It’s Time to Mandate High School Debate Training

 

One of my favorite high school teachers, Dr. Oliver, approached me sometime in late 1973 at my rural high school in the McClain County farm community of Washington, Oklahoma, with an offer.

“Would you be interested in starting a debate team?” I recall him asking me after class one day. My partner would be his son, Kelton, a classmate. My family had recently relocated there a few months earlier from southwest Oklahoma City to escape the madness of forced bussing during the desegregation battles of the early 1970s, where I was forced to change schools. My father had other ideas.

I went from a high school class of about 300 at US Grant High School to 28, which mandated only two courses in all four years – English and Agriculture. Joining Future Farmers of America (FFA), 4-H, and helping raise a farm animal were expectations that weren’t an option at suburban Southeast High School, where I would otherwise be forced to attend.

Starting a debate program at a small rural high school that was more interested in farming and football was unheard of, but I quickly said yes. Dr. Oliver saw something in the city boy who did pretty well at FFA speech contests and was fascinated by watching Senate Watergate hearings on television. He always aired them during History class.

We entered a debate tournament that year and promptly went 0-4.

But somehow, the experience resulted in a couple of scholarship offers in Debate at two public universities in Oklahoma. Perhaps more importantly, it also helped inform the fertile and impressionable mind of a 17-year-old on the importance of preparation, communication, argument, and persuasion. It helped prepare me for a 40+ year career in journalism, politics, Capitol Hill, and corporate lobbying. And this blog, perhaps.

Cambridge High School in Alpharetta, Georgia, won first place at a debate tournament in 2014

Two decades ago, it further inspired me to begin work with friends on the left with a radical idea – create ways to help bridge an increasingly hostile partisan divide in Congress and find creative bipartisan solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Today, that effort has evolved into the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution in Washington, DC. I’m also a founding board member of the Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communication at West Virginia’s Shepherd University.

Despite the excellent work of organizations such as these and others like Braver Angels, things are worse than ever on the civil discourse front. Last week’s events alone, from the highly unethical leak of a confidential Supreme Court draft to possibly illegal protests at the homes of Supreme Court Justices, more than confirm the obvious. We’re in a rough patch, and solutions continue to evade us. Tragically, too many partisans have embraced the destructive notion that the ends justify the means, even if it destroys behavioral norms and undermines the Rule of Law. That won’t end well for anyone.

But Anthony Pennay, a former teacher and now the Chief Learning Officer at the Reagan Foundation has inspired a terrific answer to today’s hyperbolic, 10-second-soundbite culture that prizes snark and ad hominem attacks instead of informed debate. He writes here for Townhall.com:

In fact, a promising indication of hope for debate can already be found in our kids today outside the classroom. While the Senate was conducting their Supreme Court nomination hearings earlier this month – which is now fraught with partisan questioning – I had the privilege to witness kids across the country critically debate on the topic of instituting term limits on Supreme Court Justices. One of the most impactful parts of competitive debate, is that the students must prepare for and argue both sides of the debate, rather than rigidly adhere to a few talking points as is often the case for public debate at the highest (and lowest) levels.

Whether students debated remotely or in-person, their well-crafted, policy-focused arguments leaped off the screen and off from the podium. I was amazed, but also not surprised, that these kids were engaging in high-level policy debates on-par with, and in some instances surpassing, their senior counterparts. In preparing for their academic debates, they carefully examined everything from the Constitution to a long history of policies and political debate. They then had to summarize and deliver the most effective arguments and illustrations for their side. By grappling with resources and acquiring a deep understanding of the opposition, these kids were able to unlock the power of critical thinking and gain confidence in their own public speaking and communication skills.

Studies have also shown that competitive debate participation has been linked to improved academic performance and college readiness. Outside of academic benefits, studies have also shown debate has positive outcomes for strong social-emotional development and self-efficacy. We shouldn’t shield our kids from debate, we should encourage them to embrace it and learn how to engage in it with more informed empathy. Through our programs, both in-person and our new online courses, we aim to empower students with these very skills.

