[Ndca-l] "Civility"

Timmons, Aaron timmonsa
Wed Dec 18 15:57:27 EST 2013

AS an aside I posted to the email list serve because I wanted coaches to dialogue. Others jumping in may be inevitable, but I wanted a conversation among colleagues that could be direct and open. I think we should do whatever format that maximizes comments and dialogue. Nothing should be done to "chill" conversation.

I wanted to address the "civility/decorum" issues as it has become a new buzzword for many people in the community in the last couple of years.

My initial thought was, to be honest, framed in very binary terms. Specifically, if teams/debaters didn't meet some standard of "civility", did that then mean they were "uncivil"? Did the racialized nature of some of the arguments put people into an area of discomfort ? Given the agreed upon increase in diverse bodies, argument styles, culturally different ways of speaking and engaging in the debate space, I find the timing of these claims, "interesting", and at least worthy of reflection to say the least. Was it uncivil to say "aids serves as a death check, let em die now, save 8.5 in the crunch", or "racism has no impact you need to run a real advantage", or "rape/racial profiling/FGM/domestic violence good" in debates I have heard over the years? Is it uncivil that on topics that deal with social justice issues, people opted to run politics to outweigh, and not engage the affirmative or run an agent cp to just never discuss the harm outlined in those impacts?  While I will NOT defend the proliferation of the FBomb I have seen in high school debate in the last couple years, I do find it curious how the discussion is now framed as "civility" and "decorum", when other bodies enter the discussion.  I KNOW this statement will make some uneasy. If we can all at least take a moment to reflect of that perspective (agree or disagree), that might at least help us understand the perspective of the other party.

Stefan has lucidly given his view on the idea of "decorum" and "subject matter" that is allowable based on District/school policy, I DO NOT think it as clear as it might seem. Do tournaments have a RIGHT to limit content and behavior by guests attending their events? That is not really a debatable issue. Of course those schools and Directors have that jurisdiction. The question though is that whether those guidelines understand cultural differences in communication styles AND as importantly, the perception that those in the majority have of folks from different backgrounds and social locations. In addition, before we create the argument police about how, and what is an appropriate form or content used by students, we need to look really carefully about what is being taught in our English classes in our respective schools. Hip Hop culture is NOT going anywhere. In looking at several courses in the catalogues of many schools that we see on the national circuit, nearly all of the schools are pushing boundaries (several R rated movies referenced as part of the curriculum as an example). While the intent might be good, the subtext of hardcore limitations on form and content while seemingly colorblind, many times uniquely impact students of color in a negative way.

I am NOT saying anything goes. I AM saying there are many different ways to affirm or negate a topic. I AM saying that many of the kids from suburban backgrounds are not used to debating urban kids. I AM saying that many judges who are not used to students making debate work for them in a different way may be uncomfortable in certain situations. I have found that it is hard to grow unless you lean into discomfort.

Finally, the point is not that we all have to agree either theoretically or practically on how we view these issues. Rather, an open conversation is necessary to see if any consensus does exist.
Many argument choices have made historically that make people "uncomfortable". What is the "uniqueness" to that claim? All should feel like they have a safe space. Who is "unsafe".

Good discussion all.


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