THURSDAY, OCTOBER 14, 2010

Rosa Stoops--Foreign Languages
Kimberly Barrett
--Higher Education
Dan Deffenbaugh--Interdisciplinary Studies
Glee Whitsett--Elementary & Secondary Education
S
tephanie Batkie--Medieval Literature

Benton Tyler--Mathematics
Michelle Duran--Devil's Advocate

MC: Michael Patton

And the Oar goes to…

Dr. Stephanie Batkie!

Yes, Stephanie’s impassioned insistence that Medieval Literature was completely useless and irrelevant to survival somehow won over the audience and she received the Lion’s share of the 520 votes cast!

Here’s a brief summary of how it all came about: Last year’s champion, Benton Tyler (Mathematics), started us off with an eerily Jim Jones-like appeal to kill ourselves by getting into the water. To be fair, he was arguing that the entire choice posed by the Debate was flawed and out to be rejected by the crowd, but who wants to be fair—to me, it was just another charismatic cult leader getting suicidal with his followers.

Next up was Glee Whitsett (Elementary and Secondary Education). After barking out some orders to the moderator (yours truly) through her bullhorn, she extolled the ability of her field to educate the future generations in any content area whatsoever. Obviously wanting to avoid the tricky question of where the content would come from, she then launched into a spirited (and wonderful) musical number to the tune of the Jackson Five’s ABC, 123. She had a trio of dancers behind her and the four of them, all wearing Glee t-shirts, got the crowd rocking.

After that, the debate became a bit more serious as Vacca Professor Dan Deffenbaugh (Interdisciplinary Studies) argued that over-specialization had been the downfall of every great civilization according to some German guy named Hegel. He made a comparison between a person with disciplinary expertise and a person who exclusively worked out on a bicep machine at the gym. Such a person might end up with great pythons, as it were, but they’d still have scrawny legs. Speaking in defense of overall fitness and physique, Dan rejected the idea of a master discipline, opting instead for interdisciplinary studies. By doing so, Dan brought the number of people rejecting the entire life raft concept this year to two.

Rosa Stoops (Foreign Languages) followed Dan, arguing both that the mastery of multiple languages led to better cognitive processing and memory and that the life raft was likely to be occupied by a diverse group of people who, in all likelihood, do not share a common tongue. She also pointed out that many of the world’s problems are caused by the failure of our respective governments to communicate with each other. A knowledge of foreign languages could help us close these gaps, ease world tensions and forestall another such catastrophe.

Which brings us to Stephanie Batkie (Medieval Literature) As I mentioned before, Stephanie exulted in the uselessness of her discipline. She went on, however, to point out that after the horrors that awaited us at the end of every day in the post-apocalyptic hellscape we were about to go inhabit, we would want nothing more than to sit around the old corpse fire and listen to distracting tales of gore and heraldry like Beowulf or to hear some bawdy poetry from Chaucer and the like. Claiming to be uniquely qualified to distract and entertain us, Stephanie went on to warn us of letting one of the other panelists win, since they would apparently stride around camp barking out orders about how to remake the world in their images.

After Stephanie’s performance, Kimberly Barrett (Higher Education) started with an argument that it was the mathematician’s fault that we had come to this awful point—after all, although Benton only mentioned math making alarm clocks possible, it was also the mathematicians that made it possible for us to make nuclear bombs and the other mechanisms of war. She then went on to join Benton and Dan in making an argument that rejected the very idea that one discipline should take precedence over the others. After showing that the crowd already contained many speakers of foreign languages and all manner of majors, she argued that we needed an expert in higher education rather than any narrowly-trained academic. Dr. Barrett also gave out “Barrett Bucks” to the audience, which were good for unlimited free education in the new world if she were to be chosen or for a free beverage at Jazzman’s the day after the debate.

Finally, the Devil’s Advocate (Michelle Duran) appeared on the scene and beseeched the audience to let all the panelists drown. Giving a presentation that was at times pointed, at times funny, at times a bit confusing and at times, quite frankly, kind of blue, she argued that since she was already going to get five of the six panelists, all she was asking the audience for was one more soul.

At this point, time had more than elapsed and the moderator was forced pull the Devil’s Advocate from the stage with a shepherd’s crook. The panelists each gave one last plea to the audience, the votes were cast, Dr. Batkie was pulled aboard the raft, given the coveted Oar, and she and the audience set sail for New Jerusalem. The rest of the panel bickered among themselves until they slipped beneath the waves, to find eternal repose in the briny deep. Thanks to everyone who participated or followed the debate on twitter. This year’s crowd consisted of at least 650 people, and it couldn’t happen without all of you. For more information, including the detailed and funny live Twitter Feed and pictures, go to www.liferftdebate.com.

The video will be available there soon. And don’t forget, the countdown has already begun for the next debate!