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Passions in Poetry

I Hate Formal Debates

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Brad
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Jejudo, South Korea


0 posted 08-12-2001 04:11 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

What? Why would I say such a thing?

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy the analysis, the exploration of detail, the probing of weak points, the rush and all that.

But it never feels sincere. Talk to someone long enough and they'll tell you something you don't know, haven't thought about, or show you that something you said was the product of excess or whatnot.

It leads to growth.

Formal debates, even if you don't believe in your position, are relatively easy anyway but the success is hollow. You finish and then think, "But I don't really believe that."

I much prefer conversation. The above good points are still there but there's nothing wrong with conceding a point you hadn't considered, testing out a hypothesis that on the surface seems absurd, or exploring tangents that result from the interaction.  Above all, conversation moves us away from bi-polar rhetoric where someone is declared the winner but neither position has actually changed.

I suppose the argument is that we're trying to change other's minds, the audience so to speak. But honestly I'd rather talk to people rather than for people.

I guess that's why I'm not a lawyer.

Brad


Local Rebel
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1 posted 08-12-2001 06:08 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I used to have a chess partner who insisted on 'gentleman' rules.  This meant calling check on any peice threatened to prevent the outcome of the game being careless participation.  His philosophy was that capitalizing on an opponents (human) weakness took the focus of the game off of pure strategy.

The point of any game however, is to win.

A debate is no different -- it has nothing to do with changing anyone's mind.  I think how the game is played though tells us something about the players -- which is why Presidential Election debates are interesting -- the declared winners usually have nothing to do with 'debating' and everything to do with who the American people liked more.

A conversation, on the other hand -- is about winning a friend?  perhaps?
hush
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since 05-27-2001
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2 posted 08-12-2001 07:45 PM       View Profile for hush   Email hush   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for hush

But if your conversing with an already established friend? No, I don't think conversations are meant to win friends, but they are a friendly way to interact with others.

I personally like getting into angry heated debates- but only with people who I want to know that I am smarter and better able to prove a point than they are. I would never get into a "formal debate" (if you can call any inpromptu debate formal- BTW, what exactly is a formal debate?) with a friend of mine, and that's because I know that my debating style not only attacks the person on the other side, but I know that I only get into debates like that for two reasons- either to boost my ego, or to make the other person feel stupid. It's not an aspect of my personality that I am entirely proud of, but it is something I can fall back on when conversations fail, or, more often, conversations go down a path that trip my temper up.

I guess I've gone on a tangent, because an intellectual temper-tantrum isn't the same thing as a debate in the first place. But maybe the aforementioned reasons are good reasons to dislike debates- because they promote a competition rather than an environment for sharing and learning.

You are more than the sum of what you consume
Desire is not an occupation
-Nicole Blackman/KMFDM

Brad
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3 posted 08-21-2001 06:22 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

A formal debate is no different from a chess game, but debates have a tendency to fracture a person's sense of identity far more than a chess game.

I certainly won't deny the ego boost when you 'win' and I agree that an advesarial conversation can get a conversation into new territories faster than one where the goal is agreement, but I find no satisfaction in making people feel stupid (I've been doing this for so long that I rarely feel stupid. When I 'lose', provided I haven't changed my mind, I learn from that and look for my mistakes. I just wait for the next time to play again). Making a person feel stupid just means they won't talk to you again. In high school, I remember questioning a woman who had just discovered Christ and was running around telling everybody this. I simply confused her. When she had left, another person came up to me and asked:

Why did you do that?

Through all the points of she started it, of I have my opinion as well, of what's wrong with asking questions, I still have no answer.

Now, I can still explain the problem:

a confusion between identity and opinion

but I don't know how to get people to see that distinction.

Everybody's still mumbling, "Yeah, but what you're really trying to do is . . ."

It just irritates me at times.

Brad

PS Are the only people you can actually disagree with people who are already your friends?  
Local Rebel
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4 posted 08-21-2001 06:29 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Good thoughts Brad.. and I see the difference you're attmepting to draw between opinion and identity..

And  ... No.. I obviously disagree with people who aren't my friends all the time...
Ron
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5 posted 08-21-2001 07:41 PM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

I'm not sure if we're talking apples and oranges here (depending on your definition of "formal"), but I tend to lean in the other direction. I think Debate/Forensics should be a required class in high school, not an elective one.

It can teach many, many important things to people (critical thinking, poise, research skills), but the most important lesson might be to argue with your mind instead of your heart.
Brad
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6 posted 08-21-2001 09:02 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Not necessarily. I'd just like to see those same skills applied to real opinions and not those foisted upon you by a teacher.

Use those same skills when you form your own opinion, use those skills when the opinions are important, when they matter, not only to 'win'.

I'm not sure that a formal debate doesn't partially discredit these skills in 'real' life.

A formal debate kind of makes things static.

Brad
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7 posted 08-21-2001 09:32 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

well said Ron
Ron
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8 posted 08-22-2001 02:36 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

Brad said:  
quote:
I'd just like to see those same skills applied to real opinions and not those foisted upon you by a teacher.

