[eDebate] CEDA, NDT and Andy Ryan

Harris, Scott L sharris
Wed Apr 9 23:41:30 CDT 2008

Whether Andy's argument was a joke or a response to a dare I feel obligated to post a response.  I believe that both CEDA and NDT are great tournaments.  Making claims about which one is better is silly.  It is their differences that make them both great experiences.  Winning either tournament is an outstanding achievement.  Anyone who tries to diminish Towson's accomplishment in winning CEDA and clearing at NDT is being ridiculous.  Winning CEDA is hard and Deven and Dayvon should be unconditionally congratulated on their acheivement.  I don't diminish your NDT championship Andy just because I thought you lost the final round.
I think that the posts of Rashad, Adam, Michelin, Ede, Deven and Dayvon are important because they are an opportunity to listen to the perspectives of people expressing their feelings about their experiences in this community.  While as debaters our natural inclination is to argue with the positions people take in their posts I think that it is more important to listen to what people are saying about their feelings and try to reflect on what they mean for the nature of the community.  You don't have to agree with everything someone says to reflect on why they feel the way they do.  Telling someone they are wrong about how they feel seems a little bizarre.  While arguing is required in debate rounds it is not required on a discussion forum.  There are no wins and losses or trophies awarded for best job arguing on ndtceda.
The debate "community" is by its nature a fractured and divided thing.  It is odd, in someways to call it a community.  A community with the one central defining characteristic that we all like to argue seems destined to be a fairly fractious place.  We rarely communicate with one another in meaningful ways.  Very few people know that much about one another.  I have been in the college debate community for 32 years now and I don't believe there is a single person in the activity who really "knows" me.  Some people apparently think they know who I am and what I think since they seem willing to characterize me in various posts but none of them really know much, if anything, about who I am.  People who think they know someone based on the fact that they voted for or against the way you made an argument in a debate round have a lot to learn.
I get discouraged by this forums focus on things that get constructed as incomensurable divisions.  Chest thumping over NDT vs CEDA, policy vs. performance, class or religion vs. race, elites vs non-elites creates a lot of ill will and very little resolution.  Thinking you can win an argument on a discussion board through line by line refutation seems bizarre to me.  One of the earliest lessons I learned in my home life is that there is no such thing as winning an argument at home.  Winning an argument with your spouse is the surest way to lose.  In the recent discussions people seem more interested in "proving" themselves right rather than listening to what other people are saying.  I found Rashad's post to be informative and moving.  I am learning more from trying to listen and understand people's perspectives than from trying to attack and tear their beliefs down.
Since I rarely post on this board I will add one final and unrelated thought, I do find it odd when people characterize Kansas as "the elite".  It seems so antithetical to where I come from and what I value that it cracks me up.  KU the last two years has been a program of all in state kids without national circuit high school careers who have worked hard and made amazing progress as debaters in college.  Brett Bricker never attended any high school debate camp.  We do not have any full ride scholarships.  People look at the number of coaches we have without recognizing that they are all full time GTA's who take a full load of classes and teach the same class load as the faculty.  They don't get any release time for coaching debate and have no time to do research.  They travel and coach debate because they love the activity, not because they are getting paid to do it.  The lifeblood of this activity is coaches.   One of the reasons debate programs die is because there is no coach committed and passionate about debate available.  My high school debate program died because there was no one to coach it.  The PhD programs that have GTA's in this activity are very important because they help produce coaches who have a passion for running debate programs.   I love debate.  I am proud to be a debate coach.  I am proud to be the debate coach at Kansas.  The fact that I love debate and believe it is one of the most valuable educational experiences any student can have does not blind me to the fact that it can be improved in many ways.

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