Triangle Shirtwaste Fire Debate

<iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/21610505?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0" width="400" height="300" frameborder="0"></iframe><p><a href="">Debate: Are Consumers Responsible for Poor Labor Conditions?</a> from <a href="http://vimeo.com/user1253612">Steve Llano</a> on <a href="http://vimeo.com">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Last Friday the St. John's University Debate Society participated in a public debate as a part of the events commemorating the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaste Fire in New York City. 

This fire was the largest disaster in New York City history until September 11, 2001. It was caused by poor fire escapes and unsafe conditions for the workers.

We participated by having a debate on the motion "Consumers should be held accountable for the harms caused by products made in unsafe working conditions."  

I thought the debate would be pretty good, but I wasn't really prepared for how good it turned out. It's quite a good debate for the public audience. Administrators, faculty, and staff of the University attended. 

I'm really proud of this sort of thing as it gives me some hope that teaching a purely competitive (eristic) debate program is not a foregone conclusion. You can teach a highly competitive mode of engagement and still be able to attend to the most crucial things such as audience adaptation, wording, rate of delivery and other considerations that are at the heart of winning. 

The lacunae we carry with us from the Roman rhetorical tradition that informs so much of our students' assumptions about rhetorical literacy is one of homogeneity and implicit agreement on national values. Nothing shatters this illusion quite as painfully and effectively as having contest debaters engage audiences of varying types, but the most difficult and the most pedagogically valuable is the audience of University administrators and staff.  

How did we do in our techne of adaptation?