[eDebate] the value of the destruction of NDT debate

Ede Warner ewarner
Mon Apr 6 05:29:50 CDT 2009

Old Strega brought me out of edebate retirement.  It's been over a year
I believe since my last post.  I guess the refusal to remove me from
getting the posts finally paid off :-).
Two thoughts:  1) Speed is a symptom of a larger problem but not the
disease.  Attempts to start their as the focus for change has not been
persuasive to many, and frankly resistant for most who like "playing the
game."  I don't think anyone is opposed necessarily to changing the
game, but their is a high level of presumption against change without an
understanding of how it makes "the game" better.  Louisville at the end
of this season and at the beginning of next will talk about an ethical
system of policy debate for a multicultural democracy and instead of a
focus on style alone, we choose to focus on three more targeted areas
that we believe are important to effective policy making: the ability to
evaluate the credibility of an argument; the ability to maintain an
accurate context of arguments; and the ability to generate compassion
for those making arguments.  We talk about how privilege operates in
representative democracies when advocates speak on behalf of
constituents to persuade decision makers and the affect that
representation can have on specific aspects of persuasion important to
sound decision making.  If we are successful in the presentation of
these ideas, would it change the game?  Yes, probably but as much as
speed was an evolution of competition, so would the impact on speed
relative to acceptance of these arguments.  It's very possible to defend
a world of speed and challenge our criticisms for example.  Our
alternative has to be accurate if it is to be persuasive to the larger
community and that is our goal: finding an accurate criticism of our
game and offering an accurate alternative.  The competitive success
becomes a measure of our success in that endeavor, but certainly not the
only gauge.  Even though our students didn't find as much competitive
success as we would have liked, the judges response to what we are doing
this year has been overwhelmingly positive, leading us to believe that
we are moving in the right direction.
As far as internal links, this is really more of a power tagging
argument.  I see our evolution about moving from a criticism that could
only embrace destruction of the NDT as THE alternative.  But that was
the old ville.  Much like our women's team, we are evolving towards a
new day, that embraces what Old Strega's post talks about, working
harder to find not only the valuable nature of NDT policy debate, but to
accentuate those values to the public in ways that translate into
broader meaningful change as a community with the agency to not just
find a public relations angle for additional support of debate, but to
impact how decision making proceeds in a representative multicultural
democracy.  We are a microcosm of that democracy, and we should be the
engine of change when it comes to teaching our nation, and perhaps the
world, the inherit human nature associated with "policy debate" since
that is the only means of decision making that exists in a civil
society, with apologies to unrealisitic and unproven calls for dialogue,
cooperation, or other non-debate methods of decision making that sound
great in theory...but...All that to say, we never had an internal link
from speed to the end of debate, but rather, it was about un-covering,
dis-covering, re-covering the historical context that creates the
legacy, as well as the possibilities: not just regarding what we have
done, but more importantly, what our community is capable. 
Transformation of the NDT, sure you can put Louisville's name down for
that...destruction isn't really our thang anymore.  
Neither are those shorts that Greg Abbott posted of me on Facebook, but
that is another story.  Back to the laboratory...being a recluse is
certainly productive...Until the fall, everyone stay safe, connected,
and thinking warm thoughts of one another
With peace, love, and blessings
Ede aka Doc aka the guy with the tight red shorts from 1982.
Ede Warner, Jr.
Director of Debate Society/Associate Professor of Pan African Studies
University of Louisville
435 Strickler Hall
ewarner at louisville.edu 


From: Old Strega <oldstrega at hotmail.com>
To:<edebate at ndtceda.com>, Jay Reed <jvreedmore at hotmail.com>
Date: 4/6/2009 2:51 AM
Subject: [eDebate] the value of the destruction of NDT debate
on the heels of a good backchannel debate w kooz on the topic of the
significance of challenging assumptions from inside the prevailing
format, i offer these prospectives.

the thrust of my invocation of ede warner as a key figure in debate
history lends itself to negativity only if one is completely committed
to the assumptions of the current framework without reservation. the
double-edged sword of the ede warner phenomenon is his assessment of
failure and vision of evolution to a superior form. that is a
thought-experiment worthy of greater consideration by all debaters.

the provisional model will be recent rule changes in the game of
cricket which have shortened the game for the purpose of greater public
accessibility to the sport. i picked this model from a discussion with a
dell technical support tech who explained to me changes in the game of
cricket while waiting for a super-slow restart.

could ndt c-x team debate change the rules of the game to become more
accessible to the public as cricket has? the greatest obstacle to even
considering the question is the identity formation of the community
which rests upon the current process. habit makes one into a caricature
of oneself. some say this psychological impediment is impossible to
overcome. i disagree. this obstacle actually points to rapid evolution
in contradistinction to the gradualism vaunted by reformers along the
lines of william s. burroughs' argument against the darwinian evolution
of species. the holding onto the past eventually gives way to avalanches
since greater values demand transformation. 

