Jump to content
JustACoach

Preventive Maintenance?

Recommended Posts

Sorry. The moral majority does exist. I'm not talking about the folks who want to ban dirty records, I'm talking about the folks who believe their kids shouldn't be allowed to smoke, especially at a school-sanctioned event. The folks who like to think their sons and daughters are preparing to be captains of industry, not to be the next coming of the hippie generation. Folks who think that using profanity in every other sentence isn't the best example of rhetorical prowess.

 

We are talking about high school administrators, who may have very liberal beliefs, but have to answer to parents. Parents who will throw your ass in jail for looking cross-eyed at their child. Parents who, for the most part, have money and some feeling of privilege and are usually willing to use that privilege to get you, me and the principal fired if they think something funny is going on. Parents who will call every newspaper and TV station in a 100-mile radius if they think something is going wrong.

 

But what's the disad to cleaning up the activity, especially at our highest levels? When you have blatant smoking, cursing and general laziness, the benefits of the activity get lost in the haze. I used to just shake my heads at squads who couldn't or wouldn't control their kids, forget that. I am going to speak up. Your kids going cross-country to screw the boy or girl they met at camp. And you are allowing that why? Your debaters get caught smoking weed and they are competing at the next tournament? Your kids have state-of-the-art laptops, cell phones, iPods, GPS systems, cars, but not a pair of slacks, collared shirt and closed toe shoes? Really?

 

It may not be my place to ask these questions, but a college president, who is a FORMER DEBATER, thinks this activity is no longer compatible with his university's educational standards. Wow. Don't you get it? Don't you get it? Football could lie, cheat, steal, rape and pillage entire universities, but it would stay unless the NCAA came in and issued the death penalty. Debate gets axed for one incident. One silly, stupid, preventable incident. Do you think the Ft. hays team is gone had the participants been wearing suits and ties and not dropping the F-bomb every two seconds? Shanahan probably still gets fired, but I think a new coach is hired right away.

 

No one is trying to kill the intellectual stimulation that comes from policy debate. Can't you learn just as well in closed toed shoes and a collared shirt as you can in flip-flops and cut offs? Is your education harmed when you are forced to find something else besides the F-Bomb to scream?

 

You are right, you aren't a head coach and you have no idea of the problems we face. I respect you for saying that. I am not trying to pin the blame on "wayward" youth. The fault lies with the coaches. We have abdicated too much of our responsibility. Instead handing over much of what we should be doing--standards for behavior in and out of round--over to college students who aren't quite ready for that responsibility.

 

 

I feel to the depths of my heart, because of how strongly I love this activity, that to impose these sorts of requirements would be a very big mistake in service of a moral majority that may not even exist. I hope that some day you will understand where I'm coming from, and that these hopes of mine are not the sullen products of a wayward "revolutionary" youth misplaced inside of me. What do I know, though? Maybe my thoughts would change if I were a head coach, and so I will respectfully keep silent from here on out. I leave you with this though:

 

I do not believe that it is a wild attitude of disregard for structures of respectability that is bleeding our community. This is a community that I love both as a friend and as an idea that I can support both with my companionship and with everything that I believe in. It does real harm to me to know that policy debate is collapsing like an old lung. But I will say again that I think it is far too easy to blame this on a wastrel youth that are acting in ways for which they "should be ashamed." There are obviously immediate nominal gains that would be gotten from eliminating such, as those that come with any form of conservatism. But ultimately what kills our activity is not schools closing their programs because of excessive profanity. What kills our community is a blight of intellectual sloth coming from the profoundly lethargic culture in our country. That is what we must change. Never forget that all of this means something. Each decision that we make as a community means something and the kind of people who will be happy and successful in policy debate are in short supply. At this juncture is seems misguided (not to mention immoral) to alienate children from the activity because of a desperate attempt to save it. To censor our participants and to force them into a moral order of our own design is to choke our community in hopes that we will force some oxygen in. Furthermore, even if we managed in increasing the participation in debate through your proposed regimen, I would ask you the following: at what cost? More people need to read A Clockwork Orange. If you don't understand what I mean, then you really should read it. These are hard times that our world is going through, and communities like debate are what we need in order to guide the next generation through it. I cannot put a price on what I have learned as a policy debater, and it would be a shame to change that forever because an attempt to control the community ended up suffocating it. Changes never happen in a vacuum. And you have to ask yourself at the end of the day: which direction do we want to be moving in? The conservative one or the progressive one? It is scary to think about debate dying out because we were to afraid to make the necessary changes, but, simply put, I don't think that these are the right changes.

