More than just a question of debate
Head of the debate team, Professor Nate Brown believes that our current society is too easily persuaded by poor reasoning. "Commercials are successful, but they shouldn't be. Political candidates are successful, but they shouldn't be. More of the public should be shouting ‘that's crap!'"
Brown created the Santa Monica College Debate Team in fall 2005, when he recognized that most colleges had competitive teams. Although never being on a debate team, Brown said he formed the team to give him something special outside of the classroom. "I wanted the debate team to be my special project," said Brown.
SMC debate team currently holds 20 members, with 15 competing in debates. Brown describes his 20-student team as enthusiastic. Although they did not advance at Claremont McKenna College last week, Brown was not disappointed with the results. "They performed as well as could be expected." The tournament was a host for elite debate programs, ranging from the University of Southern California, Loyola Marymount, University of Michigan and numerous other schools. Many of his 15 debaters were new to competition and still learning the basics.
Dominic Ameneyro, a first semester debate student, said this weekend, "I am not as smart as I think I am, which makes me want to work harder." He believes the allure of debate is a well-versed topic that makes it exceedingly difficult not to question your presupposed values. Ameneyro's outtake of this weekend's competition is a testament to Brown's description of a determined team.
Anderson describes his three-semester experience on the SMC Debate Team as "a wild, rollicking rollercoaster of rhetoric." He wants his teams to be comfortable, but to be professional. Brown welcomes any students interested to join his program and strongly believes that regardless of past experience, that his "greatest competitors are those that decide to be great, and find the skills and knowledge necessary to win."
Debate team competitor Cleo Anderson uses the wise words of George Bernard Shaw as inspiration in forming his arguments: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man."
Second semester debate participant, Sonya Allahyar, describes her team as, "My insane family who I spend so much of my time with, and don't hate a second of it." Allahyar believes debate is important because society is so concerned with scraping by rather than critically thinking how our actions might affect people.
"If they questioned what was going on instead of solely focusing on their lives, then maybe things may be different," he said.
Brown believes, "Competing in debate, even if they lose, is the best form of instruction." With only two practices a week, Brown tries to improve his team's mastery of current events, classical theories of argument, logic and improvement on the physiological aspect of debate. Brown hopes to inspire his team to think logically and learn to embrace and work through fear.
The Debate Team hopes to sharpen their skills as they work towards their national championship tournament in April.