by shen1138 at 4:12 PM on August 14, 2008


Man, stuff like this makes me grateful for the comparatively posh and genteel APDA circuit. We weren't coached by adults, just our fellow debaters, so we missed out on this brand of wisdom.

Also, we didn't talk likewewererunningoutofairinthenextOMG
posted by prefpara at 4:16 PM on August 14, 2008


Sweet. I've been doing research for a novel that's set in the world of high school debate. I debated in high school but it's been a while. We never had screaming matches, though, so this is completely fascinating.
posted by sugarfish at 4:33 PM on August 14, 2008


shen1138 writes "2) If you really think losing voters is the problem, what about the other possibly objectionable fields I pointed to, like Islamic studies and evolution? "

I suppose the answer is, work those fields can be (more easily) objectively proven valid or invalid. Those fields are worth fighting for. Foucault and obscurantism are not.

Again, these "debaters", as I understand it, don't even address the substance of the issues they're arguing; it's all posturing.Taking away the polysyllabic terms and French names, how is this any different from teaching salesmen how to craft a line of bullshit in oer to coerce a sale?

So what's my answer? Teaching people to bullshit belongs in theological seminaries and car dealerships, not colleges. Get rid of "Communications" departments and parasites like Bill Shanahan, and let him get a job selling Chevys.
posted by orthogonality at 4:38 PM on August 14, 2008


Nelson: What I find astounding is that when the gloves come off, all these fancy debate speakers can think to do is say "fuck" a lot. How eloquent!

For better or for worse, this is par for the course in college policy. The belief is that the content of your arguments is more important than presentation - talking pretty or wearing a suit isn't going to matter if you suck at answering arguments. Since most of the judges are coaches and ex-college debaters, they're used to it and nobody cares much about the f-bomb. If a judge has a problem with it, they disclose that before the round, and teams usually try to adapt to the judges' preferences. If a team has a problem, they can make it an issue in the round - criticisms of speed, gendered language, and specific words (like "fuck") aren't uncommon.

This isn't true in all forms of debate at the college or high school level. Thankfully, most high school debates haven't become as casual as college policy, although there's certainly many (successful) high school teams that don't bother to dress up too much and may occasionally drop the word "fuck" in a round. It depends on where you debate. When I was debating in front of peoples' parents in West Kansas, I always wore a suit and tie, and I still do when I'm competing in NPDA parli.

roll truck roll: Huh. Maybe I didn't know that. The only type of debate I was actually exposed to in college was Parliamentary, with the "government" and the "opposition" and the silly pretending to hold your nonexistent wig on. I get the feeling this type of debate draws a slightly different crowd.

The wig thing, thankfully, is less common now than it used to be. NPDA is turning into policy-lite-without-written-evidence, though.

spiderwire:
Shanahan didn't go nuts, he's always been nuts. He just doesn't usually get national media attention for it.

I think he got in a bit of trouble once for appearing in traffic court without shoes or socks and berating the judge, but that's just hearsay.

diablo 37:
Right! This is no beuno. I can't even hear what Deven is saying to determine whether his "arguments" are rational or well-thought. I don't see how this style of debate could yield anything but a total clusterfuck.

How does one rebut? "In response to your third verse, from which I could make out the words 'white, black, The Press and oppressors', I would like to point out that while white and black are adjectives, The Press and oppressors are nouns."

You argue that policy debate is the wrong forum for these kinds of arguments, or that these kinds of arguments won't work or are counter-productive, for example.
posted by dismas at 4:40 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Those fields are worth fighting for. Foucault and obscurantism are not.

Speak not of that which you know nothing about.

Get rid of "Communications" departments and parasites like Bill Shanahan, and let him get a job selling Chevys.

Yes. Indeed. Smart, aggressive, persuasive people shouldn't be arguing about racism, we should put them to work selling used cars. That sounds like a great idea.
posted by spiderwire at 4:44 PM on August 14, 2008 [6 favorites]


"By producing crap, by coming up with stuff like "poststructuralism" that explicitly rejects any objective measures of validity, we (as a culture) are simply propping up a market in useless trivia and pseudo-intellectual masturbation."

Don't be ignorant. You trotted out this line of crap against Nasreddin before, and you're doing it here again. First off, the argument that objective systems of values are the only valid ones, and the implication that subjective value systems are invalid, is bullshit on its face.

Second off, noting that structuralism was a pretty important re-ordering of how language was thought of, and that post-structuralism is simply critiques of structuralism, it's not useless trivia and masturbation prima facie.

Just because you don't understand something doesn't make it worthless, and this isn't the first time that you've tried to assert that.
posted by klangklangston at 4:50 PM on August 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


It's kinda cute how you started off talking about Family Farm Wal-mart Joe, and then you were like, "Oh no, I'm really just talking about myself. Sry."
posted by roll truck roll at 4:52 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


that was to orthogonality
posted by roll truck roll at 4:52 PM on August 14, 2008


Again, these "debaters", as I understand it, don't even address the substance of the issues they're arguing; it's all posturing.Taking away the polysyllabic terms and French names, how is this any different from teaching salesmen how to craft a line of bullshit in oer to coerce a sale?

