Tag Archives: philosophy/religion

A Glossary of Competitive Debate Terms

OK, lastly on this relatively cool morning in Brooklyn, here is a glossary of competitive debate terms that might come in handy if you’re involved in such things.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.


“Classicism (noun): A classical Greek or Roman word or idiom in English, or a term or coinage based on or similar to one from one of the classical languages; classical scholarship, mode or aesthetic ideology based on or allegedly derived from a “classic” epoch. Adjective: classical, classicistic; Noun: classicist; Verb: classicize

‘The artificial facility found vent in his renderings of the Rubaiyat. “Saprous bones,” “somatick atoms,” and aimaterose heart” seem legitimate classicisms; but “methystine lake” requires some explanation as a term for drunkenness.’ Shane Leslie, Introduction to Hadrian the Seventh”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Millions of Angels Dancing on a Pin

“The question of ‘How many angels could dance on a pin’ is often quoted as the essence of medieval scholasticism, a burning issue for the likes of Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas. In fact, although Scotus certainly troubled himself over the question of ‘Can several angels be in the same place?’ there is no mention of dancing on pins until it was raised as a mockery in the seventeenth century by Protestant academics. Still, it’s a question that ought to be answered and if we take an angel to be nor more or less than an atom, then 200,000 could fit in the width of a single human hair. More impressively, neuroscientist Anders Sandberg has come  up with the figure of 8.6766×1049 angels, based on theories of information physics and quantum gravity.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Cultural Literacy: Cupid

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Cupid. This is a half-page worksheet with a five-sentence reading and three comprehension questions. I think this is a relatively well-balanced reading in terms of the amount of content it contains. Whether or not three comprehension questions are sufficient to understand the reading in its fullness is up to you. As this is a Microsoft Word document, you can do with it as you wish.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Dr. Gholdy Muhammad on Education and Social Conditioning

“As we consider classrooms today, educators must be aware that previous social conditioning isn’t just a thing of the past but still manifests today. If a society tells children they aren’t good enough through television, songs, cartoons, or other forms of media, they may still think they aren’t capable of the intellectualism I am describing in the book. Additionally, this is exacerbated when teacher education programs and K-12 classrooms do not explicitly teach Black and Brown excellence. And I’m not just talking about teaching this history during one month of the school year–this excellence needs to be embedded in the culture and fabric of the school. Culture, race, and cultural responsiveness cannot be packaged in a program or restricted time frame….”

Excerpted from: Muhammad, Dr. Gholdy. Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy. New York: Scholastic, 2020.

E.M. Cioran on the History of Ideas

“The history of ideas is the history of the grudges of solitary men.”

E.M. Cioran

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: Plume, 1992.

The Toulmin Method of Argumentation

Ehninger and Brockreide introduced debaters to the informal logical model of Stephen Toulmin, a British philosopher of science. Now almost every modern debate text uses the Toulmin Model as the method of teaching argument. Toulmin first explained this model in his 1958 book The Uses of Argument.

Toulmin argued that every argument (if it deserves to be called an argument) must consist of three elements: data, warrant, and claim.

The claim answers the question ‘What are you trying to get me to believe?’—it is the ending belief. Consider the following unit of proof: ‘Uninsured Americans are going without needed medical care because they are unable to afford it. Because access to health care is a basic right, the United States should establish a system of national health insurance.’ The claim in this argument is that “the United States should establish a system of national health insurance.”

Data (sometimes also called evidence) answers the question ‘What have we got to go on?’—it is the beginning belief. In the foregoing example of a unit of proof, the data is the statement that ‘uninsured Americans are going without needed medical care because they are unable to afford it.’ In the context of a debate round, a debater would be expected to offer statistics or an authoritative quotation to establish the trustworthiness of this data.

Warrant answers the question ‘How does that data lead to the claim?’—it is the connector between the beginning belief and the ending belief. In the unit of proof about health care, the warrant is the statement that ‘access to health care is a basic human right.’ A debater would be expected to offer some support for this warrant. Such support might come from the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, from the preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, or by quoting a statement from a health care expert.

The most common argumentative inadequacy is the unwarranted claim—a debater merely makes a claim without attempting any type of support without attempting any type of support. Suppose a debater attacks the national health insurance proposal by declaring that ‘the cost of a national health insurance system would cause  the U.S. deficit to skyrocket.’ This is a claim, but it is not an argument because there is neither data nor warrant.

