The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Opening Up China Leads to Armageddon 

I find this to be an interesting coincidence. A few days ago I blogged about my old expereinces on my high school debate team, and how everything leads to nuclear war. Now today, Newsweek has an article talking about Evangelical Christian Colleges winning debate tournaments:

When you believe the end of the world is coming, you learn to talk fast. On a Friday afternoon the debate team from Liberty University, Jerry Falwell's fundamentalist Baptist college, is madly rehearsing for the tournament about to begin. This year's topic: should the United States increase diplomatic and economic pressure on China. They may just be practicing, but you wouldn't know it from the menacing mosquito-buzz rising as all 20 debaters read their speeches at once, as fast as they can. Policy debate on the college level has become a rapid-fire verbal assault, an arguments-per-minute game, that sounds more like the guy at the end of the car commercial than an eloquent Oxford intellectual. There is tension and more than a little spittle in the air. The Liberty team is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, above Harvard (14th) and all the other big names. But for the evangelicals, there's a lot more at stake than a trophy. Falwell and the religious right figure that if they can raise a generation that knows how to argue, they can stem the tide of sin in the country. Seventy-five percent of Liberty's debaters go on to be lawyers with an eye toward transforming society.

Remember how I said everything leads to nuclear war in a normal debate? What does it lead to for these debaters? Does everything lead to Armageddon instead? The overall point of the article isn't just that these teams are winning tournaments left and right, but that they're going into society with the aim to impact public policy:

Seventy-five percent of Liberty's debaters go on to be lawyers with an eye toward transforming society. "I think I can make an impact in the field of law on abortion and gay rights, to get back to Americans' godly heritage," says freshman debater Cole Bender.

Debating is by its very nature about extremes. You pull on one side of that rope as hard as you possibly can, while the other side tugs just as hard on their side. You pull out the big guns and fire them with gusto, as does the other side. You hope that you make a better argument than the other side, but you also hope that your gun is just a little bigger than theirs too. And so every time you debate, you look for a bigger and bigger gun to fire.

Life on the other hand is not about extremes, and public policy shouldn't be about extremes either. Policy debate in school at any level is not, at least in my estimation, is not a good preparation tool for public policy debate about real life. About the only thing it can teach you to do, is think fast on your feet.

On a slightly different note, debating in high school or college absolutely destroys your public speaking skills. I know that sounds backwards, but it took me a long time to learn how to speak in public after I stopped debating. In debate, speed is king. Some people actually go to classes to learn how to talk faster. It took me a long time to learn how to slow down when speaking in meetings, or giving speeches. To this day, when I'm a little nervous, I tend to go back into "debate mode" and speed back up again.


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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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