INMATE PROGRAMS/EDUCATION

“DEBATE CLASS – Week Two (1/28)” by Jacob J. Gamet

Our second debate class was different than the first. Some who missed last Sunday’s class showed up. But some left after the first hour (class is two hours). This week’s class was more informational, dealing with examples and definitions of the fallacies addressed in the materials. Class closed with a little bit of same-team-versus-same-team debate drama. 

The first speaker discussed (very well, actually) fallacies and also had the class answer questions he posed. The first question was, “Would you keep the positive people in your life or get rid of the negative people?” Those who answered before me all agreed to get rid of the negative people. But I didn’t so easily see the question as only black and white. I opined around 50/50 (depending on the situation) because I believe one can learn from the negative person’s mistakes, or if one is impervious to his or her negative influence, one could be a positive influence on him or her. Most everyone after agreed that there was a that grey area. 

The second speaker addressed more of the definitions and examples of fallacies. We discussed the state Legislature’s recent argument on whether to reinstate the death penalty or to do away with it. One legislator argued if they got rid of it, there would be no punitive deterrent for criminals to not commit capital crimes. My classmates raised the issue of conditions of confinement being a non-sentence related deterrent, such as 23-hour lockdown to one’s cell, life imprisonment, etc. But then victims would (and do) argue that they want the death imposed and that capital crime offenders shouldn’t be permitted to live–and partake in the prison amenties of TV, lifting weights, etc.

Speaker three was the volunteer (non-offender) facilitator. In addition to talking about fallacy definitions and examples, as the two previous offender facilitators did, he revisited the first week’s debate aspect of the course. He discussed ways of expounding on the topic of gun control: “Why the U.S. federal government should ban all guns for citizens?” So we divided into opposing groups and worked on devising arguments for both sides (gov. and opposition) in preparation of next week’s debate. At the close of class, it was proposed by a facilitator to come up with another debate topic to argue later.

We threw some ideas out there: Whether we should have automated cars? Whether coffee is better than tea? To those questions, I suggested us providing statistical data to support the arguments we present. The other half (two people) of the government team (my team!) took issue with that and only wanted to practice, electing not to use statistical tools of debate. This confused me because isn’t it possible to practice using statistics. One of the guys advanced the analogy of football practice for not using statistics. But then that would be a fallacy (i.e., “false equivocation”) in itself because football players practice so as not to get injured, whereas using statistics would not result in anyone getting injured (except bruised egos from a loss), especially when the guys who opposed using statistics were on my side of the debate. Go figure. 

I just want to get on to practicing actual debate, with “all” tools of argument and if I make missteps along the way, so be it. At least I’m learning. Ergo, such is my first unofficial debate–against the flawed logic of my own team. LOL!

I can’t wait till next week’s debate, “this time” against the opposing side.

Jacob Gamet
DOC #883302

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