[eDebate] Stratford cattle call

Mitchell, Gordon Roger gordonm
Tue Aug 18 22:34:19 CDT 2009

Dear Abby,

I delight in the fact that you are coaching high school debate, and I applaud your moxie in casting a wide net in your personnel search. Please take my comments with a grain of salt, as I know nothing of the Stratford team, have never been to Macon, and have been denied the pleasure of meeting you. Indeed, I would not be surprised to learn that your students are kinetically-motivated, achievement-oriented critical thinking mavens, and further that you are a talented and energetic teacher. I wish you and your team nothing but success and satisfaction. Yet the first time I read your "Looking for a Card Cutter" post to eDebate, something didn't click. Then I went back and something fell off the rails the second time when I mulled this passage in isolation:

"This person would not need to have any 'coaching' or 'judging' responsibilities but would need to commit to cutting files for us on a tournament by tournament schedule."

I'm sure you will note that my following statements will diverge from the ecumenical spirit evinced in my prefatory remarks, and so I beg your forgiveness in advance. To reiterate, I know nothing of you or your program, have nothing against you personally, and indeed savor the prospect of face-to-face conversation with you to unpack these matters.

All that said, I am moved to state with prejudice that your pitch smells. It has the stench of a Heritage Foundation-esque gambit to convert dollars into policy brief deliverables that win contest round victories, pedagogy be damned. Since again, I know nothing of you or your program, of course I cannot build or sustain such a critique. Yet I can cringe in my little corner at your scare quotes - it's not only that you are looking for "[Just] a card cutter," you also seem to be saying something about those who feel notions of "coaching" and "judging" are central, indeed, inseparable, from the profession. From a purely textual perspective, the scare quotes make your message dialogic - they are reaching out to interlocutors from which you might expect a response. I don't want to speak for you in this regard, yet I am curious in your opinion about this matter.

So, in the spirit of dialogue, I offer this opening query to a possible conversation: What are the scare quotes in your cattle call saying?



* * *

Gordon R. Mitchell
Associate Professor of Communication
Director of Graduate Studies
Director, William Pitt Debating Union
University of Pittsburgh
CL 1117, 4200 Fifth Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: (412) 624-8531
Fax: (412) 624-1878

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