[eDebate] Darren's Requested Feedback

Darren Elliott delliott
Thu Jul 19 20:21:06 CDT 2007


I appreciate the use of "Royal" blue.  It will look good on you when you
are spending your summers in KC watching Christopher play for us in a
decade. I've already got calls in to the scouting folks! : )

1.  I agree with everything you say on this issue.  I could have written
the same words and been just as consistent.  My question was directed at
those who are on side or the other.  Some say big worded narrow topics
bad for novices.  I can agree with all you say, and add when I teach
this topic to Novices I will paraphrase (that was harder to do with
Europe).  I just want those folks I reference above to say why the alt.
(smaller worded larger topics) are better.  I think it comes back to how
we coach and how we recruit.  Again I agree with all you say on this
issue.  Still would like some reasoning from the other folks.

2.  On this issue you say you would reconsider as part of a compromise
if your concerns and the concerns of others are addressed.  Are those
concerns simply wording based (too many) or aff flexibility (not
enough)?  The second part of your answer concerns diversity/adversity. 
Again we agree 100%.  I see the community just as you do.  We are all
eating but not the same pie.  The questions you pose, are we a community
and if so what binds us, are poignant.  I sometimes wonder if our
students (a commonality you point out) are as upset as the coaches?  Are
they ok with what they are eating?  I would assert the majority of them
are going to come and go from debate without even knowing what was on
the other buffet line.  Is that ok?  I dont know.  But we should expand
your questions to ask who is the target population when these concerns
arise.

3.  On this we agree again my friend.  I think the study can be
worthwhile (and it was really off the top of my head with no agenda in
mind).  Beyond that your suggestions are also important.  Do we have
shared goals/needs/values?  What are the goals of CEDA and the NDT
organizationally?  How do we begin this discussion and get the "elites"
of both traditional-CEDA and traditional-NDT involved?  I think that is
the key.  Listen, I am convinced that if the CEDA leadership laid out
the trends and likely move towards splintering (losing out like you say)
to the power brokers of the NDT and asked them to get on board, most of
them would.  Maybe I am wrong.  I would throw out some names (even had
em typed out) but decided the invitation would not be official just yet.
 But I would love it of any of them weighed in.

Hey what is Christopher's number?  I want to be the first one wearing a
Royals jersey with the name Warner on the back! : )

chief

Darren Elliott
Director of Debate--KCKCC
CEDA 1st VP
>>> "Ede Warner" <ewarner at louisville.edu> 07/19/07 2:23 PM >>>
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
someone.

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
beneficial.
And I have great respect for you too, except for that Royals thang.

thanks,
Chief

Darren Elliott
Director of Debate--KCKCC
CEDA 1st V.P.  
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