On a longish flight back from the Midwest, I was next to a brilliant 14-year-old who was working on his translations of the Aeneid in between moments of prepping for a future career in engineering and for his debate team. We don’t have a debate team at USD, but a few of our students have (through holes in the rules that I can’t explain) debated for other schools in the area. One thing we don’t discuss in Continental is how these are the few students who come into the university who can cite Agamben or Derrida or Foucault or critical race theory.
(I’m on the SPEP advocacy commitee the next couple of years so this seems like this would be an area where one could advocate for Continental in a certain way, but I’m not sure how: by putting Continental in touch with debate prep coaches? By leading some of these students into Continental friendly programs?)
In fact, it’s telling that if a student mentions Agamben in particular, I know immediately they’ve had a debate background. Scu, who coaches debate, probably knows much more about this and it’d be nice if he had the time to discuss this. I’m not suggesting that I think all of the arguments being used as they’ve been explained to me would pass professional muster, but one thing that’s happening, as I understand it, is that the Continental approach is mostly used by under-dog teams taking on rich East Coast private high schools. Need to take on realist accounts of nuclear proliferation? Counter with a post-colonial critique of the creation of the global south or a feminist critique of phallo-centrism as represented in the use of missile technology (I’m not making either of these up). Apparently, it throws off the better profile teams used to more standard counterarguments, which seems to match Continental’s role in the academy in general.