[eDebate] Reconnecting debate to the academy-the case of UMKC

Omar G Guevara oguevara
Mon Apr 17 16:43:06 CDT 2006

So, um, I have been spending time away from debate in an effort to balance my perspective on coaching, teaching, advising, and scholarship.  I have not been reading too many edebate posts, not even the ones on Roe v. Wade (1973), which normally would get me all worked up.

But the post from Malcom is devastating (as was the news from Alabama and Oregon). I mean really, really, REALLY devastating. I never knew Linda while I debated, but I had gotten to know her as a colleague when I began directing. Aside from the wonderful NDT she hosted for us, she was always there when I needed to give her ring. She always had time for debate; and her debaters always had time for success :). 

I fear the future, and it angers me: NDT will continue to shrink to less that 50 institutions ( mostly private, wealthy, and East-coast) while the public, financially strapped, and non-East-coast school will be expected to participate in parli, IEs, or nothing at all. Increasingly, I suspect that there is no longer a seat at the table for state universities in the NDT, despite the couple of really good counter-examples that come to mind.

Now of course there will be a litany of folks with funny pen names who will tell you that there really is a pulse underneath the corpse cover, but those are folks at the top of the hierarchy who live in a world of elite round robin competition, fancy hotels, and ubber budgets.  They are out of touch with the central tendency* and drift* of what is left of the "great middle" of the NDT.  In fact it may be the worst type of trained incapacity* for the elites to judge the viability of our community based the success of their unattainable organizational model.  Their voice should be considered, but it should not be allowed to drown out the conversation.

So while our activity burns down, we continue to turn the fire hoses on each other: Endless discussion about identity politics, pointless clash-of-civilization divisions, and national organizations that are sabotaged by the same cancer eating away at constantly shrinking number of participants.  Everyone gets so worked up about a topic about debate, but what is the point of debating a deceased historical oddity?

There is only major political issue on the table folks: What are we going to do to survive?  Everything else is secondary.  We need a structural approach to our crisis that levels the playing field, genuinely includes and awards the participation of lesser funded programs, encourages transparecny in recruiting, and reaffirms our intellectual and academic identity.  Given the backlash from even the mildest of reforms adopted by the NDT committee, maybe it is even time to think beyond the NDT...(although I will say that there are some folks on the Committee who understand the crisis is boiling over, but it is naive to believe that they alone can speak truth to power.)

Good luck UMKC, Oregon, and Alabama.  I know from personal experience how painful it is to watch a debate team die. I hope that a last minute administrative miracle will extend the lives of your debate program.

All my best,


*Thank you Dr. Bernard Brock for teaching me the concepts of "central tendency," "drift," "trained incapacity." I miss you already.
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