BY SIERRA MACIOROWSKI

A.

Many debaters practice with it, but most tournaments don’t have it. We debate government control of it, yet never seem to have control of it ourselves. CHSSA rules prohibit it during prep, but we get most or all information from it before the twenty minutes begin: the Internet.

Amongst the rule-makers of parliamentary debate society, I can only guess at what might be discussed, but, in my tongue-in-cheek opinion, there seems to be a rather misplaced belief: that our type of debate must diverge from its brethren as much as possible; thus, that we must keep our distance from the information-based rounds of policy and public forum by whatever means necessary.

Unfortunately, in many instances, this belief, or any other that prevents us from using the Internet in prep, leads to less educational debates. Because we cannot use the world of Internet resources otherwise at our disposal, we lose access to relevant scholarly opinions, relevant governmental decisions, and relevant background information that would otherwise enhance our argumentation and articulation.

Imagine, for a moment, what the parli-verse would be like with Internet prep. Coaches could focus less on helping us download articles or encyclopedias, and spend more time coaching. Prep-room authorities could focus less on stalking our screens, and more on keeping order.

Imagine, for a moment, what the parli-verse would be like with Internet prep. Coaches could focus less on helping us download articles or encyclopedias, and spend more time coaching.

And, most importantly, debaters could spend their prep time learning. Rather than spend 20 minutes panicking, unable to find anything useful or relevant in some measly downloaded articles, we could jump wholeheartedly into the discovery of new opinions, new research, and new arguments--- which should really be encouraged, since prep time is meant to be constructive.

So, in my opinion, not allowing us to use the Internet during our constructive, educational prep time is truly abusive.

1.

As debaters, and as members of the parli community, we desire and deserve an educational experience.

2.

The leaders of our community instead take away our access to the single tool which has the most educational value.

3.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they reduce our potential for creativity, limiting us to the few, stale arguments and shells that we can manage to squirrel away before the winter of our discontented rounds begins.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they make debate a test not of skill, but of general knowledge, which in general does not lead to educational experiences.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they move our competition from the round itself, throwing it instead into a never-ending game of ‘whoever downloads the most articles about random topics wins the round!’

By keeping the Internet away from us, they create a community steeped in confusion, where novices charge into debate sometimes not even understanding what the words in the resolution mean.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they reject the reality of our technologically advanced world, substituting for the real-world a magical irony: that in an activity designed to educate and promote intellectual development, we are left without the very resource which could educate us and help us the most.

[i[n an activity designed to educate and promote intellectual development, we are left without the very resource which could educate us and help us the most.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they teach us to ignore the real world; that, although nearly any policy passed through nearly any governmental body uses the most up-to-date and reliable resources possible, we as debaters should learn to rely on Wikipedia articles

4.

In the end, they dramatically reduce the educational value and fairness of our debate experiences, especially those of the new or inexperienced. Our lack of Internet goes against the very values which we strive to protect in each round-- indeed, in each procedural argument against abuse.

What, then, might be the arguments against Internet usage?

The CHSSA rules seem to state that students should rely on “general knowledge, common sense, and application of logic and analysis”.

However, general knowledge is generally flawed. 38% of Americans surveyed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes believed that clear evidence suggested close connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Many college students, let alone high school students, cannot name the capital of Afghanistan. Most of us would probably have trouble finding Azerbaijan on a map.

In short, many of us have little ‘general knowledge’ to rely on-- that is, one might say, one potential benefit of debate: to develop our supply of general knowledge and build a base of information for later in life. However, asking us to build this general knowledge by using our already limited general knowledge is circular at best, and flawed at least. Only through outside resources, which CHSAA seems to vilify, can we increase our general knowledge, and promote education.

Other than this issue of general knowledge, I can only guess at the problems with Internet usage, since the CHSSA rules merely state that “contestants shall not access the Internet or to communicate”-- which is not particularly illuminating.

I would imagine, perhaps, that those against our use of the Internet say that it is unfair to those with limited resources--- classist, if you will.

