[eDebate] Some responses for Ede and the process!

Ede Warner ewarner
Mon Jun 12 07:10:58 CDT 2006


I too want to make some clarifications :-)

>>> <debate at ou.edu> 6/12/2006 12:34:28 AM >>>
Ede,

I can accept disagreement.  However, there are few things I want to respond to for clarification.  A couple of 
people have insinuated I had specific areas or cases or agendas when I attended the meeting.  I dislike 
processes that  I feel provide a disservice to the community. All i can do is attempt to identify those processes.  
If my glasses are thicker than others, I understand.  However, even if a corrupt process produces a good 
product, does that legitimate the product?

---------------------
EW
I'll start here: I have fundementally disagreed with how topics have been selected for the last seven years, as 
well as what the majority in the "communities" see as a "good" topic. Some years I've attended the meetings 
and been very vocal in my disagreements and other years I've stayed silent and simply based our argument 
strategies around my disagreements. As much as I generally agree with Jackie and the way he sees the world, 
he will likely see this post as a disagreement. Perhaps he will see me as a sell out or a suck up as well, but I 
hope not. I will try to do what I've always done: speak with conviction and rationally about the issues as I see 
them based on my experiences and beliefs, and often those beliefs have usually coincided with Jackie. This 
time they do not. 
  
The Topics/The Topic Process/Merger: 
Jackie is not the only one with predictive value. I got only two responses to my post of May 22 where I called for 
the topic committee to discuss it's role prior to meeting in Kansas City: a backchannel from Jackie and one from 
Steve Mancuso. My later post that called for a discussion of evidence for the assumption that topics needed to 
be written with absolute certainly as opposed to history's decision to write most topics with reasonable 
predictable ground. Steve is being bashed on both sides. With ADA representatives calling for a tightening of 
the topics and Joe saying that we don't have a list versus areas, but rather areas versus areas, the argument is 
being advanced that the topics are too broad, allowing for affirmative flexibility, while on the other side, 
----------------------
Here is two different views Ede.  I honestly feel like you and Will Repko had more of influence on the process 
than those of us who attended.  You identify issues below about Steve not having to listen etc.....  Easy to say 
when your being heard this time.
*-------------------
EW:  Conceded, but that isn't true every year.  On Africa, I fought for a big broad topic that would allow us to debate the entirety of the US relationship with Africa, including the trade bill.  I spoke, the committee did not agree, and I left angry and frustrated, with feelings very similar to yours.  I called for topic process change, but didn't follow through with doing the organizational things necessary to make that change occur.  I was on the committee last year and felt my preferences were dismissed fairly quickly...but the difference was, I recognized that the process didn't assure I would get what I wanted:  broader topics on China.  At that point, I had a choice:  continue to do the work in the direction I saw it going, or not.  Given I hadn't worked harder to change the process five years earlier, I just assumed my role (played my position as my wife likes to say), and worked productively to assist the process that had been set in motion.
----------------------------------
EW
Jackie argues that Steve's lack of respect for areas created topics without sufficient affirmative flexibility. 

