Public Forum Debate: Problems and Questions
Wed Aug 12 06:42:34 CDT 1998
WHITNEMR at MORRISVILLE.EDU wrote:
> The "policy":
> By Law XVIII: Public Sphere Debate
> "Preamble: The Cross Examination Debate Association is committed to making
> debate accessible to as many schools and students as possible. Recognizing
> the variety which exists among schools, debaters, program & director goals,
> and resources, as well as the need for an evidence based alternative, CEDA
> will promote the offering of Public Sphere Debate at CEDA tournaments. This
> article will set forth the aspiration of the Association for this type of
> debate in hopes that this statement will promote more intercollegiate debate
> and give guidance to those schools wishing to offer an alternative at their
> intercollegiate tournaments.
> Section 1: Individual tournament directors may modify time limits, designate
> division(s) (e.g., open, junior, novice, etc.), and use the narrow version
> of the CEDA topic or another version of the CEDA topic for Public Sphere Debate.
> Section 2: Individual tournament directors should use as many nontraditional
> judges as possible for Public Sphere Debate.
> Section 3: All rules and/or guidelines for Public Sphere Debate, including
> time limits, topic, divisions, matching procedures, judge assignment
> procedures, the nature of the judging pool, etc. should be made clear in
> the tournament invitation.
Thanks for re-posting this, Mark. It looks like it wasn't my fogged brain after all - these
issues really were just left dangling in the final policy. One of the concerns expressed
while it was being formulated was that current PFD should be permitted under the
PSD bylaw, so I suspect some of the vagueness was deliberately designed to encompass
as much as possible. Unfortunately, the policy appears to accomplish exactly the
opposite by omission and assumption. Specifically:
1) There is no provision whatsoever for points. In this regulatory vacuum, I assume
that the Secretary would compile PSD points by the methods determined elsewhere in
CEDA policies, i.e. 1 point/ballot at a CEDA-sanctioned tournament. If this is the case,
then PSD really is just another division of CEDA.
2) Eligibility is also left dangling. Again, in the absence of specific rules, the sensible
solution would be to apply the existing rules for other CEDA divisions. That means
PSD competition would count against Novice and overall eligibility, so a debater who
does nothing but PSD for two years and then decides to try CEDA would be thrown
directly into Open. The opposite interpretation - that PSD does not count against
eligibility, not only triggers Mark's scenario of dumping aged-out CEDA debaters into
PSD to grab some more points, but also undermines the entire concept of eligibility. In
theory, a 10th-year debater could still be doing PSD for points.
3) One-person formats are not specifically permitted. "Time limits, topic, divisions,
matching, judge assignment, judging pool, etc." doesn't address the issue, either. I
believe the CEDA Constitution calls for 2-person teams, so in fact one-person PFD
formats would be forbidden.
4) Current PFD is specifically excluded. By specifying a version of the CEDA topic, the
bylaw excludes both the scenario-based and the usual limited-evidence versions of
PFD as practiced in the East.
5) Parliamentary formats would be easier to modify for inclusion than current PFD.
APDA and NPDA tournament directors need only pick topics which fall within the
CEDA topic, and their events could be sanctioned as PSDs, since they already use
two-person teams. Nothing wrong with that, but was assimilation of parli the real
6) In its attempt to be inclusive, the bylaw explodes the idea of a "tournament." I'm
particularly concerned about opening up time limits, matching, judging pool and
judge assignment to "anything, as long as you state it in the invitation." Let's carry
this to the extreme it permits: NYU, Columbia, and Queens College decide to host
PSDs. Each round consists of two one-minute constructives and two half-minute
rebuttals on the CEDA topic. The judging pool consists of debaters on the three
schools' squads, pairings and judge assignments are random, and a full tournament
consists of three rounds. 3-judge panels have 30 seconds to fill out ballots at the end of
the round. Since the entire tournament can be held in 15 minutes, we could have
them weekly at the start of each team meeting. Or daily during a summer workshop.
6a) Before anyone says "the scenario in (6) is ridiculous," he should be prepared to
explain how the CEDA Constitution and bylaws specifically prohibit that scenario.
6b) What would motivate someone to do something so silly? Easy - the 15-minute
tournament would be an efficient points factory. A no-budget program could go from
the bottom of the rankings to the top in the course of a week (or a few hours, if the
tournaments were held back-to-back).
6c) The three schools mentioned, as far as I know, have absolutely no intention of
doing such a thing. I haven't patented the idea, though, so others are certainly free to
In summary, it is not clear what format this bylaw allows, but it very clearly disallows
(or forces a wholesale revision of) the pre-existing PFD style. Rather than rushing to
assimilate PFD, it probably would have been better to leave well enough alone for a
couple of years to let the format evolve. In the face of declining numbers, the desire to
take action is understandable, but does not necessarily lead to good policies. As I've
said before in other contexts, the IBM motto is probably a better choice than the Nike
slogan. Don't just do it - think.
So now that we have this policy, what do we do with it? Abort, retry, ignore, or fail?
Alan Dove, Ph.D.
a.dove at erols.com
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