However, the issue of inequality lies not in access to the Internet, but in access to computers, and as the parli community has recently adapted to the use of computers in prep, access to the Internet during prep time would create no further barriers for those with less funds.

I would imagine that they believe that the Internet might discourage research and preparation.

However, this is highly illogical-- allowing the Internet during prep time would assist those debaters who have less time to devote to research, giving them and their opponents access to a decently informed debate, if not a well-understood one. This would reduce the number of waste-of-time rounds our judges see, making judging more educational, and, perhaps, bringing in more judges, since well-informed debaters an interesting round make.

Those debaters who wish to do well will still devote their utmost energy and time to research and to preparation, because spending twenty minutes looking at Internet articles on a subject while writing out arguments is nowhere near the same as spending time each day reading the news or other sources.

I would imagine that they believe that the Internet might make our rounds less based on pathos, and more on ethos and logos.

On this, they may well be correct. Really, however, moving the focus of debate from “whoever can sound the most influential and most upset about dead children wins!” to “whoever can clearly articulate logical links and explain serious, non-dead-baby impacts wins!” can hardly be detrimental.

Furthermore, pathos, ethos, and logos are not mutually exclusive, and not mutually preventative. Adding in more credibility and more logical links, instead of ridiculous jumps, will enhance our ability to make pathetic (in the pity-inducing sense of the term) arguments. In short, they all work together, and Internet would heighten our use of every element of persuasion.

I would imagine that they believe that the Internet is not allowed in other forms of debate, so it should not be allowed in parli.

However, the purpose of parliamentary debate, as the CHSSA rules explain, is to be an extemporaneous and impromptu persuasive art. In the nature of this, then, would it not be prudent to make prep time more in-the-moment, more spontaneous, and less planned? Having access to thousands of varied articles on the Internet about gun control methods would provide for a much more extemporaneous debate on that subject than does having access to a few predictable articles about universal background checks and black markets.

I would imagine that they believe that the Internet might change debate.

When we look to the future, however, we can see that changes are necessary. Our world is becoming more and more technology-based, as we transfer our writings to Word and Google Docs, our recipes to online archives, our readings to ebooks, our subscriptions to digital newspapers.

Yes, the Internet might change parli--- but change is not inherently evil; change is a necessity in a changing world, and trying to keep our debates in the Stone Age while the world plows on by will never give us the educational benefits that we deserve.

[T]he Internet might change parli—- but change is not inherently evil; change is a necessity in a changing world, and trying to keep our debates in the Stone Age while the world plows on by will never give us the educational benefits that we deserve.

And, most importantly, debaters could spend their prep time learning. Rather than spend 20 minutes panicking, unable to find anything useful or relevant in some measly downloaded articles, we could jump wholeheartedly into the discovery of new opinions, new research, and new arguments--- which should really be encouraged, since prep time is meant to be constructive.

So, in my opinion, not allowing us to use the Internet during our constructive, educational prep time is truly abusive.

As debaters, and as members of the parli community, we desire and deserve an educational experience.

The leaders of our community instead take away our access to the single tool which has the most educational value.

B.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they reduce our potential for creativity, limiting us to the few, stale arguments and shells that we can manage to squirrel away before the winter of our discontented rounds begins.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they make debate a test not of skill, but of general knowledge, which in general does not lead to educational experiences.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they move our competition from the round itself, throwing it instead into a never-ending game of ‘whoever downloads the most articles about random topics wins the round!’

By keeping the Internet away from us, they create a community steeped in confusion, where novices charge into debate sometimes not even understanding what the words in the resolution mean.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they reject the reality of our technologically advanced world, substituting for the real-world a magical irony: that in an activity designed to educate and promote intellectual development, we are left without the very resource which could educate us and help us the most.

[I]n an activity designed to educate and promote intellectual development, we are left without the very resource which could educate us and help us the most.

By keeping the Internet away from us, they teach us to ignore the real world; that, although nearly any policy passed through nearly any governmental body uses the most up-to-date and reliable resources possible, we as debaters should learn to rely on downloaded Wikipedia articles

In the end, they dramatically reduce the educational value and fairness of our debate experiences, especially those of the new or inexperienced. Our lack of Internet goes against the very values which we strive to protect in each round-- indeed, in each procedural argument against abuse.

