[eDebate] The Future of Content in Debates

Ede Warner ewarner
Sun Aug 24 13:28:11 CDT 2008

Dear community, colleagues, friends, haters, competitors, associates, and anyone felt left out of these categories,
In a final twist of irony, let me just say that I agree with much of what Scott says below (even though we certainly have stylistic differences), that all content can't continue to be protected, and that includes much of what Louisville and it's descendants have done for the last eight years.  
Where Scott and I likely part company, is that we all have a real responsibility to address the pains associated with the growing diversity of this activity (and America as well), as opposed to simply wishing it away with a romanticized version of some "good old days" that 1) where never "that" good; and 2) fail to achieve the objective of having true policy debates about a selected resolution any more than the "debates about debate."  PIC's, agency counterplans, political capital impacts that divert a debate away from the topic, as well as advantages that step on the harms of real people in the topic becoming universalized for strategic purposes of those currently playing the game (whether policy or kritik issues)--none of these strategic choices prior to the current world of personalized debates about debate did anything to truly debate topics we voted on.  The advent of tournament debating turned in-depth discussions of topics into a strategic rush to get to backfiles of arguments that have little to anything to do with the actual topic research, above making it a link to "our world".  The whole thing was and still is wholly non-unique: using our selected topics as a ruse to get to "our community's" strategic interests and impacts is not debating the topic in a way that anyone, beyond us, would care about or understand.  
As long as those grieving this weekend spend their time looking for scapegoats to blame for the loss of their enjoyment, unwilling to think critically about why they enjoyed the game so much, and the possibility that the game they love was enjoyable because it grew from some unjust privileges in terms of who created the game, and how it was created (for what purpose), it stands to reason that I, Louisville, Long Beach, Towson, Fort Hays, Shanara Reid-Brinkley, and bill, kim, and william jr. are all the most logical culprits.  And if Louisville, Long Beach, Towson, and Fort Hays, continue to point the finger for their ills at students and coaches from Wake, Emory, Northwestern, Dartmouth, and Harvard, the lack of productive criticism will just continue to create more personal ugliness and never can result in finding our commonality as a policy debate community.
The growth of tournament debating had problems, long before bill offered the kritik, and long before I went and got a population not trained in the contemporary policy debate system to engage race arguments on the topic.  Whether anyone cared what those problems were and who was most affected, well that's a different story.  But today, everyone cares, because if we don't come together and address our lack of community, soon there will be no community, and no one wants that.  In fact, the one unifying theme we all should have is a collective love for debate.
Beyond that, it is hard to say what unifying themes are left, but we have to find them. I love "policy debate," because I believe that human beings have a unique need for decision making and policy debate is the only vehicle that truly and comprehensively serves that need.  Almost every educator and director that left policy debate for the numerous alternatives that exist have said that they too believe in the unique benefits of policy debate, but disagreed with the competitive directions that policy debate took along the way.
This moment is not just a time to "save ourselves" as a response to the deconstruction, demolition, and decay of the last eight years.  It is time for a rebuilding that attempts to recapture the value of policy debate in a democratic society, a multicultural democratic society if you will.  Many talk about these values in academic writing about debate, but the current product simply fails to meet any unifying goal, whether the history of academic discussions of policy debate, nor the mission statements of our member organizations.  We lack a collective educational goal and spend most of our time fighting in debates about one.  But if we do tap into some level of collectivity, if that is possibility, we also likely tap into that believe in policy debate held by those who left, those who administratively support what we do, and those like George Soros, who share a belief in the relationship of policy debate to democracy building.  Certainly the efforts of the CEDA executive officials seem headed into that direction, and regardless of how they "handled this incident", the bigger picture is what did they learn from it and how should we/they move forward as an organization to understand and address the challenges faced by the organization.  I personally have confidence that they will step up to the challenge.  
We at Louisville have spent the last three years, trying to find our own solutions to the issues at the forefront of our activity, in ways that you and others will find persuasive.  We have created a blog to discuss those objectives, in part because we think a broader audience can be reached beyond this listserv, and in part to get better at owning our voice, not subjecting as easily to mis-characterizations used to divert the key issues.  
Our blog will begin with several posts engaging the state of contemporary debate affairs, then it will explore our counter-system.  We will advertise our blog whenever and where-ever we can to get the word out, that there is more than blame and criticism needed today.  We want administrations to know that real solutions are being offered, and alumni to know that their voices are equally important to the future of our activity.  We hope folks on this listserv also choose to participate in the reconstruction in any productive ways they see fit, hopefully beginning with critical self-reflection that takes an honest look at where we are at and how we got here.  For the last time hopefully and perhaps as a member of the listserv, I wish that are worse days are behind us and the future brings the promise we all strive for.
With love,
Ede Warner, Jr.
Director of Debate Society/Associate Professor of Communication
University of Louisville
308E Strickler Hall
ewarner at louisville.edu 


