[eDebate] Is it the resolution? Why is NDT/CEDA shrinking?

Weston, Marna marna.weston
Tue Jul 17 13:50:47 CDT 2007

Dear All:

A lively (if not new discussion) on why policy debate may or not be attracting 
more schools, is again before us. I have no evidence, but based on 'time 
served" I'd like to chime in as well.

I. The Merger
The merger and the proliferation of "one or more of the following:" style 
topics has in some ways created (at the highest levels of competition) a need 
for coaching staffs, scouting, counterplan theory, etc., that was ok in the 
1980's, but not necessary to be a national championship level program at that 
time. When there were two topics each year in CEDA, what came from the 
newspaper on the weekend of the tournament, a few value objections, straight 
case objections, witty cross x, and a Hasty Generalization position was about 
all you needed.

II. Choosing your judge
I observe that the expanded role of judge preference has also changed the 
debate enviroment. Prior to the merger, you got a strike sheet. That was 
it.You could get rid of 5-10 judges, but you did not exclusively choose the 
community of people you debated in front of. You got whoever was available 
after your strike quota was exhausted. Thus a wider variety of presentation 
style seemed more evident. You might have a local news caster, a parent, or 
the  principal of a high school, or an instructor at the college you debated 
at judge rounds. Elim panels were especially unpredicatable and came from the 
"lay" population. The debate community now gives awards for the 'best' judges 

III. Topic Selection and Pre-Round Case Disclosure
The topic selection process, while exhausting, and a true service from those 
who travel to attend the event, write and debate position papers and blog, and 
who get yelled at alot, seems to create so much "pre-debate" that what is 
occuring in rounds is largely predictable. And I may never understand (in a 
competitive event where two individuals are in a closed discussion with two 
other people with a judge evaluating an outcome of who argued more 
effectively) the practice of telling 'your opponents' what you are going to 
argue ahead of time. This has led to the late start of rounds in high school 
and college. This practice alone favors the organized, budgeted, well staffed 

IV. All this said, parli is still...well its parli
Maybe this is just how debate has evolved. Parli is a little too loose for my 
tastes. You need a topic before the tournament itself, and it should be 
germane to the topical issues of the day,...not the 13th century, or a river 
dance, but those rounds can also be fun.

V. Nostalgic Summation
As a forensicator from the era when a lot of debaters also did I.E. in the 
same weekend, we still had combined policy/i.e programs on tournament 
weekends, five round prelims in CEDA, 8-3-5 format, you answered your own 
questions in cross x (or lost for being rude and interrupting), the 
counterpaln was an admission you were not prepared---not the most common 
negative strategy, and lots of debaters wore a tie,... I see a great change. 
It seems to work for some.

But if it does not work for you, before discussing another debate schism, I 
agree with several of the posts I've seen that some compromises and joint work 
toward solutions is good. Maybe every other year, a non policy topic, or any 
topic that does not say "one or more of the following." Our an alternative non 
policy topic available experimentally for some tournaments. Alternative topic 
available each round determined on a coin flip. Or a novice/jv non policy 
topic for torunaments large enough to have multiple divisions (which I believe 
has already been tried or suggested at ADA tournments. Im not really sure 
about that though).

So thats my two cents. Feel free to disagree or agree, reply or not reply, but 
please no rudeness. Lots of 'perhaps valuable' opinions are probably not 
expressed on edebate because of the level and style of the more than 
occasional negative or coarse discourse contained in replies to matters in 
contention. As coaches and role models we must model the civility and maturity 
we seek and work to develop in our student charges. Thanks to those who read.

Marna Weston
Santa Fe Community College

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