this is my problem with debate nostalgia. ede was no nostalgist who
wanted to just include blacks within the current set of rules and
commend their contributions to the activity. ede saw this as a big trap
and fought the rules. did ede lose? hell no. inevitability is on ede's

the key to changing the rules is taking the best of what NDT c-x team
debate has to offer and eliminating the worst. the worst is the tag-line
drone derived from poor coaching and a lack of exemplars. take the
average transcript of a high-speed debate and you will find the speed is
cover for repetition of words and ideas. 
flow spews spread the same ideas out across many pages which i argue is
antithetical to the development of rhetorical style. speed is fine so
long as you have plenty to say. ancient rhetoric privileged economy of
speech and exemplars from competitive debate history and the many more
great public speakers share this skill which is no longer cherished by
the NDT community as the primary mark of excellence in speaking. the
drone-spew is arguably a symptom of filling space for people who don't
have enough ideas. transcript analysis of the best recent debates would
prove fruitful for evolution. the quality coaches left in the activity
could find avenues for improvement which do not come forward in
immediate post-round judge critiques. as burroughs used to say about the
playback of recordings, "STOP. INCH THE TAPE." 

this speed "style" which has gained sway is analogous to the five-day
cricket game in relation to public accessibility. assume the position of
the lay evaluator of even the best NDT debates. possibly, you are amazed
by the speed of the speakers. possibly as well, as your untrained ear
picks out words and phrases here and there, you notice significant
repetition and start to wonder if the professional debater is really
saying that much. to hold an audience you have to have action and that's
part o
f the cricket rule changes too. the question becomes how to move
the action from the flow to the speech. again, consider transcript
analysis. transcripts are not just archives for nostalgia. MLK was a
debater whose speech garnered the action to hold any audience. his
economy of speech which allowed him to explore the manipulation of
tropes is vastly superior to your speeches. models like these should be
used, not to merely reaffirm one's identity as a black debater or a
debater who values black speakers, but also to establish higher speaking

the tag-line drone is fed by the research race which promotes the fear
of not having cards. the research race leads to elite powerhouses with
the most hired guns and the largest research technology infrastructure.
the race should be eliminated because it has led to relatively poor
speaking as the standard. this is not an argument against neither
quantity nor quality of research which make for great debates. some form
of prior disclosure of evidence is needed for the shift to rhetorical
style as the flower of competitive debate.

the best debates are not only the most competitive debates but the most
competitive debates where the nuances of the literature and the issues
are explored the most making the end of the year prime for those
occasions. the strategy of fooling the opponent by disarming their
ability to respond with new evidence is short-sighted for the growth of
the activity. breadth is already managed by the existing ginormous
research effort undertaken by the community. breadth would hardly suffer
from new rules that focus the activity on the interpretation of evidence
which is where the thinking happens. 

we encounter a major psychological impediment, right here. i call it
the bill gates microsoft syndrome, the idea of proprietary research that
opposes sharing. UDL philanthropy is not the sharing needed for better
speaking standards. sharing evidence prior to rounds which would allow
the opponents to carefully analyze and develop a more sophisticated
response is characterized as a threat to thinking on one's feet. that's
a circular argument that begs the question. whether one hears the
evidence for the first time in the round or before the round, from the
second one first hears that evidence one is thinking on one's feet.
thinking on one's feet for longer periods of time allows for better
understanding of the nuances of that evidence. one can not anticipate
the other team's responses and eventually at some point in the round,
regardless of the fact that the evidence has been analyzed before the
round, one will have to think on one's feet. the major difference is
that the first line responses to the evidence are more refined. there
are 8 speeches, not 2. first line responses will also gain greater
rhetorical flare from pre-round analysis of evidence.

sharing could create another prospect -- the sifting out of all the
crappy cards that get read whose taglines don't come close to matching
their text and the concentration of debates across the spectrum of the
tournaments on the gold in the literature. i know you judges see this as
cheating. the debaters who don't research and squat on elite files still
won't be the best because they won't understand the context of the
literature as well as those who are reading day and night with their
hearts committed to comprehension of the resolution. they won't be able
to make those devastating uncarded arguments which assess context.
sharing does not preclude the fluency in the literature which
distinguishes the thinkers in debate from the literate teleprompter
readers. possibly, the significant amount of poor evidence tolerated
could be regarded as offensive to a community which deems itself
intellectual, the flip side of the proprietary disease. and possibly,
debate rounds could center around less but sweet cards.

i think the elite powerhouses are committed to the research race
because they are scared of a world in which critical thinking and a
rhetoric of tr
opes dominate the activity. for this, they should be
opposed and defeated.

well spoken arguments attached to the skeleton of solid argument
strategy have historically proven to be viable public events. keep the
strategy and the research. 

work on speaking or keep your sights low at the level of a good
professional debater who can't win in the big arena. parliament and all
tuna's stuff is not the answer or raison d'etre for not changing c-x. 

an issue for another day is the technical construction of the
resolutions, a topic ede attacked quite well. it is not difficult to see
how the wordings have become like a game of madlibs with certain key
phrases like "USFG" "significantly" "one or more of the following areas"
etc. surrounded by the words that differentiate the topic area. this
method has passed the point of diminishing returns.

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