[eDebate] South America?

Morris, Eric R EricMorris
Sat Apr 5 13:50:56 CDT 2008

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

Why not let affs run willy nilly all over the place and see what happens?  I'll tell you what will happen.  There will be a core set of affs that are successful and once the resolutions settles in which is usually just before Wake we'll know what the big affs are and that will remain consistent (like demining on the SE Asia topic).  Despite our best efforts to pin affirmatives with resolutional wordings we still haven't seen very many well developed case debates, especially in the last eight years or so, which non uniques limiters' best offense.
----- I agree that some teams will run big cases for much of the season, perhaps as a matter of pride, but the potential for unpredictable new cases in elims, break rounds, etc. will be high. I strongly disagree that we haven't seen well developed case debates in the last few years. Teams that are committed to answering other people's policy cases with deep debates do so, and teams that think another path is a better path (for victory or otherwise) do their thing. I am largely unpersuaded that a large topic brings them back to being strictly topical (as opposed to loosely topical or not even trying), because a large topic addresses, at best, some of the motivation for their arguments. I'm not saying all those motives are bad, by the way, but just that I don't really think a more general wording of a topic would come close to addressing many of them. Thus, I think the topic should be defined to suit the needs of those who feel bound to it, and those who feel unbound just end up with more ground outside of it. 
Which means there's only a risk of my offense -- I make this impact turn argument year after year in vain, but I'll say it again...limited resolutional wordings mean that when researchers hit the literature base and they can't find something topical, folks (researchers AND judges) are more willing to push to their interpretations of the topic limits or disregard them altogether which makes more people unmappable than if we just had a bigger topic umbrella that was consistent with the lit base (see the Native Americans topic example above).  I think that's what made the sanctions topic (1999-00) so memorable -- the limits of the topic followed the contours of the literature base.  Admittedly the topic became repetitive at some points because it was small, but I still think that was the best balancing of these interests that I have seen and that can't be attributed to the size of the topic as much as the appropriateness of the limits.  
----- This topic was designed on the model of the sanctions topic. Constructive Engagement as an umbrella term for aff flex, and mandatory sub actions to lock in negative ground. There were lots of debates which followed it closely, and plenty that ignored it entirely. The difference between sanctions and mideast is that more teams have found/cultivated an audience willing to vote for affirmatives that don't pretend to be topical. Between teams that try to be topical, there are good deep debates. If those debates become a lower percentage of overall debates, people will adjust accordingly. I had a senior at CEDA this year that wanted strictly policy debates, but ended up with fewer than half the rounds going that way. Given the effort involved in preparing for those debates, that's frustrating at best. 
The topic ideas that have been thrown out would require a larger literature base than the sanctions topic, but I don't think that's problematic.  (1) Generics check back -- we'll never get over the USFG agent so there's always negative ground -- process CPs, PICs of all stripes, Ks, etc.  there's more than enough generic goodness for everyone's argumentative predispositions (2) the community consolidates the topic on its own (see above).  Even if generics are bad, they're inevitable.  Plus,  an open topic wording wouldn't kill topicality debates either in a world of competing interpretations where topicality debates are not about what is strictly denotationally true of the resolution but rather what provides for the best debates.
----- An open topic just means more arbitrarily restrictive interpretations - the attempts to say "substantial" foreign assistance meant "development assistance" are an exemplar. Generics may be inevitable, but reliance on them increases when the predictability of the affirmative decreases. A topic where debaters feel they can be generally prepared to debate a limited number of cases straight up means those who prefer to debate that way have a chance to competing without overreliance on generics. A bigger topic means that competive goals incentivize generics even further, and case debate becomes a realistic option for only the schools with the most impressive research machines. 
Why not make explicit that what we all want is a resolution with the flexibility for affs to do what they need to do to access good arguments with good solvency evidence and stop treating negative ground as if it were holy ground. Even a small squad with a good small tight generic strat could beat a titan who defends resolutional action on a small subset of the literature.
----- That's not all I want in a resoution. I want to be able to predict a few affirmative advantages to have deeper debate on those. I want my younger debates to have the resources needed to engage in straight up policy debates if they choose. If they want to run critical args instead, I'd still like them to know the straight up side well enough to go for it when the round situation dictates it. 
I will end by saying this...a Latin America topic would be so very sweet. I waited my whole life for that topic and I never got to debate it, but I would still love to see it debated.  I know folks are itching for domestic topics and that's understandable, but I would still love to see a topic that is all about things that make you go boom.  Ain't nothing wrong with some boom.  Straight up teams can't help but loving up the opportunity to talk about how many booms they can rack up and K teams love that they do :)

----- I don't feel that strongly about topic area - I only want something my debaters like so they will be excited to research. Many of them are less excited by the number of "booms" than by the intricacy of the internal link debates leading up to them. If a particular topic area would lead to more teams debating the topic as written, that would be nice, but I will believe it when I see it. Promises made now (and particularly before the topic committee meets) are utterly unenforceable. 
----- A few years ago, a team made arguments about community exclusion and ran a case that would have been topical under one of the broader topics not selected, and dared people to run T to protect the narrower topic. Several schools beat them by just researching the case and declining to run topicality. By the end of the year, this team had stopped defending something topical on the other topic, and had shifted toward just attacking the topic process. I feel that the anecdote is representative in the sense that there's some strategic benefit to having the same debate round after round, even if that debate is just 'topicality bad', and that many teams will run as far away as they can for strategic reasons. I also think that approach privileges people who are good at nailing down "what you are defending" instead of those who are good at attacking an argument after it is clarified. Both skills are important, but broader topics and less topical approaches strongly favor the former. 
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