Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Breakdown in communications

I was watching the debaters from MGS and UWC in the Arena show yesterday evening, and getting totally disgusted. Not that their debating skills are bad - I mean, they speak good English, generally clear, slightly overstated use of bombastic phrases - but that the whole debating thing seems kind of skewed, at least from what I saw.

(And at this point I need to apologise to Lari and Penny if I offend them)

What I saw was - massive intellectual dishonesty, aggressively misunderstanding what the other party has to say, and grossly inaccurate distortion of the opponents' viewpoint.

A huge breakdown in communication, in other words.

I thought, probably mistakenly, that debating was about good logical deduction, communicated well, and incorporating the wise arguments of the other, while discounting the unreasonable statements of said other, in a beautiful dance/jiu-jitsu of words. What I saw was a battleaxe duel, two parties arguing relentlessly over the same motion but never actually engaging each other in an actual argument - because no-one ever acknowledged the other's valid arguments. It was a graceless contest, each side discounting the other's position, not because it was without merit, but because it must have seemed to them that accepting any part of the argument would have been weakness on their part.

Question: why do we value debate over negotiation? Why not value the process of listening to the other side, understanding their points thoroughly, and sieving out what is good and wholesome from what is illogical and flawed?

Debate shouldn't be about one side's initially adopted position crushing the other's into the ground. Instead, the result of a debate should be a wiser position, a result of iron polishing iron, view engaging view.

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