Life Raft Debate

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The Life Raft Debate is an annual event that takes place at the University of Montevallo, a liberal arts school in Alabama. At this event the audience is made up of current students who listen to their professors all vying for the last spot on the “life raft”, which is completely theoretical. The point of this exercise is to prove to the students that what they are learning is not useless for Liberal Arts. The forum is a chance for the students to say “make us believe we need you here” (Nancy Updike). The history of the debate goes back about thirteen years ago started by Michael Patton, a Philosophy director, and his philosophy club. The debate is a funny and yet serious idea for students to see the point of their education. Yet, every year, there is a devil’s advocate that tells you to vote for no one. John Smith, the advocate of 2007, presented a very intriguing case. He claimed the debate and the whole idea had gone too far. The teachers strategies were silly and weren’t really relevant to the student’s lives. This debate is supposed to be challenging the students to make a decision and recognize the importance of their education. Smith began his speech by apologizing for making his freshmen students attend. The supposedly serious and intellectual debate has turned into a comedic routine full of gimmicks, merely entertaining the students. I agree completely with Smith, that this debate has lost all meaning. The theoretical factor has been stretched way too far. The students are thinking in a mind-set that prepares them for survival. When the perspective they should be viewing is what type of education they need to survive in the liberal arts world. The problem isn’t the students though, it is the teachers, not being serious but trying to appeal to the students, So instead of challenging the students, as Smith suggests, they are amused by the professors and their outrageous attempts to persuade. Then the students leave the seminar, empty handed, except for a...
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