Friday, January 27, 2006

Debate Controversy

This is kind of an Us vs. Them kind of thing in this state.

Hubby and I want to coach our teams to be competitive on the naitonal level. We have also had significant debate experience outside of BN state. In our genre of debate, in BN state, this is unusual. For the most part, the coaches and students in BN state aren't interested in what is going on out there... in terms of arguments, styles of resolutions and methods of preparation for rounds.

In our genre of debate the resoution changes every round. In every other genre, they debate the same topic from September to March/April. It is the change of topic that I think makes our genre of debate very educational and challenging. Instead of doing in-depth research into one topic for the year, we do research into a wide variety of topics. We are also not allowed to bring "printed material" into the debate chambers. The rules themselves do not say that we can't consult files or others, including the internet, before the debate.

The controversy I'm contemplating is about, what we call, "coaching in prep". The idea is that, between the time of the announcement of the resolution and the first speech of the round, the team has either 15 or 20 minutes to prepare to defend or oppose the resoultion. As you can imagine, this can be a stressful time in the tournament. Most teams on the national circuit do some level of coaching or consultation in prep. Usually it is mostly a short discussion of possible cases, checking with the coach to make sure the plan and advantages make sense etc... If a team is going to be competitive, they can't be taking dictation from the coach... it doesn't work as the debaters can't defend it.

Most people in BN state think that it should not be permissible to coach in preparation time. In fact, it isn't enough for them that they don't want TO coach in prep, they don't want anybody else to do it either. They will give teams a loss they think have done it, whether or not they can prove it. A school that hosts a ton of little tournaments actually prohibits coahcing in prep in their tournament rules. We disagree that this is good debate, and as such we don't go to their tournaments.

The underlying problem with this attitude is that it comes down to accusations in the rounds, from debaters who dont' have anything else to use to oppose the case. They will say that case is "too good" and imply that somehow the case is thus illegitimate.

TOO FUCKING GOOD -- get that... from an activity that is supposed to be educational. Would I give a paper a C- because it is too good.

Going along with this belief is the belief that our students shouldn't be allowed to consult anything other than the dictionary in preparation time. NOW, we are expecting our students not to talk to anybody about the case they are about to run, nor should they have prepared anything to look at during preparation time. The only resources they have are one another... and they are forced to rely on what is in their heads. For what has been called the "ipod generation" this is pretty scary.

The result is that there are some pretty bad debates that happen in BN state, so bad that someone I met recently called it "the special olympics of debate" and, he was right...

To be fair -- not that I really want to be --
Their argument goes as follows, the competition should be between the debaters and nobody else. The nature of parli is that it is impromptu debate, not policy debate. They think that the lack of coaching or files in prep will require students to learn before the tournament..

Of course... I have a few answers
First: they are college students, they are not experts in Africa, Asia and nuclear arms etc.. why not let them do research and write it down and bring it to the tournament. Why not let them talk to someone who may be in a class that could help them?

Second: if it is coach vs. coach, suck it up and BECOME a better coach. Also, it can't be the case that the coach just tells them what to say--- they'll lose.

Third: We have young debaters who may need some help or reassurance and others who may need someone to moderate their prep time. We also have students with learning disabilities that make it difficult to concnetrate under pressure. If I can help them to get into a round, won't they learn something and isn't that what the local boys say is lacking in our method?

Fourth: as hubby says, during prep they are highly motivated to learn. Tell me any other teaching time in which you have their full concentration for 15 or 20 minutes. Most of the time you have that kind of attention while answering questions about what will be on the test... and even then, they don't give it to you.

Fifth: Why the fuck do you care how MY debaters prepare? If they wanted to stand on their heads in the men's room for 20 minutes, would you care -- no... you claim it isn't about competition, but you get pissed when my community college kids, or my new debaters from the snotty school beat your kids. You know why they beat them -- it is because the judges they win don't have your screwed up view of debate. They are usually "lay" or "community" judges who simply recognize good arguments. hmmmmm.

Sixth: This smacks of elitism to me. IF the U of Big State were to start doing this (yea, first they'd need an actual coach not a van driver..) you'd be ok with that -- if snotty school from south of the metro were to do it, you'd say it is ok... if school that thinks it is much better than it is were to do it, you'd reconsider.. BUT should a community college get out of their place as the easy wins by doing educaitonal things, stop the presses and call them cheaters.

This was the basic controversy last week when I gave my rant about BN State championships.

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