First, not all debate is like this. Like I said up thread, not all debate formats are this out there; furthermore, performance isn't super-common. There are a few schools who have a certain amount of notoriety for doing it, but it's not like every single round is like the one Towson . A lot of policy debates are strictly about policy; a team will introduce a policy with advantages (which, truthfully, are usually cast in "we must do this or human extinction will result"), the negative team will respond to those advantages and introduce disadvantages, etc. It's usually fast and technical, but it's not all post-structuralist bullshit. In fact, I would wager that part of the reason Towson won CEDA is because their argument was novel enough that people weren't prepared to debate it (or as prepared as they would've been if Towson's 1AC had strictly been about the college resolution or even a commonly run critical affirmative about rejecting capitalism or the state).

In short, most debate does address the substance of the issues they're arguing. Furthermore, they do address the substance of the issues in the round, which I think is probably better than just saying "hey, they didn't talk about the topic, so we don't have to say anything."

Second, all the post-structural bullshit in debate simply reflects the post-structural bullshit in academia, which you seem to think has no merit. I'm majoring in economics, which has largely avoided the post-structural and deconstructive crap, but I don't really think you can make a real case that engineering and the sciences are really threatened by their institutional association with Communications professors who lack common sense. I don't think that the fact that my roommate studies Butler and Foucault as part of his English degree makes anyone think that studying engineering or physics less worthwhile or that those departments at state universities would be cut just because Chomsky is a bit of a fruitcake and some kid at Kansas State cited him in a debate round.

Do you honestly think that Foucault has no merit? What about Nietzsche or Kant or Descartes or Aquinas? Should the entire humanities division of every college be cut?
posted by dismas at 4:59 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


spiderwire writes "Yes. Indeed. Smart, aggressive, persuasive people shouldn't be arguing about racism, we should put them to work selling used cars. That sounds like a great idea."

He was arguing about racism? No, he was up in one woman's face, nearly threw a punch at another, and showed his ass.

If that's how "smart persuasive" people argue about racism, no wonder racism's still a major problem in this country. Somehow, I don't recall Martin Luther King mooning anybody.

Is this kind of performance art really what you want college kids learn as "debate"? Is learning this going to make them persuasive leaders?
posted by orthogonality at 5:02 PM on August 14, 2008


work those fields can be (more easily) objectively proven valid or invalid. Those fields are worth fighting for.

Ok, so now you've changed your position from getting rid of fields because of "liberals losing elections" to "objectively proven valid" fields. I think its fair to say then, you've conceded that it doesn't matter if a field and its poorly shaven professors will cost you votes, its whether it is "objectively valid."

From your posts, it seems that fields involving Foucault, hip-hop, and "stuff like 'poststructuralism' that explicitly rejects any objective measures of validity" cannot be objectively proven valid.

What about departments that teach Shakespeare, Mozart, and ethics in business? Because the departments that teach these things are also the departments that teach the former list of subjects. Are you proposing we abolish the English, Music, and Philosophy departments, since they're fields immersed in that material, and therefore either cannot be "objectively proven valid" or (from the tenor of your posts) already "objectively proven invalid?"

I'll cut to the chase here, since your point has become obvious; you don't like some stuff, and you want it to go away. That's it. You might have had some semblance of merit when you were discussing a concern about losing voters, but you've discarded it by now. There's nothing "objective" about your disapproval of the numerous subjects you've touched on, its just your opinion out of many, and one that, in all likelihood, shouldn't be dictating what a given person should or should not be spending their time on.
posted by shen1138 at 5:07 PM on August 14, 2008 [8 favorites]


My God it's full of stars Beans

And Ortho, I'd stop wrestling the pig if I was you.
posted by fullerine at 5:14 PM on August 14, 2008


He was arguing about racism?

Yes. Did you even watch the video?

No, he was up in one woman's face, nearly threw a punch at another, and showed his ass.

I fail to see what that has to do with your point, i.e. that he should be at work selling cars like a good productive citizen, which is nonsense.

If that's how "smart persuasive" people argue about racism, no wonder racism's still a major problem in this country.

If the question is whether Bill Shanahan is kind of crazy, I don't see where I disputed that. If the question is whether he is smart or persuasive, then I respectfully submit that I have argued with him personally and that he is both. You, on the other hand, know nothing about him outside of a YouTube link and your prejudices about liberal academia, and are essentially making shit up.

Furthermore, if you think that being crazy and getting in people's faces is somehow a disqualification for being a car salesman (or even a negative trait for that matter), then you're not just an ideologue, you're a fool. If Shanahan's purpose in life was selling cars instead of coaching debate teams, he'd be an executive at Chevy right now.

Is this kind of performance art really what you want college kids learn as "debate"? Is learning this going to make them persuasive leaders?

Yes and yes. Speaking from personal experience, I assure you that it is useful, even if one doesn't engage in it personally.
posted by spiderwire at 5:17 PM on August 14, 2008


That right there is why I am into the more honest and honorable forms of conflict resolution. Like kickboxing.

Though I am reminded of the average TKChrist family Thanksgiving. Only more violent.

I am also convinced this behavioral problem could be partially solved with dress codes. Shirt and tie. No jeans. Certainly no shorts. And for fuck sake put on your shoes.



Yes. I agree I am shallow.
posted by tkchrist at 5:24 PM on August 14, 2008


Like I said up thread, not all debate formats are this out there; furthermore, performance isn't super-common. There are a few schools who have a certain amount of notoriety for doing it, but it's not like every single round is like the one Towson . A lot of policy debates are strictly about policy; a team will introduce a policy with advantages (which, truthfully, are usually cast in "we must do this or human extinction will result"), the negative team will respond to those advantages and introduce disadvantages, etc. It's usually fast and technical, but it's not all post-structuralist bullshit.

