The most important aspect of cross-examination debate is its freedom. While we often pay lip service to the idea of an open community of discussion, too often this is a utopian ideal that inevitably fails when put into practice. Even in our every day encounters, when discussing general issues in politics, we rarely think seriously or critically about topics and tend to reject people who do so out of hand, especially when it represents an ideology different from our own. Debate is the only space that I have found that truly lets you make whatever kind of argument you want, regardless of the prejudices of the debaters or the critic. I think this is what makes it such a transformative experience for so many people - when confronted with an argument that challenges your beliefs, you are not allowed to simply refuse to answer and ignore it. The very fact that it can force you to think more critically about yourself can give us hope that the ignorance that we are surrounded with on a daily basis can be undermined and change can really happen, even if it's just on a personal level.
I recently transferred to the University of Texas at San Antonio to continue my debate career after the program at the University of Central Oklahoma was cancelled due to extreme circumstances. For me, debate offers a forum for me to voice my opinions and go head to head with other concepts and ideals. The activity offers intellectualism, individuality, confidence, and a community that allows regular students the opportunity to explore and grow with their own intellect and beliefs. For the individuals who are involved with the activity our community and sport becomes one of the biggest, if not the biggest, part of our life. It's what we love and what we are willing to spend countless hours preparing for. Debate is much more then a sport, it is a nationwide rally of people who have a craving and heart for good ideas and the expansion of the mind. I am proud to say that I've been able to become a part of a community that values intellect and competition. I'm even more proud to say that the team I am now apart of upholds equality and inclusion to the highest standard. I love debate because it gives me a voice and the confidence to hold my head high in any situation I may come across.
Debate opens a unique space where the intellectual can thrive and assumptions challenged. Debate allows exploration in to the fabric of beliefs, values, norms, whereas in any other venue the ideal of opposing foundations is chastised and dismissed. This space is pivotal in the advancement of education and critical thinking. The current lack of this space is ever present in most modern forms of education and is evidenced in lack of questioning and regurgitation of facts called learning. Debate provides this space and allows individuals to gain truly higher education. The type of education that embraces multiple points of views, critical reading, and thinking. Being able to discuss what makes us act, think, and say as well as what is truth, or rather does truth exist, is what makes debated unparalleled and unequivocally important to me. I enjoy debate because of this space and the opportunity in provides.
I never know exactly how to describe my involvement in cross examination debate, much less why I enjoy the activity so much. Typically I tailor my response to fit in with what I think the other person would like to hear, as a result of years of practice at argumentative posturing and judge adaptation. Despite this, there doubtlessly are things that really do keep me coming back, year after year, regardless of the amount of time and energy that this activity demands. While I could fill this small blurb with various references to the educational benefits or the professional references I can gather over my 8-year stint in debate; I'd prefer to be honest and bring up what I enjoy most in this activity: the friends and connections I've made. Debate is a unique extracurricular activity in that it is more social than purely athletic or academic groups-the whole idea is to get together and exchange intellectual ideas about current events, policy, and philosophy with your peers. These peers are people who I have spent a large part of my life growing intellectually and socially with, who I have become close friends with over years of travel and competition. They are the reason I debate, they are the motivation to sacrifice so much time preparing for tournaments, and they are the inspiration that drives me to devote myself so fully to the activity. In the 80's, people had Cheers when they wanted to be somewhere where everyone knew their name. In the 90's, Friends were there for you. When I want to enjoy the company of people who are intelligent, caring, and reliable, I know that I have a home in debate community.
Within the first week of my joining debate, Skip Eno was protesting the fact that a Human Rights Agreement only used “he” instead of “he/she”. That was the moment that I knew that I had found a group of people who thought the way that I did. In my two years on debate, I have come to realize that debate is more than a competition, it is a space where critical minded students can come together to expand their knowledge base and constantly question their own views on the world. In a time when education is focusing more on trying to memorize facts and pass tests, debate offers students a way to expand on the facts and figures from class work and make it applicable to their lives. I say that we are a like minded group of individuals, but at the same time, personality difference run rampant on the debate team. Despite the differences that may be there, debate as a competitive sport offers a medium where two radically different people can come together for the betterment of the team and debate’s ability to teach people to see other perspectives allows two radically different people to actually become friends.
But more importantly than that, UTSA debate offers a place where anyone can come and be a part of a group, regardless of experience or ability. If someone is willing to work, then the UTSA debate team will find something for them to do. Debaters realize that everyone has something to contribute and strive to acknowledge and use those talents. It is a mindset that, sadly, does not exist in many other places. The people on the UTSA debate team embrace differences and realize that there are many ways of improving the team as a whole.
The 2012 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass...
UTSA Debate runs a workshop in August before school starts, Aug....