Aside from encouraging training and participation of debate, I would require it high schools. That’s going to require some thoughtful planning and work. It also may require old debate hands like me to get back into the classroom, since it appears that today’s generation of teachers seem more interested in indoctrination than discourse, and ill-prepared to teach the rigors of genuine debate.

I won’t go into the specifics on how best to do it, but here are some characteristics of a successful debate program. First, it fosters cooperation and teamwork since most debate teams consist of two to four participants. Second, teams learn to argue both sides of any one debate question. Third, it teaches participants to be good communicators in the art and science of persuasion. And fourth, it is healthy competition, whether within a school or without.

Virginia’s Patrick Henry College swept a national competition in intercollegiate moot court in 2017, winning its tenth intercollegiate moot court national championship. The college caters to home-schooled students.

Best of all, it helps prepare students for the real world, from making your case, challenging the other side, and engaging in healthy cross-examination. We in the public policy and corporate world know that process well. I’d even be okay with participation trophies.

My high school letter jacket includes letters not just for sports like football and baseball but scholastics and debate.

Schools featuring civics, history, or government classes should easily incorporate debate into their curricula as a year-long enterprise. Debates could even comprise part of the final exam.

Final words from Pennay:

Indeed, as the Civil War came to a close, both Lincoln and Grant knew that the best way to destroy your enemy was not through battle, or through Twitter, or through the media. “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend,” said Lincoln. At Appomattox, Grant tipped his cap to his vanquished foes as a sign of respect. 

It should not be 1619 versus 1776, and it should not be school boards versus parents or Fox versus CNN. We should discuss all timelines of history within their proper contexts, and debate meaningfully despite our differences. Through empathetic historical inquiry and debate, the next generation can usher in the restoration of informed, civil discussion.

Classic debate training might not be for everyone, with an increasing number of children and students in alternative learning environments, such as homeschooling. There may be other hurdles. Alternatives such as public speaking contests could be offered. But regardless, too many schools fail to prepare students (I could stop there) to be informed, engaged, civil, and public-spirited citizens.

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  1. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    I can’t be very optimistic about “debate” if it’s still more about scoring technical points – like in boxing, for example – rather than actually getting at facts/truth.  If a “debate” team can “win” by quoting Noam Chomsky, and even Joe Biden, then it would be better not to have it at all.

    • #1
  2. Kelly D Johnston Coolidge
    Kelly D Johnston
    @SoupGuy

    kedavis (View Comment):

    I can’t be very optimistic about “debate” if it’s still more about scoring technical points – like in boxing, for example – rather than actually getting at facts/truth. If a “debate” team can “win” by quoting Noam Chomsky, and even Joe Biden, then it would be better not to have it at all.

    Check out Patrick Henry College’s success on the college front. They’re a conservative school started by Michael Ferris, who runs the Alliance for Defending Freedom. They won 10 consecutive moot court intercollegiate championships. A little optimism might be in order.

    • #2
  3. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Debate can be very valuable.  A few points:

    –The debaters should be required to debate *both* sides of the same issue, not just whatever one they personally favor.

    –There is a technique in college policy debate known as ‘spreading’, in which the debaters speak very rapidly in order to throw out so many arguments that the other team can’t respond to them all. (‘spreading them too thin’)  Harmful to the value of debate, IMO.

    –There has also been a trend in recent years wherein debaters who are minorities and/or economically disadvantage pursue of strategy of saying: ‘Who is right and who is wrong in this debate doesn’t affect the real world.  But if we win, it will help us get college scholarships which we otherwise wouldn’t get. Therefore, we should win.’  Pretty much destroys the value of the debate experience.

    • #3
  4. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Fascination with the notion of learning to articulate both sides of an issue was the catalyst behind my initial interest in studying law, and it was indeed an eye (and brain) opener. I would certainly support the idea at the high school level, with or without the competitive part.

