[eDebate] Reactionary Provisions

Martin Harris mharris02
Sun Nov 18 15:56:24 CST 2007

   With all due respect, this is probably an amendment that is long
overdue. What it is not, a rule that says having debated in high school
dooms one to only travel in open to national circuit tournaments.
Talking about the dearth of skills a high school LDer possesses compared
against the top of policy debate (all this talk about K's, framework,
and tricky counterplan theory) is disingenous at best. While there are
certainly distinctions in argument jargon, argument styles, and argument
ability, the difference between JV and open is as stark as the
difference between novice and JV. 


   What LD is is debate. It has argumentation, and refutation, and
flows, and strategy and other skills that take a person some time to
learn. FIFTY rounds of debate is a massive advantage over someone that
is still learning to make more than one or two arguments on a position.
Or learning to respond to every argument, or the importance of not
forgetting what you said originally and exclusively focusing on a couple
of things the other team said. Not to mention how to handle cross
examination, and round presence, and displaying appropriate levels of
confidence/arrogance or time management, or pre tournament preparation,
or filing, or any of a half dozen other intangible soft skills like
being able to stand up and talk without feeling like you are going to
throw up. 


   This is no different than the 24 round rule for high school policy.
Every last one of the arguments made about high school LD can be made
about high school policy as well. Southwest Missouri is atrocious on
counterplan theory. Many coaches are trying to pass rules to forbid
cplans in the early divisions. South Dakota has schools that are still
pushing the stock issues paradigm and are willing to go all in on 8
minutes of inherency. When Andy Ellis was debating at Towson and
coaching for a Baltimore prep school in the BCFL in the late 90's he
would coach kids to talk for 8 minutes regardless of what they said
because it got you more ballots over 50% of the time. That's right. More
then half the debates wouldn't spend more than 4 minutes talking in the
constructives. Everyone of those kids was told they lost novice
eligibility for having debated more than 24 rounds of high school


   Yes, debate has different styles, different genres, different norms,
and different levels of experience across both "type" of debate and
geographical region in which the debate takes place. What ALL of these
events have in common (save maybe PuF since times are SO short and
rebuttal arguments are limited to AN issue) are they are debate. The
BASIC skills are the same. In the words of almost every Computer Science
teacher I have ever had. We don't teach language, we teach theory. If
you learn the CONCEPT of a basic algorithm, syntax is trivial. It
doesn't matter whether the language is Java, Perl, LISP, C, C#, or even
VB. Jargon varies, CONCEPT is the same. You can pick up syntax rather
easily once you understand the basics. That is what liberal arts
educators do. Teach concept, not syntax. Toulmin isn't different for LD
than it is for policy even if the argument types are different.


   Finally, I wanted to answer the argument this is a coaching decision.
Coaches do not have the interests of the COMMUNITY as a first priority.
That is why rules exist, to enforce balance and fairness for the
entirety of the activity. I am not a HUGE rule fan, but I do think there
should be some basic rules. The plain truth of the situation is some
coaches don't move kids up divisions and are happy to rack up points in
novice for as long as they can. Opprobriums against sand bagging
divisions don't work. If they did, there would be no harm no foul for
this rule. A junior varsity debater that was light years ahead of the
high school debater with FIFTY rounds of debate would be asked to move
up. If people want to use Blake Johnson as an example, it might be worth
remembering that he was nearly a Copeland winner, and a NDT qualifier
early in his career. Sounds like he was able to adjust pretty quickly.
That is the point. Will all high school LDers be able to drop into
junior and start to win tournaments right away? Maybe, maybe not, but
they should have enough skills that they will be able to adjust a lot
faster, and they are CERTAINLY more skilled than a person that doesn't
even know what the time limits or a resolution are much less how to make
more than one argument to a disad (something fairly common amongst RAW

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