[eDebate] Role of the Committee- Choice versus Best (resent without typos)

Ede Warner ewarner
Mon May 22 18:21:10 CDT 2006

Sorry about the first version, was in a hurry.

>>> "Ede Warner" <ewarner at louisville.edu> 5/22/2006 5:07 PM >>>
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  of course, 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 addresses the reality that the community is comprised 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 define
it's purpose.


One way to view the topic committee is that they are elected
representative officials whose job is to create a series of choices that
represent different community interests in preparation for a general
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 on the ballot that allow for differing
perspectives on topic construction.  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 political stumping block where competing perspectives
launch their campaigns for their perspective position as well as their

Role to Find "BEST" Topics
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
are 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

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 many 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?

Either way, 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) and my work is likely to show up on a topic,
and heightened my interest in participation in the next stage of the
process: campaigning. 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.  I don't want to work on those topics, will
accept whatever I get.  If my topic interests are chosen as "best",
obviously, I'd love to participate, but others like perhaps Kelly,
Darren, etc. may desire less to do so.  Whatever the committee role it
selects, deciding up prior to the meeting is fairer to the community: 
it empowers folks to make personal choices about the likely value of
their participation, which should reduce alienation, at least somewhat.

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.
Sorry for the first unedited version.  Thanks for listening..

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