[eDebate] Bad publicity for policy debate

Steinberg, David L dave
Wed Oct 1 13:27:03 CDT 2008

I begin debating in 1972, and heard then that academic debate would soon come to an end.  Speed reading, the quantity of work required, sloppy kids wearing jeans and T Shirts!  (... the legacy of radical types like Tuna.....)

When I look at tournament entries on Debate Results for this fall, I see vibrant regional debate, some massive national tournaments, lots of 2 and 3 division tournaments, returning schools and new schools.  Keep in mind the competition from other leagues and activities, and the increased cost of travel, tightening institutional budgets, and other support costs.

When I put out the word about our debate team on my campus, I have more interested students than we can teach and coach.  It seems to me there is support for debate.

My colleagues and bosses appreciate the issues we are dealing with, and upon viewing the Chronicle's article and video, were offended by the profanity (I was too), but understood or did not object to the rest.  And, they are impressed that we have an organizational structure to address positive change.

Yes, we need to step up our level of professionalism, and attention to conduct.  We are doing that.  We need to examine and assess our curriculum.  We are doing that.  Yes, we should work to educate others about the positive impacts of debate and promote it on our campuses and in our communities, developing our programs publicly in consistent harmony with the strategic plans and missions of our institutions.  I think most of us have been doing that: of course, we can do better.  And should do more.

I am proud of my association with this community of dedicated, brilliant and often eccentric thinkers.  Would we rather be creating a society of Sarah Palins? (sorry, Brett!)  I do not fear for the future of policy debate.


David L. Steinberg
Director of Debate, University of Miami
P.O. Box 248127
Coral Gables, Florida   33124

305-284-5553 (office)
305-284-5216 (fax)
305-926-8498 (cell)
dave at miami.edu

Go Canes!

-----Original Message-----
From: edebate-bounces at www.ndtceda.com [mailto:edebate-bounces at www.ndtceda.com] On Behalf Of Alfred Snider
Sent: Wednesday, October 01, 2008 11:24 AM
To: edebate at ndtceda.com
Subject: [eDebate] Bad publicity for policy debate

I write today because I fear for the future of policy debate in America.
It is already too close to being below critical mass in terms of schools
and students. The following story is illustrative of our problems.


The video of a debater standing on the table where the opposing team is
sitting and uttering a stream of profanities is not a good film clip for

The story has some points to make that are hard for us to answer:

1. Incomprehensible speech
2. Rejection of the topic
3. Too present profanity
4. "project" hi jinks
5. Lack of perceived civility
and, of course,
6. THE incident.

I am sure that we can explain to ourselves and rationalize all of these,
but to THE PUBLIC and to our ADMINISTRATIONS it is getting more
difficult to explain in a way that they can accept. The Las Vegas
article Jake reported on is good, but an exception to the rule in terms
of the kinds of publicity we are getting.

Rather than a top down imposition of codes and rules I think each squad
needs to confront these issues as a team, publicize your efforts to your
students so if called on you have an answer as to what you are doing.
Then, carry them out. This way changes can happen  that you agree with
on your squad and the overall effect on many of the above points will be
substantial. But, if we just ignore it and go on preparing for the next
tournament we are at peril.

I am not trying to engage in a long drawn-out argument about these
issues, what I really want is to alert you to the kind of press we are
getting and express my concern.

Letters to the editor of THE CHRONICLE might be a place to start.


Alfred C. Snider aka Tuna
Edwin Lawrence Professor of Forensics
University of Vermont
Huber House, 475 Main Street, UVM, Burlington, VT 05405 USA
Global Debate Blog http://globaldebateblog.blogspot.com
Debate Central http://debate.uvm.edu
World Debate Institute http://debate.uvm.edu/wdi/
World Debate Institute Blog http://worlddebateinstitute.blogspot.com
802-656-0097 office telephone
802-656-4275 office fax

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