My high school debate team was exactly like this: two people standing shoulder to shoulder, facing judges, holding in their hands a small stack of index cards, and reading off of these cards, sometimes going extemporaneous, but not often, keeping their eyes on the judges the entire time.

Is this idea of a more "performance heavy" debate a recent thing? I mean in academic circles of course; the Taiwanese parliament has a long tradition of it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:26 PM on August 14, 2008


Is this idea of a more "performance heavy" debate a recent thing?

No, but, as mentioned, it's not that common, especially not in high school, and it's non-existent outside of policy debate. If it's a team's stock in trade, they might be very good at it, but the ROI is questionable and it takes a slightly different (though not radically different) skillset to pull off effectively. All good teams can step up to the plate and defend against it; many can legitimately play the game themselves but prefer not to for various reasons.
posted by spiderwire at 5:32 PM on August 14, 2008


Note to Orthogonality: Do not poke the post-structuralist debaters. They are full of wasps.
posted by klangklangston at 5:50 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, but, as mentioned, it's not that common, especially not in high school, and it's non-existent outside of policy debate. If it's a team's stock in trade, they might be very good at it, but the ROI is questionable and it takes a slightly different (though not radically different) skillset to pull off effectively. All good teams can step up to the plate and defend against it; many can legitimately play the game themselves but prefer not to for various reasons.

Interesting. I asked about how recent this was because while I know that political debate has always had its share of the performance-heavy, assuming there was a spike of it when radio and then television came into the picture, I wonder if academic debate styles changed along with political ones.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:55 PM on August 14, 2008


FUCK YOU, FUCKYOU, fuck you.

(Bounces up and down. Shows you my hairy ass. Now I r great debater!)
posted by orthogonality at 5:56 PM on August 14, 2008


Ortho, I don't think you'd make it as a debater; you'd get dropped like a hot potato in every round. This is a classic case of failing to extend your arguments from the 1NC and not identifying voting issues in the 2NR. My flow is all over the place! If you're going to argue performative contradiction, you need to impact that out way better. You dropped your Joe Sixpack disad and your Allan Bloom Kritik in the 1NR, which means that I can only vote for the affirmative--you can't introduce the Shanahan T in a rebuttal! Sounds like you need another practice round or two.

The decision is for Metafilter SK on the affirmative. Thanks, everyone, see you in out rounds!
posted by nasreddin at 6:11 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


Home from work now, and still listening to the debate. The Towson kids are so frustrating. They kept pushing, full well knowing the reason why Fort Hays struck Shanara. You could almost see the kid salivating at finally getting the real answer, so that he could shake his head and say, "Smells like protection of white privilege to me." Fucking asshole.

I'm definitely intrigued about performance-oriented debate, something I didn't know existed until two hours ago. Though interesting in intention, it's got quite a distance to go to be in conversation with other performance venues. I felt like I was watching a poetry slam from ten years ago.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:25 PM on August 14, 2008


You could almost see the kid salivating at finally getting the real answer, so that he could shake his head and say, "Smells like protection of white privilege to me." Fucking asshole.

Well, you should keep in mind the fact that debate, for better or worse, is an activity that excels best at training future lawyers (eh, spiderwire?). And cross-examination with the intent of getting the "witness" to say something incriminating, even if you know all the answers already, is a very standard legal tactic. So it's not that he's a fucking asshole, it's that he's getting into the spirit of the activity.
posted by nasreddin at 6:31 PM on August 14, 2008


is an activity that excels best at training future lawyers (eh, spiderwire?)

Heh. Yeah. My first reaction to that comment was "Hey, it's like taking a deposition... only friendlier." But I wasn't going to say it :)

So it's not that he's a fucking asshole, it's that he's getting into the spirit of the activity.

Strictly speaking, it's both.
posted by spiderwire at 6:34 PM on August 14, 2008


You're right, nasreddin. My comment was intended to be taken in the same spirit as the debate style these teams are using. I'm sure if I met him in real life, I wouldn't call him a fucking asshole.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:34 PM on August 14, 2008


Note to Orthogonality: Do not poke the post-structuralist debaters. They are full of wasps.

They are also full of cruelty, microwaved dinners, and oleaginous globules of pure death: having elected George W. Bush and wrecked the American economy, they're now intent on far more ambitious terrors. As we speak, an adjunct lecturer in comparative literature in the evening program at Long Beach State - perhaps a touch weary from his two-hour commute from the Valley, in a Taurus whose air-conditioning is once again on the fritz - is about to incautiously invoke the name of Bourdieu. Will it cause a vacuum metastability event and destroy the universe? Maybe not this time, but I, for one, don't know how many more times we can take the chance.
posted by dyoneo at 6:37 PM on August 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


an activity that excels best at training future lawyers

Well, Mock Trial was cooler by half than this hyperbolic horseshit.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:39 PM on August 14, 2008


Well, Mock Trial was cooler by half than this hyperbolic horseshit.

Quite true, but for many people the horseshit is the boring half.
posted by spiderwire at 6:43 PM on August 14, 2008


Feh - those folks got nothin' on these guys!
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:14 PM on August 14, 2008


I know Lincoln Douglas and Parliamentary debating. I've seen some Policy debate and believe this discussion is about Policy. (I read some of the listserv posts, watched some of the debate as well as the interpersonal meltdown video.)