------------------------
In all fairness, my argument was that lack of discussing other area options caused there to be only one areas 
topic on the ballot.  I wasnt necessarily criticizing the topics per se, but only a lack of options available to voters.
*---------------------
Conceded and I'm sorry I mischaracterized your argument.  I will say that the lack of time was because Steve's agenda placed substantially more emphasis on developing case list topics than area topics.  And it seems your major gripe is that your voice didn't get heard in that process.  But it wasn't just yours.  Go back to my pre committee posts, I certainly called for area topics just like you, so yours was not the only voice that went unheard.  The difference is:  I knew that the committee didn't have to "hear" my voice, and once they chose not to go the direction I wanted, which was a BROAD set of areas limited by a relatively broad mechanism, I stayed involved in the process.
-------------------------
EW
I'm unclear how both can really be true.What I see is a compromise position taken by the committee, in 
particular Steve, to create a list of cases that allowed for several areas to be discussed. Ideal to either side: 
obviously not. Is it historical in it's effort to bring together a variety of different areas of social importance under a 
common mechanism? It set a precedent in my book: the decision to discuss VAWA and race in common topics 
was important and relatively unique (Title VII being the lone exception). Whether the single area topics 
selected narrowed the content to race, education, plenary power, executive authority, and/or first amendment, 
they all suffer from the same problem: the coalition created by the lists would be smaller in terms of content. My 
recurring problem with the way topics have been constructed is they reduce the content area so much that the 
"heart" of the important controversies that prompted people to vote for the topic, usually as expressed in the 
topic paper, are lost. 
-----------------------
How many voters read the topic papers would be my first question?  This is an example of how you preferred 
lists only, just like others, but does that mean we should not have area options on the ballot does it?  I say 
options on the ballot good!  Your answers arent really dealing with this. 
*--------------------------
Because I accepted the committee's direction to write case lists, not means I preferred lists?  I'd argue that I vote as vigorously for areas as anyone.  But I wasn't fighting for the types of areas topics that others were interested in.  I say choice good, but I also say that the committee gets to define it's role currently, not the community.  So if they don't offer choice, there isn't much one can do except change the process.  
 
The argument you are making here is anti-democratic.  We have a system in place and it relies on an engaged and enlightened citizenry.  The common mechanism we vote for is the topic paper, which I and I think many others do actually read prior to voting, but I could be wrong.  The CHOICE you keep calling for starts there.  You have the choice to read the paper, and make decisions about what you want to vote for based on the choices outlined in that paper.  Some idea of the direction of the topic can be found there.  
 
If more responsibility isn't put on the front end, then we end up with everyone showing up to the meeting with different agendas, trying to politic their agenda.  My answer to your choice argument is to 1) exercise your democratic right to make informed choices via the topic papers; 2) topic committee chairs should beresponsible to follow those choices; 3) My position is that the voters should have more of the choice and responsibility on the front end and the entire topic committee should have less on the back end.  
 
Your argument:  should be more choice at the topic committee meeting; my argument- should be my choice prior to the meeting.  Why?  Can't get the work done in time if the choices and political fights are made over those 2 ? days?  Decisions must occur earlier in the process.  Currently, the chair makes some of those decisions because the process allows that to be the case, although the chair is checked by the fact that nothing can go on the ballot without the topic committee voting.

-----------------------------
EW
This topic committee stayed truer to the topic paper, in terms of producing a slate of topics (first amendment 
aside) that stayed close to what the paper argued for, and most of the submitted research called for, from the 
overrule discussion to the areas chosen on the different lists. No one can argue that the lists don't stay true to 
the breadth discussed in the topic paper, and that is responsible leadership.I think both Jackie and Steve made 
the same mistake. Steve and his directed research of the committee, and I'll defend that he comes to the 
meeting as prepared as anyone, came to the meeting with an idea of what it said and consequently what he 
wanted it to produce. The only suggested I made to him was that he discuss his views of his role and that of the 
topic committee publicly, which he chose not to. Jackie, who I don't doubt did his research as well, came to the 
meeting with an idea of what topic areas he wanted to write. 
--------------------------
I am not sure many people read the topic papers and I didnt have an area I wanted to be discussed, I only 
wanted the ability to have some affirmative flexibility and not have only 4-7 plans for a whole year.  I never even 
attempted to discuss an area that someone else did not write a topic paper on.
*------------------------
EW-I agree.  I would argue that a process needs to be created to systematically make decisions about all work done prior to the meeting.  That system currently doesn't exist and again the agenda is left to the discretion of the committee, and in particularly the chair.  Again, my suggestion is that people write wording papers with 3-5 resolutions.  The community vote for all the papers submitted.  The winning paper becomes the list of topics, but the topic committee is charged with refining those topics.  That's a clear charge that can be achieved in 20 hours.
--------------------------
EW
The difference, Steve as Chair, had the legitimate authority to implement his agenda. I thought Steve would 
have been well-served to publicly, or at least discuss privately with the committee, his agenda and what he 
wanted the ballot to look like on the front end. And the committee should have voted on that agenda prior to 
doing his business. In Jackie's case, I'm not sure what rights he he has not being a committee member and why 
the Chair has a responsibility to listen.

