Monday, February 20, 2006

Debate -- "the project"

At BN state tournament, the resolution was "This house would change its team culture."

It would have been the perfect opportunity for D1/D2 to make their point and educate the local circuit about why they don't win nationally.

In retrospect, after a conversation with Elle's daddy, IEs in BN state are also not particularly successful -- probably for similar reasons.

Below is an outline of the "case" I'd love to have seen run.. I'm sure D1/D2 or Rex/McWiggins could run it better, but the gist would probably be the same...

Important definitions: TH = "Upper Midwest Debate", "change its team cultre" = change the way debate is seen, viewed and done in the Upper Midwest.

Framework: This is an unusual debate framework, as we are debating about how debate is done. Our advocacy is that BN state should adjust the way it does debate in ways and for reasons that will be clear over the course of the round.

General --- BN state is a weak debate region. In the last 13 years, there have been a total of 5 participants in elimination rounds at the big national tournament. 3 teams have had a reasonable chance of qualifying for NPQRS in the past 6 years. BN state teams compete regularly at NPDA, but they do not have success.

cause: BN state has a variety of rules at most tournaments that are anti-competitive and serve to create an insular community. These rules create two different kinds of parliamentary debate, one that is BN state specific, the other that is like that practiced on the national circuit.

The result is that teams who want to be nationally competitive must leave the state to compete, thus depriving the teams who compete in-state of the additinal education provided by debating them. BNCC is a perfect example of this. Our travel schedule included exactly 2 in-state parli tournaments (St. Cloud and BNState tournament) BECAUSE of the rules we will discuss in a minute. We didn't drive Iowa 5 times last season for the free wireless internet at the rest areas...

Problem rules:
1) "No coaching or consultation in preparation time". The best possible motivation for this rule is to leave the competition to the competitors.

The problem is a combination of the following set of problems:
a) "The witch hunt / false accusation": teams that are "too good" are suspected of breaking the rule, whether or not they did. UST's team got that accusation multiple times last year at BN state tournament, even when they prepped in the room and without their coach.
b) teams get off track, freaked out or otherwise need guidance in prep. The result is a less educational and competitive debate than might have happened with a coach's help in prep time.
c) Teams write terrible cases. These cases are so terrible (space prisons, final round cases requiring the US Supreme Court to sign off on ALL wiretap requests etc..) that it is often difficult to oppose them because they are unclear and contradictory.
d) Prep time is a time at which teams are very motivated to learn.
e) Factual accuracy.... having the ability to discuss the factual aspects of the topic you are about to debate can save you from HUGE facutal errors.

2) No printed materials in prep time, other than a dictionary.

Again, a combination of problems are the result:
a) Without the ability to coah in prep, cases and facts are even worse -- and in many ways only speculation.
b) If you can't use your research to debate, why do it --- so, cases get dumber and dumber
c) "I think I remember syndrome" -- as in, "I think I remember reading in Nesweek ____________".
d) False accusations /witch hunts on information... this actually comes in two sub categories
i. Your case is too good, with too many specifics, you must have cheated and "canned" it. This comes from competitors and judges alike --
ii. Reluctance of debaters to bring their research to tournaments for time between rounds -- for fear that some judge might see them with the contraband expando or something.

3) No warm room, disclosure of decisions or discussion of the round with the judge afterwards

A warm room is usually a place results are posted. The intention is so that teams can know their record and perhaps talk with the judge to gain insight into the round.

The problems with this are also pretty clear
a) Not knowing your record is kind of like expecting someone to play a game, but the score is kept secret until after the game is over.
b) Discussing the round afterwards is the best way to LEARN how to win next time. Those who think that debate discourages intepersonal communication should encourage this kind of discussion--- it is interperaonal, afterall.

4) Prejudice against "policy" or "JKLM" style debate

There are a variety of ways debaters choose to debate. Some are more persuasive, funny, charming or cute while others are fast, factual and often agressive. Both styles have their advantages, and judges shouldn't reject the arguments of either kind of debate from some sort of preconceived notion that the other kind of debate is inferior.

The problems here are clear:
a) It gives students with high school policy debate experience a disincentive to participate. This decreases the intellectual competitiveness in the region and serves to discourage talented high school students from staying in the state for college.
b) It gives an automatic, unfair advantage, to students who have made one presentation choice over another. This is disresepctful both to the debaters and the coaches involved, who have worked hard to increase their knowlege of political science, critical theory and argumentation theory. To demen them by saying things like "dude, give up your high school policy presentation" is insulting and rude.

None of these proposed reforms are things that reluctant teams MUST participate in --- you can ignore the warm room, prep alone etc..

The benefits reach well beyond the schools who participate in these practices, because they make the debates more challenging, more educational and more attractive to more students who are looking for intellectual competition.

The result will be a circuit that will not only serve to give students a chance to compete locally, but also a chance to compete on the national level. Much is made of "adaptation" -- BUT -- that seems to mean, "change to be like I want you to be" -- and does not currently require debaters who only debate in the state to "adapt" to the practices of the national circuit. If you really value debaters who are able to compete in a variety of styles, you should encourage these reforms and take them to heart.

We are not asking that you accept these practices as standard on your own squads, rather we ask that you adopt a policy of toleration and consideration for those who have decided to compete on the national circuit. The impacts of this will be many, including a greater number of national championship elimination round apearances -- a cure for AIDS and prevention of nuclear war...

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