[eDebate] Desperate Times?

Ede Warner ewarner
Fri Apr 11 18:38:47 CDT 2008

First, I want to make a confession.  I don't want to destroy policy debate as you know it, as you love it, and as you live and die by it.  I think that some of the common perception out there that keeps some from engaging is a strong belief that Warner wants speed to end; Warner wants a race topic every year; who knows want other stereotypes the 1,100 of you out there belief about me.  At least one, Gordon Stables though has figured out the ruse: I'm a lot more conservative on debate issues than many think.  I believe in good, no great policy debate.  For those who have yet offered a definition of what they belief "policy debate" to be, for fear it will legitimate my war of terror to destroy the debate towers, let me be very clear about what I believe:  I can still outcoach folks in this community in any style, any way, any time.  My choices the last eight years have been political ones as part of a racial social justice movement: debates challenging debate techne doesn't mean that the only solution to institutional forms of oppression is abandonment of those tools.  I want scientific inquiry, not dogmatic commitment to what I do.
What I do believe however is that what we do should be DEFENSIBLE with outstanding evidence that our methods create the desired and stated objectives that our debate programs serve.  If we deconstruct how we debate, and rebuild it by rigorous examination that creates assessment measures, the product is inherently more sellable than what we have now.  I'll pick up the tubs, get back to debating the topic, and shut up.  But making honest efforts to critically assess where we are at should never be avoided the way this post tries.
I asked former Dartmouth Director, now internationally reknown argumentation scholar, Dr. Charles Willard (the only person I know that spent time at Slippery Rock) and asked him a simple question, "Did it bother you at all that some forms of argument and evidence were lost in the evolution of contemporary debate?"  His answer was, "Yes, but I thought it was inevitable and there wasn't much we could do about it."
Hmmm, today as I spoke with Tiffany and Tria, explaining to them that the online debates I'm having are getting easier and easier, as I understand now that debaters are trained to pick ideas out of the middle of an argument, then make arguments against it, and it's almost always a context issue relative to the big picture that provides the answer. Tria in all her in-your-face, don't mince words glory said, "You are finally becoming 'untrained' " That's deep.
Even though you "suggest" it, your decision to make the argument comparing resource acquisition as a method against other stylistic changes lacks any evidence.  If that is the quality of the logic used to make decisions in a program, then trouble is not long coming. You read evidence on the impact of travel but again it's a non-sequitur to the conclusion you stretch to draw.
It almost seems as if you are just flailing, desperate for anything to move the current debate in a different direction.  That's morbidly sad, but even worse, do you not understand that it's exactly the quality of arguments made in these efforts to avoid the truth that keep making me more convinced debate needs something different?  The coach of a late out-round team at the NDT makes an argument lacking basic reasoning skills.
So when at the end you say, we have to raise our games and garner resources outside of academic departments, I challenge you to prove with evidence 1) that's possible; and 2) that's not a cop-out.  The evidence would suggest that the salvation to debate is it's academic foundation, there is NO OTHER logical place for it, and there is no evidence that it can survive outside of the academy.  His study doesn't conclude any of your arguments, you just tack them on without any support to prove them.  Most of these programs don't have a long list of rich alumni willing to create the large endowments necessary to do what you are suggesting, and although Universities are experiencing budget cuts, debate programs were historically healthiest when they sat inside academic units.  You have no empirical evidence to prove that a critical mass of schools can "raise their games" in the ways you speak of.  
On top of all of thought, you present all of this as a false dichotomy.  As many times as the folks in this community scream permutation, please stop creating artificial choices where they don't exist.  We need to increase funds outside of our universities, AS WELL AS increasing our ties and our visibility and our connections to academic units, WHICH INCLUDES consideration of our fundamental educational purpose in addition how we achieve that purpose.  These things are all related and your efforts to reduce them to separate either or issues is silly and wrong.
You look like a sad, under-educated self-serving obstructionist that will do anything with and to evidence to justify and protect your world.  I'm sorry if this is harsh, but this is really frustrating to a productive community conversation.  Please stop.
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