[eDebate] Disclosure Norms - Plea for Codification

Michael Antonucci antonucci23
Tue Mar 10 01:12:03 CDT 2009


I'm not exactly sure of how disclosure norms in debate should work now.

No one does, because we collectively refuse to write them down.  Personally,
I think that's misguided.  Every rules dispute solidifies my conviction.

Take some analogies from other musty corners of competitive nerd-dom.  I
shudder to imagine:

- a chess game in which the clock increments are determind by "consensus"
- a Magic the Gathering tournament in which appropriate sideboard
constraints rest on what "seems cool"
- a sixteen-hour Diplomacy game in which the mechanics of a convoy rest upon
"the way I think we did it last time, maybe?"
- a poker game in which such small but game-changing cheats as
string-raising, fake mucks and "take-backs" are determined not by any actual
rules, but by willingness to schmooze or browbeat other players

Some of these examples probably sound unbearably nerdy to you.  Some also
probably sound familiar.

In a very intense game that consumes the near-complete attention of a
proto/para legal subculture, one should expect that ill-defined segments of
the rules will produce ugliness at the worst, ongoing small irritations at
the best.  What did everyone expect would happen?

Just codify the whole thing already.

Figure out the rules by some process of consensus and write them down - or
improve scouting and scrap the practice entirely.

If you've ever been exasperated either by marginal disclosure practice or
fights over disclosure, you should probably support moves in this direction.

Pre-empts:

"How can we possibly codify this?  Having codified it, how can we enforce
it?"

There are a few options.  I tend to think that if the community hammers out
some sort of code - either on the list or in some committee meeting -
everyone will be eager to adopt it, provided some ability to make
modifications in response to new 'cheats' or workarounds.

If someone writes it up, and an appropriate number of competitively
prominent students and/or coaches sign off on it, I tend to think that's
about what everyone will do.  If ugliness persists, just codify the practice
either through a professional organization or through tournament
invitations.

"Debate doesn't have a rulebook."

Yes, it does.

There's no rulebook for the argumentation that occurs within speeches, but
many aspects of debate practice are explicitly codified, such as time
constraints and schedules.  No one can tell you what to say in your
speeches, but people can tell you when and where to give those speeches, and
some of the conditions under which they must occur if you wish to secure a
ballot.

P.S. Having said this, I don't think that a national championship is the
appropriate vehicle for a test drive.  This is more of a long-term gripe.

-- 
Michael Antonucci
Debate Coach
Georgetown University
Mobile: 617-838-3345
Office: 202-687-4079
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