[eDebate] Topic Papers, and Pigs in a Poke

scottelliott at grandecom.net scottelliott
Tue May 22 09:43:59 CDT 2007

I have been checking out the cedablog site concerning the current topic
selection and selection process.

I think the Mid-East as a problem area is great and timely.  My problem is with
the current topic paper writing process. Namely, most papers do not focus on
resolutions. I posit that anybody can make a case for well over 50 topic areas
any given year. Proliferation, genetic engineering, Healthcare in America,
Environmental problems, relations with XY and Z countires and/or regions. That
is the relatively easy part. What is much tougher is framing resolutions that
are debatable and do not suck.

Example: Hey, everybody, let's debate the U.S. Supreme Court. YEE HAW!!!! Poorly
drafted resolutional choices led to the selection of, in my opinion, a poorly
drafted resolution being chosen and debated--a decision everyone is stuck with
for an entire year. mmm! mmm! Loved those Planned Parenthood case debates.

Now we have a mad dash over literally three or four days to draft
resolutions--one of which we will be stuck with for an entire year.

I AM NOT KNOCKING the hard work that is going into resolution drafting that is
currently going on. Nor am I knocking the topic area. I know exactly how much
work is involved in research a  topic area (see genetic engineering paper). I
am also very much aware of how much thought--reflective thought--is necessary
to draft an adequate debate resolution.

Proposal:  My proposal is quite simple: Next year's topic papers should be
required to provide at least 10 draft resolutions and an analysis of those
resolutions. Reasons why key terms were chosen and/or not chosen. Then at least
three of those resolutions should be included on the topic ballot.

Why? Because of this "pig-in-a-poke" syndrome, an unintentional bait-n-switch
routine that seems to occur every year when the topic committe meets for three
or four days of hasty decisionmaking.

Example: This morning I read that ISRAEL is now being considered as a topic
country. WTF? So, person A thinks she was voting for a substantial change from
the Bush policy of kissing Israeli ass as a topic area. She then wakes up in
June or July to find out that we can now increase relations with Israel. Some
of the proposals now look like a Pro-Bush extension of foriegn policy will be
affirmative gorund. Example 2: Saudi Arabia is now being included on the list
of possible countries. Now, if we were to have a "pucker list" of countries the
U.S. currently sucks up to, it would have to be #1 Israel and #2 Saudi Arabia.
So, my plan to increase the number of desalinization plants in Saudi Arabia is
good to go. My plan to have more student exchange programs with Israeli
Kibuttzes is good to go. Not a problem. But I don't think this is what people
thought they would be debating when they voted for a Mid-East resolution.

So, bottom-line this topic selection and topic resolution writing is flawed. We
get stuck with inferior and I dare say, ill-considered, resolutions for an
entire year. There is a solution--require topic papers that actually propose
resolutions and guarantee that at least some of those resolutions will apear on
the topic ballot. This will solve for the "rush to write resolutions in just a
couple days" problem we see every year and will solve for the "bait-n-switch"
resolutionjacking that seems to occur every year.

Like I said, I know for a fact how much hard work and dedication is necessary to
craft quality resolutions. And, I believe that everone that is working on it
right now has the best of intentions. But, as academics we should all recognize
the cardinal rule of good writing--edit, reflect, edit again. The current
process does not allow for such reflective thought and careful editing. As a
result, we keep getting stuck with resolutions that suck.


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