I’ve had such good response to the post I wrote on the #instruarch debate at TAG (here) that I think I should lay out what I think would work to get real debate. Who knows, it may spark to post here more frequently.
A lot of people have come back to me with further thoughts about the debate we just had “This house believes that archaeology should NOT be instrumentalised.” (though no one has come back to me in favour of the motion yet :)). With next year’s TAG theme being Diversity I hope there will be a lot of different engagements with communities of all sorts. In particular the suggestion that sessions discussing people ‘outside archaeology’ should include people speaking from that position. That would need funding as you can’t expect people to speak for free when they get no career advancement from it. A few people have suggested we can crowd fund such a session and I hope that we can make that happen.
But I think that archaeologists need to practice debating important issues within the profession/discipline as well. There are far too many assumed consensuses that need to be examined properly. Not so that we can reach an agreed position, but so that we can explore the diversity of our understanding.
Another frequent comment was about the format. There need to be fewer formal speakers and more discussion from the floor. Speakers need to sit at the front throughout so that questions can go to them. The session needs to be shorter so that people don’t get so tired.
So I propose to organise for next years TAG a debate on the following model. Although it sounds very formal, it can be very entertaining and it ensures that many voices are hear and the debate moves forward.
- The session will be half day. The chair (or Speaker of the House) will monitor time strictly. No speaker will be allowed to speak more than 30 seconds over their agreed time.
- There will be four formal speakers – two for the motion and two against and one chairperson (or Speaker of the House). The speakers for each side will have prepared together before the debate and while they may make independent arguments, they should support each other. The four speakers will be speaking sincerely – they will not be Devil’s Advocates.
- The first speaker for the motion will open the debate with a 15 minute speech in which the main terms of the motion will be defined. Other speakers will follow these definitions unless they explicitly challenge them. The first speaker will also make a substantive argument for the motion. This will, of course, be supported with evidence from their research and experience in archaeology, and can use slides, but it will not be primarily based on case studies.
- The first speaker against the motion will speak for 15 minutes directly after the above. If this speech does not challenge the definitions in the first speech, those definitions stand for the debate. Again, while evidence can and should be brought to bear, the speech should be based in argument and should directly refute the first speech.
- The debate will then be opened to the floor.
- Speeches from the floor will be addressed through the Speaker of the House who will moderate their sequence.
- Speakers will signal their desire to speak by holding up a coloured card: green, in favour; red, against; white, cross benches (either speaking to find points of agreement or querying whether the motion is really a valid topic for debate).
- Speakers from the floor are welcome to prepare points beforehand, and bring evidence (though not slides), but they should be prepared to follow the definitions presented.
- No speech from the floor will be more than 5 minutes, the Speaker of the House may cut a speech short if she or he deems it time wasting or inappropriate.
- The Speaker of the House may invite a speech from the same participant more than once, but follow on speeches or discussion between speakers will not be entertained.
- Speeches from the floor will continue until tea break
- After Tea Break, the Speaker of the House will give a 10 minute summary of the debate thus far.
- This will be followed by a 10 minute speech from the second speaker in favour of the motion.
- Once again, the debate will be opened to the floor.
- At the end of the session the second formal speaker against the motion will speak for 15 minutes followed by a 5 minute rebuttal by the first speaker in favour of the motion (the speaker who opened the debate)
- After these speeches, the house will divide using the coloured cards as described above.
The standard of behaviour should *significantly* exceed that in the House of Commons. The Speaker of the House will ask anyone to leave that engages in:
- Ad Hominen remarks of any sort
- language or argument that excludes or belittles anyone based on race, gender, class, sexual orientation or age.
The motion I propose for debate is “This House believes that Archaeological Resources are finite, and non renewable”
Anyone who would like to speak for or against the motion, or indeed to act as Speaker of the House, please do get in touch