As some of you know, debate has been a big part of my life. I was a nationally competitive debater in high school and college. In the early days of my poker career, I founded and ran a debate league serving the Boston Public Schools. All told, I’ve been involved in competitive debate for over twenty years.
I learned a lot from debate, but one thing that’s been frustrating for me, especially in the last two years, is how useless certain skills seem to be. It turns out that people’s opinions are remarkable resistant to logical refutation. In other words, it’s entirely possible – common, really – to demonstrate irrefutable logical flaws in a person’s reasoning, and have that person shrug and go on believing just as they were before.
However, I remain hopeful, because I know that debate can change minds. That was one of the effects that it had on me, which I describe in this short piece:
I’d learned a bit about folks like Marcus Garvey and the Black Panthers in history class, but to me they represented failed ideas long consigned to the dustbin of history. I knew nothing about Afrocentrism as a contemporary ideology and was completely unprepared to refute the claims that busing stigmatized black schools, put an unfair burden on black students, and disrupted black communities and their culture.