[eDebate] Right, *Russia* is at the core of everything

Travis John Cram tcram
Fri Apr 25 22:08:05 CDT 2008

Perhaps it comes down to what debate's (dis)avowed 'purpose' is, and we simply disagree with that.  Its purpose for me has always operated on different tracks.  First, there's the skill set that it develops (research, critical evaluation and thinking, and rhetorical/argumentative skill).  Second, there is the content of what we discuss (i.e. the topic).  I disagree that the 'purpose' of the content should be to guide students to research in specific disciplines (you explicitly state that 'student research on racism and decolonial thought' should be a priority).  Instead, it should prioritize discussion of pressing social issues (of which race and urban policy is an extremely pressing one, as is health care and food prices; Calum makes a persuasive argument why Russian policy is also on this same plane of importance).  Maybe this distinction between 'issue priority' and 'discipline priority' is only in my mind or semantic.  If there is a difference, having 'discipline diversity' as a research goal opens up a big can of worms about equal exposure to different disciplines (the University Studies requirement bit...those really suck by the way...)  Instead, pick a topic centered around a solid social controversy and let students approach that topic and interact with it through whatever theoretical discipline (or assorted mish-mash of several) that they choose to.  Maybe I'm placing an inordinate amount of weight on your frustrations at the misuse of core works within your field. Maybe we disagree on very little.  Who knows.  

After this brief Josh Hoe impersonation, I'll leave edebate alone for a while.


-----Original Message-----
From: Tom Meagher [mailto:meagher.tom at gmail.com]
Sent: Fri 4/25/2008 8:44 PM
To: Travis John Cram
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Right, *Russia* is at the core of everything
CEDA Finals is a piece of evidence I used because anybody can do the
research to verify my claims. You can read Sandoval and watch the video. I

While I certainly agree with you that my academic program was extremely
difficult, it is ironic to hear this argument since I've spent six years
dealing weekly with 95% of people assuming that Ethnic Studies is a cupcake
department. Given this irony, I hope you can understand that I see a
parallel to a debate community that often seeks to state its commitment to
these issues (debate has not, as far as I know, had a widespread agreement
that it should on some level address issues of chemical engineering) at the
same time that it validates or invalidates forms of scholarship for
disciplinary reasons (and I do not mean this as a totalized phenomenon but
as a generalized, confusing, and multifaceted phenomenon). Certainly, if the
debate community (I am trying here to evoke essence without essentialism) is
willing to say that it cannot prioritize improved student research on racism
and decolonial thought, then that is its prerogative, and I won't say that
there reasons for doing so are wrong (at least not until I know and have
researched them). I worry about a world where it implicitly does this at the
same time that its majority makes many of the arguments that it does against
the teams that choose to forefront these issues.

I don't know that I'm the best person to comment on the relationship between
topic choice and the scope of literature in debate. I felt like drawing some
connections and offering initial questions. I'm not saying "Reparations must
win, judge." I'm just hoping that some will consider my assessment of the
depth of research on racism and decolonial thinking in relation to the high
profile debates on the upcoming topic and, earlier in the month, the state
of debate vis-a-vis the arguments advanced by Towson, Louisville, and many

Yeah, I probably used a tone that may have alienated some or stated these
points in a way that implies more exaggerated claims. What can I say... I
grew up a debater.

I'm sorry if I fall into the Antonucci trap. I have spent all day exchanging
emails on this and will work to stay current.

On Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 7:11 PM, Travis John Cram <tcram at uwyo.edu> wrote:

>  Disregard last message.  I'm apparently retarded.
> Anyways,
> I don't disagree with your claim that we should discuss issues that are
> currently underdiscussed.  I disagree with the evidence advanced to support
> that claim (the arguments in CEDA finals).  Changing the topic will not
> solve the frustrations you expressed, which I think are fairly symptomatic
> of all debate practices under any debate topic (unless we change the debate
> format from rounds to thesis presentations in front of a tenured panel...).
> Discussing something like reparations would certainly have value by exposing
> people to areas of scholarship they currently don't encounter (econ majors
> don't read a lot of Foucault, generally...).  But arguments based on jive,
> spin and facile interpretations of scholarship will persist simply because
> time/strategic/resource pressures make it so.
> I also dispute whether changing the topic will impact or influence the
> representation of various academic majors in the activity.  Topics don't
> 'price out' some majors; some disciplines price themselves out.  The
> workload required for degrees in many fields is just too high to participate
> in policy debate.  A genetic engineering topic wouldn't cause a sudden
> influx of science majors because getting a chemical engineering degree is
> fucking hard in and of itself.  The program you describe sounds really
> difficult, and I wonder whether you would have had to make choices and
> trade-offs in a world where the topic was reparations and not treaties.  Do
> we start a topic rotation based on academic discipline to ensure diversity
> (the equivalent of general studies requirements at state universities...)?
> As for the "more egregious" comment, that's just my bad sarcasm habit.
> Disregard.
> Travis

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