[eDebate] Darren's Requested Feedback

Ede Warner ewarner
Fri Jul 20 01:15:18 CDT 2007


Seems that the only engagement is your question about my concerns relative to topicality...I highlight it in Phillie Red and respond in Rockie lavender.
>>> "Darren Elliott" <delliott at kckcc.edu> 7/19/2007 9:21 PM >>>
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)?  
 
My response begins with something I said in my post earlier today to Vik:
 
"Deeply investigating and exploring a common topic from as many different socio economic, political, and cultural perspectives as possible, 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."
 
I guess what I think prevents fully achieving this state is that our community has not much, if any theory building to create an evaluation system that doesn't just allow difference but protects stylistic difference and the right to define in the competitive process.
 
Most of our game in terms of evaluation is about unwritten conventions. Proof is the disparity between most judging philosophies and how decisions are actually made in debates.  Philosophies are usually broader perspectives on evaluation methods, but the actual method is grounded in experience and training.
 
"protect the 2AR"; "no new arguments in rebuttals"; "Plans need to be read in the 1AC"; What a winning counterplan needs"; Expectations of what is needed for any argument; The process for evaluation of a dropped argument;; the process for comparing or weighing impacts".  All of these are evaluation measures that usually are left unsaid, until they are actually used in the evaluation process.  Why is it such an advantage to have a previous experience with a judge when the other team is getting that judge for the first time?  Because when the first team had that judge the first time, the experience of hearing how the judge makes a decision is ....well, priceless!  The ability to adapt is learned from the actual experience with the judge a lot more than from the judging philosophy.
 
I still have concerns that we lack any theory, formal or informal, to truly address difference, whether stylistic difference or topic perspective difference.  I will leave stylistic difference for another day, but one example might be that I understood the Weber State Narrative to tell a story and they wanted a holistic process of evaluation that instead of categorizes and evaluates arguments per speech, the refutation is evaluated over the course of the debate.  This changes when and how refutation might occur.  Louisville and others have done similar approaches almost 15 years later, yet there is no community consensus on how to evaluate this different type of debate.  Individual judges have various methods, but depending on how the opponent engages, no one really knows how the debate is going to be evaluated.  If someone's answer is that "nothing changes" I'm not sure that is fair to both teams, but nor am I sure that "everything changes" is fair either.  Some common understanding of how refutation is evaluated needs to become part of the community conversation as just one example.
 
But back to the topics.  My perspective is simple:  I want diversity to mean the allowance of broader literature bases that allows for more than just one perspective of what words mean, while still establishing "protection" for negative ground in that they are able to predict a stable content discussion.  
 
1) Debate theory, especially topicality, in no way has kept up with the technological advances that guide our activity.  Many of the old ground and predictability arguments don't account for how things have changed.  Ground used to involve questions of access to research, ability to access information about what people are doing, as well as predictability.  We all needed to look at a single literature base that we could all access, hence we needed to limit that access.
 
2) The importance of defining terms has been totally eliminated in our activity, but is still a critical component of persuasion in all other walks of life and I will defend it is should still be an important aspect of our educational mission.  The approach now is to tell the affirmative what words mean instead of allowing them to define the meaning of words.  The right to define is important because it motivates and inspires students, but also, because it allows them the possibility of defending new ways of thinking.  Does this have to be balanced with negative ground?  Sure.  But the community has been very limited in thinking about how this can be done.  But more than that, it has been very dogmatic.
 
If I want to define development assistance as reparations, the negative shouldn't win just because reparations isn't on a government list, they should win if they can demonstrate that the affirmative attempt to define means the types of arguments we came prepared to make aren't applicable to the debate.  But most topicality debates are reduced to "the government doesn't define reparations as development assistance", so the aff should lose because we weren't prepared.  
 
In the past, Louisville debaters are trained to go the next step and ask, "so what arguments can you not run in your files that you would like to run in this debate?"  And defend that a fair common sense interpretation of development assistance should be a USFG transfer of money or resources to another country.  Are you prepared to debate against government transfers of money or resources to Rwanda?  Then, why can't we have a good debate?
 
Implications of this:
1) Louisville wins debates in front of judges who care more about in round ground.
2) Louisville loses debates in front of judges concerned with potential abuse.
3) Louisville loses debates in front of judges who vote on predictability.
4) Louisville loses debates in front of judge who adheres to judging philosophy on topical being a voting issue.
5) Debates never occur on the merits of reparations.
6) Louisville is discredited for not engaging topic.
7) Louisville debaters grow frustrated that something they believe to be topical is being consistently dismissed.
8) Louisville debaters become frustrated that they feel they outdate teams on topicality in many debates and still lose.
9) Coaches become frustrated that Warner won't play fair.
10) Warner becomes frustrated because the system excluded his team's case in the topic narrowing process, and then backlash when they run it anyway, without any understanding of how it has expanded the topic since no one else runs it.
 
Again taking the case to the expert or the common person may be helpful:
1) I think a case can easily be made that reparations can be a form of development assistance.
2) I don't think the government defines it as such.
 
Would the expert and common person likely agree?  Don't know.  Could a persuasive case be made in front of each of them?  I believe so.
 
I guess the system to me is overly restrictive when the limits require only one possible definition of terms.  The effect is that eliminates the possibility of approaching the topic from different cultural perspectives if the jump off has got to be one culture's perspective.  
 
In 2000, I had the only predominately Black team, newly built, ready to debate Africa.  Most of them came from our Pan African Studies Department.  Many were first years.  Only 8 of them stayed the entire 4 years.
 
So, all of this is a long answer to I would like simple topics, like Joe I believe, but more importantly for me, I need flexibility. But even more important than that, I need to be able to teach students theories of debate that make sense to them and allow them some lattitude to practice debate in the ways that they conceive debate.  I'm not oppose to teaching them some of more advanced argument strategies, but we as educators must realize that teaching is easier when students are open to learning.  The more illogical and foreign our norms and procedures are to those students, especially as compared to how and what they perceive debate to be, the more difficult retention is going to be.  
 
Ede

>>> "Darren Elliott" <delliott at kckcc.edu> 7/19/2007 9:21 PM >>>
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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