 

If there are any questions that any of you have of me, then feel free to ask.

 

Sincerely,

-Michael

  • Upvote 1
  • Downvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It does real harm to me to know that policy debate is collapsing like an old lung. But I will say again that I think it is far too easy to blame this on a wastrel youth that are acting in ways for which they "should be ashamed." There are obviously immediate nominal gains that would be gotten from eliminating such, as those that come with any form of conservatism. But ultimately what kills our activity is not schools closing their programs because of excessive profanity.

 

I would contend that the activity is not being killed by youth acting out or by profanity laced rounds. I would contend that the activity is killing itself with what it has become. That is a completly different conversation altoghter.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would contend that the activity is not being killed by youth acting out or by profanity laced rounds. I would contend that the activity is killing itself with what it has become. That is a completly different conversation altoghter.

 

What has it become?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What has it become?

 

Let me start by saying that my previous comment refers to policy debate ( I know that I should have put that in there). To me and this is based on my observations and conversations, that policy is getting to a point that if a program does not spend thousands and travel to national tournaments and go to the best camps then they are somehow sub-par. I would contend that if you don't do those things then you are not going to be able to compete against the teams that do.

 

Additionally, programs have a hard time retaining kids in policy while Public Forum is taking off. I believe that Policy has become such a niche type of debate that it will survive but it will be passed by LD and PF in terms of popularity. Ultimately even if you think that policy is the best thing out there if kids are not doing it or programs cannot get into doing it without having to try and raise thousands then it is going to continue to shrink in terms of the number of teams doing it. I am starting a brand new team from scratch. I know that policy has a lot of great benefits for those that do it. I also know that it is important. But since I have to start with nothing I believe that my PF numbers will always be better than my policy and I believe that I will contiue to struggle with retaining kdis in policy.

 

So to answer your question I believe that it has become an activity that almost elitist.

Edited by Trobaugh

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Let me start by saying that my previous comment refers to policy debate ( I know that I should have put that in there). To me and this is based on my observations and conversations, that policy is getting to a point that if a program does not spend thousands and travel to national tournaments and go to the best camps then they are somehow sub-par. I would contend that if you don't do those things then you are not going to be able to compete against the teams that do.

 

Additionally, programs have a hard time retaining kids in policy while Public Forum is taking off. I believe that Policy has become such a niche type of debate that it will survive but it will be passed by LD and PF in terms of popularity. Ultimately even if you think that policy is the best thing out there if kids are not doing it or programs cannot get into doing it without having to try and raise thousands then it is going to continue to shrink in terms of the number of teams doing it. I am starting a brand new team from scratch. I know that policy has a lot of great benefits for those that do it. I also know that it is important. But since I have to start with nothing I believe that my PF numbers will always be better than my policy and I believe that I will contiue to struggle with retaining kdis in policy.

 

So to answer your question I believe that it has become an activity that almost elitist.

 

I agree. So what's the solution?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just to clarify something. I don't think Marcus or anyone else is arguing that this stuff is the primary reason that Policy debate is dying in so many places. What they are saying, and what I agree with, is that sloppy dress, bad behavior, swearing and other things of that nature can create negative perceptions and make it much easier for administrators to justify not supporting programs.

 

Essentially, it comes down to a simple question. If your activity is in danger, don't you want to do anything you can to build support for it?

 

On our team, we enforce a basic dress code. It's easier for me than some because most of my debaters do IEs, although the last few years there has been more separation. If I heard a student was swearing excessively or being offensive they would be warned. Do it again and they would be gone. If I found them smoking at a tournament they would probably get a suspension from a tournament. Do it again, gone.

 

I'm all for free speech, but these are program preservation issues. Like it or not, we are part of the high school infrastructure.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree. So what's the solution?

