I’m an old debate teacher. I got an “A” in debate in college and I went on to teach high school students debate and to oversee competitive state speech contests.
I specifically recall one of my advanced public speaking classes where we were studying debate. This was in the sixties in a rural community and they chose the subject of abortion before the Roe Vs. Wade decision in 1973. I’m surprised I didn’t get fired for allowing them to debate the subject.
So here were four girls, two for the proposition (what later after Roe V. Wade passed came to be called Pro Choice) and two against the proposition (what later came to be called Pro Life.)
The girls were all friends but they were all seriously engaged in the issue. They gathered all kinds of facts and information for their presentation and collected all kinds of materials from various sources. Of course, we had discussed what were facts and what were good sources to find them. They had card catalogues full of statistics based on news and magazine articles, and excerpts from books by experts on the subject. Since this was before the internet, Wikipedia and other websites were not included. Most of their information came from libraries or from personal stories.
The rural town in which the class took place was known for its large number of premature pregnancies. Though I’m short on facts, I do recall that a lot of girls did drop out of high school when they got pregnant. Here’s my first debate fallacy. I am not supplying accurate numbers. My report is anecdotal.
Anyway, the day came and the girls made their presentations in what turned out to be a very emotional 45 minutes. The pro choice people built up a case using statistics to show how many women had died from illegal abortions and how gruesome some of these stories of how they died had been. Afterwards one of the girls who was pro choice read a graphic story of a woman who had had an illegal abortion and died, and then she rested her case. For the pro life side, their argument was primarily based on the question of when life begins and whether or not a woman can decide this question. There were quotes from all kinds of religious leaders. When the students voted on who won, those on the pro choice side got the most votes. One of the women on the pro life side broke down and cried. My feeling is that she was just so frustrated in her belief that she was right but hadn’t been able to convince her audience with facts and statistics that she was right.
Though today’s times are quite different, the arguments for who is right continues to go on. Some people go for facts and statistics and logic and some people skirt all that in favor of emotions and gut feelings.
In the very mercurial times that face us today, it’s frustrating that some of us are so filled with strong feelings that are based only on how we were raised and the experiences we’ve had and not on a thoughtful exchange of ideas based on good and sound information to help us make better informed decisions.
I’m for examining in detail facts and statistics and taking in to account my own experiences to make my decisions. I think I’m right. Why can’t others see my point of view?????