[eDebate] Reactionary Provisions

NEIL BERCH berchnorto
Mon Nov 19 21:27:35 CST 2007

I hate the LD-novice discussion almost as much as I hate the more general novice eligibility discussion.  That said, a few points from someone who is genuinely torn on whether Chief's amendment is a good idea.

First, I think it is ridiculously impossible to make the case that there are not at least SOME high school LD debaters who are too good for college policy novice division (meaning they will scare people away, etc.).  Let's look at the two examples people have brought up.  Blake Johnson started out his first year of college debate with a quick trip to novice.  He then debated in JV and Open most of the rest of the year (he used up his three JV finals in his first semester).  At the end of the season, he debated in novice at JV/Novice Nats at Towson (after being ruled ineligible to be in JV Nats there; let's not go back to that story, but, yes, he was eligible for novice but not JV).  He and his partner lost in finals to the Bard/Vassar team of Zisman and Davis.  Except for that one instance (and the one to start the year, where he lost in semis), Mr. Johnson and Coach Massey decided that it was unethical and/or bad for him and others for Mr. Johnson to debate in Novice.

Michael Mangus posted to this thread yesterday as well.  Mr. Mangus (who debated and coached high school LD) indicates that "I would hesitate to say that even national circuit LD is particularly useful as training for policy debate."  

I would suggest that his record suggests otherwise.  For his entire first year at Pitt, Mr. Mangus debated in the Open division.  He finished below .500 at only two tournaments, the notoriously challenging WVU warmup tournament (with a just-moving-up JV hybrid partner) and the NDT (yes, he qualified for the NDT, a typical novice experience).  After the WVU warmup tournament, he went 4-4 at Georgia State in Open, did the same at Wake, and cleared at just about every other Open tournament he entered.  He was eligible for our Novice Nationals, but he did not enter.  Kudos to Mr. Mangus and Gordon Mitchell for making good ethical decisions (as well as for not retarding Mr. Mangus's development).

So, then Jackie's right, and there's no need for a rule, right?  The problem, as Chief said, is that not everyone is as ethical as Jackie and Gordon.  There are indeed multiple instances of people taking experienced high school LD debaters and riding them to novice victory all year for the points.  I'm not going to name names (better to name names of those who are acting "ethically"), but it does happen.

So, then Chief is right and we should legislate these renegades out of their loophole, right?  But Jackie raises a good point about how that might discourage run-of-the-mill high school LD debaters who would be demoralized if they had to debate in JV.  Jackie is pretty convincing on this point, especially as he heads out the door to outrounds during one of the Northeast region's 10 rounds in two days marathons.  

So, then Jackie's right, and this rule could do more harm than good, right?  Well, it's an empirical question, and I don't know the answer.

So, what about the ADA, which has a similar rule?  They have lots of novices, so the rule must be good for novice.  Well, after the rule was adopted, novice divisions at ADA tournaments dropped.  Some claimed it was because of this rule, but there was no evidence to support that contention.  Those divisions have increased in size in the past year, so I doubt that was the issue.  Further, the other region that has huge novice divisions is CEDA Northeast.  It does not have an LD rule, and it relies on social pressure among coaches.  So, one thrives with that rule, one thrives without it.

I was concerned about those novices who were scared off, so I supported (very strongly) the LD rule when the ADA considered it.  I also supported a novice move-up rule (similar to the JV one) that ADA had for a short while.  Here's the thing:  Jackie is probably right that we, in the end, have to rely on the ethics of our colleagues.  When we put in an LD rule, that didn't change things very much.  It kept a couple of hotshots out of novice each year, it kept a handful of potentially OK debaters out of novice each year, and it made the division "safe" for novices who just stayed there and beat up others.

When we put in the move-up rule, it potentially hurt small programs with one really good novice team more than it did larger programs with 3 or 4 really good novice teams.  But there are plenty of other things that people do to give their novices a leg up.  They can recruit them in the spring and send them to camp (we did that occasionally when we sent debaters to camps).  They can recruit them in the spring and keep them under 24 rounds (18 for ADA tournaments); that way, they're eligible for novice for all of the following year.  There was a coach (no longer active) who was rumored to recruit incoming students who had done individual events and give them scholarships provided that they agreed to do 2 or 3 policy tournaments during their senior year in high school.

And, the same thing can go on at the JV level.  If WVU were able to recruit this year's TOC policy champions (I don't know how many times we've almost gotten the TOC champions!), there is nothing (other than my questionable sense of ethics) that would prevent me from sending them to King's, Richmond, and West Point in the JV division.

