[eDebate] topics

Michael Korcok mmk_savant
Wed Jul 11 16:48:36 CDT 2007

There is an excellent extended video of Oxford physicist David Deutsch's TedGlobal Talk here: http://www.spikedhumor.com/articles/114117/What_is_Our_Place_in_The_Cosmos.html .
He argues beautifully for a subset of propositions that are innovative and that actually matter:  it is 20 minutes long but dense with material debaters don't do.  Watching it, I remembered that I played with the same central idea a while back ( http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/1999-January/012010.html ).  It stayed here and that's bugging me today.  And policy debate, it doesn't begin to reach for those ideas:  nothing I remember hearing in debate rounds has explored thoughts that innovative and important.Tuna's set of videos on youdebate is decent enough, but the Atheism debate with Sam Harris vs that poser hit home.  Sam Harris is an excellent debater and he argues well.  The blog debate where he just shreds Andrew Sullivan and the UCLA debate where Chris Hedges disgraces himself are, in my mind,  excellent examples of how to do public deliberation of BIG IDEAS.  But you know I have been an atheist for 30 years now and there is nothing special about Harris' ideas - it is just that he had the courage and inclination to debate them publicly.  But policy debate, the way we construct it these days, is unable to get to that deliberation.
And Ross and company are doing debatescoop analyzing the presidential candidate debates.  And the activism in debate discussion.  And of course the Ellis and Massey discussion about expanding the topics.  And even that stupid petition from Jim.
It looks to me like there are 2 converging motions at work:  people finding that tournament debating isn't enough, who want to do more and people dissatisfied with the narrow construction of what cross-examination debate has become.  
When I was hunting down the URL for that 1999 "When galaxies collide" post, Ken Broda-Bahm's post about The Big Tent tackled me.  In it he wrote eloquently about ways to expand debate.  His ideas ring truer for me today than they did 8 years ago.  Maybe the times have caught up with his ideas or maybe i finally have.  This is the URL to that post: http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/1999-January/012137.html .  And here is part of his argument towards the end of that post.
"Instead, on a topic area such as civil rights, a good non-policy resolution might be: Resolved: That affirmative action policies, on balance, have benefitted minorities in the United States. It is a contemporary and an important topic, one that depends heavily on research, but one which does not call for design and advocacy of a specific plan, and consequently does not call for a large amount of case specific research from the negative. On a resolution such as this debaters could prepare their affirmative, and they could prepare their negative - including reactions to predictable directions in affirmative casing. They would not, however, need a huge war-chest of reactions to possible affirmative plans. I believe that it was the ability to _generically_ prepare which accounted for CEDA's middle-years growth. I believe that it was the relative inability to generically prepare which accounted for CEDA's membership decline in the 4 or 5 years prior to the joint topic and since. 
Everything after "Resolved that violence is a justified response to political oppression" seemed to require teams to at least prepare as though they were debating a policy resolution and that preparation coincided with the great shake-out of programs which, for whatever reason, were less committed to or interested in that approach."
I think the public debate resolution idea already ran its course but maybe it is time to consider a non-policy resolution again.  You know, something fun with BIG IDEAS at play.  Something to stretch our thinking past crusted-over ideologies, a resolution that generates thinking.  Or we could keep chewing this same old stick of gum that lost its flavor years ago...
Michael Korcok
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