------------------------
I agree, I had none.  All that Jazz about an open process that lured me in was somewhat misleading.  I will also 
say that you and others had more influence than myself and I was there.
-----------------------------
EW- Only  because my choice was to accept that what I wanted wasn't going to happen (I didn't have a majority of committee members willing to fight for what I wanted).  My decision to support the direction the topic committee was moving in is what created my influence.  Your desire was to change that direction, mine was to work with what I was given.
*---------------------------
EW
In fact, the appropriate move for an outsider would seem to be, get a member of the committee on board and 
willing to fight for his issues, and they do the fighting, which again should have occurred prior to the work on 
any topics.
-----------------------------
I had no specific agenda accept diverse wording options, the committee did end up taking a vote on this.
-------------------------
EW- Okay, and the concern is not enough choice produced by the commitee.  We need a systemic change in the process to make that happen.  Either institute "choice" as part of the charge "You must produce 3 area topics and 3 lists" or change the charge altogether.
________________
 
EW

Anyone on the committee could have said: "Before we begin, I want to discuss what our product is going to 
be?" If there was disagreement, a vote could have been taken on the front end. The bad topic process has 
nothing to do with merger. I was banging heads with Chairs of the topic committee when my close friends 
Whalen and Achten were running it: they were both CEDA blood through and through. This is about process. 
The charge of the committee is too big with not enough time to do what it does. Frankly, in 2 ? days, you can't 
and shouldn't write any new topics.
--------------------------
The problem here is the agenda set up did not ask this question until the end of the first day, I have a copy if 
you need one.  I agree the process is in bad shape, but I also think it has partially to do with interesting habits of 
those in the process.  I will post my list of assumptions that the committee has to make about the process later. 

Here is what I think happened, to be frankly honest.  I think the Chair was put in a bad spot attempting to 
implement an agenda, already knowing what the topics would look like before the meeting.  This wasnt his sole  
desire, there were others who were pushing him to do so.  He was probably trying to do what he felt was right, 
but I disagreed with the methods.
Yes, the TC is put in a bad position, because they feel like they have to make so many assumptions about the 
community that they really do not know the answers to.  I think many people who were in attendance realized 
this to be true, and I also feel that Gordons attempts to make the process more public and engagable is a good 
idea.

I withdrew from talking when allotted time that was offered to me by Steve on the last day because I did not 
intend to show up and terrorize the process, I only wanted to try and allow the voters options on the ballot that 
went belong which group of 11 cases you might get to overrule.  I did not want to take up any of their time at 
that point in the process, just to be heard, and I respect the offer.  I thought it would be counterproductive to 
their work for me to offer ideas at that point.
*----------------
EW- Now who is not answering arguments?  What you describe has happened prior to this time.  Other chairs, other non-members feeling frustrated...You think it's personal, I think it's process.  I liked the people (past chairs) who created process outcomes that I disagree with.  And frankly, with the current process, knowing what I know about the time it takes to do this in a big group, I would allow for limited outside input as well as calling for a lot of votes early and often.  I would probably break people into smaller groups to get some of the work done.  But that's me.  Chairs are given discretion in the current process and you didn't like how Steve used his discretion.  Cool, but that still isn't personal, it's the process.
-------------------
EW
Our community should vote for an area, then have interested parties submit topic wording papers, followed by 
another vote by the community on those papers. The last move should be the 2 ? days by the committee to 
only refine and clean up those wordings which then should appear on the ballot for a final vote for the topic. 
That makes the charge of the committee substantially more reasonable, and stops the tendency to try and 
research new ideas, and new wordings on the fly...That 2 ? days is really at most 20 hours of work, and with a 
lot of discretion, it becomes easy to not get the slate done in that time period. That would also reduce the need 
for political strategies to affect the outcome.As someone who came from NDT, but identifies with the CEDA 
Mission statement more than most, I'll say this: the problem is apathy in the CEDA organizational politics, not a 
NDT takeover. To their credit, the NDT folks get involved in issues they have self-interest in, use their votes 
wisely and participate. To my detriment, I ran, won an office, and quit. The criticism made against me was: 
quitting will never create change- something I've said to many disgruntled high school debate coaches, college 
coaches, and debaters. But I didn't heed the meaning of that warning for myself. I wish that I was still in the 
organization and I wish that I had been a vote at that committee meeting. I could have affected change more as 
a member of the committee, than as an outsider. Jackie in his posts acknowledges that he hasn't served in any 
official capacity. And maybe he can't win office, who am I to judge? But I'll say this: no matter where you are on 
the political spectrum, any of us can more effectively use the process to get the things we want. Steve Mancuso 
gave me an institute job at a major Nationally competitive high school camp, when NO ONE would hire me but 
Bill and Melissa :-) He made race and diversity issues central issues in his institute before it was cool. And 
while we certainly haven't always agreed on method, I know his heart and trust that he makes more than a 
sincere effort to incorporate his beliefs in his day to day actions.
  
