High school debate is considered an ideal extracurricular activity for aspiring lawyers, politicians, or anyone seeking to learn the tools of effective communication and persuasion. But a slew of recent reports argue that high school debate is being captured by political ideology, rendering certain arguments off-limits, some debate topics undebatable, and ad hominem attacks fair game.
Debate judges disclose their judging paradigms by saying things like, "I will listen to conservative-leaning arguments, but be careful," or, "Before anything else, including being a debate judge, I am a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist. . . . I cannot check the revolutionary proletarian science at the door when I'm judging." Some debates even devolve into personal attacks, spurred on by judges who say they "will consider indictments of an opponent on the basis that they have done [or] said something racist, gendered, [or] -phobic in their personal behavior."
On today's show, we're joined by two former high school debaters who are dismayed by these trends. James Fishback is the founder of Incubate Debate, which hosts free debate tournaments for students in Florida. Matthew Adelstein is a rising sophomore studying philosophy at the University of Michigan and publishes Bentham's Newsletter, a newsletter about utilitarianism.
- Transcript of episode
"Part I: At high school debates, debate is no longer allowed" by James Fishback
"Part II: At high school debates, watch what you say" by James Fishback
"How critical theory is radicalizing high school debate" by Maya Bodnick
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