Ross School - Senior Projects 2011
Mentor: James Earle
Domain(s): Cultural History, English, and Performance Arts
Disputation is the title of my senior project. The project was made up of many different parts, which included four scripts, a performance of said scripts, and a debate team. I researched four different debate techniques including Aristotelian, Policy Debate, RobertÕs Rule of Order, and Tibetan Debate and wrote scripted debates based on each technique. Then I also created a Debate Team and coached it, with James Earle as the advisor. The product was great and I learned a lot from the process and the research I conducted.
My Senior Project is basically comprised of two components. First, I attempted to set up a debate team and second, I created a series of four scripts each based on a different debate technique, which were then performed.
When the time came around in eleventh grade to choose our topics for Senior Project, I went through a struggle in deciding what to do. I went to a number of people including Mrs. Lichtenstein and Mr. Sacks, for opinions. I had already known that I wanted to create a debate team, but after discussing it with my mentor, James Earle; I realized I needed a project that more portrayed my own personal work. During a conversation, Sacks brought up the style of Tibetan debate. After talking with Earle, we decided to expand this idea and write out scripted debates on different debate techniques.
During the summer, I was assigned a book by Jay Heinrichs titled Thank You For Arguing. This book was really interesting and focused on the idea of persuasion. Also I was advised by Earle to watch a movie called Resolved, which is a documentary, based around high school debate teams.
So upon arriving back to school I had to get started on my project. First off I had to get a team together, which I underestimated the difficulty of doing. I had to consult people such as Max Moyer and my outside consultant Beth Skinner. I was fortunate to find a website which is formed by the International Debate Education Association, which really gave me a lot of information on how to conduct a team. This whole process was somewhat frustrating. After sending out emails to the students and talking to other students, I thought I had a really big number of students interested. But as I started setting up meetings and gathering the students, I realized I only had about four or five students who were truly able to dedicate themselves despite the hectic schedules of all of us. I was able to gather together for meetings and fortunately for me, the people that were on the team, gladly volunteered to be in the performance of scripts.
Soon enough I had to move on to the production of my scripts. First I would have to choose the styles in which I would research and write my scripts in. I already decided I would have Tibetan debate as one of them, after being mentioned by Sacks and the interest it sparked in me after watching some videos of it. I also decided on Policy Debate, mostly because of its current popularity among high school debate teams and after seeing it in the film Resolved. So after settling on these two, Earle and I thought that I should maybe gather about two more styles. In light that I wanted to get an older form to portray and maybe a more structured one, I decided on focusing on RobertÕs Rules of Order, which I was already sort of familiar with through my participation in Model UN, and Aristotelian Dialectic, which in my scripts sort of evolved into more of Socratic Method. So in total I had Tibetan Debate, which is in search of a deeper meaning and inner clarity, Policy Debate, which despite the fact that it is old, is currently one of the most popular debate styles in American school, using extreme speed as a method in making as many arguments and reciting as much evidence as possible within a restricted time; RobertÕs Rules of Order which is a parliamentary procedure used in congress and other legislative assemblies; and Socratic Method in which both parties have the same goal and seek to find an agreement of something and discover the underlying principle within it.
So after settling on four styles of debate, I needed to find out what topic and/or topics that I would be debating in these scripts. This part was particularly difficult for me. I wanted topics or a topic that were relevant and interesting. I also wanted something that I was familiar with and somewhat passionate about. After thinking for a while, I decided on discussing Senior Project within my scripts. So for Tibetan Debate I focused on the Philosophy of Senior Project, for Policy Debate I focused on whether or not the mandatory extensive reporting in Senior Project is necessary, in RobertÕs Rules of Order the council is trying to find a resolution for the issue of the product rubric, and in Socratic Method I focus on my own personal dialogue for when I was trying to decide on a topic for my Senior Project.
Writing was somewhat of a challenge at times. Initially getting into the process of writing was sort of nerve wrecking. I needed to make sure that I was able to depict the style of debate in which I was duplicating, while at the same time removing any bias I might have and clearly representing the topic. Also procrastination was a big part of the writing process, but the pressure did cause me to push out my work.
Preparing for the performance was fairly difficult. After I finished my scripts and got them to my performers, I needed to find time to conduct rehearsals. Because of studentÕs everyday activities, this was fairly difficult, but I was able to conduct a good amount of rehearsals with the team prior to performance night. The many aspects involved freaked me out some and I was very nervous but I tried to get over them for the performance. Despite the big snowstorm on the day of performance night, everything went quite well.
This whole process has been very provoking and delightful at the same time. Time Management was a huge issue for me, as for many others, but in the end I was able to pull through with my work. Another challenge was working with others. When doing a project in which other people are a part of it, it can be very frustrating sometimes. I was very grateful for those who were able to dedicate themselves to my project and help me along the way, and had to remind myself constantly of the hectic schedules of others and understand the pressure from other activities put on students. Nerves really came into play as a challenge when it came to performance night. I realized I needed to overcome my nerves both for my other performers and for just a better outcome of my project. One more struggle is the sharing of my work. To me, it becomes scary to share your work publicly with people. I hoped people would appreciate it and like it.
Throughout this process I learned a lot. First off, I learned how to start a group and run it, which is not easy. I also learned how to formulate arguments from both sides and remove any bias. I was able to effectively run rehearsals and guide people. Overall, I think my leadership skills increased throughout the project, as I had to run rehearsals and tell people what I wanted to be portrayed through my scripts. One of the greatest lessons I learned is to better use my time. Despite the fact that it is clichˇ, I really gained a greater appreciation for time and now understand how much more important time management is.
This project had great significance for me. I do have a passion for the idea of argumentation and loved to see how it is used between many different societies and cultures. I also really enjoyed the ability to be able to express my ideas freely without many boundaries.
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Elizabeth (Beth) Skinner
Co-Director of Towson University's Speech and Debate Team