[eDebate] topics and evidence

Josh jbhdb8
Tue Jul 17 13:24:02 CDT 2007

I will need to think about what Mike says for a bit....but, no matter what
you do - I will likely be all pouty and grumpy....There is just no pleasing
some people,


On 7/17/07, Michael Korcok <mmk_savant at hotmail.com> wrote:
> I will work hard to treat this issue fresh.  a bunch of us were here a
> decade ago and made judgments and arguments then.  i am a fan of "stay the
> course" in US foreign policy but i think Huxley had it right generally:
> "Single-mindedness is all very well in cows or baboons; in an animal
> claiming to belong to the same species as Shakespeare it is simply
> disgraceful."
> Evidence is good.  The lack of it for "resolutions is why people left and
> why we continue to decline" is important.
> 1) Matt points out that no one who left says they left because they didn't
> like the resolutions.  I doubt anyone would.  Even if they did leave because
> of the resolutions.   "I left because I didn't like the resolutions" makes
> the utterer sound like a trifling ass.  That is hardly a good enough reason
> to inflict parliamentary debate on one's students.  I would expect them to
> front with statements like "The zeitgeist of academic disputation had
> transitioned to hypertechnical modes of discourse."  Now THIS statement, it
> is all professorial and learned.  True, it makes the utterer sound like a
> pompous ass but pompous ass > trifling ass every minute. I know this is
> simply a trick that the religious pull, having an explanation why there is
> no evidence to imply there really is evidence.  So I won't do that.  But
> there is a decent explanation why there isn't this sort of evidence.
> 2) Josh and Tim give other causes for programs leaving.  Because Jackie
> makes the direct causal claim.  I think causal claims are largely scams:
> claims about complex social causes are just grifts.  For every event or
> situation, there is an open-ended set of conditions for its occurrence or
> existence.  Isolating one of those conditions or even a subset of them as
> the "cause" or "causes" is a political/power act.  Not to be too pedantic,
> but there is a game I play with my argumentation class about causality and I
> don't say much more about causality other than to mock its textbook
> treatment.
> You wake up at 7:30 am, all bleary-eyed, your head pounding from the
> booze, meth, and lack of sleep.  Yah, you got home at 4 am from that party
> and fell into bed with your clothes still on.  The world is swirling about,
> but you throw yourself into the shower for 10 minutes and throw on some
> laundry from off the floor.  You get in your car, which badly needs a
> maintenance check-up, and start to drive to school.  The fog is thick this
> morning, you can't see more than 10 feet in front of you and there is a
> shine on the asphalt, but you need to get to your 8 am class so you push
> it a few miles over the speed limit.   Just as you enter an intersection,
> the traffic light hanging in the middle resolves through the fog, and it is
> red.  You hit the brakes, your car skids into the middle of the
> intersection, you try to steer out of the skid, and BLAM!  As you come to,
> you do a check, no blood, shoulder bruised badly, no broken bones, neck
> stiff, glass everywhere.  You get out slowly, a lot of damage to your car,
> the other car too, you see someone getting out, you rush over, they're ok.
> No one badly hurt, you talk, you call the police...
> OK.  What caused the accident?  And the related question: who or what is
> to blame?  Invariably, the first answers are you caused the accident and you
> are to blame.  But then I guide the class to an understanding of how
> "causality" functions as we generate the list of causes:  the party hosts
> for allowing booze and meth, the party hosts for allowing the party to go to
> 4, the Jack Daniels distillery for pushing a booze youth culture, the
> automobile companies for making cars that don't drive themselves, the city
> for laying down roads that skid, the city for placing traffic lights in the
> middle of intersections instead of 5 feet before the intersection, the
> college for having 8 am classes, your parents for raising a fool, your high
> school for inadequate drivers ed, the tire company for making a product that
> skids on slick roads, the brake manufacturer for making brakes that don't
> actually stop the car, your parents because if they hadn't had that special
> evening you wouldn't have been born and if you hadn't been born there
> wouldn't have been an accident, the sun because no sun no accident, the
> nonexistent aliens from Alpha Centauri because they could have transported
> in seconds before the accident and whisked your car up over the
> intersection, the OTHER GUY for ramming into the side of your car...
> see?  causality, it is a scam.  for any given event or situation, there is
> an open-ended set of conditions which must obtain for that event to occur or
> that condition to exist.  isolating just 1 of those conditions as a
> cause is foolish or dishonest or both.  isolating a subset of them is little
