[eDebate] Role of the Committee- Choice versus Best

Ede Warner ewarner
Mon May 22 16:07:50 CDT 2006


Dear Topic Community and CEDA/NDT community,
 
Sometimes the best education occurs in times of uncertainy and
discomfort. Balancing education with competitive fairness is a difficult
endeavor. Our community is not monolithic. 

I personally prefer areas. I can make arguments why but I won't because
that is less relevant than how does a democratic representative topic
committee address the reality that the community is compromised of folks
seeing several issues differently. The issue before deciding content of
the topic like "areas vs lists" is to define role of the topic
committee. I think there are two valid ways the committee can see define
it's purpose.

Role to Create "COMMUNITY CHOICE"

One way to view the topic committee is that they are elected
representative officials whose job is to create a series of choices that
representative different community interests in preparation for a topic
election.  The committee members review the different perspectives and
try to create topics that represent those differences by placing a
diverse groups of topics that allow for differing perspectives on topic
construction, allowing the community to vote for the best topic from
each perspective.  The community choses a wording by comparing and
contrasting the different perspectives, as well as the quality of each
wording within those perspectives.  The two month time period becomes
the stumping block where competing perspectives launch their campaigns
for their perspective position as well as their wordings.

Role to Find "BEST" Topics
However, another view of the committee is that they have been elected
and their job is to reduce choice by picking the "best" topics possible
as perceived by the majority. This view would say that the committee can
in fact "determine" what types of topics are best for the community, and
in fact, the decision of area versus lists would be decided before
topics developed, as would the agent discussion. In this world, we get a
variety of topics which have already made a set of predetermined choices
for the community, those choices are usually preferred by the majority
of the committee. This world has generally been the way the committee
has evolved recently. This role assumes a different responsibility for
being elected to the committee, more of a role of gatekeeper decision
making. 

There are values to each model of decision making. There are negative
consequences to each as well. The reality is that this decision gets
made each year, sometimes through open and honest discussion, sometimes
through private deliberation, and sometimes, perhaps mostly, through
inertia and habit. Which one should the committee be doing?  Dunno, but
I'll defend that my preference is for the role of "choice". It gives
minority perspectives a chance to build political coalitions with
members of the majority who may dislike the traditional "best" options
or may be persuaded over the next two months that this topic uniquely
would be best debated with a different topic construction perspective
than usual.  Of course, you have the usual politics concerned with
spliting votes, the possibility of a minority viewpoint actually
winning, etc. But we have worked to minimize these concerns, for
example, by changing the voting process to be as accurate representation
of our collective voice as possible.

So I won't advocate that the community write only the types of topics
that I like but rather, provide choice that represents both sides. The
ballot could represent area and lists and different agents, even if they
aren't represented equally. 3 lists and 2 or 3 area topics, with one of
each being an alternative USFG agent for example would allow for maximum
choice. Given the newest voting procedure, we should get as close to the
political middle as possible. Choice will mobilize the voters and reduce
apathy in the process. It would allow minority viewpoints a chance to
compete and be recognized in the process. That would be my suggestion.
The potential downside is that there is a risk that the committee may
end up with a topic selected that the majority of its members don't
particularly like, but that begs the question:  why is that a priority
of the committee?

It would be nice for the committee to determine this on the front end,
before the deliberations start. Personally, given I know I'm a minority
interest as someone whose been to 3 or 4 topic meetings in the last 6
summers, my willingness to come to Kansas City is guided in part by how
the committee defines it role. If choice is an expected outcome, then I
know that I can work on topic areas of interest to me (area wordings for
example). If the committee is looking for "best" topic wordings as
deemed by the majority, and I disagree with their conception of "best",
I end up working on wordings that are of little interest to me like I
did last year.

So before deciding "area vs list", I ask the committee and the
community to decide the appropriate role of the committee and
consequently it's decision making method. This perhaps is what Jackie
was looking for earlier. Sorry, I couldn't articulate this thought then.
Thanks for listening..



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