Performance Debate

PERFORMANCE DEBATE….Since I’m the son of two champion college debaters ? it’s where my USC roots come from ? I feel morally obligated to link to today’s LA Times article about “performance debate,” the latest wrinkle in an old craft:

At a recent Malibu contest, Brett Beeler of Cal State Fullerton stopped mid-sentence in a debate and asked teammate Caitlin Gray for a document.

As she rummaged around, Beeler impatiently left the podium and whispered heatedly at her. The tiff escalated, and suddenly he slapped her.

The judge of the debate came unglued. “You need to leave right now!” he shouted at Beeler.

But the slap was an act ? a way to breathe life into the otherwise dry debate topic, a court case involving domestic violence.

“I really did believe it was an incident of domestic abuse,” said the judge, Orion Steele, a professor at the University of Redlands. “It took me a good half-hour to cool down.” Then he awarded the victory to Fullerton.

The Times also reports that the performance debate movement has “led to replacing scholarly evidence with quotes from ‘organic intellectuals’ such as rap singers.” The “organic” part I get. The “intellectual” part I’m not so sure about. But at least today’s kids will be better suited for a career on Fox News than the debaters of my parents’ generation.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation