[eDebate] The problem with the topic process now

Andy Ellis andy.edebate
Sun Jan 14 17:47:23 CST 2007

The problem with the status quo topic process

At the beginning of this my understanding of much of this part of the post
come from reading all of the articles in our traditional debate good  files
and my nod toward accepting most of what they say as true and valuable.

Some of those premises.

Defending stable predicable ground helps to promote debate that strengthens
the political education of participants by allowing their ideas to be fully
tested through a competitive preparatory activity.

Year long topical research is important and there must be a multiplicity of
tests that an affirmative must meet in order to develop and understand how
to employ their advocacy in successive debates both competitive and non

Understanding how the system works is an essential component to
understanding how to change the system and political debate is a good method
of understanding the intricacies that allow and prevent the real world
implementation of articulated political goals.

Argumentative agency within a structured political process helps students to
develop as thinkers and advocates.

Research is good

Identifying goals (the resolution) and a method of testing your strategies
for achieving those goals(the plan) is good political training.

Debaters should never be so wed t an ideology that they are not willing to
submit it to the test of a deliberative democratic community.

And lastly democratic debate is a key way to transform the status quo by
holding the state accountable.

Not a one of these answers accounts for the ideology of the topic that is
being debated, and thus provide an alluring framework to defend. However the
topic committee in its current form makes several ideological impositions on
the topic that frame the politics through which important social issues are
discussed through a very specific method of change. This frames what is
politically possible to advocate in debate in the very specific terms of
policy analysis. While this is one important method of making change it is
not the exclusive point from which to access the important social issues
being discussed in most debates.

Here are some "links"

The Agent-  Specifying an agent is a limiting function that by its nature
excludes methods of change which do not go through the agent. Specifying the
us government is a further limiting function. This limiting function is
latterly the "gift k". You can talk about whatever you like as long as the
literature base you read from assumes that changing us policy at the
national level is the main source of political change. Even if its not main
anybody else who sees a different method of achieving that change is

The Term of art based action- This is a limiting function to exclude
political reinterpretation of resolutional terms. These debates are
important in explaining how different realities are framed and understanding
this discursive political system  is just as important as understanding how
the governmental structure works if you are advocating change. Reframing and
appropriating terms of dominance are a key tool for those aiming to make
change and abundance of historical examples abound. Currently these debates
are explicitly limited out of current resolutional action.

The micropolitical focus on specific policies or cases as gateways to the
issues people want to discuss- The argument that overturning Milliken as the
only way to talk about school desegregation is the best way for this
community to discuss school desegregation is laughable and flies in the face
of all the reasons traditional debate defenders defend traditional debate.
Milliken is no doubt important, but instead of making it the starting point
through which alternative causes of the politics are discussed it should be
one of the possibilities that those advocating for school desegregation have
to encounter, in other words cant overcome Milliken should be negative
ground on the topic resolved: schools should be integrated.

Here are some alternatives.

Resolved: Schools should be integrated.

Resolved: Prisons should abolished

Resolved: Vawa Should be reauthorized

Resolved : The border should be open

On each of these resolutions affirmatives that felt that the current topic
and political ideology where the political advocacies they wanted advance
and thought where the best they still could in other words your aff would be
topical in these res's

However those that felt that they had a different means of achieving the
same goals could topicaly advocate without being ideologically bound to the
very limited and predictable literature base that the topic committee
chooses to frame the political education of debaters through.

Now here are the impacts.

1)      Political debate and all of its benefits is constrained solely to
the ideology of those advocating for policy change. This is not a uniform
ideology and to be sure as most liberal  ideologies like it, it has a
variety of political perspectives and advocacies debated with in it, but it
becomes ideological when it claims to have the only means of achieving
political change, at this point other perspectives that act on different
part so of the political process are ordered within the ideology  and made
to conform to its framing of political reality. When this ideology
structures debates that violently exclude and define out alternative forms
of politics it becomes susceptible to cooption by a particular political
perspective and loses much of its basis in reality. This is where the topic
committee has taken us.

2) I will contend though this certainly contestable, that when the micro
politics of the policy change community is defined as politics that debate
begins to become a status quoist organization that serves to reinforce the
institutions that rob political agency from the oppressed while
simultaneously reinforcing the power of the organizations that oppress them.
This like the khalilizad argument is not so much an argument about whether
this stance on business as usual politics is correct as it is on the work
that debate does to reinforce this particular method of political thought
and change.

You may say that you have learned the most about how to resist the system by
debating about it but you really don't mean the system you mean specifically
the policy implementation arm of the government, because that is the only
vein through which most advocated political action is channeled. Broader
agent less resolutions still allow you to achieve these goals but they also
allow for a broader understanding of the variety of systems that effect

I think this is the internal link

3)and this is the terminal impact

 Status quoist politics structure domination oppression and deferral of
agency to make change, they subject people all over the nation and the world
to an ever expanding array of control and punishment mechanism designed for
the majority at the expense of those that oppose this world order. They
support a capitalist imperialist order that kills millions and imprisons
millions more world wide. The history of this order is also the impact.
Again I don't really need to win this impact to win that we shouldn't only
support that order even if it should be debated.

Here is the argument, in a nutshell.

The current work of the topic committee aims to appropriate the debate
community to do a certain kind of ideological intellectual work. It has
benefits, that's not the argument, the argument is that if you want to
debate about politics but don't have to do the work for that particular
ideology then you shouldn't have to and you should set up a means of
debating political goals you support through the debate process without
conforming to the ideological work of the topic committee or the community
that supports them. The alternative is not to simply ignore or break the law
and defy politics but instead to frame the political reality in a terms that
can allow you to use debate for the education that you strive to achieve.

By performativly providing for the people the services of the state topic
self determination can delegitimize the ideology of the current community
focus on channeling all political advocacy through a very narrow set of
possibilities, by denying the hegemony of  the topic committee to define the
political reality, while providing a framework for constructive change for
those who are currently opposed to debating the topic.
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