I guess what I'm saying is that in a vacuum, I think Chief is probably right.  However, we're not operating in a vacuum.  Taking the dominating LD folks out of novice will help keep a couple of ringers out, will help other folks be a little more successful, will scare of a couple of high school LD debaters who aren't ready for JV, and will keep a couple of novices who might otherwise be scared off.  How you weight that is up to you.  But it will simply open the doors for someone else who has some other scheme that nobody has thought of yet, and who is not as ethical as Gordon and Jackie.

The only long-term solutions that I can see involve a move-up rule (but see above for caveats) or not counting novice points for sweepstakes (which goes against my ethos on so many levels).

So, I'll probably abstain on the ratification vote and hope that the airing of the issue will have a salutary effect on coaches.

--Neil Berch
West Virginia University

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Darren Elliott<mailto:delliott at kckcc.edu> 
  To: edebate at ndtceda.com<mailto:edebate at ndtceda.com> ; debate at ou.edu<mailto:debate at ou.edu> ; jtedebate at yahoo.com<mailto:jtedebate at yahoo.com> 
  Sent: Monday, November 19, 2007 7:05 PM
  Subject: Re: [eDebate] Reactionary Provisions

  Hi JT,

  As I said in the reply to Jackie, some of these concerns were hashed out at the CEDA Business Mtg. at NCA where in large part this rule was supported.  But i thought I could provide you some context since you and others were not there.

  1.  Community Shame is a nice concept.  See my post to Jackie.  It doesnt work.  It hasnt worked.  What it does do however is create potentially hostile situations between directors, some of which will politically retaliate, and it still doesnt solve the problem for the Novice we are losing.  I am not sure where your 10% number comes from, but I do know the problem is more widespread than you give it credit for.  How many Novice debates have you judged this year?  How many with debaters on one side with HS LD experience and on the other debaters with no experience?  This is not meat to disparage, but when was the last time my alma mater had novices debate?  When was the last time an Emporia debater came to you and contemplated quitting because of the inequity they were facing because other coaches had ethical lapses?  Social location often shapes our understanding of the world.

  2.  You say, "a few high profile complainers did not and does not warrant the rule".  What does that even mean?  Who are you calling out?  I can tell you how many coaches have complained this year alone, not to mention past years.  I can tell you how many novices have complained and at least know of a couple who walked away because of the hurdles in Novice when it comes to debating people with experience (none of them on my squad mind you--but plenty on others).  And do Novices you dont know have a right to complain since "high profile" people do not?  I am still at a loss what that even means.  The 2 to publicly post on this are me and Martin Harris.  If that makes us high profile complainers I will just laugh, shrug, and say Im ok with that.

  3.  You then mock the rationale by saying you didnt realize "our poor novices" were "getting slaughter"ed.  Interesting use of language.  I am still curious as to the answers above regarding your interaction with novice debate either as a judge or coach.  But beyond that, you are right.  Not that many HS debaters do it on the National Circuit in LD, but any that compete at that level are too many to allow them to compete in Novice in College.  And in my post to Jackie I also described why the Natl. Circuit LD issue is not the crux of the argument.

  4.  You say by "national they mean TOC".  I dont think so.  I didnt think TOC when as part of "they" I wrote the amendment.  And the lines between policy debate and philosophical debate are so blurred that the arguments being made in LD rounds even at Regional KS tournaments (Zizek, Foucault, etc) only adds to my argument that debaters come in knowing the language and the art, should not be considered novices.

  5.  Do you really want to use Blake Johnson as an example as why HS LD debaters should be allowed to begin in Novice in College?  : )  I just disagree about them knowing the lingo, knowing the format, knowing how to play a debate game.  Can you in good conscience say that a debater with 100 rounds of LD has no large advantage over someone from an A and D class that has never seen a debate?  Really?

  6.  Your blurring lines argument is a red herring.  And you are wrong about the philosophy authors being ran in a lot of Regional LD rounds.  Why?  Because their squads are mixed policy and ld in many cases and guess who the LD kids second semester get their cards from during the first semester?  And in Missouri its about the same story.  So saying its all Kant, and Rawls is just plain wrong.  But maybe you judge a lot of HS LD I didnt know about : )

  7.  Finally I am not basing any of this amendment on TOC/National Circuit LD.  While I think there are some Natl. Circuit LD debaters debating Novice in college, I think that is part (a big part) of the problem.  But anytime a debater enters college debate with 100+ rounds of LD, no one in good conscience, can say they belong in Novice.  I would encourage anyone who thinks that way to step out of JV and Open and either judge some novice debates where one team has HS experience and the other does not, or to talk to the novice debaters who are getting beaten by these debaters, or coach novice teams and understand the hurdles they face beyond those who already know format and style, or to judge an equivalent number of HS LD rounds that these debaters competed in and then tell me they arent Novice.  I just dont think you can do it.  4 pepsi challenges for the price of 1.


