Debaters enjoy debating more than debate itself. The closer one gets to be-coming ―"an old debater" (a category to which I will inevitably have to resign myself sooner or later), the more likely we are to find ourselves debating on the side of ―"the way debate used to be" or ―"the way debate is supposed to be." I don‘t malign this seemly inevitable progression or even my place in it. I think the tendency to re-examine ourselves says something about our activity. I enter this debate about debate, I think I should begin by defining my side of the flow, or to at least identify which side of the flow I am attacking. My purpose is not to condemn debating or to defend the good old days of debate. Rather I hope to engage in a critique of the activity. Debaters are familiar with critique, often spelled with a ―"k", as an attack upon the philosophical or ideological assumptions of the opponent‘s argument but critiques exist outside the world of debate as well and their purpose is not merely to win arguments. Critique, as Ingram and Simon-Ingram (1992) noted, aims ―"at emancipating … addresses from ideology" (p. xxviii) and McKerrow (1989) argued the practice of critical rhetoric is ―"to unmask or demystify the discourse of power" and ―"to understand the integration of power/knowledge in society" (p. 91). My critique is concerned not with what is good or bad debating, but with how debate constructs ―"a particular vision of the world" and the ―"forms of power … embraced or implicated" (McKerrow, 2001, p. 621) by the activity. Specifically, the focus of my effort is on the practice of competitive debating, in particular how debate practices control and organize knowledge in fundamentally undemocratic ways.
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Dimock, James P.
Speaker & Gavel: Vol. 46
, Article 8.
Available at: http://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/speaker-gavel/vol46/iss1/8