[eDebate] Are we at the crossroads and if so which direction will we travel?

barnesad at jmu.edu barnesad
Tue Aug 26 09:51:17 CDT 2008

To all,
Our community may be insular in as much as we perceive that outsiders aren't interested in what we do (a very contestable claim) however, we  all now recognize that what we do is a very public activity. What is needed is not a rush to become more insular, to reverse the rule on video recordings or to punish perceived "snitchers", but rather the opposite. We need to embrace our publicness. The community needs to swamp the public sphere with examples of our excellence whether that be "straight up", "kritikal" or "clash of civilizations" style debates. It is true that what we do develops peoples research, speaking skills, etc. but I think more importantly, debate is the practice of the theoretical underpinnings that gird disciplines together. I can't think of another activity whereby students test issues, ideas and theories in a truly cross-disciplinary manner. We also do it in the most efficient and productive manner possible; we read as quickly as possible to engage a topic in !
as much depth as possible, formulate responses to counter-arguments, are forced to defend that which we do not believe to test the absolute limits and usefulness of an idea and then participants receive qualified feedback. The academy and public at large would do well to follow suit! When possible we should host public debates on our campuses, strive to get involved with local, regional and national dialogue (debate scoop comes to mind) and become the argumentation experts in the public sphere that we claim to be in private. We need to become visible in order to garner the respect for and protect the activity that we so dearly love and I'm quite convinced that the public at large needs and would welcome our insight.
CEDA can, should and I'm sure will evolve, to become a better public advocate for debate. CEDA needs to control the image of debate to the best of its ability given the extreme unwillingness of the community to grant CEDA this power. If the community of director's and coaches agreed, and CEDA devised the appropriate organizational oversight, all video material could be screened for approval before posted to the public domain. Additionally, CEDA could establish a database, much like we have now for tournament entries/speaker points/wins, that keeps track of our alumni. In an ideal world we would have data necessary to demonstrate that CEDA participants do amazing things on the local, national and international levels in all disciplines and could highlight the truly diverse (we mistakenly only focus on varsity debaters much of the time) population that it serves.  And I'm sure many of the other bright minds and caring individuals can devise a host of other ways in which both we !
as members of the community and the CEDA organization itself can become better advocates for the activity. CEDA could also do a better job of trumpeting the works that squads do in promoting debate in other areas such as UDL's and should provide a mechanism for networking that assists people in co-authored papers/studies, placement of students in graduate schools, and all that is possible for those interested in pursuing grants related to debate. I would encourage people to think about whether we should actually do these things but also how we might implement such policies in a positive way and really discuss them at the next business meeting.
Finally, I'm not sure how to resolve the decorum question but I'm not sure that I'm all too worried about that either. It is true that we could "dress better" or speak in a more "respectable manner" but I think camaraderie, intellectual excellence and pure fascination of what we do will transcend decorum issues as long as we can get the excellent examples discussed above into the public sphere. 
Andrew D. Barnes
Department of Communication
662 One Park Place
P.O. Box 400
Georgia State University
Atlanta, GA 30302-4000

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