Academic debate is in trouble. It offers virtually no room for compromise or collaboration. You are either for or against a proposition. But real life is not a sporting event. It is unhealthy to think of relationships and social issues where one participant must win and all others must lose.
Many of today’s politicians grew up competing on their school debate teams. Perhaps this is why politics has become starkly polarized and dysfunctional:   the academic debate models on which our politics are based do not provide tools, framework or incentives for healthy dialogue and compromise. Politicians are simply acting out their academic experience, reverting to a game of winner take all.  This is not only unhealthy, it might even be called sociopathic — a national emergency.
This is why I created Debate911. If we want the world to be less polarized and more inclusive, we must explore ways to change win-lose thinking (academic debate) into a more real-world sense of dialogue and diplomacy, without sacrificing healthy competition. I believe we can – and should – augment the nature of academic debate into something less binary, more plenary, less about winner-take-all and more about exploring common ground.
Richard Gunderman writes, “The ascendancy of debate threatens the thoughtfulness that should characterize a liberally educated person.” We need to rethink the objectives of debate to better reflect our increasingly connected global life together. We must find ways to create incentives towards real dialectic and the expectation of thoughtful compromise.  Towards this goal, I propose adding elements of competitive dialogue  to our existing academic debate models.  Please join me in finding ways to bridge the chasm between academic debate and real life.

 

DEBATE VS. DIALOGUE: More thoughts on competitive dialogue

 

COMPETITIVE DIALOGUE: Specific proposals for changing high school and college debate

 

MY STORY: Some background

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Competitive Dialogue

Debate911 is an experiment that grafts elements of dialogue and diplomacy into traditional academic debate. My motivations for this project can be found here and here. Like most experiments, I expect some failures and frustration. But we learn from mistakes. As Winston Churchill said, “success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” I […]

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My Story

  I grew up in a small rural town in the Sierra foothills. When I entered our local high school (1,000 students), there was no debate team — so I decided to create one. I set up meetings with our school principal and the county superintendent of schools, who both agreed to let me start a […]

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Debate vs. Dialogue

I’ve read hundreds of science fiction, spy fiction, law and mystery novels (Grisham, Silva, Flynn, Eisler, Clancy, Decker…) and understand how the world is getting smaller and how weaponry and intelligence gathering is getting more pervasive and dangerous. We now have the tools to destroy all human life, and no weapon has ever been invented […]