Oct 5, 2008

Where's Denzel? [LINK]

In case you thought the quality of political debates was particularly abysmal, this Boston Globe piece (print edition, "Ideas" section, 10/5) offers a sobering glimpse into how actual debates are now conducted on campus. For one thing, debaters are encouraged to speak in rapid-fire fashion to cover as many arguments as possible within the limited time and to make it difficult for opponents to respond. That practice, coupled with universities' long marination in identity politics, leads to curious exchanges such as this:

A recent debate between the Towson [University] team and NYU ... was supposed to be about the merits of agricultural tariffs, and the NYU team kicked it off with some machine-gun arguments in favor of lifting taxes on imported ethanol. But during the rebuttal, the Towson debater responded that NYU's fast-talking approach was inherently racist. She gave an impassioned account of the slave trade in Colonial America, placed a chair on a table and sat on it to remind judges how her ancestors had been displayed during auctions, and read a profanity-laced passage from her diary in which she lamented the racism of her rival debaters. ("We had our first full round today and I want to go the [expletive] home. You should have seen the looks I got from these people.") Towson won that debate, unanimously.
Yes, Towson won. (In fact, none of the contestants in the room were white.)

Towson also accused a Fort Hays State University team of racism, a debate that descended into a crude shouting match, culminating with the Fort Hays coach mooning the Towson team. A video produced by the Chronicle of Higher Education captures the scene:

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