Been there, done that. My first introduction to "persuasive" public speaking was in 1966, 9th grade, and Mrs. Schell allowed us to select our own topics. I argued for hanging all the teachers, borrowing the shoe-pounding-on-the-podium theatrics of Kruschev, and I very modestly admit I managed to persuade most of the classroom. The "D" I received for my efforts suggests I didn't convince Mrs. Schell.

The following year, however, I was introduced to "formal" debate, and Battle Creek Central eventually won the 1967 Nationals in Albuquerque. I argued both sides of a long forgotten resolution, as well as extemporaneous speaking on subjects chosen five minutes before I stood. Did I care about the topics? Not in the least. But I'd like to think that, 35 years later, I still apply much of what I learned to the things that DO matter to me. If nothing else, Debate taught me to keep my mouth shut until the brain has a chance to kick into gear. (Two marriages probably helped reinforce that lesson.)

I think I understand what you're saying, though, Brad, and I don't really disagree with the premise. Debate shouldn't be about winning or losing, but rather about exploring and learning, in which case both sides can't help but win. That rarely happens in formal debate because, as in my case, I really didn't care enough about whether nuclear power should be controlled by the UN or individual countries. But "winning" a formal debate isn't really much different from handing out grades.

You and I have both stood in front of a classroom, and we both know you can't teach "basics" without resorting to contrived circumstances. No matter the subject, we arrange things so we can teach one skill, then the next, building on previous lessons without distractions from future ones. Too much freedom in the classroom introduces too many variables, and too many students become hopelessly confused. We need simplicity to teach anything complicated, and that includes the tenets of formal debate. We need to teach them to walk first, hoping they will someday learn to run.

We can theoretically force a kid, through grades, to learn proper English. But we can't force them to use that knowledge outside the classroom or later in life. I think the thrill of winning a formal debate, like grades, can motivate the learning of equally important skills. But you're right, we can't really force them to use those skills outside the debate arena - where it really counts. In neither case, though, does that make the learning less important or valuable. It just puts a greater onus on the teacher. If there's a weakness in the system, it's not with formal debate and what it can teach people, but rather is a weakness inherent in our educational system.

And that is a thread of a whole different color.    
Local Rebel
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9 posted 08-22-2001 01:55 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

The inherent weakness being the classroom will always lack what praxis provides...

and yep -- that's a whole other debate..

Hang all the teachers -- funny guy Ron.. I love it
Brad
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since 08-20-99
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Jejudo, South Korea


10 posted 08-23-2001 08:04 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Yeah, Ron, I agree.

Just wonder if the contrived, necessary as it is, has become more important than the target.  How do you avoid this?

This may seem a bit of a jump but does anybody think that the reasons why people go to school have been lost?

By teachers, students, parents, and theoreticians?

Has the pedagogical technique become more important as a baby sitting tool than as the obvious need to teach the patterns and responsibilities necessary to participate in modern society -- to teach skills that allow you to participate in multiple contexts, not simply the ones you grew up in?

Has everybody come to believe that school is simply time wasted until they get on with 'real life'?

Or do they see it as those 'glory years' where you didn't have to worry about 'real life' responsibilities?

To me, I wonder if people are so afraid they're being manipulated that they aren't learning the tools to avoid it.  The result is denial and, of course, being even more manipulated than the manipulation people fear.

Perhaps it's too much emphasis on the answer to the question and not enough on why we are asking them?

I don't know,
Brad
Local Rebel
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since 12-21-1999
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11 posted 08-23-2001 02:45 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I see it more as a time to learn how to learn -- which follows Ron's argument -- debating, research, and logic skills are crucial to learning how to learn.
Brad
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since 08-20-99
Posts 5896
Jejudo, South Korea


12 posted 08-23-2001 03:28 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

I certainly agree with that. What I sometimes tell my students and other teachers and what no one seems to really believe is that there is really no such thing as teaching -- there is only learning.

You can be the best teacher in the world, do all the right tricks, mesmerize the students, make them love or hate you, but if nobody learns anything, does it matter?

Following your point then, do people, in general, no longer value learning how to learn? Is is more of a 'yeah, yeah, I think what I'm going to think regardless of how you tell me how I should think'.

That is, have people confused 'how' you should think with 'what' you should think?

See the difference?

Brad
Local Rebel
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13 posted 08-23-2001 04:23 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

I see the difference and it is reminiscent of your earlier point regarding opinion vs. identity.

I think particularly in a country where ideology tends to replace nationality people tend to think of themselves as 'liberals' or 'conservatives', 'Democrats' or 'Republicans' instead of people who hold conservative or liberal viewpoints.

This has a tendancy to eliminate (in the mind of many) the real need to think or learn since they have their 'identity' to do that for them.

Being "taught" the thought process or learning process becomes a challenge to their 'identity'.

Did I tend to use the word tend too much in this post?

[This message has been edited by Local Rebel (edited 08-23-2001).]

 
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