    • #4
  5. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I recall debating nuclear deterrence.  It was an issue of the day.

    The idea is a great one, but I worry about what some would come up with as issues of today.

    • #5
  6. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Kelly D Johnston: Aside from encouraging training and participation of debate, I would require it high schools

    I agree, a debate class should be mandatory for high school graduation.

    My wife sometimes subs in the local high school and she was shocked at how poorly the kids in the advanced classes could form arguments. They just want to know “what is the right answer” so they can repeat it on the test. Very little intellectual curiosity. 

    One time my wife tried to engage some kids in debate by offering an opinion different from what they expressed. The result, they shouted and then went to the principal to say they felt bullied. Thankfully, they put the exchange on social media and the video is what let the administrators see that my wife did nothing wrong.

    One of the best parts about debate is it forces you to argue both sides of an issue, not just the one you want. With even law school students resorting to shouting down speakers, rather than questioning them, it is clear that people can’t debate civilly.

    • #6
  7. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    Roger that! Speech and Debate are fantastic things for high schoolers.

    My daughter attended Randolph-Macon Academy, a military prep school in Virginia. The debate coach latched onto Valerie right away. Then he discovered that I was a contractor and could travel with the team, so I suddenly found myself assistant coach. I got to watch Valerie win first place at five national-level tournaments. She graduated from R-MA with honors and polished off college in three years.

    I always thought that the best thing about debate is that the kids are trained to actually listen to the other side, to prepare counter-arguments. Most people don’t really listen when someone else is talking; they’re concentrating on what they’re going to say next.

    • #7
  8. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Great to read about a practical solution to the serious problems we face!  And, from a person who knows from experience what to do and how to make it work.

    The more of these that come out, the better Ricochet can be a force for good.  Even if no one jumps up and acts on this particular idea, it turns our thoughts from finding and complaining about each day’s new woke outrages and successes, toward looking for ways to fight for what is right in a constructive way.

    • #8
  9. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    And if it doesn’t work with the government school useless administrators, you can always homeschool or send them to private schools.

    Government schools are child abuse.

    • #9
  10. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Debate experience can be very useful in business.  I was a college debater, albeit not at a very high level.  Years ago, I was in a business meeting  and was engaged in fairly heated argument with another manager.  I stopped arguing my position for a moment and stated my opponent’s position as clearly as I could, qualified him that that was pretty much it, and only then took on his arguments point-by-point.

    The executive who was chairing the meeting and to whom both of us reported was clearly impressed by this approach; I don’t think he’d heard it very often.

    • #10
  11. Henry Racette killed the Black Dahlia Member
    Henry Racette killed the Black Dahlia
    @Misthiocracy

    I once read that there is only one international ranking where US schools consistently place in the top spot: public speaking.

    Apologies that I don’t have a citation to back up the claim.

    • #11
  12. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Henry Racette killed the Black… (View Comment):

    I once read that there is only one international ranking where US schools consistently place in the top spot: public speaking.

    I can believe that.  For one thing, foreigners tend to speak with a foreign accent, plus, they will often hesitate in the middle of a sentence, and say something like, “…along with the uhhh, how do you say, uhhh…’

    • #12
  13. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Great article Kelly. Debated both U.S. Grant and the smaller schools that had very competitive teams, Chandler, Comanche, Cherokee.  Edmond teams were outstanding. Learned a lot.  And started my daughter’s HS team. They were good, but not great. Did get invited to judge at the National Tournament at San Jose State in 1990. They sure talked a lot faster than I did in 1964. 

    • #13
  14. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Debate can be very valuable. A few points:

    –The debaters should be required to debate *both* sides of the same issue, not just whatever one they personally favor.

    That’s what we did. I also started in 1973; was the topic alternate energy? I think so. We had to be ready to debate either side of the issue, and know it inside and out. It’s fantastic training for life, because you understand what the other side actually believes.

