Published on Jan 12, 2019

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The Art of Questioning (Political Edition)

NYC Urban Debate League - www.debate.nyc

Political Edition

  • Examples from "Right," "Left," "Conservative", "Liberal," "Moderate"
  • Not interested in whether they are right or wrong but their tactics in questioning

Historical Politics


Photo by Happy A

Socrates & Socratic Method

  • Socrates - Athenian, Greek Philosopher
  • Socratic Method: To solve a problem, it would be broken down into a series of questions, the answers to which gradually distill the answer a person would seek.

Socratic Method

  • negative method of hypothesis elimination, in that better hypotheses are found by steadily identifying and eliminating those that lead to contradictions. It was designed to force one to examine one's own beliefs and the validity of such beliefs.

Socratic Method

  • "I know that I am intelligent, because I know that I know nothing."
  • Oracle at Delphi story that Socrates was told he is the wisest man which he rejected.

Socratic Method

  • He tested the Oracle by questioning men considered wise. Questioning them, however, Socrates concluded: while each thought he was wise, in fact they knew little. The Oracle was correct; so-called wise men thought themselves wise were not, he himself knew he was not wise at all, which, paradoxically, made him the wiser one since he was the only person aware of his own ignorance

Socratic Method

  • by making foolish all the "wise" leaders of Athens under questioning - he made many enemies.
  • Executed by being forced to drink hemlock.

Socratic Method is foundation of American Legal Education

Modern Politics

Topic - NFL Protest Kneeling during Anthem

  • Texas Senator Candidate, Beto O’Rourke
  • respect of questioner & other side
  • history, storytelling, themes

Donald Trump

  • Making fun of the question
  • Evading the question
  • Criticizing the questioner
  • Playing to the Audience


  • Respectful to questioner (even protects a hostile questioner)
  • Respectful to all sides & seeks to understand all sides for balanced answer
  • Confidence, maintains his cool even when shouting
  • Honest answer
  • Ethos

David Cameron

  • Prime Minister, Great Britain
  • House of Commons Questions
  • Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor
  • Gap year in college he attended Debates at the House of Commons and served as a Researcher
  • Humor, Wit, Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor, Humor

Mr. Rogers v. US Senate

  • Don't have to be loud, yelling, emotional
  • Context - PBS needed funding from US Senate. Republicans not supportive of PBS
  • Don't have to be loud, yelling, emotional
  • Win over the toughest audiences with personal stories
  • Chairman of the CommitteeJohn O. Pastore

Fred Rogers

  • Television personality, musician, puppeteer, writer, producer, and Presbyterian minister.
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom, 40 honorary degrees, Television Hall of Fame, ranked number 35 of the TV Guide's Fifty Greatest Stars of All Time. Peabody Award.
  • Sweater is guarded in the Smithsonian!

Fred Rogers

  • Shy, introverted, bullied, few friends. Spent time alone in room with puppets,
  • "I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there's some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen."
  • Created own show, built props, wrote and did all the songs, acted as himself.
  • Budget of first show: $30.00

But first... Mr. Rogers who?

Ben Shapiro, Conservative Commentator

  • Seven books including 2004's Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth; began writing this book at age 17.
  • editor & founder of the Daily Wire
  • daily podcast & radio show, "Ben Shapiro Show"
  • editor at large for Breitbart News between 2012 and 2016.

Ben Shapiro

  • Controversial views on race, immigration, crime, media, LGBTQ, Palestine & many more
  • demonstrations, marches against him in visits to liberal college campuses (UC Berkeley, UCLA)

Defensive Strategies

  • Catching Non-Arguments (Logical Fallacies)
  • Not getting emotional
  • Avoiding Generalized Statements/Questions. Make them be specific
  • Know your arguments inside and out

Defensive Strategies

  • No need to defend honor. Humility. Humbleness. Stick to points

Offensive Strategies

  • "Snuck Premises" - introducing a contended point as a given
  • Moving Abstract to the Concrete
  • Emphasize conditions under which you would agree with your opponent