 

I have been thinking about this and I cannot come up with an answer. I don't know what we can do. I have a feeling that most coaches would disagree with my assessment. If coaches agreed with the idea then the dialogue could begin and I think that the problem would begin to work itself out, but at this point I have no clue what a possible solution would be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I understand your censorship arguments but as some of you have said if they are just words, why does it matter? Replace it with something else because as a high school debater the few times I have heard profanity used in a round it could have easily have been replaced with a word that would not have been as profane. As far as dress code that should be up to coach, in Oklahoma ive only seen a couple teams that dress in normal clothes but that all depends on your individual teams dress code. I also agree with Jenks coach, if debaters I know talked in debate rounds like they do outside of them I have seen few judges that WOULDN'T vote them down.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree. So what's the solution?

 

Sorry to bump a long dead thread but I think this is an important issue. No I'm not a head coach. I'm at best a "volunteer coach," HS Judge, and College Debater.

 

I comply agree with Marcus' statements. A suit doesn't make a debater any more polite or civil but it does provide some vestige of decorum if nothing else. I know this conversation occurred roughly the same time on edebate and several college coaches came out hard against the idea of bringing back suit wearing in college.

 

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The real problem that some coaches here addressed is the declining numbers of policy debate. I haven't been around much as some of you have but even I know that at any league, regional invitational tournament, and all but a few nat circuit tournaments, the entries in public-forum, parli, are at least twice if not three-five times larger than the entries in policy debate. Example, at the GGSA League Debates there are around 20 TOTAL policy entries disregarding divisions, and over a hundred Parli entries and usually 50+ public forum entries. We're doing something wrong.

 

Why, especially in the GGSA with some top circuit schools in the region like the Head Royce School, CPS, is the policy debate pool so small? The answer is the circuit. Teams from schools, including debaters from my school don't feel like the league tournaments are worth the time because they want flow rounds not lay rounds. Schools want to leave their regions and go out to the Bid Tournaments, other travel tournaments.

 

The solution is to improve the quality of league tournaments. I know the GGSA is not alone in the fact that judging "quality" is not particularly high and we need to improve and reform our local leagues and regional invitationals to make our regions stronger. This is why start up programs in policy rarely make it because of these barriers to entry. Many schools that have recently picked up policy programs in the GGSA (not to list names) can't make it in debate simply because they can't afford to send their kids off to the Glenbrooks every year or where ever to get good.

 

Doing reforms like dress code and profanity blockers, for lack of a better word, might increase our perception to administrators, but unless we do something to debate itself, high school debate might cease to exist.

Edited by magicmasterk

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry to bump a long dead thread but I think this is an important issue. No I'm not a head coach. I'm at best a "volunteer coach," HS Judge, and College Debater.

 

I comply agree with Marcus' statements. A suit doesn't make a debater any more polite or civil but it does provide some vestige of decorum if nothing else. I know this conversation occurred roughly the same time on edebate and several college coaches came out hard against the idea of bringing back suit wearing in college.

 

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The real problem that some coaches here addressed is the declining numbers of policy debate. I haven't been around much as some of you have but even I know that at any league, regional invitational tournament, and all but a few nat circuit tournaments, the entries in public-forum, parli, are at least twice if not three-five times larger than the entries in policy debate. Example, at the GGSA League Debates there are around 20 TOTAL policy entries disregarding divisions, and over a hundred Parli entries and usually 50+ public forum entries. We're doing something wrong.

 

Why, especially in the GGSA with some top circuit schools in the region like the Head Royce School, CPS, is the policy debate pool so small? The answer is the circuit. Teams from schools, including debaters from my school don't feel like the league tournaments are worth the time because they want flow rounds not lay rounds. Schools want to leave their regions and go out to the Bid Tournaments, other travel tournaments.

 

The solution is to improve the quality of league tournaments. I know the GGSA is not alone in the fact that judging "quality" is not particularly high and we need to improve and reform our local leagues and regional invitationals to make our regions stronger. This is why start up programs in policy rarely make it because of these barriers to entry. Many schools that have recently picked up policy programs in the GGSA (not to list names) can't make it in debate simply because they can't afford to send their kids off to the Glenbrooks every year or where ever to get good.

 

Doing reforms like dress code and profanity blockers, for lack of a better word, might increase our perception to administrators, but unless we do something to debate itself, high school debate might cease to exist.

