[eDebate] South America?

Richard A. Garner ragarner
Sat Apr 5 10:50:09 CDT 2008

I agree, but disagree. Sometimes enjoyment should be outweighed by
education, because enjoyment in the present (while debating) is inevitable
even if memorial enjoyment is not.

Debaters learned a gargantuan amount about the Supreme Court, how it thinks
and functions, its politics, etc. They may not have liked it as much as a
constant stream of, as Tripp might put it, 'big wars' or 'go boom', but I
doubt, intensely doubt, that there would ever have been the structural
impetus to learn such things otherwise for the vast majority of debaters,
much less other folk.

In fact, it may be good that the education from a topic outweighs the
residual pleasure of debating it (i.e. retention of content vs. form, or
something like that).

Also, topical nihilism: debates adjust to the confines of the literature and
the structures of the activity; my example: the relative saliency of the
politics DA on Indian Country (large) versus Treaties (very small). We
change the rules of the game in subtle and often unremarked ways so that the
topic 'fits' debate (like basketball trying to create more scoring ... I
stole that analogy from someone, don't remember who).

That all sounded like disagreement, but here's the agreement. It's fine both
ways, and the 'fit' between impact level stories and the structure of the
topic is important. There is a natural one on the intelligence question, as
there is on many topic where the focus of knowledge production is the
elucidation of the geopolitical relations currently extant in particular set
of places, last year's topic being a good example.

However, if the topic is written in such a way that the ground given the
negative is prone to disconnecting the pertinent literature from its impact
base, this can be bad. For example, and all my examples are unscientific, my
impression of Title VII was that the structuring in of agent CPs redirected
debate toward that disconnect between 'debate impacts' and the impacts in
the literature. it's hard to make comparative criticisms of impact
evaluation - i.e., nuclear war doesn't outweigh racism - if the topic is
structured to obviate such comparisons via agent CPs.

Finally, I'm unsure of the validity of the claim that Latin America lacks
impact-level connection to geopolitics; seems like the have a lot of oil, a
lot rain forest, etc. And trade seems important as well. The problem may be
just that a Middle East topic is so directly implicated that we want to
debate that. But many salient questions may simply be debated again with

In any case, they both sound like sweet topic ideas to me; the question is
the resolution, though after propounding topic-construction nihilism above I
might not have the right to such a question.


On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 10:31 AM, Michael Antonucci <antonucci23 at yahoo.com>

> The Latin America high school topic was before my
> time.
> I have heard stories, though.  Red Spread was a
> crucial advantage/DA.  I think that matters.
> During the Cold War, Latin America constituted a
> crucial front in a major geopolitical struggle with a
> plausible claim to world-shattering consequences.  It
> was a *fast* route to *big* impacts.  The "domino"
> internal links surely rocked.
> That isn't true anymore (discounting Red China
> conspiracy theorists.)
> Executive summary: topics with big impacts work
> better.  They're remembered fondly.  Topics without
> big impacts end up with contrived and stale arguments.
> Long version: The ability to access extinction impacts
> with relatively short internal link chains drastically
> affects the quality of debates.  Most debaters seem to
> believe that the constructive engagement topic was
> superior to the "grab bag of Supreme Court cases"
> topic.  The topics' differing scope and some design
> bugs may have affected that - but the ability to
> logically access impacts mattered as well.
> Teams will claim extinction-level impacts.  That's
> inevitable, because it's a winning formula in the game
> as currently constituted.  (If you don't like this
> aspect of debate, don't shoot the messenger.  Your
> topic won't change the culture - the culture will
> change your topic.)
> If ELIs are a logical outgrowth of the literature,
> arguments will remain logical.  If  not, debaters will
> contrive increasingly counterintuitive and absurd link
> chains in order to access the fast big magnitude
> impacts they need to succeed.
> I've seen this played out this year, as I've coached
> on both constructive engagement and sub-Saharan
> Africa.  I prefer listening to a debater defend a
> fleshed-out Iran strikes or Syrian-Israeli war impact
> than hearing...right.  The Rabid Tiger.  Again.  This
> difference didn't occur because high school debaters
> are dumb and you're all really smart.  It happened
> because you can construct a brilliant proposal for
> improving the delivery of pharmaceuticals in Botswana,
> and no one will care because it only really impacts
> some Botswanans.  No offense, Botswanans and
> Ecuadorans - you're important, but it's tough to weigh
> the Galapagos against politics.
> Latin American countries affect issues of trade and
> narcoterrorism and some neat biomes - but none of them
> have nukes (I know there's a prolif risk, but it's a
> pretty low-probability one.)  "Brazilian growth" and
> "Chilean trade" won't get it done against big DAs
> absent some real contortions.
> I'm sure a Latin America topic could be really
> interesting, but intelligence reform would sustain a
> better year of debates with fewer silly contrivances.
>  ____________________________________________________________________________________
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