[eDebate] Different experience with novii and the topic...

Sue Peterson bk2nocal
Thu Aug 30 20:53:26 CDT 2007

I can only speak from my own experience, but I have a program of all 
novii with two JV debaters and they all seem totally jazzed about this 
topic.  The first meeting of the year went 1/2 hour over time simply 
because they didn't want to stop talking about what they thought would 
be good affirmative arguments, what kind of definitions they wanted to 
look for, etc.  The second meeting (only two days later) they all had 
articles and definitions that they had been able to find totally on 
their own.  In addition, one of our TAs told his public speaking class 
what the topic area was (albeit, not quoting the resolution 
specifically, but just saying it was debating whether we should increase 
our engagement with these countries) and got three people who came after 
class to find out more about the team BECAUSE of the topic.

I would think that as advocates we could instill the importance of this 
topic being debated at this point in time being something that is 
important to any well-educated citizen.  After all, there are all sorts 
of implications to what we, as the US, decide to do in that part of the 
world.  And there are a number of different views within the individuals 
running for President on what should be done.  There are well-educated 
people making statements EVERY DAY in the news on this subject.  I 
honestly can't think of a topic that would be easier for novii to locate 
evidence, construct positions and advocate those positions.  There 
wasn't one person at our table of 12 at the first team meeting that 
DIDN'T have an opinion about US foreign policy in the Middle East.  Its 
something they know about already, can easily access information about 
and feel good about learning more on the subject (like its useful, 
instead of just an abstract exercise being done for debate and nothing 

I agree that the resolution is wordy...but I pitch it as something we 
simplify through that old "parametricizing" idea...we don't debate the 
RESOLUTION.  We debate the affirmative case - and although there are a 
number of affirmatives available, all of my novii felt comfortable being 
able to find arguments as to why an increase in US involvement in the 
Middle East would be a bad idea, no matter what form that involvement 
took and what country in the Middle East the US got involved in.

I really think that we sometimes lose sight of what gets students jazzed 
up about debate.  It isn't the resolution - its them being able to have 
a voice about a subject they (1) know something about and (2) care 
about.  From my first week at Chico and my experience working with the 
novice lab at ADI this summer, this topic does both of those things.  
So, I have to respectfully disagree with this topic being bad for 
novice/JV debate.  Last year's topic, although I personally liked it, 
did not lend itself to being novice friendly.  The literature was 
difficult to find in most cases on overturning supreme court cases of 
any kind, let alone the four we had a choice of.  This year, the novii 
at ADI were able to find evidence almost immediately.  They were able to 
brainstorm affirmative and negative arguments almost immediately.  In 
addition, as Dr. Hingstman pointed out in the beginning of his topic 
lecture at ADI, this is the first topic in recent memory that was 
actually discussed, almost in its exact form, during a Presidential 

So, obviously you have had a vastly different experience than I have had 
on this topic, but I think perhaps we should examine a little larger 
sample before jumping to conclusions about the topic. 

--Sue Peterson
CSU Chico

scottelliott at grandecom.net wrote:
> I still think that either a switch to a two topic per semester format, or a
> topic area geared toward novice, JV and the "non-hard core" varsity debaters is
> the way to go.
> I can tell you from experience that my predictions about how much this Mid-Eas
> topic sucks for recruiting has come to fruition at ULL, where I am attempting
> to build a policy program.
> First, the Parly debate team, in total, walked and never returned as soon as
> they saw the topic and what it would require.
> I have now had at least 8 former L/D and CX debaters who are students at ULL
> walk away, even though they really wanted to debate again. Why? Because the
> Mid-East Resolution is so overly technical and simply too broad for them to
> work with. We don't have shit one for resources-i.e. We did not send anyone to
> WDI or ADI. So, we are starting from scratch. For students who have to work
> jobs or maintain their scholarships, this topic just flat out sucks. So, eight
> debaters who wanted to debate have walked. I have one that is really committed
> and two that show up at debate meetings but will probably bolt after they go
> 1-7 at their first tournament and realize their only hope of competing is by
> refusing to debate  policy--going for K's every round.
> I am going to try again Tuesday to recruit Novice debaters by doing a
> presentation to all the classes in the University Honors department. But I feel
> like I have to perform some form of bait-n-switch in order to get kids to debate
> even at the novice level.
> I have personally spent over 60 hours researching and cutting cards for just one
> affirmative case, and probably have only covered ten percent of the issues
> necessary to defend it---without even addressing the Kritical ground. I have
> one debater that knows how to cut cards and two that are willing to learn. But
> it really is an overwhelming task.
> Unless something is done to wrench the topic selection process away from its
> current focus--making sure that the TOP 20 varsity debate teams have adequate
> ground to debate the Octo-final round at the NDT--I think there is no
> alternative but to create an organization that is responsive to the needs of
> the other 99.9% of students who want to do policy debate, but at a level that
> is more in keeping with the lives of 21st century college students.
> Scott Elliott
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