Changing the Rules

Debate is a sport. It has rules. The rules are spelled out very clearly in many places, and in my one class, we were given very clear references to exactly what rules our debates would be held according to. We were even recommended to watch examples of such debates.

I still think that having been on speech and debate team for several years in high school gives me an advantage.

The big debate still isn’t for a month, but we had mini-debates this past Saturday in class. They were somewhat informal and just pitted campus against campus on some fairly simple topics. Almost no one had done a lot of research, but the 45 minutes we were given in class was plenty of time to pull things together.

My campus was given the affirmative of the question, “Resolved: The United States healthcare system is the best in the world.” Most of us could barely read that aloud with a straight face, but we had to defend it. After everyone else started groaning and saying there was no way we could do it, I said, “Exactly, so we change the rules. Redefine ‘healthcare system’ so that it becomes ‘diagnosis and treatment of disease’. Then show how the US does that better than anyone else.” And we were off to the races.

The team debating the negative never saw the switch we pulled and failed to redefine “healthcare system” back to anything else. They showed up ready to play soccer. We substitued a football and proceeded to pick the ball up and run with it while they were still trying to kick it in a straight line towards goals that had suddenly become uprights.

In addition, no one else knew what to do with their alloted time for cross-examination. I did. And given the debate set-up, ours was the second debate, and I was the last to cross in our debate, so no one else could take what I did and turn it back on us (at least not this week). Everyone else would ask a question, then let the person responding meander on and on, often not even answering the question and using up all of the time given for cross.

My cross went something like this:
You mentioned obesity. The US healthcare system does a fantastic job of treating the end results of obesity. Do you disagree?” “Well, no, but we need to educate…“*interrupted*
Thank you. You want to prevent obesity with education, but we do that already. Are you going to force people to eat the proper foods and exercise?” “Well, maybe we should…“*interrupted*
I see you want to remove the ability of people to make choices in their lives. You also mentioned the infant mortality rate in the U.S. Do you realize that this is at least partially due to women choosing to give birth at home with inadequate medical attention and untrained midwives?” “We need to educate them and make them go to hospitals…“*interrupted*
So you want to tie up all the pregnant women and throw them into ambulances to make them give birth at hospitals?!?” “Well, yes, we should.
I see how you really feel about people’s medical choices in the US.

My time ran out shortly after that, but I was later told that the line about tying up all the pregnant women and throwing them in ambulances will probably go down as the best line said during class this semester.

Categories: Health, Humor, School | Tags: | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Changing the Rules

  1. Well played… oh WELL played!!! 🙂

  2. R

    What place does histrionics have in debate? All I see in the mental imagery is sound bites and shallow headlines.

  3. Debate is a very technical sport with some very particular rules. One of them is that the affirmative team (which we were) must win all parts of their argument, or the negative team wins by default. It was not my intent to hand over the win by failing to do my part.

    On my cross, I have 3 minutes to completely disassemble the arguments that the other guy just spent 6 minutes very carefully putting together. If that means that I cut him off in his answers so that I can get more questions in, then I will do that. If that means that I may take some parts of his speech to their (il-)logical extremes, then I will do that. If that means that he gets so twisted up that he can’t recognize his own words and stick to them, then that’s his concern and not mine, but I will take full advantage of this.

    We’re not going for headlines here. This is essentially the intro class for my Master’s degree, but we are supposed to come out of this exercise as better speakers who can think on their feet and who aren’t afraid to speak up and speak out.

    I’ve been doing speech and debate since I was on the team in high school some *mumblety*-bunch of years ago. It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s work. And it’s so worth it.

  4. Kelly

    Awesome! Well played!

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