An editorial in the CRIMSON November 27, on Faculty coaching of debaters has aroused much opposition at Yale. The Yale News has replied in an editorial and has published communications on the subject from C. U. Clark, a former debater, and Dr. E. V. Raynolds. The communication by Dr. Raynolds was published Monday and Mr. Clark's article was answered in the CRIMSON yesterday by F. Dobyns '98.
The CRIMSON in its editorial did not wish to accuse Yale of a willful "abuse in faculty coaching." But the possibility of "abuse in this direction" is not "a very remote one." The editorial in the News admits that "it is easily possible that there is danger of the debaters getting too much of their argument from their coachers." There is merely a differece of opinion at Harvard and Yale as to how far coaching by faculty members can safely go. Harvard believes that Yale has gone too far; Yale is sure she has not. With these differing opinions the debating conference broke up last year.
But as Mr. Dobyns said yesterday in his communication, Harvard cares little for the past, but desires some definite plans for the future; and she does this from the real fear that, unless some change is made, the faculty will forbid further participation by the students in intercollegiate debates.
The News editorial says: "It is not so much the forensic ability of the individual contestants which figures in these intercollegiate competitions as it is the debating training of the university which they represent." A strange enigma; for it is in "the forensic ability of the individual contestants" that the debating training which a university gives to its members is put to the test. This very fact is a potent reason for insisting that the forensic ability of the individual debaters shall count for all it is worth and not be deprived of its individuality by coaching.
The News further says: "Active assistance from members of the Faculty is here at Yale undoubtedly most valuable training to the debaters. In telligent criticism and pertinent suggestion from faculty coachers are of as much instructive force as safe-guards against misdirected effort in debating as they are in any other field of educational effort. If they are entirely dispensed with the most important side of these intercollegiate contests, the educational side, is seriously impaired." True, Faculty assistance is necessary to the proper training of debaters and is valuable to them in an educational way. The faculty should give its students all the training and assistance in debating posible all through their course. Then when they are trained debaters let the best be chosen for the intercollegiate debates and go it alone. The active assistance should stop there. The educational value of training by the faculty does not consist in providing three debaters with speeches on the subject for the intercollegiate debate.
"Generalship in argument and rebuttal" is indeed a strong factor in deciding a debate; but under the plea that the unaided planning of the generalship in the argument might be misdirected effort, faculty coaches might well arrange the tactics of the debate. The rebuttal speeches are still, fortunately, dependent wholly on the forensic ability of the speakers and are the one thing that saves the debates from being cut-and-dried affairs in which "educational" coaching has rendered the individual ability of the debaters of little account.
Dr. Raynolds urges that, as it can rarely happen that any member of the team will have any thorough knowledge of the subject assigned he must go to some outside source and might as well go to the men who have it at first hand, as to books and magazine articles which they have written. But there is a great difference in the two sources. In getting the information from books the debater displays his own ability in choosing his arguments and arranging them in a logical and forcible way. In getting the information from men he displays rather the ability of the authority whom he consults, and who furnishes him "at first hand" with the most effective arguments already chosen and arranged for him.
The extremely literal application which Dr. Raynolds makes of the CRIMSON'S simile, comparing the coached debater to a chess player whose moves were suggested by an expert at his back, is too far-fetched to call for a reply.
Whether university debating teams should be open to college students only, and so not be university teams at all, is another question entirely which the CRIMSON will discuss later.