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Lack of Style (was Re: arctic retention)
- To: Issues concerning CEDA Debate <CEDA-L@cornell.edu>
- Subject: Lack of Style (was Re: arctic retention)
- From: "Benjamin R. Bates" <email@example.com>
- Date: Sat, 7 Dec 1996 14:52:23 -0500 (EST)
I certainly hope by this you mean "reasons why people are leaving CEDA and
NDT debate." It has been my (although limited) experience that several of
the problems that you note below can be found in both CEDA and NDT. It is
probably also true that there are teams in CEDA-LD, ADA, and other leagues
that do the same sort of things in debate rounds. While I believe that
there are teams that exhibit the problems that you describe, I do not think
that a general rule can be constructed about the majority of teams in any of
the debate league. In fact, I think that many teams do their best to avoid
the problems you list and that the teams that purposefully do these things
are a small minority of all teams.
>Accusation #l CEDA has no style
And NDT, right? Or is this CEDA specific? I'll adress it as if it refers
Having debated mostly in the northeast and south and a few forays into the
national circuit, I cannot comment on the general debate behavior in the
northwestern regions. The debate ethat I have seen when I have debated has
not suffered from a lack of style. Many teams use appropriate structure,
hand gestures, inflection, and all of the other speaking tricks of good
public speaking. The teams that speak purely in unrhythmic monotones with
no flair at all are rare. I would even say that there is a lot of style in
most debate rounds - its just debate style.
While there is jargon, it is appropriate for the activity. We do not expect
nuclear physicists to talk about "big bunches of molecules" of "those little
thingies that are in atoms" at conferences, we expect them to use words like
"auf-brau electron valences," "time displacement in the top quark," or "S
and P orbitals." Why? Because we expect them to use terms that their
colleagues understand that make their point the most directly. In debate,
we have our own words, like inherency and kritik, that mean little or
nothing in the outside world. However, as an activity, we have developed
debate specific concepts that use debate specific words to describe them.
We use them becuase they are clear to us and anyone in our activity. There
is less use of debate jargon in novice levels than in varsity levels. We do
this so that new teams can learn about the activity and the fancy words we
use before they are forced to deal with top varsity teams and their use of
the big debate words.
I'll admit that there are some teams that don't use overviews or underviews
at all. When I first started debating, I didn't use them. However, as my
critics in CEDA (who were concerned with style) told me I should start using
them, I started doing it. Now I use overviews and underviews. Why?
Because my critics cared enough about style to tell me to use them. Most of
the teams that I have seen use over and underviews in every speech as well.
Our regions of the activity, as well as the antional circuit tournaments
that I have been to, expect them. As for transitory phrases, I use them.
Most teams use them. They can be as simple as "next on T, my first is" or
they can be complex, like "The next position that my opponents have brought
up it topicality, I will address this now." Both are transition phrases
that warn the judge clearly that the debater is about to address a new argument.
As for grammer, you're right some of us ain't got that in rounds. ITs
somehting that should be dealt with. If a team uses excessive bad grammar,
take off a few points. But then tell them why you did it so that they can
learn. In high school, in the third round of my life, I can remember what
Bob Hoy, and English teacher said to me. He said, "take a deep breath and
say that sentence again so that it makes sense." Ever since tehn, I've
tried to make my sentences as properly structured as the amterials and time
limits allow. I use sentence fragments occassionally. I probably have a
lot of dangling participles. If you see me doing so, tell me. I'll try to
fix it. I'm sure most debaters would if you pointed it out to them.
I'm not sure what you mean by informal language. Do you mean that we should
revert to calling the team we are debating against "our esteemed opponents"
or the "right honorable gentlepeople from the University of X?" When I
debate aginst people I know, I'll often call them by their first name. If
I'm debating for a judge I know, I might call them by their first name too.
I'm not sure what to say, since I don't know what you mean. In terms of
profanity, some teams don't give a D**N what they say, others do.
Personally, I try not to curse in a debate round, I also know people who try
to curse as much as they can. If the judge were to object, however, I think
most teams would do it a little less.
For colorful language, I will probably never forget the time that Arkansas
Tech closed their speech with a poem about the fishes that swam in the deep
blue sea. I also will remeber the cases that i heard in which every
contention had a pun in it based on the plan. Many teams use jokes and
short stories to emphasize their point. It is an extra skill that is
usually rewarded by the judge. As to clear and consise language usage, I
think that most judges do take off if they do not see it. I'm sure most
debaters have been told to practice word economy and to strip off verbal
garbage. Most judges do sink the scores of debaters in front of them if
there are so many words and abbreviations that they do not understand what
the debater is trying to say.
