The art of the argument

Deliberative dialogue conversations enlighten students

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Cynta Camilla / The Torch

Lane Community College currently does not have a speech and debate club, however that didn’t stop a few interested students, faculty and community members from testing the waters to see what that would be like.

On Saturday May 13th, Lane’s first Speak Out! event took place on the fourth floor in the Center Building. About 25 students and a few staff members got together to deliberate a few contemporary issues in a structured debate setting. The event began at 9:00 a.m. with a deliberative dialogue training workshop presented by Kara Dillard, a Ph.D lecturer at the University of Washington. At 12:00 p.m. a free lunch was provided for those who participated and then the flash debates and awards ceremony wrapped up the event from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Daniel Henry is a full-time instructor for the communications department at Lane. Henry was the one who set up the event.

“Due to budget cuts a few years back Lane no longer has a speech and debate club, so my interest right now is to bring it back,” Henry said. “I wanted to get some interest on campus and in the community. So I thought the first thing that we ought to do is have a little event with free lunch to attract some interest.”

Henry has coached speech and debate events for more than 30 years at University of Oregon and at University of Alaska. He explained that a new speech and debate club at Lane would not follow the traditional model due to a more relaxed attitude.

“I’m interested in community engagement more than anything,” Henry said. “I don’t want to do the traditional kind of debate that can scare people, I think it’s good to do that but I also want to have options.”

The two issues that were discussed during the flash debates were contemporary political issues. One was whether or not the United States should fund and build President Donald Trump’s wall along the Mexican border. The other was supporting or scrutinizing the Supreme Court’s decision to lift President Trump’s executive order on banning Muslims from entering the United States.

Lane students participated in this portion of the event. The rest of the audience in the room acted as judges to determine who had the best argument, and to gain their own perspective on the matter of discussion.

Teams of two students defended each side of the issue in question. Each team member had three minutes to argue for or against the problem. After each debater had said their piece there was an open crossfire time where the debaters could ask questions back and forth to try and gain a greater understanding of the opposing side.

The debaters didn’t necessarily feel one way or another about the issue at hand. They were each given a few minutes before the debate to go over the talking points for why their side could hypothetically be the best option.

Since only five students chose to compete all five of the gift cards to Market of Choice were given to each competitor as prizes.

Henry wants the focus of this club to be around the ideologies of deliberative dialogue. The difference between this and more traditional, argumentative, debate is the process of sharing multiple ideas and coming to a compromise.

“Deliberative dialogue is when you get a group of people together, you put them in a circle and you identify options on how to solve a problem,” Henry said. “It’s more of a way for people to think together and be open to other people’s ideas.”

During the dialogue training before the flash debates Henry said that everyone listened to one another while not acting defensive or strongly opposed to one another’s ideas. “We really think that this process is a good one and Eugene is the kind of community where we can get enough people involved,” Henry said.

Henry was delighted with the outcome of the gathering. he wanted from the event because it created a sense of purpose for why people hash out arguments in the first place. The idea being that finding a solution to a problem through relatively structured conversation is more productive than boasting opinions and not listening to other ideas and reasoning. Henry and other individuals at the event hope for similar enlightening conversations in the near future.