Collegiate debaters discuss quality of “American Life Standard”
International businesswoman and writer Margaret Heffernan once said that “for good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” UC Davis students are stepping up to the challenge.
The Davis Rational Ethical Debates and Discussions club (DREDD), an offshoot of the Undergraduate Philosophy Club, held its first two-part debate this year on the theme of the “American Life Standard.”
The debate, which took place in the library of the Philosophy Department building Monday at noon, featured five political student organizations that debated and answered questions on the structuring, limitations and importance of the current education system and citizen safety.
The featured organizations included Davis College Republicans, Davis Democratic Socialists, Berkeley Students for Liberty, The International Young and Students for Social Equality at UC Davis (IYSSE) and the Diablo Valley Anarchists.
According to Arjang Baroumand, fourth-year philosophy major and president of DREDD, the club was formed in 2013 as a branch of the Undergraduate Philosophy Club but now focuses primarily on ethical debates.
“The main focus of our club is the ethical boundaries which surround different issues impacting society,” Baroumand said. “Most traditional debate clubs focus more on policy-making and risk-assessment, which isn’t our focus. Our focus is more on ‘right vs. wrong,’ ‘what is right,’ ‘will people be hurt by this and why?’”
Baroumand wants to give a voice to perspectives which are either ignored or not noticed. He believes that debates tend to bring out variables of thought that people often miss because they look at blanket statements.
In the first segment of the debate, a spokesperson from each organization had 12 minutes to tackle questions on various aspects of safety, war and privacy in the U.S., such as the militarization of police forces, the proposed policy for police officers to carry cameras while on duty and the extent the government can intercede in citizen privacy.
Sara Merson of the Davis College Republicans began the debate denouncing the proposition for police officers wearing cameras as a violation of privacy and instead suggested amending the hiring process of law enforcement.
“We are endowed with rights in terms of due process, the right to have to abide by only warrant searches and the right to a lawyer, and something like this contradicts those fundamental rights,” Merson said.
James Kreidler of the Davis Democratic Socialists agreed and rejected the notion of militarizing police forces in order to better enforce security.
“I do not believe in a militarized police force as an avenue towards total security,” Kreidler said. “I also do not believe surveillance with cameras is a solution as transparency with cameras has proven not to thwart police actions.”
In the second segment, the debaters were allotted another 12 minutes to present their respective group’s opinion on “Common Core” standards in education, government spending on higher performing schools and alterations to the current education system.
“The top-down education system mainly exists to serve the function of instilling hierarchic values in little children,” Nicholas Larsen, spokesman of The Diablo Valley Anarchists, said. “That is something that is unnecessary and is designed to kill creativity.”
Larsen advocated for a bottom-up system approach and a community-built education institution as a pose to government-mandated public school.
Evan Blake, debater for the IYSSE, agreed that necessary changes were needed to amend and reevaluate our current education system.
“Common core is being used like Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top to scapegoat educators for classroom problems which have their roots in decades of cutbacks and the staggering levels of poverty among public school students,” Blake said.
After segment two, the debaters and audience members joined in a 15-minute group discussion and question-and-answer session to conclude the debate.
Next quarter, the UC Davis Debate Team, which focuses mostly on policy making, and DREDD are hosting a debate tournament with half of the teams being academic organizations and the other half being political organizations. The debate on Monday was a prequel to this upcoming debate.
“My hope is that the audience and especially students present at these debates will be able to deduce their own answers based on the responses and perspectives given at the debate,” Baroumand said. “The debate would serve as a buffet of ideas for the audience members present to pick out from, with the ideas being the meal-pieces.”
Graphic by Jennifer Wu.