C.

What, then, might be the arguments against Internet usage?

The CHSSA rules seem to state that students should rely on “general knowledge, common sense, and application of logic and analysis”.

However, general knowledge is generally flawed. Nearly 40% of Americans surveyed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes believed that clear evidence suggested close connections between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Many college students, let alone high school students, cannot name the capital of Afghanistan. Most of us would probably have trouble finding Azerbaijan on a map.

In short, many of us have little ‘general knowledge’ to rely on-- that is, one might say, one potential benefit of debate: to develop our supply of general knowledge and build a base of information for later in life. However, asking us to build this general knowledge by using our already limited general knowledge is circular at best, and flawed at least. Only through outside resources, which CHSAA seems to vilify, can we increase our general knowledge, and promote education.

[A]sking us to build this general knowledge by using our already limited general knowledge is circular at best, and flawed at least.

Other than this issue of general knowledge, I can only guess at the problems with Internet usage, since the CHSSA rules merely state that “contestants shall not access the Internet or to communicate”-- which is not particularly illuminating.

I would imagine, perhaps, that those against our use of the Internet say that it is unfair to those with limited resources--- classist, if you will.

However, the issue of inequality lies not in access to the Internet, but in access to computers, and as the parli community has recently adapted to the use of computers in prep, access to the Internet during prep time would create no further barriers for those with less funds.

[T]he issue of inequality lies not in access to the Internet, but in access to computers, and as the parli community has recently adapted to the use of computers in prep, access to the Internet during prep time would create no further barriers for those with less funds.

I would imagine that they believe that the Internet might discourage research and preparation.

However, this is highly illogical-- allowing the Internet during prep time would assist those debaters who have less time to devote to research, giving them and their opponents access to a decently informed debate, if not a well-understood one. This would reduce the number of waste-of-time rounds our judges see, making judging more educational, and, perhaps, bringing in more judges, since well-informed debaters an interesting round make.

Those debaters who wish to do well will still devote their utmost energy and time to research and to preparation, because spending twenty minutes looking at Internet articles on a subject while writing out arguments is nowhere near the same as spending time each day reading the news or other sources.

I would imagine that they believe that the Internet might make our rounds less based on pathos, and more on ethos and logos.

On this, they may well be correct. Really, however, moving the focus of debate from “whoever can sound the most influential and most upset about dead children wins!” to “whoever can clearly articulate logical links and explain serious, non-dead-baby impacts wins!” can hardly be detrimental.

Furthermore, pathos, ethos, and logos are not mutually exclusive, and not mutually preventative. Adding more credibility and more logical links, instead of ridiculous jumps, will enhance our ability to make pathetic (in the pity-inducing sense of the term) arguments. In short, they all work together, and Internet would heighten our use of every element of persuasion.

I would imagine that they believe that the Internet is not allowed in other forms of debate, so it should not be allowed in parli.

However, the purpose of parliamentary debate, as the CHSSA rules explain, is to be an extemporaneous and impromptu persuasive art. In the nature of this, then, would it not be prudent to make prep time more in-the-moment, more spontaneous, and less planned? Having access to thousands of varied articles on the Internet about gun control methods would provide for a much more extemporaneous debate on that subject than does having access to a few predictable articles about universal background checks and black markets.

Having access to thousands of varied articles on the Internet about gun control methods would provide for a much more extemporaneous debate on that subject than does having access to a few predictable articles about universal background checks and black markets.

I would imagine that they believe that the Internet might change debate.

When we look to the future, however, we can see that changes are necessary. Our world is becoming more and more technology-based, as we transfer our writings to Word and Google Docs, our recipes to online archives, our readings to ebooks, our subscriptions to digital newspapers.

Yes, the Internet might change, and has changed, parli--- but change is not inherently evil; change is a necessity in a changing world, and trying to keep our debates in the Stone Age while the world plows on by will never give us the educational benefits that we deserve.


Sierra Maciorowski debates for Sonoma Academy and is the opinion page editor for Point of Information.