[eDebate] Reflections on the merger- Another compromise

Ede Warner ewarner
Fri Jul 20 10:14:16 CDT 2007

Joe, Vik, that Royals apologist, and anyone else still listening,
As I have been thinking about these issues from more of an organizational perspective, it becomes clear when Joe and Vik infer that there is no longer a useful distinction between CEDA and the NDT, something seems inherently problematic there.  I guess my thought is did this happen intentionally or was it an unintended by-product of the decision to debate a shared topic by the NDT?
But there is no reason to reopen that can of worms, because at the end of the day the question isn't what happened but how to proceed.  While I agree wholeheartedly with Vik and Joe that the distinction really doesn't exist anymore, I'm not so sure it shouldn't exist because the purpose of each organization is different.  Now again thinking, compromise and coalition-building, the goal should be to preserve that any interactions between the two organizations should serve the purpose of both organizations, not gut the purpose of one to benefit the other.  Intentional or not, that hasn't happened.  Darren's concern of the flight to NDT pre-bids, travel schedules, and as M Wade used to say, "the Death March to the trophy" has impacted other CEDA organizational goals.  Can this be fixed through topic management alone?  Perhaps not, but to say the topic wording doesn't relate to those goals would be naive at best, and almost negligent at worse.
The goal of the NDT is simple.  Regardless of any dejure goals identified by Vik in the NDT constitution, the defacto goal of the NDT is finding the best intercollegiate policy debate team in the land, period.  The evidence is overwhelming:  they lack an organizational structure to do anything else, the members will openly express this as a goal; the decision making afffirms and confirms this as the goal.  All in all, this is the sole and express purpose of the NDT.  Many may disagree but I think it is a valuable one and will defend it's value to the death.  However...
...that is not and was never CEDA's purpose.  The split in the early 70's was to create something different, something broader, something that allowed a different educational experience.  The CEDA mission statement reads as follows:
Section 1. The Cross Examination Debate Association is a national intercollegiate debate
organization offering professional service, support and community to intercollegiate debate
coaches, students and alumni. The mission of the Cross Examination Debate Association is to:
create and support a community of scholar-advocates within the larger; institution of higher
education who respect one another as seekers of knowledge and agents of social justice; actively
encourage participation in all forms of academic debate as a means to create personal leadership,
transformation and growth; embrace a diversity of ideas and participants in order to foster an
appreciation of the complexity and richness of human existence; promote the value of
argumentative discourse as a means of producing reasoned, measured, cooperative solutions to
contemporary problems of social and political significance.
Finding the best debate team is no where to be found in that mission.  The fact that the CEDA membership has gravitated away from it's purpose towards one of national competitive success is not only unfortunate for CEDA's ability to serve it's mission, in the long run it undermines any potential benefit that NDT gets from the merger.  If the original NDT purpose for merger was finding more teams, clearly we can see this was accomplished in the short term.  But now a recurring cycle develops where if the ONLY mission being served is nationally competitive debate, then total participation begins to dwindle.  
The goal is to find a compromise that serves both missions, not one.  I think that can easily be accomplished with two related topics.  If CEDA adopted a broad policy topic but made a recommendation for a substantially narrower topic which the NDT then adopts, could not the interests of everyone be served?  It would decentralize the decision making process and create some interesting incentives for regionalization, new program start up, etc.  It would create choice but realistically allow one of those choices to be do both.
1)  Create a positive competition regarding tournament scheduling.  Tournaments could enter the market by offering the broader topics or narrow.  Should increase incentives for regionalization.  Louisville runs a CEDA tournament on the same weekend that Kentucky runs an NDT tournament.  I'll defend the argument that free market choice good.  Creation of alternative tournament options will jumpstart regionalization and impact Darren's concern about the NDT pre-bid run.  People make that run because they think they have to.  Create viable alternatives that address the needs of institutions, and you can compete. 
2)  Increase flexibility of tournaments to offer options based on the tournament creating different tournament experiences.  The broad topic tournaments might offer less preference judging, more non-competitive tournament opportunties.  Or you could offer a broad tournament with more preference and run similar to a national tournament.  Choices between tournaments would begin to occur.
3)  Schools don't have to lock into either debating the NDT or CEDA topics until the season plays out.  If the broad CEDA topic turns out not to be so broad, some schools committed to the narrower topic may cross-pollutinate as the season progresses, without making a full fledge obligation to enter for the entire season.  On the other hand, a small school might debate at CEDA broad topics tournaments because more generic argumentation can win, but still decide to attempt to qualify for the NDT because over the year they are able to get their act together on the narrower topic by then.
4) It gives us a some real comparative data to study from regarding how broad versus narrow would actually play out.
5) It creates choices and more choices allows for better pr to recruit new programs.  Hey, you can come to CEDA and never travel nationally and still have a nationally competitive program (using point system and success at CEDA nationals).
6) Allows CEDA to stay true to it's mission.
7) Takes pressure off topic committee to get the narrow topic "right".  If the topic misses the mark, the broad topic provides a nice backup plan for the NDT.  Provides a safety net if the narrow topic misses.  NDT could change be the one to move to 2 topics, fine tuning the narrow topic at mid-season with far less consequence in terms of preparation.
8) Pre-empt:  Too much research.  This claim is not absolute.  That's optional and again based on coaching preference.  This allows the opporutnity to reexplore the past.  And it gives a renewed expectation of the place for generics.  The development of the broad topic culture will likely include less focus on case specific research, more value to generic positions, and more value to assertions.  
Some examples of how might this play out:
Back to 2000-1
CEDA votes to debate:  That the USFG should substantially change it's foreign policy towards Africa.
NDT votes to debate:  RESOLVED: That the United States Federal Government should substantially increase its development assistance, including increasing government to government assistance, within the Greater Horn of Africa. 
Louisville starts the season going to CEDA tournaments to run it's generic race arguments on both sides of the topic.  Finding some success, debaters become engergized and what to take a stab at the NDT.  Although way behind against teams on case specific work, they are way ahead on their unique arguments.  Whether they qualify or not, the NDT qualification process is educational for everyone involved.  And the Louisville students who debated most of the year at CEDA topic tournaments feel great about their season, as do the Wake students who debated most of the year at NDT topic tournaments.  And when Louisville debated Wake occasionally during the year, those debates had a heigtened educational value.
In another example, halfway through the year, the NDT committee, votes to change the wording of the topic because they recognize that the USFG doesn't have much govt to govt assistance with the greater horn.  So they debate development asssistance to sub-saharan Africa in the spring.  Because most of the country is prepared to debate the broader topic, making the change is easy.
Instead of us having debates after topics occur about what should have been voted for or trying to guess during the season whether the topic committee got it right, this additional flexibility can potentially cure a lot of ills.
Something to think about,
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