Teaching Alternative Debate in Japanese University Contextsby Tim Newfields
Keywords: debate skills, argumentation theory, structured argument, critical debate, staged discussion
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The process of arguing about claims in situations where an adjudicator must decide the outcome.A limitation with this definition is that outcomes are often decided by many people rather than a sole adjudicator. In legislative debates, for example, many participants collectively vote on outcomes. Though some teachers prefer to adjudicate classroom debates (Conway, 1976, p. 32; Foreman-Takano, 1983, pp. 3-5) others favor a more "democratic" approach by allowing students to decide their own outcomes (Stoller, 1997).
. . . a competitive form of communication conducted according to specific rules, where two teams – the "Affirmative" and the "Negative" – oppose each other on an issue. The Affirmative team stands in favor of the proposition, called a "resolution", and the negative team takes a stand against it, in one of several ways. Each side presents its own case based on research and analysis of the resolution, and advocates this stand throughout the debate by responding to and refuting their opponents' arguments.This paper suggests that although this is true for many forms of debate, is overly restrictive. An alternative form of debate that goes beyond the bifurcated notions which insist one is either "for" or "against" a proposition is outlined.
Debate . . . is a formalized system of (usually) logical argument. Rules governing debate allow groups and individuals to discuss and decide issues and differences.
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|"Though logic is an essential feature of debate, let us not lose sight that many human decisions are influenced by emotional factors."|
[ p. 113 ]The English Speaking Union of Japan (Nihon Eigo Kouryuu Renmei) now hosts an annual debate with thirty teams from across the country. It also regularly invites debate squads from overseas. To further promote debating skills, in 1996 a contest known as the Dibeeto Koshien was launched under the aegis of the National Association of Debate in Education (Zenkoku Kyoushitsu Dibeeto Renmei), an organization of some 4,700 school teachers that began in 1996, along with the support of the Yomiuri Shimbun. The Japan Parliamentary Debate Union, yet another group devoted to debating and launched shortly after the previous organization, holds regular debating seminars and tournaments.
|"the fact that terms such as 'constructive argument' or 'critical thinking' are hard to render into natural-sounding Japanese suggests that such notions are still exotic."|
[ p. 114 ]For issues in which bifurcated "either/or" outcomes are desirable, such discourse styles have merit. In courtroom battles where a plaintiff must be declared either guilty or innocent, for example, western-style debating is preeminently well-suited. However, this style of discourse has a tendency to separate winners and losers into distinctly different camps and it is not an optimal approach to consensus building or fostering unity. De Bono (1990) further suggests that traditional debating is seldom the best way of making most business decisions.
[ p. 115 ]Second, the metaphor underlying the alternative debate procedure was changed for cultural reasons. Whereas as de Bono, a native of Malta, used a hat metaphor to describe various parallel thinking modes, I opted for a circle metaphor to elucidate the same process. Japanese move in and out or circles frequently, and the language is rich with metaphors about rotundity. Moreover, expressions such as "wearing a green hat" have undesirable connotations among some Asians. For such reasons, a metaphor switch seemed appropriate.
[ p. 116 ]One week prior to each debate, the topic was introduced and roles assigned. To make the debate process clear, I went through all of the steps of a traditional debate as well as the alternative debate method described here with an easy debate topic in the first lesson. A good introductory topic recommended by Lubetsky, Le Beau, and Harrington (2000) is "Which animals are better pets: cats or dogs?" After illustrating how this could be debated in a classical format, I showed how to debate it in the alternative format described below. Since the steps involved in a classical debate have already been explained by authors such as Flynn (1999) and Krieger (2005), there is no need to outline them here. Let me instead mention how this topic would be discussed from an alternative "parallel thinking" format.
[ p. 117 ]3 Yellow Circle Perspective �u�y�ϓI�ȗ��ꂩ��݂�Ɓv
|* CATS:||Toilet trained and usually require little space|
|* DOGS:||Loyal, they are often good for protection|
|* GOLDFISH:||Inexpensive, they take up minimal space|
|* COMPU-PETS:||Never actually "die" and occupy only virtual space|
|* CHARITY:||Ethically sound and socially responsible|
|* CATS:||Sometimes scratch furniture and/or persons. Often shed fur.|
|* DOGS:||May disturb neighbors and require frequent walks. Smelly at times.|
|* GOLDFISH:||Can never touch or interact closely with aquatic creatures.|
|* COMPU-PETS:||Never actually "alive" or exist beyond virtual space.|
|* CHARITY:||Generally unable to see those one is helping.|
[ p. 118 ]5 Red Circle Perspective �u�\��I�ȗ��ꂩ��݂�Ɓv
|* CATS:||Personally, I feel they are too selfish and they lack warmth.|
|* DOGS:||Cute in some ways, but a hassle to take care of.|
|* GOLDFISH:||Nice to look at, though I feel sad when they die.|
|* COMPU-PETS:||No interest in digital creatures.|
|* CHARITY:||Deep down, this feels like the right thing to do.|
|"The main disadvantage of this alternative debate approach is that it does require significant research and preparation to do well."|
[ p. 119 ]As a result, they merely state obvious clichés and the subsequent debate never gains any depth or momentum. One possible solution might be to grade micro-performance during the debate procedure: persons who do put in the effort to debate a topic fully should receive more points than those who simply go through the rituals without actually learning anything.
[ p. 120 ]Conclusion
|"Although Japan is recognized as an economic leader around the world, in most forums of intellectual debate it is on the sidelines."|
. . . the decline of debate is not only a symptom of institutional sickness, or of the talents of particular MPs. It bespeaks a culture that is fast losing its ability to reason collectively, to argue things through to a logical conclusion, at least so far as this requires paying attention to what is being said.Though Coyne's statement was made about Canadian society, it may seems to ring true for Japan as well.
[ p. 121 ]References
[ p. 122 ]
[ p. 123 ]Sekiguchi, Y. (2000). Mathematical proof, argumentation, and classroom communication: A Japanese perspective. Retrieved from http://www.lettredelapreuve.it/ICME9TG12/ICME9TG12Contributions/SekiguchiICME900.html on December 9, 2005.
|Chronological Index||Subject Index||Title Index||Resume|
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