[eDebate] Amendment 9 concerns

Morris, Eric R EricMorris
Mon Nov 26 10:59:38 CST 2007

I'm not strongly opposed to Amendment 9, but I'm hoping to stir some discussion with the following:
1. "Novice" means whatever we collectively say it means. It can mean "no experience" or "no relevant experience" or "first year" or whatever. Northwestern's "novice nationals" historically included freshmen good enough to clear in open at the largest tournaments. Lots of the posts I've read seem to assume it DOES mean something particular, but this vote is really about what it SHOULD mean. 
2. Experiences vary considerably within a particular style of debate. In fact, the variances within high school divisions are probably greater than the variances between them. Some students do CX and LD in a form or manner that prepares them to compete in open divisions - others have a different HS experience such that they would not clear at a novice tournament. The experiences in Public Forum, HS parli, etc., further complicate things. The benefit of using style of debate in high school is administrative convenience - it's like your insurance company checking which tickets were reported to the state instead of hanging around with you to figure out if you're a good driver. 
3. Public pressure has not been tried. People do not name names, at least in this forum. I agree with Andy Ellis on this question, though I'd probably start by asking the director to move a student up and use public pressure secondarily. Public pressure might be better than having lots of people whispering about particular debaters or programs, which seems to be the SQ. That system is ripe with the potential for misunderstandings. 
4. The system probably is working decently. You should count each and every JV eligible debater competing in open as a success, and do the same for Novice eligibles competing in JV. We move kids up because we're interested in their long term development, and we think it's usually better served by being in open. I have no idea of the precise numbers, but if there are lots of good Novice/JV eligibles in open, and just a few "bad apples", then it might be the current system is 80--90% effective. That's not bad even that we don't all agree about the precise line between where the divisions should be. 
5. The most PRINCIPLED solution is to move up debaters that are obviously above their division. This is the purpose of the finals move-up rule (which is also being revisited, as micromanagement would demand). Some sort of system like Kuswa proposed (judges can mark the "move up box" and enough of those means you move up) is perhaps closest to ideal. The number needs to be high enough that my program's judges alone can't move your kid up, but the combined agreement of judges from several programs could. If I'm on target in my guess that it's just a few kids each year that are part of the real 'problem', this is better than a "one-size fits all" solution. 
6. We should also re-visit why schools keep their kids in divisions below where they should be. In the early 1990's, the consensus seemed to point at the sweepstakes system. Perhaps any aggressive policy about this should include a sweepstakes "opt out" option. If a director feels the student really should be in the lower division (perhaps due to their PARTNER'S skills, which is a legitimate reason in my opinion), the sweeps opt-out means it's probably being done for the right reasons.
7. If we keep the "type of debate used in HS" for administrative convenience, can we at least capitalize the "P" in policy? Public Forum debaters do "policy debate" on some topics, even if they do not do "Policy Debate". In my experience, they are typically behind the L/D debaters, though again the variance within HS divisions is greater than the variance between them. 
8. Many novice divisions are small. Anything that moves up more than a few kids could collapse them entirely. Perhaps people will respond by recruiting more true rookies, but perhaps they will not. It might be better for true rookies to compete against a few high school L/Ders than to be forced into JV by a division collapse. 
9. Novice debate is NOT the sole means of assuring we will have debaters in the future. This proposal speaks to the fact that many of our students did debate in high school. That may, of course, change over time. Novice debate IS a useful way to reaching out and inviting people who may have missed the chance to participate in a powerful and transforming activity. It does increase our numbers, collectively. It is a different kind of teaching and coaching, and appeals to some more than others based on why they continue to devote their weekends to this activity. 
Dr. Eric Morris
Asst Prof of Communication & Director of Forensics
Craig Hall 366A, Dept of Communication
Missouri State University
Springfield, MO 65897
(O) 417-836-7636
(H) 417-865-6866
(C) 417-496-7141
AIM: ermocito, ericandtaleyna

Amendment #9 Novice Definition
This amendment has created the most discussion on the listserve.  While I wrote the original amendment, I would not be against changing my mind in the face of good reasoning.  While some arguments against have been put forward, both in the Business Meeting (where it received near unanimous support) and on this list serve, none of those arguments have swayed me.  Both sides of this issue can prove that we might lose novices with or without the amendment.  However the arguments I put forward are the only ones that seem to answer all of the offense generated, solving that offense, and at the same time provided unanswered disadvantages to staying the course.  Some people have provided good anecdotal evidence how debaters they have with HS LD experience can achieve success even in JV with little to no coaching (Hanson) and have provided ample hard evidence (Berch) that those winning Novice divisions have HS LD experience a lot of the time (and in some cases have ridiculous amounts of experience) and are walking through Novice.  Yet they arent being moved up.  The problem is in the SQ there is no check and no way to prevent the abuse.  When ethics and competition collide there is often a slide on the ethical (Harris), and this remains unanswered.  Pressure has not and is not working.  The only arguments against have been that people forced into JV will quit.  No one has answered that we allow an exemption waiver process in CEDA that if a debater is really not ready for JV they can go in Novice with an exemption.  This solves the offense and remains unanswered.  And I will go one further--the CEDA EC has already granted such waivers this year, proving the system works.  These were cases where the debater really was a novice even though not so definitionally.  What CEDA cant do however is the reverse.  We cant tell novices they have to move up even if they have 50, 100, or 150 rounds of HS LD experience.  That means the debaters they trounce have no protection and THEY are the ones who walk away.  I also believe that any coach can make decent arguments why a debater should go JV at least at first if they have HS experience, thereby preventing the debater from quitting outright.  And, if that debater does so poorly, they do deserve to move down, the coach can assure them there is a waiver process that allows that.  Unfortnately very few coaches will be successful in convincing a true novice (no experience) that they should stay even in a world where they are getting hammered by novices with experience.  Myself and others have also spoken to the nature of the policy/critical divide that is blurred these days and one can no longer assert that LD is so different from college debate that it shouldnt count.  Finally, I think anyone with a concept of a flow, speech order, time limits, a judge, etc. (especially with over 50 rounds of such experience) is so far ahead of any true novice, that they really should not be considered novice without some pretty serious limitation on their part (which can be accounted for in a waiver process).  In order to preserve the intent of the novice division, in order to protect the novices that currently do not have protection, and in order to help grow and preserve the numbers in novice, I encourage you to vote yes on this amendment.

Let me add one other thing about the Novice Amendment.  My program could gain a lot more from the SQ than the world of the amendment.  In KS, MO, OK there is a ton of LD debate.  Tonight I looked up how many graduating Seniors this year in the 3 state area did just LD (and high amounts).  In case you didnt know there is a ton of debate in KS, MO, and OK and a ton of that is LD.  I would have a hard time deciding which of the 10 to offer full ride scholarships to and recruit and stack the Novice division.  I guarantee you there were a lot more than 10 to choose from.  Multiply that by 10 and add some.  I havent done this because I honestly believe the community and the intent of novice sides with the amendment, and until now it has just slipped through the cracks.  Maybe I am wrong and I have just always seen Novice as something different.  The vote will determine that I guess.  But this amendment is in no way self-serving.  I honestly believe Novice should be something other than what it is at some tournaments right now.  If the vote proves me wrong, I guess I can push harder for Rookie Divisions then start doling out the "novice" scholarships to area HS LD debaters. ; )

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