    –There is a technique in college policy debate known as ‘spreading’, in which the debaters speak very rapidly in order to throw out so many arguments that the other team can’t respond to them all. (‘spreading them too thin’) Harmful to the value of debate, IMO.

    Thus it has always been. We went into debates with gigantic pads of paper. You’d write down the points the other team made – they were usually predictable – then write down your response, which you’d known in advance. You’d draw line from their main points to your responses, so you had a visual representation of the argument. Spreading usually happened when Second Affirmative got rattled –

    Okay, let me back up. First Affirmative reads a canned speech on the issue. If it’s “alternative energy,” and you’re First Negative, you sit through the rote set-up of the problem, waiting for the solution. (You can bat away with the premise of the topic with your own set piece.) Their solution is . . . nuclear! You reach for the file cabinet and get out your nuclear stack of cards. If it’s “shale oil,” you get out the environment impact sheaf. After First Affirmative is done, you get up and tear them apart, point by point.

    Second Affirmative has to clean up after your assault, and they may go rogue and introduce new arguments. They might reverse-spread, and cite your lack of refutation on small, meaningless points as proof you abandoned the argument. Second Negative has to tie it all together, and focus the judge’s mind on what matters, and what was refuted.

    A bad First Affirmative spreads like crazy, leading to the Second Affirmative ticking off a long list of stuff you failed to address. It was rarely effective, and the judges saw through it.

    Let me back up again.

    Fargo North was the extinction-level-event team in the NoDak / Western MN circuit. We demolished every tourney we did. We would enter with metal file cabinets, two drawers, everything painstakingly arranged for all possible rhetorical contingencies. Before we spoke, we would inhale a blast of Chloroseptic: our trademark. Psych!  We stayed at Holiday Inns. We ate steak. We were gods. We won more trophies for the school foyer case than all of the sports teams put together.

    We were trained by a raven of a woman named Rhoda, an English teacher notable for her bitter wit, unsparing criticism, cigarette perfume, and love of her students. (She had no children.) She was like someone teleported in from New York in 1963. Our other coach was Jack,  a six-foot, broad-shouldered, curly-haired English teacher who was, in retrospect, super-ultra-gay, but  . . . no one really said anything or cared?.Hey, it was the early 70s; we thought Elton was straight.

    They trained three teams, each of which had the same dynamic: someone who could deliver a good First Affirmative with conviction – the ear candy – and someone who could pick apart the particulars of the argument.

    I was mostly known for extemp and interp, so I was on the third team. When we got to state finals, we were sure one of us was going to Nationals. No one else had our record, our evidence, our rep. But the first team was knocked out in the first round. The second team was knocked out after that. It was if the judges wanted to elevate some small town team that did their damndest against the cocky juggernaut from the big city. And so the finals had our third string team against some mopes from Nowhere, North Dakota. Here’s the thing: they had the mojo. They’d taken down our best. They looked at us and the wind was full in their sails.

    We had the arguments, but they had the room: an auditorium full of people from small towns across the state rooting for the come-from-nowhere team that had gone up against Fargo twice and come out victors.

    We beat them.

    On points.

    Sometimes that’s not enough. We lost. Back to Fargo in our own bus with the second-place trophy.

    Most of the team went on to be lawyers. Jack would die of leukemia a decade later. Rhoda, who probably had a lit cigarette in her hand when they closed the coffin lid, lasted decades, and I called her a few times in her latter years to talk. She did not like my politics, which she gleaned from my syndicated columns that ran in the local paper, but that was expressed with a short quick laugh, an irrelevancy to note so we could get to the important things, like the recollection of the afternoons we spent learning how to speak, how to think, how to argue, how to engage, how to win with honor.

    To this day, though, I wonder: it’s possible we lost because the other side believed in what they were saying, and we did not. A toss of the coin determined which side you took. Maybe I was bad at saying something I really didn’t believe, and everyone knew it. In a way, that’s a fine consolation.

