Learn proper debate strategies

You may have noticed an article not too long ago about how Facebook is a great place for debate. I completely agree with that.

However, what isn’t mentioned is that we are awful debaters. I know that seems a bit blunt and possibly an overgeneralization, but it’s pretty much true, unless you’ve taken a basic logic class, have some basis in debate or really anything that actually enhances your ability to rapidly analyze how you can advance your argument.

Notice how I said argument. I emphasize the argument as a whole because we are so ignorant about how to actually pursue a debate. Either you want your argument to stand wholly after taking the shots of your opponent, or it doesn’t.

You don’t get to say “Oh well I made some good points,” or drop points and try to hold up the shell left of the argument.

In fact, you can make all the “good points” you want – but if the conclusion that you draw from them doesn’t stand, your points are absolutely, incorrigibly unimportant.

Because if someone can disregard your conclusion even granting your points, your argument is neither sound nor valid (you learn that in basic philosophy and logic classes).

And if you can’t make at least a valid argument, you might as well pack up and go home (and for those of you who aren’t aware, valid argumentation is completely different than sound argumentation).

But let’s keep the ball rolling. We are absolute children in the realm of debate, but I don’t exactly blame us.

Look at the TV. When you see two people from opposite sides of the spectrum talk about a topic of contention, they get pretty heated fairly quickly. And these are the supposed “professionals.” As you can see, frankly, their debates are a sham. But there is hope.

We still have a chance to pursue true debate. True debate is fun and not in an “I have fun if I win” way. You can have fun merely from the structured exchange of ideas and ideals.

But of course, that is very dependent on you. I’ll tell you one thing that I believe detracts from a lot of the fun: you don’t really care. At the end of the day, you aren’t looking to gain greater insight into the world or a particular person’s belief or perspective.

Often times, one looks merely to reassure oneself on a view or to tear someone else down. But you should relish these opportunities when someone opens up to you and genuinely shares his or her views.

Ask questions. Take a real interest in what they have to say and dwell on it. Don’t immediately try and counter a point they raise. Pause for a second and think. You take your professors seriously and listen to what they have to say because you assume they have a deep knowledge on the subject.

But you’ll never know what a fellow acquaintance or friend knows, unless you take what they have to say to heart. So be deliberate in your debate. Wear a smile when you try and learn about the world through robust conversation with your “opponents.”

Norwood is a sophomore majoring in political science and philosophy.

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