From my experience, Lincoln Douglas and Parliamentary debate is preparation for exploring moral philosophy and/or working with the law. I know more than a few government attorneys (ADA's) and corporate attorneys who were very good Lincoln Douglas and Parliamentary debaters while in school. I know a filmmaker and some journalists in the same camp. I know no former Policy debaters.

I image that Policy debate can teach a student about process. Perhaps, it inspires kids to become engineers or computer programmers. To me, it's like a role playing game called "We are philosophers." In other words, the ideas are set pieces or objects. The real action is following a binder of sorts. Maybe, in that sense, it's more like a sport than an art form.

Please school me oh former Policy debaters. Thank you.
posted by noway at 7:56 PM on August 14, 2008


A fair amount of schooling has already taken place, noway. Look back through nasreddin and spiderwire's comments, among others.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:17 PM on August 14, 2008


Usually the movie sucks, but this adaptation of MetaTalk is pretty good!
posted by sluglicker at 9:24 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, uh: I was involved in high school and college debate, and it was my personal experience that high school and college debaters, collectively, do huge fucking mountains of cocaine. Not all of them, of course, but a fraction that I found surprising. This wasn't even during cocaine's heyday. So not to cast aspersions, because obviously I don't know, but there might have been something else going on with this coach besides him being just extremely concerned with how his team's debate was playing out. And the last time I saw someone that strident and articulate moon someone else in the interest of winning an argument, I was reasonably sure that he had just done a huge fucking mountain of cocaine as well.
posted by penduluum at 9:37 PM on August 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did nobody mention that Homer Simpson "mooned for rebuttal"?

'Cause, once again, Simpsons did it.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:54 PM on August 14, 2008


And having finished reading spiderwire's personal experience with the man, I would like to take back my entire post. Except for the last sentence.
posted by penduluum at 10:08 PM on August 14, 2008


I image that Policy debate can teach a student about process. Perhaps, it inspires kids to become engineers or computer programmers. To me, it's like a role playing game called "We are philosophers." In other words, the ideas are set pieces or objects. The real action is following a binder of sorts. Maybe, in that sense, it's more like a sport than an art form.

It's like a very technical game. The best debaters I've known have been very good at conceptualizing what is going to happen before anyone even speaks, predict (and manipulate) the responses of their opponents, finding a way to make those responses work for them strategically, and then execute their concept of the round perfectly. It's amazing if you see it done well, and the most fun in the world if you can pull it off.

There is a certain amount of weird intellectual...not dishonesty, but flexibility that's required. Like someone pointed out, you end up advocating arguments that you don't believe in all the time, or arguments that, to the average person, are completely absurd. I debated in a relatively conservative area (where policy was probably still comprehensible to a layperson), and even then I had rounds where I won on arguments such as "They haven't read any evidence that torture has occurred at Gitmo, and our evidence indicates that it's absolutely key to our intelligence gathering, so vote for us" and "Their terrorism disad indicates terrorism culminates in extinction, and we turned it, so we prevent extinction, which outweighs the nuclear war that they indicate will occur when the economy collapses after Social Security goes bankrupt."

Those particular arguments? Yeah, they were stupid, but it was fun making them. And when I was preparing for those tournaments - ten a semester - I was learning public speaking and research skills that I couldn't have gotten anywhere else at my high school. I had a group of good friends that I've managed to hold on to, and I had an activity where the fact that I was geeky and smart and talked too fast was highly valued, where I could win something without being an athlete for the first time in my life.

So yeah, the weird poststructuralist, speed-and-spread crap is stupid, but it was fun, and it was worth it.

This is a classic case of failing to extend your arguments from the 1NC and not identifying voting issues in the 2NR. My flow is all over the place! If you're going to argue performative contradiction, you need to impact that out way better. You dropped your Joe Sixpack disad and your Allan Bloom Kritik in the 1NR, which means that I can only vote for the affirmative--you can't introduce the Shanahan T in a rebuttal! Sounds like you need another practice round or two.

Red ink all over the flow, judge, but the abuse claims off of introducing new arguments aren't very well articulated either so I think it's a wash.

posted by dismas at 10:41 PM on August 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I assure you that it is useful, even if one doesn't engage in it personally.

Your assurances do not an argument make. Sorry.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:39 PM on August 14, 2008


dismas writes "It's like a very technical game. The best debaters I've known have been very good at conceptualizing what is going to happen before anyone even speaks, predict (and manipulate) the responses of their opponents, finding a way to make those responses work for them strategically, and then execute their concept of the round perfectly. It's amazing if you see it done well, and the most fun in the world if you can pull it off."

Ok, and as a skill game or training I can see some value in it -- which isn't apparent from the asinine video, which merely looks like drug-addled nerds trying to act out a bar brawl.

But as I think dismas makes clear, it's more about manipulation and strategy than about substantive discussion. Which is to say, it's ethically questionable sophistry, about which I have some qualms seeing taught, as it seems more likely to be used tohodwink people than to enlighten them.
posted by orthogonality at 12:15 AM on August 15, 2008


Your assurances do not an argument make. Sorry.

Since I was responding to an empty assertion, that doesn't bother me much. However, if you'd like me to be specific, I can be.

