[eDebate] CEDA Controversy Papers--A few considerations

David Trigaux jddtfl
Fri Apr 24 13:33:39 CDT 2009

Some things that I believe the community often overlooks when choosing a debate topic is impact it will have on new/novice debaters, and its appeal. 

Topics have to have at least some reasonable components that novices can go for, and understand, instead of reading cards handed to them by a grad assistant that they don't fully understand. This makes the novice/first year debaters get more out of their year in terms of education, and makes for better debates, so judges don't have to suffer through a bunch horrid rounds. 

Second, a topic must have an appeal. As a new program last year, we more or less approached anyone with promise, and gave them a pitch to join the team, often with great success. However, central to that pitch is the topic, and I have found its often the first thing that the potential recruit asks about. A topic must have some sort of interest or draw to the common person. Additionally, this is an important consideration for some schools, when an administrator (who may well hold the purse strings for your team) asks, "what are you talking about at these debates," and they don't see any relevance to what your talking about. 

First impressions on the topics:

Immigration--answers both of these requirements very well. Its relevant, attractive and understandable to new debaters, and administrators who control our budgets. 

Russia--also answers both requirements. relevant, attractive, and some arguments are easy for novices. 

Nuclear weapons policy--answers both of these requirements, with a few limitations.

International Finance--fails to answer either requirement adequately. I know that economics instruction is virtually non existent in high school, and most novices don't have the grasp that would be required to debate this topic intelligently, This further applies to new debaters, who would have to be econ majors to be greatly interested in such a topic. This topic would kill recruitment for schools like mine, leaving us with only one or two kids who debated extensively in high school, and are used to suffering through topics. 

The Body/Taboo topic--I can understand the popularity of this topic especially with K teams (I come from a K team, so this is somewhat of an informed criticism). However, this topic is not remotely accessible for a lot of novice debaters, from both a maturity and a knowledge base standpoint. Secondly, if a team such as mine tries to approach an individual, or advertise that we are debating "the body," our traditional recruitment pool will shrug with indifference. While such a topic would draw in those passionate about such controversies, these new members would be fair weather debaters, losing interest with the next topic, and likely not very skilled. Finally, administrators who ask, "what are you debating" will either be polarized, as in why am I funding such a debate, or fail to see the large scale relevance of the topic. I by no means think that this is a bad topic. (At CEDA, I ran into a lot of extra topical Affs that piqued my interest, but as the
 head of my team, I have to put such considerations aside for the success of my program.) I ultimately feel that this would be a wonderful topic I personally would enjoy debating, but that I would be in the vast minority on my own team, as it is geared towards expereinced K debaters. 

I believe that these issues impact a lot of newer, or growing programs that aren't destinations for the top high school policy debaters, and may not directly effect larger programs. A topic chosen with these ideas in mind can be a key component of expanding debate into new schools, and building programs. I hope this will be a bit of food for thought, and perhaps be a new angle for some people to consider when discussing the topics. 

David Trigaux, USF St. Pete Debate

--- On Fri, 4/24/09, Gordon Stables <stables at usc.edu> wrote:
From: Gordon Stables <stables at usc.edu>
Subject: [eDebate] CEDA Topic Selection Committee - Controversy Papers
To: ceda-l at ndtceda.com, edebate at ndtceda.com
Date: Friday, April 24, 2009, 12:34 AM

I am happy to announce that we have five controversy papers to
consider for the 2009-10 topic . We appreciate all of the hard work of
these authors and will begin reviewing the papers immediately. You may
review each of the papers at http://www.cedadebate.org/  We also have
open threads available for each of the papers. Please leave your
comments there to help us in our deliberations.

Thanks again to the authors and the committee for their hard work.

Chair - CEDA Topic Selection Committee

Gordon Stables, Ph.D.
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication
University of Southern California
Office: 213 740 2759
Fax: 213 740 3913
eDebate mailing list
eDebate at www.ndtceda.com

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