> better.  and blaming is just the grifter offspring of the parent grift.
> so...  I don't think that policy resolutions are the cause of the decline
> in participation.  I don't even think that thinking about this issue in a
> causal way is productive or honest.
> 2') To be fair to Josh, Tim, and Jackie, they aren't really talking about
> causes so much as they are about reasons people have for making the
> decisions they do.  And that makes the discussion a little more honest.  But
> reasons are at least as complex as causes.  Our decisions aren't made for
> reasons all that often:  emotions, feelings, relationships, circumstances,
> and plain old brain chemistry determine decisions too.  And there are
> several cool psychological studies that indicate that reasons are largely
> after-the-fact explanations of decisions already made rather than being part
> of the decision-making process itself.  So much of what happens when a
> debate program doesn't get started or when a debate program leaves
> cross-examination debate or when a novice debater doesn't start debating or
> when someone quits going to debate tournaments is largely opaque to us and
> even to the decision-makers themselves.  arguing about the reasons they had
> for making the decisions they did is likely little more than a political
> exercise.
> 3) There is evidence.  It is not that good.  It is embedded in the world
> like all evidence invariably is.  It comes to this:  the decline in
> participation in CEDA coincides with a) the 4 or 5 years of increasingly
> policy-oriented resolutions pre-merger and b) the post-merger lock-in
> of increasingly "policy" policy-based resolutions.  Were other things going
> on at the same time?  absolutely.  lots of things.  speed of delivery ramped
> up, research burdens skyrocketted, Bush got elected, the White Sox won a
> World Series.  In fact, there is a TIGHT correlation between Korcok losing
> his hair and cross-examination debate participation declining... it is
> almost as if each of my hairs represents another novice debater in the
> activity.  Damn!  another newbie just fell out of District 5!  the point is
> no one is going to do a satisfying factor analysis trying to correlate
> participatory decline with portions of what has happened over the past
> decade so the evidence we have is:  participation declining at the same time
> as policy ascending.  oh oh.
> 4) There is a story to be told.  It is sorta entertaining and it can be
> used to beat people over the head and neck, including people I respect as
> well as people who need a good thrashing.  Josh is in both of those
> categories.  Tim is just in one of them.
> The story is this:
> Policy resolutions are more of the same for elite high school debaters.
> Policy resolutions give elite high school debaters a large advantage over
> those without experience in high school policy debate.  Those folks who did
> great for a few years debating policy resolutions get to do more of the same
> in college, the same stuff that they excelled and trained in for a few years
> already.  That makes policy resolutions a substantial entry barrier to
> novices.  Some coaches here have been teaching people how to debate policy
> resolutions a long frikkin time.  For DECADES, in fact.  Same with
> programs:  some of the programs around here have been learning how to do
> that crap for frikkin ever:  they have policy resolutions down like your
> momma has eating down.  That makes policy resolutions a substantial entry
> barrier to new programs and new coaches.
> Hey!  What the hell happened in the merger?  Oh I know!  A large number of
> programs that didn't know jack about how to do policy resolutions which were
> filled with kids who didn't know much about how to do policy resolutions got
> fed to programs and debaters that knew that shit inside and out.  And many
> many of those CEDA programs didn't want to be eaten alive so they left,
> quit, fled for their lives.  Good eatin for the hungry NDT programs which
> had suffered through lean times, not so much fun for the CEDA programs.
> And now?  Yah.  Continued steady decline in participation as
> cross-examination debate continues an overall strategy of pandering to the
> elite high school debaters and the programs built on them rather than doing
> the middle years CEDA strategy of targetting the much broader student
> population of some or no high school experience debaters.
> You know, instead of doing the thing that worked, we are doing the thing
> that failed.  GO US!
> I LOVE that story.  It is a story for both reformers and revolutionaries,
> it makes bad guys out of the powerful and explains to the disenchanted that
> it isn't their fault, it is the fault of the system that the rich construct
> to keep the rest of us down.  And it is mostly kind of true or at least
> rather truthy which is good enough for government work.
> 5)  it is time for a non-policy resolution.  we might all learn
> something.  even if Josh spends the whole year skulking about all pouty and
> grumpy.  i think we would all enjoy that.
> Michael Korcok
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