Speaking broadly, there is real value in having to deal practically with an opponent who argues on performative terms rather than using the "black letter" rules; indeed, it's often the performative criteria that determine the outcome of real-life debates (i.e., who is more persuasive to the audience or the jury; the biases and intentions of the judge; the purpose of the particular activity; etc.).

Speaking more personally, I've found both the "practical" aspects of policy debate (research, formal argument, etc.) just as useful in law and business (and elsewhere, really) as the "performative" aspects (why are we doing this, etc.). I honestly couldn't tell you which aspect of my debate education has been more important; they've both served me well and I don't think I could do without either.

Again, if you have a specific criticism, I'd be happy to elaborate. The basic claim, though, was simply wrong; and there's really not much to say when someone makes a factual generalization about an activity in which they have no concrete experience where my own personal experience proves the counterfactual. It's just not accurate, period.
posted by spiderwire at 12:24 AM on August 15, 2008


But as I think dismas makes clear, it's more about manipulation and strategy than about substantive discussion. Which is to say, it's ethically questionable sophistry, about which I have some qualms seeing taught, as it seems more likely to be used tohodwink people than to enlighten them.

ortho, for someone who has so many doubts about the fidelity of the education system, you certainly have an astonishing amount of faith in the purity of "substantive discussion" in what you seem to view as the real world.

Do you really think that in law, business, or any of the other supposedly legitimate professions you pointed to earlier, there's not a significant element of "manipulation and strategy" in practically every exchange? The entire point of having these discussions in the competitive-debate context is to get all of those assumptions and power-plays out in the open in an arena where peoples' livelihoods aren't at stake.

Personally, I see that as an ethical methodology, and since, again, you have literally zero experience here outside of a YouTube link and comments in this thread, your generalizations about what's being taught and the motivations behind it are shamefully overbroad -- as is the assertion that anyone involved is "drug-addled" when, once again, you have no clue that this is actually the case. Those are all serious allegations to be making so baselessly.

At least the people you're condemning have the good sense to talk about the implications of what they're doing and the means in which they're doing it -- you, apparently, do not.
posted by spiderwire at 12:36 AM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let me put that more straightforwardly -- I've met far too many lawyers and businesspeople whose ethical insight would benefit tremendously from the introspection provided by a debate career, a liberal arts degree, or even 45 minutes in a room getting yelled at by Bill Shanahan. I can't think of any debaters whose ethical systems would have been somehow fortified by a legal or business education.
posted by spiderwire at 12:45 AM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Since I was responding to an empty assertion, that doesn't bother me much.

The amount that it bothers you matters little. And you weren't responding to an empty assertion. You were responding to a question, to whit:

Is this kind of performance art really what you want college kids learn as "debate"? Is learning this going to make them persuasive leaders?

indeed, it's often the performative criteria that determine the outcome of real-life debates

I agree with you that theatrics are often what will sway a person's judgment. Just as one might be unduly influenced by the attractiveness of the debater, or their stature, or their reputation, or how much they deposited into one's bank account. There are a hundred different, equally non-compelling, non-substantive reasons why a decision might be awarded to one party over another.

The problem I think some people might have is that these things are anathemas to logic and reason--they're the kinds of things you pull out when you've run out of logic. Appeals to authority. Appeals to emotion. Appeals to consequences. The sorts of rhetorical devices used to cloud judgment, not clarify it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:34 AM on August 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


Ortho, reading your responses in this thread convinced me to not respond to your trolly stuff about reverse-racism in the "white minority" thread.

Did a deconstructionist steal your icecream when you were yet a proto-objectivist?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 5:11 AM on August 15, 2008


I was going to make a crappy Cloverfield 2 joke but this thread is too good to clutter up with such nonsense. A whole new world has been opened to me. It's not one I imagine I'll visit again but it's good to know it's there.
posted by minifigs at 6:53 AM on August 15, 2008


Do you really think that in law, business, or any of the other supposedly legitimate professions you pointed to earlier, there's not a significant element of "manipulation and strategy" in practically every exchange? The entire point of having these discussions in the competitive-debate context is to get all of those assumptions and power-plays out in the open in an arena where peoples' livelihoods aren't at stake.

It seems to me that at least part of ortho's argument is that competitive debating gives a kind of institutional legitimacy, even glamor, to manipulation and insincerity. He hasn't said so specifically, but I strongly suspect that orthogonality recognizes that while manipulation and insincerity is unavoidable, it should go uncelebrated.

Secondly, is everything out in the open? You personally have not tabled your own assumptions, and have left myself, orthogonality, and everyone else reading this thread completely in the dark as to the motivations driving you to post and post again. You've already deployed some of your debating skills in this thread, but haven't been particularly open about the nature of your arguments, when your livelihood is certainly not under threat.

Look, this video is the first time I've ever seen debating in this style. It looks very impressive, much in the same way a game of Ultimate looks impressive to me. I would be absolutely no good at it, I'm sure: It takes me a while to think things through, I tend to trip over my tongue a lot, I get flustered easily, and I'm usually willing to entertain an opposing viewpoint (and risk looking weak) if I think it will lead me to a better understanding at a later time. I'm not sure what competitive debating teaches (beyond competitiveness), but then it's not really fair to dismiss something based on 9 minutes of video, when there are many intelligent people in this thread who seem to get a kick out of it.
posted by Ritchie at 7:39 AM on August 15, 2008


Ritchie writes "It seems to me that at least part of ortho's argument is that competitive debating gives a kind of institutional legitimacy, even glamor, to manipulation and insincerity. He hasn't said so specifically, but I strongly suspect that orthogonality recognizes that while manipulation and insincerity is unavoidable, it should go uncelebrated."

