[eDebate] Answering Sous Chef's Korcok and Ellis

Jim Hanson hansonjb
Wed Jul 18 12:53:58 CDT 2007

while I doubt I will be considered one of the "iron chefs"  I am planning to propose that the topic process be changed.

here's the idea behind my proposal--one very close to a proposal tim mahoney and I worked on last year but got tabled at the nca last fall.

I would like to see resolution papers submitted a few weeks after the ndt/ceda nats.

people will have time, though not a huge amount of time, to engage in topic writing when they aren't busy debating.

resolution paper writers can post to edebate/the ceda blog to get feedback on their resolution wording over those weeks.

people can have real involvement over a longer period of time to engage in discussion about the topics they want and how they want them worded. right now, there just isn't much to say about topic areas--they don't elicit a lot of discussion other than "interesting topic area" "not interesting topic area."

the topic committee would be in charge of narrowing the resolutions down to 10 to 15 resolutions.

the community would vote on the resolutions, narrowing them down to 5 resolutions.

the topic committee would be in charge of making MINOR changes to the resolutions.

the community would vote on the resolutions, picking their favorite.

this proposal will allow jackie to develop a large aff resolution. it will allow ede and andy to have a transformative resolution. it will allow korcok to have a value resolution. it will allow the techies to have a topic with a core set of good affs with predictable, good neg ground.

jim :)
hansonjb at whitman.edu

----- Original Message ----- 
To: Ede Warner ; Andy Ellis 
Cc: edebate at ndtceda.com 
Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 9:40 AM
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Answering Sous Chef's Korcok and Ellis

No Iron Chef analogies here (though I would note that in the handful of times I've watched, I've never seen them produce anything that Andy would eat).  Instead, I want us to focus on what the goal is.  It seems to me that there are three possible places to engineer a democratic takeover of the topic process (and the assumption here is that "we" are not a minority, but at least potentially a silent majority):

1.  Do we want to organize to change the topic process?  This involves amending the CEDA by-laws, which can be accomplished through:
a)  getting an amendment passed at a Business meeting and ratified by the membership.
b)  proposing an amendment through a petition and having it ratified by the membership (requires a larger majority for ratification).

In either case, the strategy would involve mobilizing people for attendance at a business meeting (plus proxies), enrolling new members and getting their proxies, and/or enrolling new members and organizing people to vote in the ratification vote.  The new schools that Andy is signing up could be a part of that effort.  The problem with this strategy is that I'm not sure (other than a clean break like Tuna is proposing) what changes would be needed to accomplish the goal of "better" resolutions.

2.  Do we want to change the composition of the Topic Committee?  This would involve running candidates for CEDA Executive offices and Topic Committee Rep for at least a couple of years, as well as winning those elections.  Again, signing up new members and getting those who don't vote to vote would be key, as well as convincing people to vote for these offices on the basis of how the candidates might view the role of the resolution.  The problem with this strategy as a primary one is that it would take longer.  The other problem is that it might not be necessary.  I'm not sure that there is anything in the current process or composition of the committee that would preclude strategy #3 (below).

3.  Do we want to write one or more controversy papers, get them on the ballot, lobby for them among current and new members, and win the topic ballot?  I think this is doable, given the current circumstances.  The process would work like this:
"We" write one to three controversy papers that propose resolutions like the ones we're talking about Whether we should limit it to one is questionable, as the current voting process pretty much eliminates the vote-splitting issue.  Further, it would be more difficult for the Topic Committee to refuse to forward any of three controversy papers to the membership than it might be to refuse to forward one (more on that below).  Then, we lobby for the paper or papers during the voting period (having first signed up some new members as well).  We try to convince people that it's good to consider the best interests of people other than NDT outrounds participants, that it would be good for all to try this as a change of pace, etc.  The arguments that Jackie just posted are pretty good.  There are plenty of pretty good arguments in favor of our position, and it is in the interests of most programs to support this effort (I think).

We win the Topic area vote, and then we provide wording papers (are they called something else now?) that are consistent with the controversy paper (and of similar scope).  We press the Topic Committee to be true to the controversy paper (and invoke the legislative history that says they should be), and we emerge with 3 or 4 resolutions that are of the kind we are proposing.  The best one wins, we debate it for a year, and everyone says this is great.  Let's do it again!

The drawback to this approach is that we are relying on the Topic Committee to put the controversy paper or papers on the ballot and to come up with potential resolutions that are true to the paper (which would include a section about scope of resolution).  My problem with this drawback is that I trust Gordon (and assume that he has five votes on the committee to support his view of the process).  It would be amazing to me to see the Topic Committee reject three controversy papers that are well-written and reflect the views of a sizeable and active segment of the community.  It would be amazing to me to see the Topic Committee draw up resolutions that are not reflective of the controversy paper.  Maybe I'm na?ve, but I think we should try this approach.  It will work unless:
a)  The Topic Committee stifles democracy (highly unlikely in my opinion), or,
b)  We can't muster a majority to support our efforts (that remains to be seen).

If a) occurs, we can talk about how to alter the process or Committee.  If b) occurs, we need to do a better job.

