Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Defining Session

I walked into class today after a relatively mundane morning in the dorms.  I was terribly tired for a reason that I did not know, so for most of the morning, I lied in bed on my phone or read by book.  So as I walked to Ives Hall, I didn't expect there to be much of a change in the class's structure.  Based on what I've seen in the past two days, I expected that  we would all gather up, talk briefly about philosophers, go into a mini-lecuture on debate and rhetoric, then go into a debate.  I wasn't right, but I wasn't wrong either.

The class started mulling in around 12:25 and Dr. Sharkey arrived at about 12:30.  I assumed Dr. Sharkey to place his signature green bag on the table close to the chalkboard, then go into the three pre-speech exercises.  What he did instead was place himself in the middle of the seating arrangement, as if he was a student.  Right after he sat down, my friend and classmate Emmanuel stood up and started to walk away from his seat.  Again, I assumed that he was going to get some air or get some water.  What he did instead was go up to the front of the class and pretend like he was Dr. Sharkey, lecturing about the lesson we just read in the book and stating that Ireland had the best philosophers, a nod to Dr. Sharkey's home country.  Emmanuel led the class, along with the help of Dr. Sharkey and Austin, the TA, writing on the chalkboard and communicating with the students.  If a student walked in, Emmanuel would say, "You're late!  Tell me a component of this."  The student wouldn't even be late either, just adding to the hilarity of it all.  Everyone got a good kick out of the little stint and we were all very productive at the same time.

The point of emphasis during the lecture was how to structure an argument based on Toulman's Model.  Toulman's Model basically states that an argument is comprised of four components; a warrant, data, a claim, and intent.  These four parts help categorize and argument and the very basis of an argument can be broken down into these four pieces.  Understanding this concept was a little difficult so in order for the class to grasp an understanding, Dr. Sharkey threw out various real-world examples.  With these topics, the class discussed and analyzed given information in the context of Toulman's model and tried to structure a logical argument out of them.

At one point, Dr. Sharkey asked anyone if they had suggestions on another possible topic.  I raised my hand and made the claim that "American football would be obsolete in 50 years," a line that I heard on a sports talk radio show.  I listed the reasons that the talk show provided, which were 1) it's dangerous, 2) there are more and 3) there are more head injuries, and less kids are playing.  As a class, we discussed these three topics and broke them down into sub-claims to connect it to a larger claim.  After a bit of discussion, Dr. Sharkey announced we would have a debate on the subject.  The official notion was whether or not to "Ban professional American football."  He asked who wanted to debate and I, along with five others, raised their hands.  

I went against the notion that football wouldn't be banned.  I gathered with my colleagues who agreed with me (unfortunately I do not remember their names because I am absolutely atrocious with names unless I hear them a thousand times over) and we discussed how we could attack the proposition.  We came from an economic and a cultural standpoint, saying that football made too much money, provided too many jobs, and did too great a job of uniting and defining people.  We spent 15 minutes in isolation and along with the help of Austin, we developed a case against the notion.  I spoke in terms of the economics and although I was nervous, I believe that I did relatively well for a first speech.  Students on the opposing side tried to refute my arguments, but I attacked them with strong rebuttals, which boosted my confidence.  Following my speech, I sat down and listened to the  outstanding arguments prepared by my fellow students.  Somewhere during the speech, a member of my team uttered that people should be able to pursue happiness, as said in the Declaration of Independence.  Then, someone on the opposing side mentioned that the Pursuit of Happiness turned into a Trail of Tears, to which the entire class started cracking up.  I laughed hysterically and started pounding my fist on my desk it was so funny!  The debate ended in a tie, but it was done incredibly well on both sides so it would have been difficult to crown a winner.

The rest of my day was dedicated to studying and reading my textbook.  I ate dinner with the Cornell cohort for the first time in what seemed like an eternity.  Tagging along with us were Nick, Joseph, and Reese, a couple students from various programs.  Together, we all engaged in conversation about our day and our classes.  Throw in a bunch of laughs and smiles and it was the formula for a great dinner.  We met up with Mr. Chan-Law in from of the RPCC building around 7:15 to with Julie a Happy Birthday.  We gave her a card that we all signed and I think she was really happy to see it!  I was carrying some laundry detergent that Shanti gave me and we joked around, saying "Here's your gift!" and presenting her with the detergent.  Following the little get together, I participated in frisbee and volleyball, as per usual, then called it a night.  

The Cornell Squadron

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