Sometimes a debater will offer data and claim but omit the warrant. Suppose the debater reads evidence that the U.S deficit now stands at $8.9 trillion and then makes the claim that ‘the cost of a national health insurance system would cause the U.S. deficit to skyrocket.’ Now that statement has data and claim, but the warrant is mission—there is nothing connecting the current sizable U.S. deficit to a claim that national health insurance will make this deficit substantially worse. Accordingly, the statement does not meet the definition of an argument.

Occasionally, a debater will present data without offering either a warrant or a claim–the debater simply presents an ‘interesting fact.’ Suppose in our national health insurance debate, a student reads a piece of evidence showing that Hillary Clinton, when she was first lady, proposed national health insurance in 1994. This data may well be accurate, but it doesn’t lead anywhere. There is no argument unless the data is connected to a claim through a warrant.”

Excerpted from: Edwards, Richard E. PhD. Competitive Debate: The Official Guide. New York: Penguin, 2008.

Creation Myths

“Creation Myths: Traditional stories that attempt to explain the origin of the world. The earliest known myth of the creation is from Sumer of the third millennium BC. First was the goddess Nammu, the primeval sea; she gave birth to An, the sky god, and Ki, the earth god—earth and sky, both solid elements, being joined together. Their offspring, Enlil, the god of air, separated them. He lighted the his realm by begetting Nanna, the moon god, who in turn father Utu, the sun god. Enlil next impregnated Ki, who gave birth to Enki, the god of water and of wisdom. Enki ordered the universe but was unable to create man—a task that the goddess Nintu accomplished by molding him of clay.

In the Babylonian creation myth of the War of the Gods (Enuma elish), Marduk forms man out of the blood and bones of Kingu, a henchman of the defeated Tiamat, An Egyptian belief was that the original sun god, Atum, standing on a mound in the midst of the slowly receding primeval waters, gave birth parthenogenetically to the other gods and to those parts of the universe that they embodied. According to the familiar biblical story, in the first chapter of Genesis, the universe and man were created by Yahweh in seven days, beginning with light and ending with man and woman. In the second chapter appears a variation on the creation of man, which is older and closer to a folk tale: woman is created of a rib detached from Adam while he sleeps. Christian theology added that the son and the holy ghost existed with Yahweh from before the creation. The Eastern branch of the church, however, denied that Jesus had existed from the beginning and the resulting filioque controversy was the ostensible cause of the split between Eastern and Western churches in 1054.

The first Greek description of creation, in the Theogony, attribute to Hesiod, seems to have been a theological elaboration of a genuine myth. First ot exist what Chaos, from which came Earth, Tartarus, Love, Darkness, and Night. Night and Darkness gave birth to Day and the upper air (Aether). Earth parthenogenetically produced Heaven, Mountains, and Sea. After this prelude, the Hesiodic version proceeds with nearly universal mythic elements, which are probably far older. Uniting with Heaven (Uranus), Earth (Ge) gave birth to Oceanus and the Titans. The last of these was Cronos, who overthrew and emasculated his father, only to be supplanted in turn by his son Zeus (see KUMARBI). A highly artificial myth current in the doctrines of Orphism claimed that Chaos, Night, and Darkness existed at the beginning; Love (Eros) sprang from an egg laid by Night and gave birth to the other gods. The creation of human beings seems not to have interested the Greeks very deeply; of various versions, the most prominent made Prometheus their creator—he having molded them of clay.

In Vedic mythology, creation began with Aditi, celestial space. Sky and Earth were sometimes regarded as the first goddesses, sometimes as the original male and female elements, which are known to so many other mythologies; later the sky was personified as Varuna. The first man was Manu; his daughter-mate Ida was born of the food that he offered as a sacrifice to Vishnu in gratitude for being saved from the flood.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

Cultural Literacy: Crusades

Here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the Crusades. This is a half-page worksheet with a five-sentence reading and three comprehension questions. While it is a good general introduction to a complex series of events whose legacy remains very much with us today, it is obviously inadequate to the topic. Because, like almost everything else available for download at Mark’s Text Terminal, this is a Microsoft Word document, it can (and certainly should, in my estimation) be altered for the needs of your students.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

A Russian Proverb on Education

“Education is light, lack of it darkness.”

Russian Proverb

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.