[eDebate] "Productive" discussions should not be expected here

Malcolm Gordon malgorthewarrior
Thu May 18 13:18:42 CDT 2006

Dr Warner

Our difference in opinion seems to deal with the subjective nature of what 
constitutes a productive discussion.  You isolated two categories most of 
your e-debate posts fall into-inform/educate/clarify, and 
criticize/debate/vent. I agree with this characterization, and it can be 
extended to just about all posts. In fact, any given debate round can be 
broken into those two categories.  I also think that both informing and 
criticizing are important to any dialogue about how to resolve problems.

As far as the part of your post regarding our exchange about UMKC, it was 
not my intention to never get back to you.  You posted about program 
retention, i'm assuming that post was intended to inform, not criticize.  I 
responded with the story of UMKC.  This was mostly to inform, but I suppose 
the conclusion of my statement worked to criticize some of your logic. 
Afterward, you posted informing me of your (successful) strategy at 
Louisville.  I had already said I'd keep you updated, and I will.  I had no 
more criticizing to do, and no more information to extract from you or give 
you (at the time), so I didn't respond.  I had comments, you gave 
suggestions, I have been using them for the last few weeks.  That is a 
productive discussion (to me,  I understand that others definitions are 
different, so I am only speaking for myself).  I apologize if you were 
looking for more input, and I obviously cannot speak for others in the 
community and their motivations for not responding to you more.

Now, the topic discussion is a little different.  Dr Warner, your posts are 
good precisely because you offer both of the categories you ascribed 
yourself to.  You criticize, but you also provide education and information 
on how to change things (which will often illicit more criticism than your 
venting!!).  The reason topic discussions are not productive is because of 
their lopsidedness.  Criticize, criticize, criticize (and for a time i 
agreed with many criticisms people had of the topic com.), but never 
inform/educate/clarify about what is needed/wanted by the critics. The topic 
detractors have been very good at pointing out areas that may need change, 
but have not engaged in any talk of how to achieve that change.  This is 
especially perplexing given that the criticism was successful in spirit-the 
meeting will be webcast, Mancuso and Stables launched a blog with all topic 
discussions, and they have been updating publically the direction the topic 
com. is taking.  None of their steps have been met with increased input by 
those who called out the topic com. for being 'shady.'

I agree with your sentiments about the nature of edebate deterring public 
discussion, which is why we have a topic rep.  This avoids the need to post 
because your opinions can be expressed with anonymity via a topic rep.  For 
instance, the Roe v Wade discussion caused a wave of backchanneling 
precisely because many in the community did not want to engage in a debate 
on edebate.  Your points about race and style are well taken, and they 
probably illicit so much outrage and criticism because they challenge many 
foundational assumptions about the nature of intercollegiate debate.  This 
is a far cry from discussing whether the environment or civil liberties 
should be part of the resolution.  I should also point out that I am only 
making these comments about complaining and discussion in regards to the 
resolution and topic com.  People were explicitly calling out the topic com 
because they wanted an open and public discussion.  You should not call for 
those types of reforms if you are not willing to engage in them (this is why 
your arguments about minority retention and recruitment are so 
compelling-because you 'practice what you preach').  Well, critics of the 
topic process preached a lot about open forums, transparency, and public 
opinion...why aren't they practicing it?

Please keep in mind I am trying to keep these opinions specific to the topic 
com. and wording process, which was being criticized so vehemently.

I would love to discuss your opinions on the topic Dr Warner, but will do so 
only through backchanneling, as per your request, so please e-mail me.  I 
encourage as many students as possible to post or backchannel me with their 
topic-related opinions.  If you don't want to post on edebate, just 

For all of you who were crying for a public forum and transparency, start 

For those of you who are just waiting to criticize and debate against the 
opinions of those who might post about what they want from the topic, maybe 
you could take it easy. JT and Dr Warner are both right, a big problem is in 
the nature and tone of how we answer one another's thoughts comments.

