PPD -- more on which topic
Thu Oct 16 14:53:27 CDT 1997
Argumentation and Debating, by William Trufan Foster, PhD., LL.D, of Reed
College, copyright 1917:
"was used as a textbook from 1908 to 1917 in more than 100 universities
Quotes John Stuart Mill's Autobiography: "I have always dated from these
conversations [discussions in a debating society] my own inauguration as
an original and independent thinker."
"Let us not be surprised, however, if the study of the principles of
argumentation . . . seems dry without the prospect of actual debate. . . .
formal debate may succeed, for it has the fascination of a game. . . . The
great superiority of debating lies in the fact that it adds to these
elements of the absorbing interest in athletics those educational values
which prepare directly for the highest type of citizenship."
In his discussion of what topics should be used, he argues that, "Subjects
chosen for the first practice should be within the range of the
[debaters'] information and experience." He has an appendix with 48
examples of these, most of which are basic college campus issues.
Why is this important? Because the point is that one can easily more
easily introduce students to the method of debating if one starts without
unnecessary impediments. For novices, at home, the national topic may not
be relevent until after the first practice round or two. My wife finds
that her first graders take to debate quite naturally and quite well on
topics like, "Resolved, that we should not have recess today." The PROCESS
of laying out the arguments on both sides and then arguing about which
have greater merit elicits low probability high impact disads (someone
could get injured) and counterplans (we could go out for longer on days
when the weather is better), etc. One debate like that, taking 45 minutes
at most, whets the appetite for more.
Meanwhile, I have found the SEA Sec Ass topic to be a very difficult
vehicle for teaching our novices.
Where all of this intersects the PPD format question is in bringing to
light the different views of whom it might be for. People's reaction to
topic choice are dependent on their assumptions about what they would do
with PPD at their school, as well as on speculation about competitive
fears of point grabbing by "BORGS".
I suggest we need to have a vision of what PPD can become and should
become for everyone, and that there are several relevant points to
1) We're talking about one-day, primarily regional events sometimes
overlaid onto existing tournaments, other times not.
2) Some BORG debaters could usefully experience debate in front of a
3) Many, many non-BORG people are cut off from the policy debate
4) For the BORGERS with research experience the work for a foray into
public policy debate would not need to be onerous.
5) For the public policy debater or program that is enticed to do some
BORGISH debate, the switch to the national CEDA topic is less onerous than
the fact that they are switching to the high quantity of research, high
speed, technically esoteric activity.
6) Judges would be easier to attract were the topic not some arcane thing
like security assistance to Brunei.
7) To help promote policy debate's value it may be best to debate issues
like school vouchers that have local and national interest. Or campaign
finance reform. Or the fast track. Or, every fourth fall, which
Presidential candidate should be elected. Or a flat tax. Or affirmative
action. Or immigration. Even Global Warming. There is no shortage of good
8) The topics just listed would be easy for me to coach, even if I were
coaching another topic for my BORGISH types.
Wake Forest University Debate
Box 7324 Reynolda Station
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
More information about the Mailman