Yes, and thanks to Ritchie for that. Yesterday I was a bit distracted, and thus somewhat unclear in my criticisms.
posted by orthogonality at 7:42 AM on August 15, 2008


The rebuttal to the argument that institutional legitimacy, even glamor, is given to manipulation and insincerity, is in the rebuttals to arguments that engage in manipulation and insincerity. These are things that everyone must deal with, and debate gives them a framework to anticipate and counter them.

(But I did Model UN instead, where the formal debate portion is only a rhetorical Potemkin village, behind which the caucus does all the real argumentation.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:22 AM on August 15, 2008


... debate gives them a framework to anticipate and counter them.

Is that objective made explicit to people entering these debating societies? According to some of the personal anecdotes upthread, people started these activities primarily because they found them fun (which is justification enough), not to fulfill a need for self-defense training. But is that why you were in Model UN?
posted by Ritchie at 8:47 AM on August 15, 2008


Well look, I already told you! I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don't have to! I have people skills! I am good at dealing with people! Can't you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?
posted by porn in the woods at 8:47 AM on August 15, 2008


"According to some of the personal anecdotes upthread, people started these activities primarily because they found them fun (which is justification enough), not to fulfill a need for self-defense training."

But the argument is that debating institutionalizes and thus encourages manipulation and sophistry. As much as that is true, they also give the tools to defend against manipulation and sophistry, and to recognize the limitations of said techniques.

And I was in Model UN because it was a nice way to fulfill part of my international politics requirement, and because the prof asked me to join the team.
posted by klangklangston at 10:05 AM on August 15, 2008


But as I think dismas makes clear, it's more about manipulation and strategy than about substantive discussion. Which is to say, it's ethically questionable sophistry, about which I have some qualms seeing taught, as it seems more likely to be used tohodwink people than to enlighten them.

Sophistry is a common accusation leveled against policy debate as an activity (sometimes rightfully), but I think you're misunderstanding me. The summaries I offered occurred after an hour's worth of in-depth discussion of the warrants of each piece of evidence. The worst excesses of debate as an activity - and perhaps the round the post was about represented some of those excesses - shouldn't lead anyone to dismiss the entire activity as worthless, because if you just walk into a room and shout at people, you're going to get your ass kicked by some kid who's actually read and understood stuff written in policy briefings and, yes, academic journals about Foucault and Heidegger. There's plenty of education about the topic - I've forgotten some of it now, since it's been a couple of years, but I could probably still engage in a relatively intelligent discussion about US ocean policy or the UN, five years after those resolutions were the official high school topics.

And there's plenty of merit to being able to defend a side of an argument that you disagree with - it forces you to acknowledge that there is another side, to engage the arguments the other side is making so you can more effectively answer their criticisms.

On preview: what klangklangston said.

Is that objective made explicit to people entering these debating societies?

Honestly, most people I know who joined a debate team did so because their parents made them (in high school) or they like arguing with people (which usually means "I like current events and talking about them and I have opinions"). Debate teaches you how to argue with people in an organized, precise way, to keep your cool (Bill Shanahan mooning someone aside), and to win arguments based on their merits rather than their taglines.

Which is why the Shanahan incident is such a fucking mess, because it demonstrates that, despite the educational and personal benefits policy debate can (and should) have for people, their are people who have just turned it into a vehicle for ego, and who have lost sight of education for the sake of the game. Because debate on some circuits has become such an insular activity that has zero accountability to even highly intelligent laypeople, it's dying out as an activity in many places on both the high school and collegiate level simply because it can't attract new members who are willing to put in the work or support for administrators. I don't think policy debate will completely die on the high school level, particularly in places like Kansas and Missouri and Texas, where it's still thriving, but it's probably due for a course correction.
posted by dismas at 10:12 AM on August 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that at least part of ortho's argument is that competitive debating gives a kind of institutional legitimacy, even glamor, to manipulation and insincerity. He hasn't said so specifically, but I strongly suspect that orthogonality recognizes that while manipulation and insincerity is unavoidable, it should go uncelebrated.

I tend to agree, but my argument also applies to the treatment of manipulative conduct in the occupations that ortho isolated -- heck, car salesmen (what ortho thinks Bill Shanahan should be) are heavily encouraged to be manipulative and insincere. Again, I want to know where this magical place you guys seem to live is, where every deal is completely on the level and institutions frown on sharp dealin'; 'cause I'm gonna move there and get filthy, filthy rich.

The problem with all types of institutional manipulation is often not that it's celebrated so much as unrecognized; not only do "critical" debates allow you to jump in and out of the various meta-levels of discussion, and they reward people who can over those who can't integrate the what with the how and why of what we do -- that's an invaluable skill.

It also doesn't mean that you defend the "how" and the "why" every round -- you just have to be able to. Most collegiate debates stay mostly on the pure-policy level. But the value of having the game rules up for grabs like that is that it forces debaters to think about every possible level of what they're advocating and why they think that's the right way to do it. It certainly doesn't prevent anyone from talking about concrete facts; in fact, people who are fixated on policy arguments are in many ways just as annoying (if not more annoying) than the critical-theory folks who treat empirical data as an afterthought. People who can only do one or the other are not very interesting. Good debaters can do both, and that's something to encourage.
posted by spiderwire at 12:23 PM on August 15, 2008


It's a bit of a revelation to me that there are so many people on Metafilter with (at least some) formal training in debate. It puts some of my experiences here in a new light.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 12:37 PM on August 15, 2008


Dismas says:
You argue that policy debate is the wrong forum for these kinds of arguments, or that these kinds of arguments won't work or are counter-productive, for example.