--Neil Berch
West Virginia University
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Andy Ellis 
  To: Ede Warner 
  Cc: edebate at ndtceda.com 
  Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2007 10:20 AM
  Subject: Re: [eDebate] Answering Sous Chef's Korcok and Ellis

    My one concern is that your rhetoric seems to substitute the need for having Battle Topic in the Kitchen Stadium in lieu of playing in Hell's Kitchen.  I believe Battle Topic is a thorough and comprehensive plan which addresses all of the steps needed to concretely move us to a different topic in 2008.  Just wondering if my assessment is accurate and if it is, why would Hell's Kitchen be enough to substitute for my comprehensive proposal?  

  Well i think it is part of your proposal, to be honest i think that 2008 is too early to mobilize the kind of support you are looking for, before that ever happens there needs to be a means to democratize the various parts of the process and to get people involved in the work of topic crafting. I worry that without a more involved particaptory process we dont have a movement for change we simply select a new group of priests to go into the star chamber. While that is certainly essintial it falls back on similar problems of the status quo if it does not first involve a more involved electorate who has a direct hand in crafting the most important part of the topic process. 

    If you, Jackie, Tuna and myself create a great collaborative topic paper, what increases the likelihood that it will win?

  Well we would need to organize other people to be involved in the topic process, we would need to listen to concerns about our potential topic, discuss and address them, we would also need to clearly lay out the way debate would look in a world under our resolution, and we would need to involve people who are not us, who disagree with what we want, but like the general direction. Would that ensure that our topic won? No. Nothing reasonable is likely to ensure that our topic wins, but a more involved democratic deliberative process makes it more likely. 

      And if your argument is that the collaborative process will produce papers that cut across the debate ideological spectrum, I'm just wondering what evidence would suggest that it would actually pan out this way as opposed to different groups with similar perspectives on debate working together?  

  I think there will be some of both, but that cuts both ways, thats the beauty of taking the process out of the hands of one person. Say our topic choice is prison abolition and we have a group of potential wordings that move toward our goals, JP lacy decides that he really likes the topic area and that the benefit of debating it is more than a elegant topic and he joins the group and adds a topic wording to the process that he feels is likely to make the proposal more well rounded, now we can present a controversy paper with a a variety of resolution types and wordings and then the rest of the work in organizaing you describe can go on. 

  It also works the other way, if i am psyched about debating the middle east, but dont like the suggested wordings i can add the r: the united states should recognize the hammas governemnt to the middle east topic paper. 

  Now of course Mancuso and the ME group can  can choose to make rules that prevent me from adding that resolutions i like to their paper, however that becomes a documentable and scrutinizable choice in evaluating which topic paper you like and again the political work you describe can go on with more arguments. This is the game part of rules, if you make your rule process too open you may have a lot of people but find it hard to produce compiled work, if you make it too closed you may risk alienating people who look in to the process of you crafted your topic. 

  Finally keeping the process open during the year, ads a layer to it, it lets people see all aspects of the process and makes method more transparent. If mancuso (just an example, not a dig) excludes people from contributing who less wordy and wonky versions of topics that can, and has to become part of the conversational deliberation about which topic to endorse. 

    Finally, even if great papers are produced, I have the same questions for you that I had for Chef Korcok.  Exactly who in the current debate ideological divide will shift their allegiances enough to produce a winning topic area vote?  The same is true for who on the current topic committee will be persuaded to produce solely non-policy resolutions after the problem area is written? 

  My suggestion is that the two processes right now that are in the hands of individuals be made public and transparent, this would include the wording papers. I think my arguments above address a little bit of the question of crossing or closing the ideological divide but i think if people participate more in the topic crafting process it is more likely that all sorts of ideological divides can be crossed. writing topics, just like particapting in a democracy is hard. Its easy enough to sit on the side and criticize the process and form ideological ossifications, but some of those break down when you start to actually follow the ideas to their conclusion. I have learned this in crafting a different middle school topic each month for two years and through that process my ideological blinders have become at least different if not less blinding, currently much of the voting is driven by people who understand and thus control the process, the more people involved in topic crafting the more likely the political strategies you outline will work. 

    I think it is important that begin to move out of the theory stage of these discussions to more a more praxis-centered orientation.  These ideas need to be fleshed out and critiqued to their logical conclusion, which must always include how we get to the goal.  In that positive, progressive spirit, I will challenge critics and supporters alike to fully flesh out not only their criticisms of my proposal, but also, their alternatives as well. 

  One part of your proposal i think  i disagee with is the moving up of the controversey areas, if i read you right you want the process to decide that there are several options  and focus on those early on, i think that risks over committing and avoiding potentialy important controversies. The lack of iraq being debated this year is an example of how pre loading the process already causes us to skirt core controverseys, putting more padding on that risks that more. 

  What i would like to see is an open process as we have now that is public and ongoing, that encourages not just particpation from members of the debate community as we currently define but an expanded out reach to field experts, normal citizens, polcymakers, and anybody who wants to contribute resources and arguments to a topic. A campaign, where every body works until feb 15 to compete to compile the best coalition of supporters, the best network of people, and the best presentation. 

  Now every body will disagree on what the best is, however thats what makes a campaign fun.

    Topic for the People! 2008

  Topic Process for the People Now!

    Iron Chef Warner

   you left your spot in kitchen stadium ,  we are all in hells kitchen now.

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