[eDebate] Activism vis-a-vis debate

Kevin Sanchez let_the_american_empire_burn
Tue Jul 10 03:52:56 CDT 2007

philogelos : "The question is not whether debate ought to occur, but rather 
what form we should concieve it in. My main point was not that debate does 
zero good with regards to making the world a better place - but that it does 
so only *indirectly* by making debaters more capable in their ability to 
impact the world around them."

andy's 'perm' implied the question, what's necessarily wrong with re-forming 
debate to have a more direct impact?... if we agree that priority be given 
to the game, why is 'doing both' wrong a priori?

"Viewing debate as a means through which to 'get messages out' is akin to 
having a rally in the wilderness."

yes, a cross-national (becoming international) 'wilderness' chalk full of 
people who will go on to be lawyers, policymakers, and other important 
members of their communities, and who are *currently* members of a forum for 
political argumentation comprised of thousands of participants (the cream of 
the crop in terms of intelligence).

"why would anyone research anything (except their own affirmative) if there 
isn't a binding resolution?"

1. umm because they'd have to go negative?
2. the resolution needn't be seen as binding right *now*: it doesn't say 
'read the following as restrictive...' or 'pretend you're the u.s. federal 
government and...' -- common usage doesn't definitionally limit creative 
license here (which i went through here: 
3. under a system of online disclosure/publication, they'd have *more 
incentive* to do indepth research because they'd know beforehand precisely 
what they're up against: none of this putting together a great case negative 
and then finding out its irrelevant because of some squirrely 'normal means' 
specification, and no more relying on overly-generic arguments that link to 
'federal government' (kritiks being among the most glaring disservices to 
case-specificity in this regard).

"Do you not think that there is pedagogical value to the research and 
preparation that comprises some 95% of all time spent with policy debate?"

oh an easy one... i'll go with yes.

"the question is whether it makes the debaters better people to be 
guaranteed to at least have the ability to engage on the topic by having 
prepared. And I think it clearly does, because without that preparation not 
only is the debate itself going to be pretty crappy, but people won't have 
the motivation to research, and most won't even have the motivation to show 
up (which requires competitive equity)."

the question is whether the current system of topicality (both the 
committee's work and the in-round position itself) is the best debate can 
do. i think it's clearly not. as i've said already, topicality is run almost 
every round, even against cases most everyone concedes are topical: that 
means it's wasting a lot of time that could be spent more substantively. and 
teams that run cases most everyone concedes are non-topical continue to do 
so because it's a position fraught with a lack of clear standards for 
enforcement. moreover, many participants feel disengaged from the topic 
process for many reasons (debaters lack of a direct vote, frustration over 
the default form of 'u.s. federal government', etc.). so again if there's a 
way that allows debaters to have more of a say in what affirmative cases 
they run and can simultaneously do a better job than the current system of 
topicality at encouraging research and levelling the playing field, i claim 
it's worth pursuing. that's the creative commons/open debate side of this 
argument... and if you reject it, you need to provide a better alternative 
or learn to live with the status quo. (remember too the topic committee can 
do what they do and still wield considerable influence in outlining the 
ballpark where discussion can take place; debate will simply have a more 
precise mechanism for keeping everyone on the same page.)

"No one ever became a better debater - let alone thinker, or social advocate 
- during a debate round...that happens inbetween, in figuring out how to 

i agree, and this brings us to the activist side of the argument. activist 
debaters and coaches are doing exactly what you advocate: they tailor their 
conception of the debate round to precisely those kinds of research/training 
that will make them better activists in-between and outside of debate 
rounds. two further points worth mentioning here: one, there's no reason the 
debate round itself cannot be granted a more public significance through 
methods like video dissemination or online publication, and two, when 
debaters pretend that rounds are sites of activism, it may encourage actual 
sites of activism at debate tournaments proper or organized through debate 
channels - opportunities that may've not happened otherwise. now here's a 
preempt: these are changes to the content of debate, not changes to its form 
- that is, the round-tournament-contest framework can be left untouched 
while the contents of debate rounds change and while new ideas are pursued 
*in addition* to (not contrary to) that framework... from what i've read, 
you fail to take this under consideration.

"The resolution needs to be structured to do the following things: 1. 
Maintain competitive equity (be roughly balanced) 2. Invite research and 
argument preperation year-round (be about an issue where there is ample 
literature that is multi-faceted) 3. Make people want to debate (be 
interesting)[.] THAT's why
coming up with a topic is really tough."

...i may return to this for a more specific treatment, but for now i'd just 
say that online disclosure/publication turns all these while providing a 
good alternative to the current system; judge for yourself: 
(and relevant surrounding threads).

"And any system that allows a team to say 'Nuts to that, let's talk about 
what I want to talk about instead' - even if the motive isn't gaining a 
competitive edge - seems astoundingly inconsiderate."

the activity rightfully belongs to those who get up and speak in actual 
rounds; to me it's inconsiderate to not constantly look for ways to better 
respect that. in any case, what you're on about - self-righteousness, 
threats to competitive equity, evasionary incoherence, over-reliance on 
evidence, intellectual butchery - are much larger problems than rants 
against kritik- and/or activist- debate might lead one to believe.


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