R: Secession is a State's Right

The subject of secession is often treated with a certain level dismissiveness and disdain. Those who entertain it are viewed as dangerous, while those who endorse it are viewed as outright insane. In 2016, it is simply beyond the pale to discuss secession in any meaningful way. 

Secession is one of the many “Solved Issues” of our time. If you were to bring up the subject in conversation, you might hear this reply: “Didn’t the Civil War resolve this question?” Of course, violence never provides a substantive answer in a debate. It simply ends the debate. And so, the problem of secession remains unresolved. 
But do not despair, for what fun would this life be without unresolved questions? This Thursday at 7:30 pm in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room, the Federalist Party will debate R: Secession is a State’s Right

Those in the Affirmative should consider both the philosophical and historical legacy of secession in the U.S. and beyond. What does it mean to accede to and secede from a government? What implications does secession have for the maintenance of an effective government? How far should the principle of secession be followed? After all, anarchists such as Murray Rothbard have suggested it reaches as far as the individual. Was the American War for Independence really an act of secession? Is it possible (or desirable) to separate the case for secession from the Confederate States of America?  

Those in the Negative must do more than simply highlight the practical difficulties of secession. They too need to answer what it means to accede to a governing institution? Did America secede from the British Empire? What authority did the States have to ratify the Constitution? Are there no rights for aggrieved parties to depart from an arrangement they view as unsatisfactory? Should borders be conceived of as sacred? Is not secession a bulwark against federal tyranny and overreach? Why is a massive country of 320 million people preferable to a collection of smaller, independent states?  

These and many other questions will be addressed at this week’s debate. Hope to see you there!


R: Cemeteries are for the Living

Citizens of the United States for the most part do not live on land their families have owned for hundred of years. They largely do not share the practice sharing the home with multiple generations. Yet they do subscribe to the common conviction that roots matter and that ancestry ought to be recognized. Cemeteries are physical manifestations of this belief. Yet are these resting places belong to those who rest there, or do they have meaning only because of those who visit the graves?

In a larger sense, do burial practices celebrate the dead, or do they exist as a way to bind together the living? Should cemeteries be spaces used as public places, or should the focus rest on private celebration of the dead?

Join us in the newly reupholstered Berkeley Mendenhall Room on Wednesday November 2nd at 7:30 p.m. to debate this and other life and death matters. All are welcome!


R: Public Schools are a Public Menace

The United States guarantee - indeed mandate - that all children receive an education. Public education is free and available to all children, and is dedicated to providing children the basic skills and cultural literacy they need to enter the workforce. Yet education is not merely to teach skills; it is meant to form students as persons. Can state-funded schools act as a force for truth, good, and unity in America? Or does American society, as an amalgam of morals and cultures, bring about inevitable conflict in public education?

Moreover, ought parents cede to the government power over shaping their children's minds and hearts? Or should communities educate children, instilling in them the values held by the community?

Join us to discuss education and related matters on Wednesday October 26th at 7:30 p.m. in the Riggs Study at St. Thomas More. All are welcome!


R: Take the Road More Traveled

Will it make all the difference? Modern society celebrates the individual; it promotes the idea that happiness is the result of choosing an original path. Yet is originality a presupposition to creativity, happiness, and individuality? Or is it the product of synthesizing existing ideas in new ways? 

What is the relationship between originality and objective truth? Can persons make genuinely original decisions while respecting a moral law, or do these norms require uniformity of action and thought?

We will be meeting Friday October 14th at 7:30 p.m. in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room with our alumni to debate originality and related matters. All are welcome!


R: Unite Under a Common Language

The USA is a cultural amalgam; citizens unite under distinctive American traditions even while paying homage to their heritage. Amidst this diversity, language has a unique unifying power both within traditions and across cultures; speaking the language of a community allows for participation in this community, and a common language allows different communities to communicate with one another. 

Although English is predominantly spoken in the United States, the government does not mandate a national language. Should English be designated as the national language of America as a marker of our unity? Should schools, courts, and public institutions use only English? Or should multiple languages be recognized as consistent with our identity as a nation of immigrants?

Please join us this Wednesday October 5th at 7:30 p.m. in the Berkeley Mendenhall Room to discuss an official national language. All are welcome!