Fast Talking, Racism and the Faux Moon

Joanne Jacobs, Weblog, Oct 20, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I don't have the same preoccupation with the 'identity' issues at debate that Joanne Jacobs does (I put them under the heading of 'distractions' and 'the politics of hate') but I noted the same phenomenon in the recent foo-faw at a recent debating meet: "Oratory has been replaced by a fast-talking, point-scoring debate style." An article in the Chronicle explains, "In the 1960s, debate began moving to a format in which participants talked fast and tried to lob as many arguments as they could at opponents, and in the 1990s, the pace got even faster, according to some longtime debate coaches." I really wondered about that (I listened to the entire debate online). Certainly such a speaking style would not convince anyone, much less clearly communicate an argument or line of reasoning. It was as though argumentation had been reduced to a set of one-liners a la Jerry Springer audience questions. And the grounds of debate have shifted in the same way. The Chronicle again: "It can be frustrating for people from a traditional world," he says. But traditional teams have developed strategies to diffuse the "identity stuff" during competition, he says.
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