From: <scottelliott at grandecom.net>
To:<edebate at ndtceda.com>
Date: 8/24/2008 12:37 PM
Subject: [eDebate]  The Content of Debates
So, taking a dump in a bag and giving it to the other team should be protected
by the organization? How about peeing on the 1AC text as an act of protest
within rounds?

So, simulating homosexual, or heterosexual, rape in rounds--to the point that
other competitors are in tears and could probably make sexual harrassment
claims--we should protect this too.

So, having such a vile presentation of ways in which we can all masturbate, so
vile that even the debaters themselves are so embarressed they want the video
taken down from the web--that should be protected and condoned by CEDA and NDT.

Students stripping down naked and debating in the nude..that is to be protected.

So, personal attacks on students in debates...some so vile that even I won't
write exactly what was said in this public forum...that is to be protected?

So, personal attacks on students in debates, personal attacks because they
attend institutions that the other team loathes--are we to tolerate this shit
because you have a warped sense of freedom without any limits or
responsibility? Because you find it to be "kinda funny"?

So, when a team finally takes me up on my offer, and in response to a Neitchze 
Kritik, slaps the hell out of the 1NC, and steals the ballot, for the win and
double thirties. Is that o.k.?

For what purpose and for what cost?

I am far from being a conservative. But, I realize that the first priorty of
CEDA should be to make sure that entire debate programs are not cut and the
second priority should be that more programs stay in the organization or join
the organization. We can all beat the drums for Freedom of Speech and Anarchy
as an immature reaction  to the closure of Ft. Hays' debate program. We can
give smart ass commentary about wearing suits and ties, and the collapse of
modern civilization. Or, we can take a sober adult approach and realize that
civilty does matter. Recognize decorum does matter. It matters when programs
get cancelled. Not because some coach showed their ass--but because the debates
are so out of control that administrators yank program funding.

I agree that 90 percent of rounds are civil and would make good representations
of the activity. But, you are retarded if you think that one bad
incident does not overwhelm a thousand good incidents. Eric tries to be funny
when he talks about 9-11 and the decline of debate decorum. I take a different
lesson from 9-11. One bad day changed our lives for the next fifty years. Go to
the airport and think about how much our lives have changed because of one bad

One bad day of debate has embarrassed the organization, cost at least one
faculty member his job and resulted in a program no longer existing. What are
we going to do when the next bad day occurs? Are we going to take any measures
to try to prevent another bad day from happenning again?

So, as bad as it seems to our sense of freedom, we may very well have to act
like adults and put limits on what we do and what our students are allowed to
do. It is not a questions of freedom, it is a question of institutional
survival. I do not think anyone is asking for people to put on grey suits and
skinny ties. But, I think we may all have to grow the hell up and realize that
we do not exist in a private ivory tower; what we do is a public activity; what
we do should be a public activity; and that all public communication activities
have limits. Those limits have to exist for both ethical reasons and practical
reasons. The sooner we can all come to that basic conclusion, the sooner we can
get to the real work--drawing the lines between what is and is no longer
permissible in this activity.


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