burnt end on bun for two, please


malcolm gordon

>From: "Ede Warner" <ewarner at louisville.edu>
>To: "Malcolm Gordon" <malgorthewarrior at hotmail.com>,<edebate at ndtceda.com>
>Subject: "Productive" discussions should not be expected here
>Date: Thu, 18 May 2006 10:53:46 -0400
>A month ago, Malcolm posted a relatively lengthy post about the plight
>of UMKC and his contention that the program was being eliminated without
>a good reason.  He said he wanted a productive conversation.  I spent
>about 2 hours producing a relatively detailed post engaging what seemed
>to be an argument primarily the "style" wouldn't have effected the
>outcome at UMKC. I conceded that "style" wasn't necessarily relevant to
>saving a program and shared my experiences with the community.  Never
>heard from him again.  Hmmmm, how's that for a productive discussion?  I
>wonder was his interest sincerely in a productive discussion or getting
>a concession?  Hard to say but...
>As far as public topic conversations go, I'll say this: there is an
>assumption by some that want disclosure that edebate is an appropriate
>forum for productive public discussion.  Most who rarely if ever post (a
>majority of the community), believe it is not.  I personally have
>traditionally used edebate for two reasons:  in an attempt to
>clarify/inform/educate and in an attempt to criticize/debate/vent.  I
>had several posts about program retention etc. over the last couple of
>months that generated almost no interest.  In the past, I've written
>about goals of the community, etc. and few have spoken.  All of those
>posts generally fell into the clarify/inform/educate category and there
>was little, if any, discussion, and certainly not much productive.  A
>few backchannel posts offering support or wanting some clarification,
>but little else.
>But let the topic turn to race, or style as it relates to race, and
>wow!!!!  And no matter how many times my good intentions try to
>clarify/inform/educate, I always end up attacking, debating and/or
>venting.  But the history of ndt/ceda will forever (unless Kerpen
>destroys the archive) be marred by those posts and by countless others.
>Eventually, someone will study "us" and how we communicate on edebate.
>I suspect they won't conclude that edebate was a safe space for
>productive discussion and probably will make an argument that edebate is
>a place for a community's expressions of its dysfunctionality, as
>demonstrated by the ultimate direction of almost any "well intentioned"
>At the same time, edebate is priceless.  It is the only vehicle that we
>have to communicate almost instantly with ourselves, serves several
>informative functions, and our lives are transformed as a result.
>But I don't think the "productive" topic discussion will occur here,
>but arguments and debates that are not guided by any boundaries or
>ground rules will.  So when you express your feelings that all people do
>is complain on edebate, simultaneously complaining yourself, you are
>only engaging in one of edebate's primary functions:  to criticize
>without boundaries or limits.
>I'd prefer to have my topic conversations backchannel unless there is
>some strategic/education function for them to be public.  Why?
>Sometimes I don't want to be criticized/debated/or vented on.  And that
>works for me.
>I'll continue to strategically engage this community about race when I
>have a purpose to do so.  But I recognize that making that choice is
>choosing to publicly fight with those who don't agreed.  I act knowingly
>and I act recognizing that while some productive discussion may occur,
>the reality is that a debate or argument is likely to occur, and because
>that debate has no boundaries, how productive the discussion becomes is
>really uncertain and subjective.
> >>> "Malcolm Gordon" <malgorthewarrior at hotmail.com> 5/18/2006 9:34:52
>AM >>>
>Ok, I've been reading edebate the last week or so in between doing
>research, and couldn't help but notice that no one has discussed the
>topic in a while.  Normally I wouldn't find this so strange, but there
>seemed to be a lot of pissing and moaning about how closed off the
>process was.  It's mighty convenient that everyone complains when the
>is announced, but no one participates in the one month run-up to the
>meeting.  Maybe those who were against the topic process formed a
>counter-secret community, and I wasn't invited.  I have gotten zero
>with student input over the last month.  How can their be a student rep
>there is no student (or coach, for that matter) discussion over what
>want in a topic?  I'm not saying we all need to be cutting cards and
>research right now, but there hasn't even been discussion on the format
>types of ground everyone wants the topic to cover.
>I thought people were angry because there wasn't enough open discussion
>transparency in the topic creation process...why aren't any of the
>detractors talking in the most open and transparent forum available in
>intercollegiate debate?  This is ridiculous.
>I hope in the coming weeks students/coaches/whoever wants their
>heard and discussed will either do so on edebate or send me an e-mail.
>have been doing a lot of preliminary research (mainly on affirmative
>action), and this is going to be a hard topic to write correctly.
>Could people maybe reconsider discussing the courts topic?  I know I
>been on edebate posting all of my thoughts, but I'm already in the
>topic com., so I have get to sit in on all of the chamber meetings.
>worry, the secret topic society hasn't decided anything too specific
>that doesn't happen until Mancuso performs the blood-sacrifice ritual
>on a
>virgin chicken.
>In the meantime, i'm going to periodically post to edebate harassing
>students for input until I get at least a couple of different squads
>each NDT district to give me some thoughts and opinions on what they
>out of a courts topic.
>no more complaining allowed.  If you only want to speak up when you are
>pissed off or want to complain, but not when you're being invited and
>included, then you provide no productive discussion whatsoever.
>malcolm gordon
>ps-if you're coming to the topic meeting....don't forget to bring a
>eDebate mailing list
>eDebate at ndtceda.com

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