[eDebate] Jackie/Josh -- Topics and community

Jason Russell jasonlrussell1
Sun Jun 11 15:54:27 CDT 2006

I like these guys. They fight all of the time, which is a little goofy, but
I like em. This conversation is, on both sides, oversimplified.

I agree with Jackie that these topics dont represent much choice. I watched
the webcast, read the notes, and talked to attendees and the list agenda did
dominate the topic process and areas, even those areas already well
established before the meeting like the Mahoney and Harrison ideas, were not
given much time. It is unfortunate. I think the area option we ended up with
is not great and area supporters are forced to either rescind their support
for an area and opt for a list or accept a weaker area. That sucks. I still
havent decided where I fall here.

That said, I dont think that this was some nefarious conspiracy, but rather
a paternal tendency to give the community what many of the TC members
support: limited list-oriented topics. Paternalism sucks, and Ive heard some
of my friends on the TC (and I am good friends with most members of the TC
and have overall amicable relations with all of them) tell me about my
business when I've talked to them about this process, both in relation to
the idea of topic rotation (an idea I still dont like and I believe is
overall unpopular with the community, assuming you extend the community
beyond directors) and to the idea of list topics.

Paternalism in the process comes from a variety of areas. Some of it is just
heart-felt well-meaning intention. Some of the TC members probably just
think that they do know better what we need than we do. Fair enough, but if
you are elected to serve the community, you should serve the entire
community and not just one side. Some of the TC members probably want to
help themselves and think neg research is tougher than aff research so a
more limited topic favors their research style and their teams. Again, fair
enough, but again you're elected to represent everyone, not just yourself.

Finally, and here's the one Im going to get in trouble for, there is a
directors' bias reflected in this process. Ive actually heard this argument
made re: topic rotation. Students and hired gun coaches, it has been said,
wont make the right choices, so we have to give them fewer choices in order
to achieve the correct outcome (i.e. a legal topic). We directors, they'd
say, know how awesome and valuable these topics are, so we'll give this gift
to the community. This feeling quite frankly infuriates me. I am a hired
gun, I guess, but I am also a future director, so I dont think it is just
self-interest that causes me to wretch in response to this. Honestly, I just
believe that people, especially students who actually debate these topics,
ought to have choices. I support the students' choices even when they are
dumb (ask our teams). I certainly will do my best to influence these
outcomes, but dont believe in coercing them. There is a personality type in
this community that truly believes that they know what is best for everyone
else, what is most fair, predictable, educational, debatable.

This directors' bias constrains the overall democracy of this process. Who
votes for TC members while students are debating and hired guns are judging?
Directors. Who votes on the topics? Directors. Im not saying directors are
evil, but I am saying that what directors want and what the rest of the
community wants often varies dramatically. Im not saying we should throw
directors out of this process, but I would like to suggest efforts of
directors to meaningfully include their students and coaches in the process
and to, at the very least, be mindful of their biases. Their long-term
vision of what is right for students is not necessarily the goal of the TC.
The TC should be intent on providing meaningful choice in topics as
presented on the ballot.

I dont think that this is an NDT CEDA issue. I think it is a philosophy
issue. A lot of CEDA people see the value in making topics more predictable
than, say, the CEDA Mexico topic, which was in the eyes of almost everyone
ever too large. There has to be a balance between you get to do 4-7 affs and
you get to do basically anything you want. Those of you that hate
performance style or social movement style debate, take heed. These
overspecified topics were the impetus for this change and as long as topics
spell out plans without offering affs the option for changes outside of the
traditional liberal/conservative grid, these changes will remain a feature
of debate.

Josh is both right and wrong; he has the right hoo-hoo, but the wrong
haa-haa so to speak. His defense of democracy in the topic process is right
on. But it doesnt go far enough. Democracy implies we have real choices. One
area versus seven lists isnt a real choice. One day committed to areas
versus three days on lists isnt a real commitment to include this
perspective. Single-minded reliance of the overturn verb at the expense of
the exclusion of Mahoney's and Harrison's topics which had been supported by
many in the community and apparently by some at the meeting. If democratic
election of the TC members assures community input, then the cost of
including these topics on the ballot to determine if the community supports
them seems nil. The community will vote against them if they dont want them.
The TC couldnt have been unclear that there was substantial support from
many parts of the community to include areas topics on the ballot, to
present the community with real choice. The TC should be charged with
representing the entire community's preferences, not of filtering them. I
support their efforts to do so, but I do understand a sense of consternation
at the end of this process with what appears to be choices that dramatically
favor one side of the areas/lists debate over the other.

That said, I know that the flip-side argument is that we need to be
paternalized because otherwise we'll do things like the Southeast Asia topic
or the Federal Control topic, both of which sucked. If the TC puts bad
topics on the ballot, they will win, and the community will lose, the
argument goes. And I don't disagree. We need good choices across the
ideological divide -- from aff flex to neg predictability. Keep in mind that
those topics failed not because they were too big, but because people were
reticent to enforce T because the obviously topical affs sucked. We can have
a real aff flex topic on the ballot that isnt stupid, and I think thats what
Jackie wants. And although Jack gets crazy at times, he's right on this one
-- there is little aff flex in these topic choices.

Dont divide the community. Dont have two topic meetings. Dont attend
different tournaments. Dont make NEDA or Ted Turner debate. Do have real
diversity in this organization and topic options are a good way to do that.

I expect to be told that I am a douche for not having attended the meetings
or working on the topics. Well, that much is true. Everyone knows I am, in
fact, a douche. I also think that everyone should be more involved in the
topic selection and writing process, especially people that do the actual
research that makes the topics happen -- students and coaches. I also think
that the topic process should be moved up and the TC should meet more often.
I also think that the TC should meaningfully make efforts at surveying the
community re: the topics before they write them to ensure that they have
fully represented the community. I am tired of hearing the "everyone will
bitch anyway so why try?" excuse. I'd like to see an area vote in December,
draft topics written by May, a survey soliciting community input distributed
at that time, and final topics released at the end of the meeting. I'd like
to see the community vote on more parts of the topics as well: stems,
lists/areas, objects, limiting terms, etc. Component choices would be great.
The TC has too limited a time to conduct most of their business
comprehensively. I know that their work is difficult as a result. Serious
revamping of the system is not only desirable but probably necessary.

Im willing to do some work to make this happen if someone in charge of stuff
wants me too. I'd even work on the TC if asked and elected. Money officially
positioned at mouth.

Oh yeah, please dont add limiting terms to all of the lists without offering
the choice of voting for the lists as is as well. Im pretty sure a list is a
foregone conclusion this year and the idea of making those topics smaller is
heinous. Sorry to whoever it is that made that suggestion, but is neither
workable nor desirable. Overturning the central holding will often not solve
the central issue because of overlapping cases and we have too few choices
as is. 2 cents.

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