    • #14
  15. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    James Lileks (View Comment):
    …learning how to speak, how to think, how to argue,…

    Bravo.

    I’ve long thought that that’s a list* of the main content and ends of purpose of education.  I think that when we say “educating a person is teaching him to think”, or teaching “critical” thinking, we are really just condensing your list.

    In other words, perhaps by failing to teach debating skills, we are failing to educate.

    Now, certainly there is more to education than the just dialectics. Spiritual education is the most necessary.  Refinement of taste is a distinct and necessary goal, and knowledge of historical or geographical facts is too, although it is very dependent on the debating skills given.

    *I usually include “how to listen”, which I feel sure you don’t mean to exclude. I know you must have left it as a trap for First Negative, so that I could swoop in as Second Affirmative with a planned counterattack. Which you’ve not had time to tell me yet, but I guess it is “clearly, that element is included in ‘how to argue'”, or “the list was clearly not presented as being exhaustive”, or “it was obviously left out for brevity”.

    • #15
  16. The Great Adventure Coolidge
    The Great Adventure
    @TGA

    At the risk of being a contrarian…

    Perhaps before diving the HS kids directly into debate they should be trained in something a little more foundational.  Like basic communications.  Teach them how to conduct a civil conversation.  Face to face, back and forth, rather than taking turns at a microphone.  Teach them a little interpersonal communications to understand that perhaps the other person has a different background and perspective than they do. 

    I would suggest that the constant inclination to debate (well, actually the inclination to confront) is a symptom of society’s current polarization.  Not saying that debate skills are not valuable, just that it’s putting the cart before the horse.

    • #16
  17. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    Only works once you get govt entirely out of the schools.

    • #17
  18. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    My one brush with a  celebrity during HS debate.  In college debate so got to judge the State championship tournament at OU in Norman.  Semifinal somehow wound up with the two best teams, Edmond and NW Classen both with years of winning the big ones.  Great debate; three great speakers and one pretty good one: the only chick, Liz Herring. Very close but, given burden of proof, if that close the negative usually wins. 2-1 for NW Classen. Which then easily won the state final.  Got lots of crap from one of the Edmond debaters (first time I voted against them) claiming I voted for NW as its star, Randy Johnson (N. Mex. lawyer who died last year) was good friends my HS debate partner.  Pissed but ignored it. He then got a scholarship to Northwestern. Probably because Edmond won the National Championship 3 months later.  Liz Herring is now Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). So I am the reason she has HS debate champion on her resume. Maybe I should have voted for Edmond. 

    • #18
  19. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    The Great Adventure (View Comment):
    Not saying that debate skills are not valuable, just that it’s putting the cart before the horse.

    What about universal teaching of both debating skills* and civil behavior, each at the appropriate time?

    Would that be putting the cart before the horse?

    If so,

    • in what way does a student having debating skills interfere with his learning civil behavior?

     

    *By debating skills, I mean how to

    • research an important and complex question with two possible answers
    • listen to arguments for one answer
    • think rationally about two possible solutions
    • then speak persuasively for the other answer
    • #19
  20. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    I fully agree that debate and its close cousin, writing – are not given enough attention in school.  The skills learned are not just for lawyers and politicians, I can’t imagine a job where the ability to convince someone of a future plan of action.  I was an Engineer/software development and I certainly spent a lot of time doing that.

    And yes, the US should get out of the UN!  (topic I debated in Jr. High)

    • #20
  21. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    The skills learned are not just for lawyers and politicians; I can’t imagine a job where the ability to convince someone [to support] …a future plan of action [was not important].  I was an Engineer/software development and I certainly spent a lot of time doing that.

    That’s for sure!  Debating skills are needed for success in any field.  Even Chess.

    I think that you are correcting a common misconception.  People think that because debating skills are necessary for an extra-curricular student diversion with no direct lasting value, that they are not also needed in real life.