You are aslo correct when you say that some debaters use sexist and racist
language and metaphors based on war and sports. I have seen judges vote
solely on the basis of a sexist phrase or a argument that was labelled
racist. This goes beyond taking off points and moves into a single issue
wins or losses, and justifiably so. Debaters are being taught not to use
these sorts of terms and arguments. Most are adapting. There will always
be some bigots and hateful people no matter how far we move to change the
language that is used, debate is already working to minimize the strength
that their ideas can have in our community. War may be a domianant metaphor
because so many of our impacts *are* war. When we immerse our activity in
literature about nuclear holocaust, lasers that can cut the planet in half,
and the hundreds of other military scenrios that exist, one has to expect
that their terms will leak into the activity. Maybe debaters should
research less militaristic (or dare I say real world) impacts, although I
see no way to force them to doso. As for the use of sports metaphors, I see
no problem with them. Men, women, and children all play sports. Debate has
been described as a verbal sport. We have wins, losses, and points, just
like sports. I think we are a sport, and can use their terms without
hurting the activity or each other.
>Accusation #2 CEDA debaters cannot communicate cannot deliver a speech well.
I think that CEDA nd NDT debaters can deliver a speech well. There may be
some that cannot stop spreading in their normal conversations. There are
others who also compete in IE and are quite successful. In most cases it is
not a question of the debaters ability to deliver a speech well, it is
usually a choice that is made to not do it. If a trained critic cannot
understand the words due to blurring of words, mispronounciation, or poor
breathing patterns, then she will not vote for it, as she cannot understand
what the debater wants her to vote for.
For the spittle problems, the solution is simple, stand a few feet away so
you don't spit on the judge. The spittle doesn't appear except when the
debater is speaking quickly, and it usually doesn't fly to far even when
The debaters who use tone, pitch, and volume properly are rewarded. Those
who don't are not. Debaters who emphasize their points by pausing on
arguments and let it sink in are usually better at winning the judges
ballot. Those who don't are not. Those who use humor effectively get a
laugh from their judge and an extra point or two. THose who don't do not.
THe same is true for debaters who use more accurate language, make eye
contact, and use other points of delivery usually do better than those who
don't. Why? Because better style and better speaking is rewarded in the
activity. THose who do the best in our activity can adapt to any audience
and do well.
THose who cannot slow their speaking rate, punch their speech up with style,
or use the other tricks of public speaking will fare poorly with other
audiences. Their failure to perform well in speeches outside of the debate
activity is not because they did academic debate where people spoke quickly.
It is a failure of the person to learn how to speak well in other
situations. The people who learn to adapt their speaking style to their
audience will always do the best. THis has been the case from the time of
Aristotle to the presnt, maybe even longer than that. If a lawyer can't
speak well in a court room, she will lose her case. If she can, she will
win. If a Senator can't speak well on the floor of the Senate, she won't
get her bill passed. IF she can, it will become a law. If a debater can't
speak well inthe front of the room, she will lose the round. If she can,
the ballot is her's. We already have a way of dealing with poor speaking in
debate rounds. Incomprehensible people don't win... they'll learn to slow down.
>Not all debaters in all debates exhibit no stylistic class and fail to
>communicate. However, many debaters in many debates have little or no
>style and fail to communicate well. If these indictments are true of many
>debates thus true of the activity generically, do we have a problem?
>Should we try to be doing something about it?
I think most debaters do communicate with some level of stylistic class. I
do not think that your accucsations (the grand jury's out so there haven't
been any indictments) are true of most of the debate community. While the
accusations can be made generically, there are enough cases where it is
false to prevent the conviction of the community as a whole. However, in
those cases where it happens, something should be done to lessen it.
>Suggested possible solutions
>l. Greater diversity in the judging pool NOT narrowed diversity through
>2. Judges who actually mark off speaker pts for poor style.
>3. State during debates too fast unclear where are you to make debaters
>4. TEACH our own debaters that comprehensibility clearness good delivery
>and good style should count for something.
Agreed. I think all of these are good ideas. I beleive that many judges
are already doing 2 and 3. Most coaches also do 4. While there is a push to
make 1 a thing of the past, if enough people are against it and do not go to
tournaments that use mutual prference, 1 will be accomplished. I'm all for
better cleaner clearer debates. Most of the community is. It may take a
while, but I think that the rpoblem will take care of itself and that little
or no outside force is needed to bring these changes about.
Benjamin R. Bates
University of Richmond
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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