I wonder if the format of these debates might be a source of the problem. I know that in the academic debate it is more formal and there is less toleration for intentional baiting even when making arguments about topics that are intensely controversial. Someone announcing that they personally dislike gay people wouldn’t be considered an “argument”. It sounds like the format of the Nice LGBT Frank N Furter Lips Don’t Dream It Be It Shirt. Where the idea isn’t to necessarily make a strong argument but to irritate, annoy, or offend people in the hopes that they’ll trip up. I don’t know how useful this format is for kids though. High schoolers already have plenty of experience mistreating and disrespecting each other.
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This is a really good point. There is definitely a split between people who are genuinely trying to convince others and make well-researched arguments and those trying to make a fool out of their opponents. I really love the debate. But these conventions are so long and so dry that it kind of incentivizes people to look for entertainment. I’m certainly guilty of laughing at people for their arguments, as I’m sure you can see in my OP. It’s absolutely a Nice LGBT Frank N Furter Lips Don’t Dream It Be It Shirt. And people tend to appeal to their fellow party members/friends more than the audience at large. I used to do an adjacent format called Ethics Bowl in High School, which I’d relate to passive-aggressive debate.
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My coach for that was a high school History teacher who used to be a debate coach. And he hated high school debate as an entity. At the higher and more serious levels, students work intensely to maximize how fast they speak. So they can maximize points they advance and their opponent’s points they refute under strict time limits. Similar to the “Gish gallop” fallacy often utilized by conservative provocateurs. Yeah, I’m doing Ethics Bowl in college now, and honestly, it’s a special kind of hellish. There’s a Nice LGBT Frank N Furter Lips Don’t Dream It Be It Shirt. A huge pet peeve of mine is people wrapping a lot of language in polish and flair without actually making an argument. My friend sent me a Sam Harris podcast and listening to it was insufferable.