by David Hermanson, Staff Writer, November 2021
If you’re a
smarmy little brat rapscallion who enjoys engaging in heated arguments with your friends and family, you’re definitely going to fit into the Ethics and Debate Club scene at Nobles. Whether you’re coming in with already developed argumentative skills or you are looking to expand your ability to annoy everyone in class discussions, Ethics and Debate both serve as viable options to achieve all of these goals and more. After all, if you intend to pursue a meaningful life in which others listen to your words, learning to disagree well is an important skill to hone. But what is the difference between the two? Which club is the most useful? Which is the most fun? The answer is clear: Debate is dog water and Ethics reigns supreme.
It’s important to begin by defining the focus and structure of both clubs. While issues in Debate are generally focused on parliamentary topics, with some notable exceptions, in Ethics, issues—or cases—arise from disputes that involve societal or personal values. Most often, Ethics is focused on fundamental rights society has agreed upon and how they are effectively balanced with each other. (One example of this would be balancing peoples the right to individual autonomy vs. peoples responsibilities for others.) In a sentence: Ethics Club is concerned with arguing morality, or what is genuinely right, whereas Debate is (mostly) focused on politics.
But why is Ethics better?
First of all, ethics is everywhere. The decisions you make in everyday life, the political views you hold regarding foriegn or domestic policy, and even the way you speak to your teachers or friends are all related to ethics. Have you ever talked to your parents? Ethics. Tried to negotiate a retake on a test with a teacher? Ethics. Had to hide the fact that you~may~have peaked at some notes during an assessment during virtual learning? Ethics again. By training at Ethics Club, students learn to formulate a personal moral code that they can use to streamline their decision-making and better judge their own and others’ actions.
By teaching you how to discern what is right and wrong according to your own personal values, Ethics allows you to approach your life with a system pre-built so that you can justify nearly every decision you make. Though, at times everyone makes mistakes and there are some notable exceptions. (I am looking at you Lindsay. It was not ethical for you to flame me in that email to the club because YOU didn’t check I had shared the plans with you already.)
In addition, Ethics Club is more realistic and accessible than Debate in that it is less pretentious and has many less strict rules, making it more alike that of a conversation you would have with another person. While many enjoy the silly titles and terms so prominent in the Debate Club, in Ethics, disagreements are navigated in a much more normal manner. Opposing teams will generally address each other with their first names, rather than by using disembodied terms such as “The opposition.”
Adding on to this, ethics is much less strict with rules regarding engagement. Take, for example, rules regarding the use of available time. While in Debate you’ll be doxxed at least a trillion points for not using all of the precious minutes allocated to you, in Ethics, there is value in being concise. There is no need to desperately reiterate points before you can get to the oh-so-beautiuful crux of the discussion.
Following this idea of realism and accessibility, Ethics attempts to found its arguments on easily understood terms and ideas (with some exceptions) whereas success in Debate often relies on prerequisite knowledge of current events and specific issues that may catch individuals off guard. This forced lack of preparation for debate makes it unlike that of a real conversation one might have with another where you understand the topic at hand.
Yet, as much as it may pain me, bashing Debate Club is unhelpful for the general cause of forwarding proper argumentation within the school. Jokes aside, even as one of several leaders of the Ethics Club, I will admit that I have actually enjoyed participating in some novice debates and I also plan on attending a Model United Nations (MUN) conference before my time is up here at the school. In the end, both Debate and Ethics deserve their space at school as a means to teach students the art of rhetoric.