[eDebate] huh?

Ede Warner ewarner
Thu Jul 19 16:11:09 CDT 2007

I agree Vik that it isn't necessary an organizational split.  I guess I was referring to Darren's concern that the problem is the run for national NDT competitiveness.  That seems to be the defacto goal that is driving some of the problems according to Darren.  
Both organizations seem to have things in writing that are not being operationalized through policy or how the cultures in practice operate.  The question becomes: what are the defacto goals of each person, institution, organization?  And if they are compatible (not exclusive) is there a way to move forward to greater a bigger sense of group accomplishment or goal attainment.
Personally, I can make concessions on issues like topic size and style if I understand how making that concession moves me closer to a particular goal.  It just seems that we, myself included, spend a lot of time trying to disprove the correctness of each other's ideas, so the only purpose is submission, which frustrates everyone. Consequently there is no understanding of shared purpose or goals, just your way is right or my way is right.
As far as topic size and style, it seems to me that if the shared goals of keeping the 1) the current diversity and creativity and 2) preserve topical policy switch side debate, one such compromise might be that the community vote for a broader topic in return for a commitment to more rigorous enforcement of topicality.  Currently, we have two subgroups each emphasizing one goal over the other, that is different from us as a community sharing both goals equally I think.  Just a thought...
Now if the discussion devolves into one side saying that they don't want any constraints on their political voice and the other side saying that the sky will fall if we don't use the only check we have on predictability which is a narrow topic, then we are right back were we started, which is both sides firmly entrenched in their house, unwilling to give on anything and the slow burn of our activity continues.  More radical acts of protest, more rigorous judging preference measures, more debates reduced to personal attacks, more narrow topics to challenge topic anarchy.
On the other hand, if Ross and Will say, "I like having Ede and Vik around and our debates against their teams have a lot of educational value for my students, especially if they can stay just a little more predictable to the topic."  And we can say back to them, "Our students really are tested on the logic and reasoning of their ideas when they debate Wake and MSU and that helps them develop, especially if we could create some standards to prevent stylistic difference from dictating debate outcomes as opposed to the merits of the argument" then we can begin to move forward as a group in productive ways.
I'm still here because I think we have a beautiful activity but everyone has to be committed to preserving it.  And that means finding common ground to play nice with those that we have pedagogical differences with.  The irony is that deep down, we are were trained essentially the same in debate and our differences arise out of other social and political differences that should be celebrated in how we debate.  
Deeply investigating and exploring a common topic from as many different socio economic, political, and cultural perspectives, to me should be our goal.  And when we get there, we will transform the world in many, many ways.  I think we are really close, but not quite there yet.
As for the questions:
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. 

I agree with Patrice's original observation that it's not necessarily a CEDA/NDT divide, which is why I wonder above if we need to make one in this quest for a new kind of topic.  If you haven't read it in a while (or ever), Article I, Section B. of the NDT Charter says:
B. The purpose of the National Debate Tournament shall be to encourage the growth of programs of excellence in forensics education in institutions of higher education in the United States; to conduct a National Debate Tournament which shall be equally committed to encouraging the opportunity for quality debate for students of all institutions of higher education by maximizing the numbI er and geographic representation of participating schools, encouraging the highest standards of debate excellence by maximizing the competitive quality of participating schools, and encouraging the highest standards of educational excellence by conducting a tournament consistent with the educational objectives of intercollegiate forensics competition.
I underlined (if you can see it - damn archive format issues) a few things that allow me to continue to believe in the possibility of the NDT and working together with CEDA.  My fear has always been, as it was once stated to me, that many things become "CEDA's Job" (recruitment of NEW programs was the issue being discussed with a committee member for that quote) and that when CEDA tries to act on these goals, it can be told "no" by the NDT.  Tradition can be good, but bullheaded obstinacy because you can't see other possibilities is somewhat contrary to what we're trying to teach.  But it seems to me, that there is nothing in the charter that prevents CEDA and the NDT from exploring goals together and it is up to those who implement those choices to decide if that's what they really want to do. 

More often, we divide not because of CEDA/NDT, or even policy/value(critical), or traditional/performative, or "this was the golden age"/"that was the golden standard", or "I hate the conflation of performance and critical in discussion"/"you people are ruining the activity", but because sometimes we end up arguing "more debate" versus "better debate" rather than seeking the perm of "more and better argumentation". (See, debating counterplan theory can occasionally be good if you look at it the right way - it's the only time we teach students consensus of proposal rather than opposition.)  I am encouraged by the coalition building not just because I am genetically programmed it seems to like coalitions, or just because I believe in the aims of the group, or because it's nice to see that something comes from all this "policy" education so people learn how to be political, but because it means we haven't gotten so far into  being argumentative that we sometimes can't reach out to find the common ground.  I often feel our instincts, honed by this activity and the forum in which we engage, lead us to always disagree, rather than look for consensus where it does exist.  This discussion has been a nice change. 


the sidenote:

Some of this is interest in the current conversations about the topic/process/coalition building.  Some of this is "professional development" on the cheap . . . 

If you don't know, my day job is now running a scholarship competition at NYU that is basically a giant debate tournament with a modified cross-ex structure (same speech order, shorter times) judged by faculty (so, non-debaters mostly) open to the whole undergraduate population (business students, theater students, parli, policy, ie, Model UN, and novices UNITE).  The first year our topic was "Resolved: The United States should a adopt a policy of universal community service for all its citizens." (This was BEFORE last year's hs topic - I'm just damned prescient). Some people had specific implementation proposals, some had ethical contentions - basically the rules are present arguments under the topic and refute.  I hear there were even "t" debates in rounds - that's not community service, that's not all citizens, aff burdens, etc.  Students familiar with "policy" debate didn't feel the topic mandated plans or policies uniformly, many actively avoided "plans", many wrote them to avoid potential "disadvantages" from the neg.  Many people with no exposure to policy debate instantly thought of the resolution in terms of policy action, many thought of it in terms of competing values.  I guess my question based on this experience is if norms have as much to do with how a "topic" is debated as the wording itself?  In our first year, there were no "norms" to go by.  

In our second year, I "trained" students to include more policy considerations because of feedback, but even "Resolved: The United Nations should be given the power to levy taxes to establish a meaningful standing peace force of significant size" didn't automatically generate affirmatives with specific tax plans (but when they did . .  damn the Tobin tax).  It DID generate LOTS of counterplans (duh). 

So my question related to our larger discussion - if I told debaters they have to have a plan, and the plan includes government action, isn't it a policy "debate"?  And wouldn't my neg preparation about the issue  be true on any incarnation of the topic - including a non-governmental implementation advocacy, as long as my only generic strategy weren't "state bad"? I'm still evolving how much "direction" I give students in training for the competition on their approach.  I also have to vet the wording of the topic (I don't pick it, just amend if the research makes the "sides" unbalanced), so I'm also playing with my feedback in that area.  Seemed a good time to get some input. 

Vik Keenan
Director - Baruch Debate, CUNY
Assoc. Director - New York Coalition of Colleges
212/992-9641 or 347/683-6894 
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