... me, I guess. An English professor of mine enjoyed one of my essays so much apparently that she entered me into a contest that is normally reserved for English majors at my school. I did not
win any placements (first place, second place, etc) but I got an accolade from them, and an award of $200 toward tuition/fees. It's not much over-all, I guess, but I'm really proud - since I'm not an English major, and the English department at my school gets very little love. The fact that they gave me any of their budget at all makes me feel warm and fuzzy.
I didn't expect anything back from this, but I let my professor keep a copy because of this. This is also something I submitted as a writing sample to the writing center at my school in an application to become an English tutor... and I was turned down because the sample "was not comparable to other applicants" and could not be judged as better, worse, adequate or inadequate ... due to the unusual voice. I clipped out the header with my name and professor's name and crap, but left in the date it was turned in ...
Since there's no prohibition on publishing it or anything, here's the (really short! Did this really fill up 4 pages?!) essay:
The Fine Art and Precise Science of Debate
It is said among scholarly colleagues and educated friends that an argument is simply a debate that has gotten out of hand. Thus, to the enlightened debater, all arguments are debates, yet not all debates are arguments. The simplest and most common manner of separating the two is the manner in which the debate is observed. If the inexperienced practitioner is stung by a particularly effective point his partner has made, he may hasten to take the point to heart and therefore begin to heatedly argue his own point as opposed to professionally rebutting his partner's point and proceeding to make one of his own. Many an enjoyable debate has been corrupted in this fashion, inspiring this author to make an humble attempt to clarify the difference and to present for the edification of the noble reader examples and strategies of a proper debate.
When one engages in an argument, the topic becomes a personal treasure to the arguer. It is then the focus of emotion and passion. It is not the place of this author to suggest robbing oneself of passion while debating, but it behooves the debater to keep his logic and his passion separate, such that his reasoning remains free from the haze of rage and injury. It is here we begin to see the most pronounced difference between the two for, when all is over save the tallying of points, the poor professional who has allowed his debate to dissolve to argument will often get a sinking feeling, a lurking sense of wrongdoing. A mis-step has been made, and by the time it is realized, the guilty party has far surpassed his chance to rectify matters. The only solution is to learn how to keep one's head even during those heated moments of impassioned and rabid debate.
Keeping a debate civil and proper is not quite as effortless as its most proficient champions might have one believe. In point of fact, the person who has taken a hit from his opponent is hard-pressed not to respond with venom and sarcastic wit. Having interpreted such a setback as a blow to his honor and personal reputation – especially in the case of more public debates, such as those between candidates for public office – the slighted debater loses his clarity of thinking in favor of the lust for retribution. It is then that he begins to falter, and in the discernment of lost honor, the novice will indeed end up making the perceived loss of standing quite real when he goes on to be soundly schooled by his now-smug opponent. All this results from the unhappy circumstance of losing one's focus, one's exactness of purpose, at a crucial and telling moment.
In the moment between when he obtains this feeling and when he opens his mouth to produce his rebuttal, the experienced debater will (in the space of that very moment!) take the time to look on his opponent as one would look upon a fencing partner. Naturally, he is displeased at the blow stuck against him, but it is only a single point in the succession needed for the winning position. The proficient debater will take the ill-humored and sarcastic retorts already bouncing about his bright brain, and he will reform them, shaping them into an appropriate barb laid as carefully as a hunting snare among the logical rhetoric of his rebuttal statement. In this way, the debate continues in a seemly fashion, with words instead of rapiers.
Indeed, the most successful practitioners of this subtle scientific art will understand that it is this so-called rapier wit, these small, ostensibly concealed shards of banter that most amuse and entertain the audience and the judges of such an event. As such, he will not shy away from placing them when the opportunity presents itself, but in the interests of civility, he will not actively seek out corners in which to tuck them. The true gentleman knows the fine line between good-natured repartee and callously rude insults. The gentleman scholar's knowledge of this may not be instinctual but instead may be the result of many hard-learned lessons such as bearing the brunt of the aforementioned callousness, and will seek to avoid it not only out of civility but also out of sympathy.
In all, the purpose of a professional, affable debate is to exercise the minds of those debating and to entertain those watching the debate. Keeping such an affair free of imagined slights and bitter prejudices ensures that the event remains pleasant for all involved, since no audience wants to witness the ugly face of wounded pride. It is best thought of as a play, a Shakespearian affair with two clever characters playing effectively off of each others' words just as their swords delight and enspell the beholder with equally clever choreography. It is important to recall that the person opposite oneself is not, in fact, one's enemy, but instead a teammate. One might, if the Shakespearian analogy is distasteful, envision it instead as like unto a relay race; one passes the baton of debate back and forth and in a relay race as in a debate, it benefits neither party if one of the participants makes the hasty decision to run backwards and retreat into the ease of an argument.
One of the most rewarding results of a mannerly debate such as has been described has nothing to do with the audience, but everything to do with the participants. This reward is quite a private one for, when the participants leave their respective podiums and clasp one another's hands congratulatorily, they take with them a sense of a job well done. They may then feel free to step away from the stage with a feeling of accomplishment and possibly even kinship with their fellow debater. This sense of satisfaction is well worth ignoring any unintended slight, no matter how wounded the participant may temporarily feel. Know that in the end, it will be forgotten, and only an eagerness for the next time will remain.
Meh. Formatting is off, but there you have it.
It's not the best writing I've done, but it is
one of the most-liked things I've written, so I'm pretty proud of it. And it won me money. Yay! *happydance*