  Darren Elliott
  Director of Debate and Forensics--KCKCC
  CEDA 1st VP

  >>> J T <jtedebate at yahoo.com<mailto:jtedebate at yahoo.com>> 11/18/07 12:35 PM >>>
  Why are we making a rule to address maybe 10% of people in the country who did LD?  Jackie is dead on here...I assume a director or two could bring in a ringer to beat up some novices---But community shame can go a long way...it happens when people think directors sandbag their JV and novice to gain points...when they do, others give them shit or outright tell them they are being uneducational asses and the situation generally resolves itself...maybe the right people just need to realize they are being uneducational asses--I don't remember this being a large problem before the rule...a few high profile complainers did not and does not warrant the rule

  The Rationale operates under a few faulty assumptions:

  A number of high school students are competing on the National circuit in LD which is similar to policy debate and then coming to college understanding the ins and outs of debate and debating in Novice against people who have never seen a debate before, much less 50 rounds of debate.

  1. not THAT many HS LD debaters debate on the national circuit--especially given the overall number of those debaters nationwide. I was unaware that LDers have been coming in and slaughtering our poor novices--sounds like it's reaching epidemic proportions!

  2. by national they mean TOC, again a small minority of the overall numbers that do not engage in policy-ish LD debate.  In many states, people in LD have to strongly guard against making any reference to "policy args" or "policy terminology" because "this is LD, not policy" as I have heard judges in Kansas and Missouri say...

  3.  most do not know the lingo or have a bastardized understanding of the "ins and outs of debate"--  
  --ask Blake Johnson if he knew what a floating pic was coming into to college...(if he did, I bet he forgot)--

  4.experience differences will always exist, even in LD--the TOC was running T in LD when I debated...at least from Missouri we heard tall tales of such craziness...But if I had run T or a CP (and I had gone to policy camp) I would have lost and the coach bench me...

  5. blurring lines is like mixing burdens---not a winning arg!  it makes no sense that someone who did LD would automatically know enough about things like framework, status and tricky perms to make a difference...I suspect this comes from Neandethal anti-K hacks...in most parts of the country (with an enormous lack in college debaters/coaches in judging pools--mostly community) Zizek, Lacan, Schlag, Foucault, Butler, Derrida never make it into an LD rounds...more like John Rawls, Kant, or some lofty crap about Justice or Hope...not real big college K authors

  step out of TOC/national circuit and recognize what debate is like for the rest of the country!

  "Massey, Jackie B." <debate at ou.edu<mailto:debate at ou.edu>> wrote: Hello,

  I just wanted to offer my perspective on one of the proposed ammendment changes in the VP report.

  My perspective is that we do not need rules to dictate when ethics should probably be more responsible.  I think the rule counting LD as eligibility is somewhat reactionary, and not appealing to the true hopes of participation for some, in the face of the detrmiments when a novice team gets waxed by a super LD star.

  The rationale for the rule makes  too many assumptions and false categorizations from my perspective.

  RATIONALE: A number of high school students are competing on the
  National circuit in LD which is similar to policy debate and then coming
  to college understanding the ins and outs of debate and debating in
  Novice against people who have never seen a debate before, much less 50
  rounds of debate. Additionally college NFA LD is policy LD and should
  count as policy debate rounds. Finally, with the lines blurred in
  contemporary college debate between policy and critical anyone who has
  debated before, even in high school LD, has quite a leg up on a true
  Novice. LD, even when not policy oriented in HS, is closer to the
  critical side of the community and should count against novice

  ------- The rationale atttempts to use a false dichotomy of critical and policy to support what is acknowledged as "lines blurred".  I am somewhat of a beneficiary of this rule.  My perspective is that if a student is so far above the rest of the students, they should debate JV or open, and not stay in novice.  There are many high school LD debaters that would never debate if they were pushed into JV when they entered college debate.  More than there are that quit whenever a super novice is left in novice and waxes and wanes.  (no evidence - my opinion)

  They still gotta get rid of of the "aff case" and "neg case" terminology.  The problem is some of these students do appear to know the "ins and outs"  (official langauge now) of debate, and devestate some of the new comers.  This is where i say it becomes more of an ethical issue for the coaches to move them up.  Currently the rule allows a starting point for those LD debaters  who did not travel National Circuit LD (most of them) to begin college debate and not have to compete against those who were doing CX in high school.  It cuts both ways, thats why rules arent always the answer.


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