On he contrary, I argued that these kinds of arguments, or any argument really, are nearly inscrutable in the form given. However, that was before learning from Shen1138 that in this style of debate, the arguments are published and disseminated beforehand.

As for your former statement, I haven't said anything as to whether policy debate is a correct forum for such arguments. I'm not even sure what you mean.
posted by diablo37 at 12:38 PM on August 15, 2008


The amount that it bothers you matters little.

Did I say otherwise?

And you weren't responding to an empty assertion. You were responding to a question, to whit: [sic]

I was responding to two rhetorical questions, and if your argument is that anything with a question mark behind it doesn't count as a positive claim, then I find it difficult to take any of your accusations of "sophistry" very seriously.

Those two statements were, in fact, assertions, but to the extent that there was an actual question, it was whether debate was useful for turning students into "persuasive leaders," and I responded to that question above. Again, if you're looking for more reasons, then I'm willing to elaborate if you're interested in engaging productively.

However, I fail to see where I mentioned your point, which is apparently that there is a zero-sum relationship between rhetorical and logical persuasion. Though I dispute your premise, it's not relevant -- even that exceedingly narrow framework is in any event consonant with the point I did make, which was that understanding the mechanics of advocacy generally makes for better advocacy.
posted by spiderwire at 12:38 PM on August 15, 2008


I find it kind of fascinating that NO one is discussing the delayed YouTube release of this thing and the implications that go along with that.

The funniest moment in the video is when Shanahan remembers/notices that there is a video camera recording in the room.

I also question how a guy who has been charged with battery (particularly more than once) can be hired as a university professor in the first place (or did they take place while he was already employed?). I don't see how the university can fail to fire him. If alumni who contribute to the program are unhappy about the way he has makes their alma mater look, the university will have to act on those grounds alone. Those same alma mater were probably pretty darn please when he led Fort Hayes State to the national championship that year, though. No, on second thought, they probably never even heard about it.

Finally, while I could rationalize all of the language, personal space invasion, yelling at the top of their lungs, childishness, and even the mooning — I think Shanahan DID cross the line when he smacked the intervening woman's arm away from him.

I also have to say that white people debating minorities on issues of racism reminds me of the line from WarGames: "Strange game. The only winning move is not to play."
posted by spock at 1:50 PM on August 15, 2008


I wrote more about all of this on my livejournal, if anyone cares to read it. I kind of stopped asking questions here because it seemed like the discussion wanted to go into a general referendum on whether debate is a good thing.

The more I read and try to understand all of this, the more it seems that Towson's case was basically invincible. When your whole argument is that you can't even address the questions of the debate because debate is broken, no one can touch you, at least within the context of a debate round. Kansas University made a noble attempt to create a cohesive rebuttal in the final round, but their lack of sincerity was far too obvious, the perfect foil for Towson's anger.

It all makes me wonder where debate can go from this. This argument is a trump card. Unless debate is abolished because Towson convinced everyone of how flawed it is, there's really nowhere it can go from here. It all reminds me a lot of a similar crisis poetry slam had a few years ago. In the end, the Fort Hayses of slam won because the Towsons literally had nothing left that they could say.

I also wonder, are these two teams the best of this performance-oriented debate? If so, the movement has quite a bit of work ahead of it to catch up with other spoken word venues.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:30 PM on August 15, 2008


roll truck roll, I found it similarly fascinating, and your livejournal post actually clarified a huge amount I didn't understand. For example, I wasn't sure what the actual debate topic was, I didn't know what Towson or Fort Hayes were trying to argue procedurally, and thus, as would be expected, I found it immensely confusing.
posted by Gnatcho at 2:58 PM on August 15, 2008


It all makes me wonder where debate can go from this. This argument is a trump card. Unless debate is abolished because Towson convinced everyone of how flawed it is, there's really nowhere it can go from here.

That's never true of any argument, or argument style, in debate. In that sense, debate is a bit like world history: though one team may win consistently, over and over, for a long period of time, and though it may look invincible, that never lasts too long. Answers to their arguments show up--there are probably hundreds of people in the US that are paid in part to produce evidence, and many of them are very, very good at it. Eventually these answers become part of each team's standard equipment, and that argument stops working. I can't tell you what the particular block to this strategy will be, but it'll be out before the first tournament next semester.
posted by nasreddin at 2:59 PM on August 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


diablo37:On he contrary, I argued that these kinds of arguments, or any argument really, are nearly inscrutable in the form given. However, that was before learning from Shen1138 that in this style of debate, the arguments are published and disseminated beforehand.

As for your former statement, I haven't said anything as to whether policy debate is a correct forum for such arguments. I'm not even sure what you mean.