    • #21
  22. MiMac Thatcher
    MiMac
    @MiMac

    The problem with HS and college debate is it is dominated by budding lawyers and it encourages sophistry at its worst. It was typically won by “spread”- ie one team articulates 99 inane points- the other team only rebuts 98-viola the 1st team wins. Very little weight was often given to the quality of data or logic of the argument. While in college I tired of the absurdity and quit, altho I had a very good relationship with one of our coaches- who was a law student & was on Gerald Ford’s speech writing team.
    A little example- in the mid 70s the HS topic one year  was, to the effect, that “resolved there should be an international organization to manage and develop scarce world resources”. My college debate partner, while in HS, did well on that topic by arguing there should be mandatory 3rd world breast feeding of infants.  He did well b/c his opponents rarely had a quote on hand refuting his quotes from supposed experts (who would image such an absurd proposition and have data/quotes on hand to counter it?). He had quotes from (highly dubious) experts that a bazillion dollars would be saved thereby saving the world from the coming Malthusian disaster as prophecied by the Club of Rome and by Paul Ehrlich. Of course, anyone with any sense could see that such an international organization would make the UN’s ethics look like the sisters of charity and be combined with the efficiency of Obama’s green investment program ala Solyndra. Even Hunter Biden’s drug /prostitute appetite or Imelda Marcos shoe budget would have trouble meeting the entry level of corruption that would be axiomatic in such an organization.

    We need HS students to learn that truth both exists and is approachably within the grasp of human reason- far different skills than that typical encouraged by your average HS teacher who graduated from the local teachers college with a minor in grievance studies.

    • #22
  23. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    MiMac (View Comment):

    The problem with HS and college debate is it is dominated by budding lawyers and it encourages sophistry at its worst. It was typically won by “spread”- ie one team articulates 99 inane points- the other team only rebuts 98-viola the 1st team wins. Very little weight was often given to the quality of data or logic of the argument. While in college I tired of the absurdity and quit, altho I had a very good relationship with one of our coaches- who was a law student & was on Gerald Ford’s speech writing team.
    A little example- in the mid 70s the HS topic one year was, to the effect, that “resolved there should be an international organization to manage and develop scarce world resources”. My college debate partner, while in HS, did well on that topic by arguing there should be mandatory 3rd world breast feeding of infants. He did well b/c his opponents rarely had a quote on hand refuting his quotes from supposed experts (who would image such an absurd proposition and have data/quotes on hand to counter it?). He had quotes from (highly dubious) experts that a bazillion dollars would be saved thereby saving the world from the coming Malthusian disaster as prophecied by the Club of Rome and by Paul Ehrlich. Of course, anyone with any sense could see that such an international organization would make the UN’s ethics look like the sisters of charity and be combined with the efficiency of Obama’s green investment program ala Solyndra. Even Hunter Biden’s drug /prostitute appetite or Imelda Marcos shoe budget would have trouble meeting the entry level of corruption that would be axiomatic in such an organization.

    We need HS students to learn that truth both exists and is approachably within the grasp of human reason- far different skills than that typical encouraged by your average HS teacher who graduated from the local teachers college with a minor in grievance studies.

    • #23
  24. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    That’s debatable.

    • #24
  25. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    MiMac (View Comment):

    The problem with HS and college debate is it is dominated by budding lawyers…

    You raised an objection to the way the debate game is scored.

    I have long agreed.  Little debating skill is learned, and it winds up being a case of the incompetent educational establishment wasting the time of the students, rather than educating them, which is their moral duty.

    But it has nothing to do with the fact that debating skills must begin to be taught, and that kids can only learn debating by doing debating.

    It is rather an argument that the rules and scoring of the game must be reformed so that they reflect real debating skill.

    It’s like soccer.  The fact today is that teams win soccer games by having defenders, whenever they are outplayed by the ball-handler (good play, should be rewarded by the rules and judging) either grab the attacker from behind and throw him to the ground, or pretend they were tripped by suddenly flying forward through the air for no apparent reason, and then rolling on the ground in simulated agony, like the _______ that they are.

