Editor's note: For the fourth year, Cap Times reporters have asked several Madisonians to share "bright ideas" they have for the coming year. We will publish the 2017 edition of Bright Ideas throughout the next week.
During the 2016 election, we saw false facts, polarized discussion and anti-intellectualism become a core component of American politics. Wisconsin has a multitude of voices, from Sheldon to Milwaukee, and each represents an important constituent who deserves to be represented. A robust university debate team committed to statewide outreach has never been more necessary.
As the director and assistant director of debate at UW-Madison, we have big ideas for 2017: To solidify and build UW-Madison’s competitive program, reinforce high school debate participation and enhance inter-community political discourse through public debates.
UW-Madison had one of the first intercollegiate debate teams, dating back to the late 1800’s, but hasn’t fielded a team in many decades. High school coaches have noted a corresponding decline in involvement; without a university program to encourage participation, policy debate in Wisconsin is dying. Debate teaches invaluable skills including research, the ability to advocate for yourself and others, and most importantly, how to accept and understand when you are wrong about all of it.
No matter how good an idea is, it is never perfect. In defending those imperfections, debaters develop humility and learn to use nuance to find common ground. If this election season taught us anything, it is our communal need to incorporate new knowledge and be reflexive about our politics.
Pushing beyond the walls of the university, we believe public debates should contextualize national issues to Wisconsin. By exemplifying media literacy and strong research practices, we aim to raise the standard of political dialogue across the ideological spectrum.