Sorry, I meant "one argues" as in "a debater would make the argument in the round that." I wasn't referring to you personally. I've had the luck to never hit a performance team in six years, but people I know who have have had a lot of luck making arguments about how performance debate alienates people, and that it hasn't achieved its goals. Which, empirically, is probably true; Towson's success aside, they hadn't manged to win a single tournament that year before CEDA nats, and a lot of programs try out this approach for a few years before reverting back to the traditional way of debating because the project doesn't go anywhere. Often, teams will have one or two teams that are really good at performance, and when they graduate, the project falls apart; that seems to be a lot of what happened at Kansas City Central, the subject of this book

roll truck rollThe more I read and try to understand all of this, the more it seems that Towson's case was basically invincible. When your whole argument is that you can't even address the questions of the debate because debate is broken, no one can touch you, at least within the context of a debate round.

Yeah, and that's a problem I have with performance-based debate. At the end of the day, though, I think most judges are still more receptive to traditional arguments than they are performance, and probably will be in the forseeable future. The fact that most project teams don't have a concrete idea of what it is they're trying to achieve is something that traditional teams are beginning to take advantage of, I think.
posted by dismas at 3:00 PM on August 15, 2008


As for the original subject of the post: Here's a story about Bill Shanahan's contempt of court citation.
posted by dismas at 3:02 PM on August 15, 2008


Congratulations, nasreddin. In one comment, you just gave me an appreciation for debate that I didn't get from a semester in parliamentary or two years living with a bunch of debaters.

I wouldn't be very good at the fast reading, but this idea of building cases based on current strategies, stringing together sources that will just become a taken-for-granted piece of people's arsenals once the current threat blows over... I think I'd have liked that job.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:18 PM on August 15, 2008



I wouldn't be very good at the fast reading, but this idea of building cases based on current strategies, stringing together sources that will just become a taken-for-granted piece of people's arsenals once the current threat blows over... I think I'd have liked that job.


Yeah, I was always better at cutting cards than I was at actually debating. And I enjoyed it a lot more, because of the way it let me assemble crazy arguments based on utterly obscure sources (random hippies on the internet? check! Soviet legal theorist Evgeny Pashukanis? check! the Unabomber? check!).

Eventually I figured out that judges had a natural limit to what kind of crazy argument they would buy, even if the opposing team didn't rebut it effectively at all and if I had prepared and articulated blocks for everything they had. That's when I quit debate, because the hyper-competitiveness of it started to outweigh the intellectual challenge. (There are a lot of debate drones out there, who are a bit like those 14 year olds who spend all their time playing Starcraft and get really, really good at it--you admire them for their skill, I guess, but you also feel kinda bad for them).
posted by nasreddin at 3:35 PM on August 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


rtr, nasreddin, et al., I actually have a block of answers to Fort Hays' hip-hop case laying around somewhere. IIRC they were one of the first teams to have any success with it -- in fact, I have vague recollections of being at the/a tournament where they broke it out. I certainly remember there being a stir about it.

It worked for that Fort Hays team because they were good. People were of course saying the same things about their argument: it's an unfair trump card, etc. etc. Of course, that didn't happen. So it's important to remember that the team makes the argument; the argument doesn't make the team. Different modes of debate are more conducive to different people, depending on what their speaking style, researching style, and thought process might be.

The Towson kids are playing to their strengths (not many people are capable of running a hip-hop case for obvious reasons), and kudos to them for it. But I think it diminishes their skill to suggest that the argument is what's winning them rounds. It's not their fault that they're good at what they do; if they weren't winning no one would be complaining about competitive advantages. That's ultimately the double-edged sword of performative arguments -- even if your motives are perfectly pure, it's not possible to do it well and lose, and if you win, then someone inevitably starts impugning your motives.
posted by spiderwire at 3:48 PM on August 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


(There are a lot of debate drones out there, who are a bit like those 14 year olds who spend all their time playing Starcraft and get really, really good at it--you admire them for their skill, I guess, but you also feel kinda bad for them).

What if you played Starcraft on breaks while blocking?

I really wish that was a hypothetical question
posted by spiderwire at 3:52 PM on August 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


What if you played Starcraft on breaks while blocking?

It's OK, as long as you didn't tag your cards with "pwn3d n00b (Butler, 1998)"

Man, I'm still pissed I never got to use my favorite unfinished disad, Apocalypse.

card 1: The Supreme Court is a judicial dictatorship that destroys the constitution and promotes slavery and world government. (some crazy right-wing conspiracy guy, 1990)
card 2: The New World Order world government is a front for the coming of the Antichrist. (some internet end times preacher, 2000).
posted by nasreddin at 4:09 PM on August 15, 2008


Did I say otherwise?

Yep, you sure did.

if your argument is that anything with a question mark behind it doesn't count as a positive claim

Nope, not my argument at all.

but to the extent that there was an actual question, it was whether debate was useful for turning students into "persuasive leaders," and I responded to that question above.

Never said you didn't.

However, I fail to see where I mentioned your point, which is apparently that there is a zero-sum relationship between rhetorical and logical persuasion. Though I dispute your premise, it's not relevant

Ah, finally! I was wondering when you were going to get around to addressing my point. But... "It's not relevant?" That's it? Wow.

Weak.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:21 PM on August 15, 2008


Ah, finally! I was wondering when you were going to get around to addressing my point. But... "It's not relevant?" That's it? Wow.

Reading the second half of the sentence you quoted or the previous comment it referred to might be a good place to start. Best of luck with that.
posted by spiderwire at 5:11 PM on August 15, 2008


FHSU Terminates Shanahan; Suspends Debate Program

Good job, YouTube.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:26 PM on August 25, 2008


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