Saturday, September 10, 2005

*Longish day at debates*

Since the Inter-vasity chinese debates are on the telly right now, it wouldn't hurt to make a few personal comments. Right off the bat, I have never watched an entire debate in full, mostly because my 'literacy' is aural mandarin isn't particular good. What I do know of Chinese debates is related by Her, who actually watches and understands these things.

But no matter how I try to view it, I simply can't get excited about it. As a friend explained to me, the manner in which the motions are phrased and structured has at its basis an emphasis on language and culture. So the latest one on tv was about a Chinese phrase which basically says move on and don't return to your old haunts (sort of). In that vein, debates tend to be about the abstract (the internet is a virtual force etc.) and the historical and I'm utterly and totally 'ho-hum' about it. Mostly because the questions that enters my mind are too frequently is 'so-what' and 'who cares'.

Now, to maintain some semblance of objectivity, I cannot deny that those accusations have been levered at English Varisty Debates as well but mostly because while the issues debated about are huge, they often seem remote to the affairs of our lives. Of course, the truth is that once you debate you come to realise all too painfully how our lives are connected and how an event in another part of the world can affect us. Asian Economic Crisis anyone? As such knowing what happens and who's likely to be at fault equips one with the information on which to do something. The fact that it focuses on relevent and current issues at leasts makes it worth debating about.

But how about something a little closer to home. Say the legalisation of gambling and the building of casinos. And the reason why that period prompted much head banging on debate was the truely absymal level of debate that one watched in the media. That guy from FACTs was simply way out of his league and if he had come up against a debater in a bad mood, he would have looked a lot stupider than he did. As it was I felt that professor let him off the hook because of the traditional academic approach of seeing and acknowledging all sides. Or better still, homosexual rights? Most of the homophobic letters are all too easily ripped to shreds if one ignores the lies and thinks through the 'logic' they promulgate.

Hence, if nothing else, debating should be made a compulsory course in schools because it teaches you how to make an argument and more importantly, spot logical fallacies in arguments. Things like mistaking correlation with causation (90% of criminals eat bread but that doesn't mean we should ban bread), reverse causality and causal linkages. At the very least, it would improve some of the letters in the forum.

And if you still need a practical reason, here's the cincher, Her sister said she learnt more in one session of debate than she did in a number of GP classes. Enough said.




At 7:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Her sister must have very poor GP classes or a very domineering and boring tutor. I developed my taste for debating because of GP classes: this was a place where socio-political issues were actually considered, and I practically dominated my GP class... :) I have to say, though, my GP tutor was fairly accommodating.


At 11:52 PM, Blogger Shaun Lee said...

It was pretty similar in my class but then again we had 4 bona fide debaters and 8 pseudo-debaters (they could have been debaters if they were actually interested). So classes were always riotous in a nice way.


Post a Comment

<< Home