Sarah Downey Photograph


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Debate Class

February 22, 2007   I had an extra half credit from doing orchestra my freshman year, and I decided to fill the other half by taking two oral communication classes this semester.  In general, students can earn half and quarter credits by participating in music- and arts-related activities, like music groups or private lessons or theater, but oral communications classes also award the same amount of credit.  I figured that a background in argumentation and debate would help me in law school, so I signed up without really knowing what to expect.  The class, taught by Professor Helmer, has been great so far.

We had a bit of an introduction to the structure of a debate and lines of reasoning commonly used in arguments before we got into the actual debating.  All the students submitted propositions we'd like to debate, and our professor selected a few from each of us.  Then we voted on which topics we'd most like to discuss, and the assignments came from our selections.  My first topic, which I LOVED, was on video game violence.  My partner and I had to argue that video game violence does not lead to real-life violence (which it DOESN'T, and I can DROWN you in supporting evidence if you'd like).  This is actually a big issue in the media and legal worlds-- games like Grand Theft Auto and Doom, which feature what some call gratuitous violence, have been blamed for violent acts like the Columbine shootings.  And as a result, many legislators are trying to limit the advertisement and sale of the M-rated games.  It's a complex issue, but I loved doing all the research for it.  I play a lot of video games, so it's definitely a personally relevant issue.

After we debated in class, we had to go to the Oral Communication Lab (OCL) and watch a video of ourselves debating with a peer counselor.  We then had to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of our presentation.  It's certainly uncomfortable at first to watch yourself speaking, but you do learn a lot about the things you're good at and the places you can improve.

My second topic concerns social networking websites like Facebook and Myspace:  should employers be able to use the personal information found on these sites when they're considering applicants for hire?  Luckily I was assigned to argue the side I passionately agree with for both of my debates, which facilitates the entire process.  In this case, I do not think that they should.  There's a clear separation between work behavior and personal behavior, and employers shouldn't be able to cross this line when workers can't.  I don't want to divulge too much on this site in case my opponents try to pull an employer move and see what they're up against, so I'm not going to talk about it anymore... although I'll do so after the debate is over because the thought of someone checking out my facebook account and weighing it as strongly as my resume is REALLY disturbing.  I mean, I have pictures of me on facebook flexing while wearing little kid's batman glasses, and lifting very seriously while wearing stupid 80s clothing, and camping out outside of Target at 4 AM to get a Wii.  I probably wouldn't put those things on a resume.  And in addition, I look completely trashed in literally every picture I have up there, even though that's actually my state in about 2% of them.  I think our generation just has a way of photographing like we're constantly drunk; it's the poses we do.  Do I want potential employers seeing that?  Only if they have a sense of humor, but I'd have no idea if they do.  In summary:  the possibility sketches me out.