    So some people in the country that doesn’t play soccer says everyone else in the world should stop.

    No, they should fix the problem with the refs and the rules.

    • #25
  26. Frank Monaldo Member
    Frank Monaldo
    @FrankMonaldo

    I too debated in high school and college.  I agree that “spreading” sort of defeats the purpose of debate. However,  we learned that many of the arguments produced in spreading were essentially the same argument recast in different ways.  By pointing out that points 4-10, for example, were the same we collapsed them into one argument. We then refuted that one argument.  We found that we got on the good side of judges by doing this and making their jobs easier.  The judges tended to give us leeway in how we collapsed the many points into a few.

    A favorite story of mine was when a colleague was debating nationalizing health care.  The affirmative tried to claim a large number of lives saved. His response was to hold up a story from the National Inquire claiming proof of life after death.  Hence the affirmative could claim no harm.

    • #26
  27. Frank Monaldo Member
    Frank Monaldo
    @FrankMonaldo

    Another favorite story was when someone clearly made up a reference quote during the debate.  I could have tried to prove that it was fake, though everyone in the room familiar with the topic know it was BS. Instead, I claimed that in that very same article a few paragraphs down the author claimed that the problem the debater was claiming had been recently solved. 

    • #27
  28. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Frank Monaldo (View Comment):

    I too debated in high school and college. I agree that “spreading” sort of defeats the purpose of debate. However, we learned that many of the arguments produced in spreading were essentially the same argument recast in different ways. By pointing out that points 4-10, for example, were the same we collapsed them into one argument. We then refuted that one argument. We found that we got on the good side of judges by doing this and making their jobs easier. The judges tended to give us leeway in how we collapsed the many points into a few.

    A favorite story of mine was when a colleague was debating nationalizing health care. The affirmative tried to claim a large number of lives saved. His response was to hold up a story from the National Inquire claiming proof of life after death. Hence the affirmative could claim no harm.

    Funny, but irrelevant.  Parents who die, for example, can’t continue to support their children from the afterlife.

    • #28
  29. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Frank Monaldo (View Comment):

    I too debated in high school and college. I agree that “spreading” sort of defeats the purpose of debate. However, we learned that many of the arguments produced in spreading were essentially the same argument recast in different ways. By pointing out that points 4-10, for example, were the same we collapsed them into one argument. We then refuted that one argument. We found that we got on the good side of judges by doing this and making their jobs easier. The judges tended to give us leeway in how we collapsed the many points into a few.

    A favorite story of mine was when a colleague was debating nationalizing health care. The affirmative tried to claim a large number of lives saved. His response was to hold up a story from the National Inquire claiming proof of life after death. Hence the affirmative could claim no harm.

    That was the 1963-64 HS topic.  Too bad no one in D.C. paid attention to what all the HS debaters knew Medicare was going to eventually cost. 

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  30. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    navyjag (View Comment):

    Frank Monaldo (View Comment):

    I too debated in high school and college. I agree that “spreading” sort of defeats the purpose of debate. However, we learned that many of the arguments produced in spreading were essentially the same argument recast in different ways. By pointing out that points 4-10, for example, were the same we collapsed them into one argument. We then refuted that one argument. We found that we got on the good side of judges by doing this and making their jobs easier. The judges tended to give us leeway in how we collapsed the many points into a few.

    A favorite story of mine was when a colleague was debating nationalizing health care. The affirmative tried to claim a large number of lives saved. His response was to hold up a story from the National Inquire claiming proof of life after death. Hence the affirmative could claim no harm.

    That was the 1963-64 HS topic. Too bad no one in D.C. paid attention to what all the HS debaters knew Medicare was going to eventually cost.

    They didn’t need high school debate teams to tell them anything, their own “think tanks” etc already told them.

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