Jackie, I love who you fight for and how you fight, but in this case the elephant isn't a conspiracy, but rather, a 
bad process that allows and in fact, demands a lot of latitude and discretion to get the job accomplished. That 
doesn't mean I agree with everything Steve does, but by now, everyone in this community should know that I 
rarely agree with everything anyone says...that's not my style or how debate has trained me to live. 
  
Finally, if I had to choose CEDA or the NDT, I'll say this: I've fought harshly and vigorously with the 
intercollegiate debate community in it's entirety, but I fight for a purpose. I've thought about leaving many times 
and wouldn't tell anyone else they shouldn't leave. But there must be a reason for me to stay. Having my 
students compete and engage the NDT schools and traditionally CEDA schools offer important educational 
experiences, and while sometimes similar, the pedagogical value is in the difference and often in the struggle. I 
hate this activity and I love it. DuBois called this double consciousness. I have it. Sometimes it makes it difficult 
to stay and other times just as difficult to leave. I too, Jackie have wondered why people blindly follow national 
level competition to their personal detriment. I've often never understood the collective choices made by the 
community. Simultaneously, the value of having my students engage and compete against the best of the best 
from Emory, Dartmouth, Michigan State (traditionally CEDA? now), Harvard, and Northwestern are important in 
challenging stereotypes. Educationally, I wouldn't give anything for the debates we've had against Oklahoma, 
Chico State, Ft. Hays (traditionally NDT? now), and Vanderbilt. So it is my preference that we fight it out as best 
we can and try to organizationally stick together. Does that mean I won't feel like leaving tomorrow? Of course, 
it doesn't. 

----------------
I love the competition as well.  I also think there needs to be mutual respect amongst organizations and 
organizational members.  If I am the one showing disrespect, than I do apologize.  But I am also not one to give 
lip service to others, and thus do appreciate the work of our elected representatives.   I feel that I can be openly 
critical of the organizational process and the bureaucratic nature of this process, while still knowing that my 
debaters wont be punished as aresult of my criticisms.  I was  a CEDA debater, and I always wanted to debate 
the NDT teams because of the trash talking that the CEDA community would received from the NDT community 
on the high school circuit. mostly.  I remember when the CEDA debaters would go to GBN etc. to judge and 
never see a round.  I love the competition today, and once their is a vote on the topic, I will quit my complaining 
and criticizing, and prepare to debate whatever the community votes for. My complaining comes at the front 
end, on how we get the options that are offerred on the ballot that makes that final decision of what we debate.

If I had to vote on a topic today, it would be the list topic that does not include Casey most likely.  But who 
knows?
*-------------
I agree with everything you say here.  And I more than fully support the types of changes you and Tim called for during the meeting.  Those changes alone however won't do the trick.  You and I have to be willing to do the dirty work, whether that's reading the topic papers if they are the process or working inside the system and not quitting like I did, if we don't want to abrogate our power to someone else.  I'd love to see you on the topic committee and would support your candidacy in a heart beat. 

Peace,

Jackie



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