Asian Debating – Progress Is Lost In The Digital Muddle

Posted on January 27, 2010

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Don’t get me wrong. I love debating. I love Asian people too. What bothers me more than the French, women’s armpit hair and the CIA gathering their intelligence from Wikipedia, are expired debaters spending most of their day checking into the hair of some poor debate organizer’s bottom for nits. To hammer this particular point home, subscribe to the Asians or AUDC Yahoo groups. This is cinema gold.

Normally, I don’t really care whether debaters would read my entries. In fact, I would not want any debate dunderhead to ever read my entries. But for business purposes, I do hope that people organizing future debates would read this and understand the essentials of having a PR consultant. Even though hiring one could well perhaps feel like having someone stuff his or her hands up your bottom, the result is actually much pleasing.

We’ve always known that in reality not any one member in the history of adjudication cores, except Omar, has ever successfully fought a shark*.  In any weird and obscure case, this entirely means that the idea of fair representation is over-rated and just like everything else that is over-rated i.e. underwear, it does nothing except for being such a nuisance.

Instead of dispatching the best to blow up the quality of adjudication, some submarine debaters would rather see faces that are representative of the region. Fair representation is arbitrary if not simply a matter of chance. This random phenomenon is still prevalent despite having regional representation from every corner of the continent or each state. Only ask a bunch of debaters from England other than from Oxford whether he or she would feel comfortable and represented by someone senior from Oxford and you’ll be bowled over with the mix reactions. “No. Look. He’s not fat enough!”

Admittedly, I can only think of a few serious reasons why representation needs fussing over. It is necessary because it ensures that (1) motions are not fashioned from issues derived from a specific regional area i.e. South East Asia, (2) adjudicators are ranked fairly, and (3) the number of breaking adjudicators are suitably represented (again?).

Not too long ago, the founders of AUDC made an attempt to crack these pressing issues. The reaction to every conflict has been to create a restrictive system in which a member of the adjudication core can function. The belief is that human error i.e. favoritism, will be reduced if only there are proper procedures that are followed. The lives of the adjudication core were governed by an integrated system, a model that seemed to dictate but was still very much predisposed to human intervention.

Some also felt that responding to the system has become a much higher priority than responding to the complicated, messy needs of the human complexities that it is meant to serve. The members of the adjudication core now spend far more time on forms and answer sheets than they do with their fellow adjudicators or debaters. Once upon a time, 30% of their time was spent with other adjudicators and debaters; now it is just 11%.

We are spending too little time on developing debating in the region and spending too much time fussing over matters that are arbitrary, subjective and which if argued, would have no end – like representation and fairness.

And here comes the twist. Even when you and I know that there are no absolute and agreeable standards to these subjective issues, we persist on keeping up the ruckus with the hope to satisfy and convince the most stubborn, looniest, stupidest people in the galaxy – debaters. And we forget, that these debaters can be very stubborn, very loony and very stupid indeed.

Fairness in any competition is indispensable, but does it supersede progress and if it does, must it be to an extent that it derails the entire development of Asian debating?

* Requirement to be appointed Chief Adjudicator for the World Universities Peace Invitational Debate (WUPID).

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