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A Quarterly Magazine
Whole No. 9.
THE “UNREALITY” OF COLLEGE
DEBATES. An interesting discussion is that which was recently conducted in the columns of the “New York Evening Post” between Professor Raymond MacDonald Alden, of Stanford University, and Prof. J. A. Winans, of Cornell University, the subject being the “Unreality' of College Debat as at Present Conducted.” On this point both seem to be fairly well agreed; the difference is that Prof. Alden sees little hope for the future, while Prof. Winans suggests some possible remedies.
Prof. Alden said, in brief, that there are undoubted merits in debating—the analysis of questions, and the development of self-control, and an easy, extemporaneous manner of speaking. But these are most conspicuous in the less formal debates of societies and student-body meetings, and grow
less and less as debating grows technical. Take the history of an inter-scholastic debate. The subject is chosen by one school, frequently phrased to leave a pleasing uncertainty as to its precise meaning, and then submitted to the other for its choice of the side to support. At the public contest three speakers from each school speak alternately for the affirmative and negative, the debate being unusually good if the two sides agree on the meaning of the question. Every hypothesis is given with absolute certainty of its truth and each final peroration summarizes the whole list of claims for that side. Rarely is counter-evidence given before the “rebuttals," and these are usually confined to an enumeration of alleged errors rather than to a true refutation of one or two. As to the judges, they must decide not what is proved, but which side did the best debating; it is like umpiring a game of which no one knows the rules.
These artificial contests are utterly unlike anything in the real world. Here rigid groups of three make six rigid speeches, discussing absurdly large questions in an absurdly short time, and gain victory neither by accomplishing what can be called judicial proof nor by winning the approval of