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Re: It won't be therapy
On Tue, 20 May 1997, Robert E. Tucker wrote:
> I have seen Isaac West's straw person in its many incarnations. In each
> it takes a slightly different turn of phrase, but underneath it all it
> is remarkably similar. Isaac is concerned that the proponents of the
> civil rights topic want to turn him into their version of a good
> person. He is concerned that through rhetorical trickery, hyperbolic
> scare-tactics, and slip-shod abuse of the truth, they want to prod him
> into looking upon his very soul for a year-long adventure in therapy.
> Isaac suggests, and justifiably so, that he didn't sign up for the
> debate team to get therapy, doesn't want it, and doesn't think he needs
> it. Fair enough. I think he is absolutely right to resist turning the
> entire collegiate debate activity into a gigantic self-help seminar.
> Luckily, I think that this has _remarkably_ little to do with what the
> proponents of the civil rights topic have advocated.
I think that is one just looks at what Matt posted you will see that this
is just not true. They all say that it will finally open all of our
eyes to the problems associated with civil rights. I am not worried
about group therapy as your subject heading implies. Instead, I am
afraid of the very treatment that has been given to those of us who do
not want to debate it. Many posts have mentioned the fear of the
trivialization that debate will cause since this is a competitive
activity. I would love to discuss civil rights, just not in debate
rounds where many (not all) rounds will revolve around teams urging the
critic to vote against the other team since if they do not they will be
racist. This is not the self-examination that is necessary to solve our
problems. Look, my senior thesis is a study of the civil rights movement
and next semester I am taking a class with its primary focus on the CR
movement and CR today (Constitutional History). I am not afrais or
ignorant to these problems but I fear the ground that will be created.
That is a whole other mess that I think that others are dealing with
much better than I can.
> >From the early advocacy of Warner and Newnam, to the passionate words of
> Stannard and Massey, Mitchell, Heider, Damus, Derby and a host of
> others, one consistent argument has emerged and remained unrefuted:
> Debating civil rights will teach us how to debate about civil rights.
> It is, really, as simple as that. It is as simple as "debating SE Asia
> will teach us how to debate about SE Asia" or "Debating Treaties will
> teach us how to debate about treaties." It is, in short, darn near
> incontrovertible. As a secondary claim, and as the support for the
> tangible benefits of the civil rights topic, its proponents have argued
> that our society is in desperate need of people who can argue
> intelligently about civil rights. This need is pressing. It looks,
> right now, as if it will not be met. Signs abound of the growing
> inability of our Nation to deal with issues of inequality in any way,
> shape, or form. We are, one and all, bad at debating civil rights. We
> need to be better at it and we need this more than we need to be better
> at arguing about South East Asia.
Why? I think that there are equally pressing problems in SE Asia if not
more urgently in need of action. Maybe part of the problem with our
supposed inablility to debate civil rights revolves around the personal
nature of the problem. It is a touchy issue and I think that this will
create as many disputes as resolutions in the total number of debate rounds.
> I don't want debate to be therapy. I don't want to turn this excellent
> activity into one centered around personal and painful transformations.
Now I'm pissed. I do not think that debating civil rights would be a
painful transformation for myself. I think that I am sensitive to these
issues and try to work against them any chance that I get. But if you do
not want this to be a topic for personal change, then what is all of the
stuff that you say at the beginning like we need to be able to debate CR
since the world needs us.
> If I thought the civil rights topic would do this, I wouldn't advocate
> it. What I want is what Josh, and Ryan, and Tex, and Isaac want: I
> want a debatable topic that's fun and interesting and challenging and
> fair. I also happen to want one that is amazingly, crushingly, socially
> relevant. For me this social relevance outweighs my desire to debate
> yet another international topic. Social relevance and real-world payoff
> are _one_ factor that I consider. They are, as I have said again and
> again, not the only factor. I think the ground issues of the civil
> rights topic have been dealt with extensively. I think that most would
> agree that all three "contenders" (I don't want to exclude Treaties,
> lest I earn myself some of Josh's capital letters) offer debatable
> interpretations. I want a fair topic that offers a chance to debate as
> we have always debated. I want disads and counterplans and case-cards
> and fairness. I am not a demon who wants to change good debates into
> emotion-laden, hate-filled nightmares in which teams weep at victory and
> are heartsick at loss. Nothing could be further than this than my
> actual goals for debate.
> What I want, and what I have advocated is a year of debate which is just
> a tiny bit different. A year in which everything we know and love about
> the activity is present, with the addition of one small advantage:
> consequence. I would not transform Isaac if I could. I don't know him
> and wouldn't have the audacity to change him if I did. What I would do
> is add to an activity that I care deeply about. What I would do is
> attempt to graft and advantage onto the structure that we know so well.
> I think such a graft is possible and that we are the folks to accomplish
> it. I think cynicism is unwarranted, and that this community will prove
> it as such.
> We are a community. It is not rhetorical trickery to portray us as
> such. In addition to our local concerns, we have concerns for the
> community of which we are members. There is absolutely nothing wrong
> with Isaac's notion of personal concern. Each and every one of us has
> personal concerns and they form _one_ of the bases of our action. They
> should not form the only base. All the proponents of the civil rights
> topic have said, consistently, eloquently, and despite the reservations
> of their colleagues, is that there is another set of reasons to be
> considered in topic selection as well. Debate will not be therapy.
> Everyone will get to debate as they love to debate. We will exceed our
> own best expectations. Think of it as debate plus. Everything you get
> on SE Asia with the liklihood of a bit more thrown in for good measure.
> I think we are capable of this, and this is why I have advocated the
> civil rights topic.
> Rob Tucker
> CSU Fullerton
Can't wait for the topic area to come out,
Isaac "in need of therapy" West
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