[eDebate] Darren's Requested Feedback

Ede Warner ewarner
Thu Jul 19 14:23:19 CDT 2007

Note the use of "royal" blue in my answers.
Request for feedback?

1.  What is the rationale for broader topics being more Novice friendly?
We coach us a lot of novices here in KC and I got to tell you, the
problem is NOT the wording of the topic.  The biggest problem related to
debate (once you account for family, grade, job issues) is that the
topic is not adhered to in debates.  Novices trying to learn the game
face the hurdle of not the words in the topic, but the run to the left. 
I seriously would like to be engaged on why I should make the topic more
unmanageable research wise so the battle is now twice as large?
It's funny D, I don't think there is a right or wrong interpretation to who is comfortable recruiting and teaching in any particular way.  The bottom line:  coaching is an artform and people have different ways of doing it.  You might prefer small ball using bunts and steals, while I prefer the steroid-using 3 run shots.  Which you prefer will dictate how you recruit.
So if I think I can sell a 45 word topic to students, I will try.  If I think I can't, I'll probably paraphrase.  Can either work? sure.  Can either fail? of course.  If my personal evidence leads me to believe I can't sell 45 word topics to students but the community keeps voting for them?  Well, I will likely lose interest altogether and leave or just stop having novices.  Hard to say.
For the last seven years, I have exclusively trained novice debaters in debate.  Sometimes they started in novice, most often varsity.  Sometimes we were debating the topic, sometimes we weren't.  Sometimes they stayed, sometimes the left.  Could I reduce their experience to leaving because of debates against the "left" or "right"?  Nope.  Could I say that a variety of factors influenced their decisions that might have included particular debates, and my leadership style, and their competitive success, and their financial situation?  Sure I can.  
I can also say that adversity will always be a part of debate as in life.  We can not eliminate it.  The question of retention is whether a student feels the benefits outweigh the costs?  So novices may struggle with interest in the topic, others with debates against the left.  In our case, we struggled in consistently for years in debates against the left, and most if not all, would consider us the left.  But I can assure you that Louisville's retention problems had nothing to do with this issue.  We have a diverse list of reasons that novices leave this activity.

2.  Somewhat related to the above, I am perplexed often at those who
call for broader topics are often the ones who despise T debates.  I
think locking in the Aff is the only check currently (smaller more
predictable topics).  If there is a good answer, especially from those
running left, please engage me.  But here is how I see it.  At the
beginning of the year we have to prepare for debates on the topic and
debates not about the topic.  I am ok with that.  We often are not about
the topic.  But especially when it comes to Novices, with a smaller more
predictable Rez I can reasonably get them ready for predictable debates
for Camp 1 (the topic debates) and then worry about the non-predictable
non-topic debates.  Seems that some want the topic to be large to the
point where now the topic debates (Camp 1) are just as unpredictable and
unwieldy as Camp 2 (the non-topic debates).
I'm not opposed to re-considering my position on any of this, including topicality.  I guess the question for me is why reconsider?  If it is to simply "submit" to a world view that I no longer personally agree with, then my answer would be "no".  But if you asked me to re-consider my position on topicality as part of a compromise to address some of my concerns as well as the concerns of others, now that's a different story.  

Diversity creates adversity.  Diversity is hard.  If a system doesn't figure out how to accomodate it, the organization will lose it.  A "split" in NDT/CEDA isn't likely.  A bleeding off of the diverse perspectives and extremists on both sides will occur, leaving a smaller and homogenous center.  That's what is happening and that may be the normal evolution of things.  Can it be prevented?  Possibly, but there has to be some shared purpose between all parties involved or it can never occur.  The list discussions seem too interested in proving one side right, instead of looking for the common interests of all parties involved.  Are we a really a community?  If so, what binds us?  I know it use to be a particular style or form of debate.  I know that this was more true when the community had less diversity and more homogeneity.  The stylistic evolution in debate occurred at the time it was most homogenous.  Is that a coincidence?  I think probably not?
I would argue that CEDA was likely most popular and most stylistically diverse in the mid-to late 80's.  Diversity seemed to be part of it's mission and that created 2 topics a year; broad topics of which some were value and some policy.  I was not a part of it so I don't know how accurate that is.
What I do know is that the current ideological split has created the segregated cafeteria.  Those interested in a more technical policy oriented debate are the larger group.  There is a smaller, isolated group in the corner that has little interaction with the larger group.  They are all eating, but are they all a community?  Hard to say.  It's funny but everyone is unhappy.  The larger group don't like the smaller group very much because they would prefer they would fit in culturally and socially more with the larger group.  The smaller group dislikes the smaller group feeling they have no individuality because of their conformity.
But there are some obvious commonalities:  they are all students and they are all eating.  Perhaps those similarities can create the basis for more understanding of one another.  But it would require all of them to see some value in doing so. 

3.  How many of you (and you can b/c me) would be willing to conduct a
topic survey with your a) your teams, b) your argumentation and debate
classes, and c) your public speaking classes?  I am thinking of a survey
that compares topics and asks students to rate the ones they would most
like to debate.  The comparison pool would come from the last CEDA
topics, the last NDT topics, and the 10 years of merged topics.  I think
this data could be useful, and provide a research/paper outlet even for

Your approach can be the right one.  But before study or plans of battle topic or kitchen's or anything else, the group must create some level of shared purpose or all is for not.  If the intercollegiate debate cannot create some level of shared goals and then make policy decisions that are consistent with achieving those goals, more study, debate, argument will simply be used to reinforce current beliefs and nothing will move forward. If the agreed upon goal of everyone in the cafeteria is to learn as much as they can about the world during lunch time, perhaps the motivations and subsequently, the approaches change by each group. 
My suggestion is a discussion about what should be the organizational goals of CEDA/NDT debate?  
Are the goals of the two organizations different, and if so, are the goals exclusive of one another?  If there can be some consensus here, then actions can move us toward becoming a community again.  If not, we will continue to splinter, and everyone loses.
Let me say, I have great respect for everyone in these conversations
(even Korcok).  Everything I write above is an attempt to genuinely
engage the community as a member of the Topic Committee and more
importantly as a member of the CEDA EC.  I hope the dialogue will be
And I have great respect for you too, except for that Royals thang.


Darren Elliott
Director of Debate--KCKCC
CEDA 1st V.P.  
eDebate mailing list
eDebate at www.ndtceda.com 

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