This is very significant - it isn't that circuit debate is necessarily bad, but that it has become elitist. The perception of policy is that it is a bunch of sloppy, tree-killing, fast-talking hippie radicals with no connection to the real world or education. What happens in rounds AND what rounds look like is causing others to turn away from the event.

 

I recently had an argument with a parent/judge who had seen a few rounds of policy and was appalled. As a lawyer, he kept going back to how the decorum and speed of policy would not work in his world. I think that is a horrendously flawed argument, but that is the perception of the event.

 

I honestly think that the content of the debate has more of an impact, but the cursing and dress are a factor as well. What it amounts to, especially with public forum now, is that new programs can only start where there is a coach with experience or a kid who can afford camp. No established speech or LD coach is going to start a policy program because the perception among those coaches, and parents and administrators, is so negative, and the barriers to entry are so high.

 

In Philly, teams are caught in a catch-22. There are three policy schools, and all travel nationally a little with sometimes very competitive teams. The local debates between those schools get technical and fast, occasionally kritiky. A new program would be so far behind the curve against our kids that they don't even try, no matter how many times we offer to teach them everything and give them access to everything and limit what our novices will do in rounds. But if we make any of those concessions, we'll be losing valuable practice where we fall further behind those circuit teams. And if we keep debating only ourselves, we'll never grow enough to be continuously successful nationally.

 

I don't have a solution (other than mandating that all people see things my way), but I think that's the existential problem with the event. Cleaning up the language and the dress would be a visible way to indicate that there is a change, but the content of the rounds needs to change to make that difference.

 

(Or maybe I just hate Ks and think that you deserve to be taken as seriously as you look and act, because if I had to wear a suit, you do too.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Completely false and without warrant. That perception was there a long time before I came aboard as a coach (and remember, I'm REAL old! :) )

 

Look, I agree completely that debaters should NOT be judged by their attire; but I have been around long enough to know that it happens, even at "top-level TOC tournaments." Is wearing raggedy jeans and a T shirt important enough that you would risk losing a round because of it? What if that round was the one you needed at a bid tournament? Take the converse...when has wearing dress slacks, dress shirt & a necktie ever LOST someone a round?

 

My school pays me the "big bucks" they do to eliminate as many of the stupid reasons for losing as I can. Attire is, granted, a stupid reason. But it occurs.

 

Fuck the administration. That being said:

 

The only reason someone would percieve debaters wearing formal attire is becasue they associate dressing well with eloquence. It has well been established that what you wear has a direct effect on how others percieve you. Truthfully though, most people won't ever lose a round based on dress. Voting on clothing is probably the highest form of intervention, thus, any judge who would vote based on that is subject to fuck you over for a plethora of reasons.

 

Having said that, Toby has always maintained that we should dress nicely to appear more persuasive/create a better perception from the judge, and it has always made enough sense to me to throw on a button down and some dress pants.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a sticky issue. I was among an earlier generation of debaters, where jeans and t-shirts were vastly outnumbered by shirts and ties. I wore a suit to most of my hs debate rounds, only stopping for small, local tourneys in my senior year. Even then, I faced theory arguments that we should be dropped for our dress.

 

And it is certainly true that outsiders' perception of debate hinges on the presentation of the debaters. Sloppy dress does not help, nor does profanity. That said, I don't think much needs to be done to change things. Profanity or sloppy dress don't turn a good argument bad. Likewise, a tie and proper tea-time english won't make a bad argument good.

 

As coaches, it is easily within our influence to convince our debaters to cool it with the four letter words when an administrator is in earshot. And in all honesty, high school administrators might be impressed by a suit and tie, but they are used to kids in casual dress. A good argument done without profanity will be impressive if the administrator can keep up. The moment the t-shirt is seasoned with profanity, all credibility is lost.

 

Honestly, speed is probably a bigger problem than sloppy dress or all the f-bombs in the world when it comes to impressing outsiders. Policy debate has becom so aesthetically vacant to make it completely unpersuasive to the layperson. Because important debates are almost universally decided by small groups familiar and proficient with the practices of the community, the ability to marshall reasoning skills and evidence to persuade the non-debater has become a lost art in the activity. Because persuasion is considered by most (myself included) as a central skill of debate, debaters who can't persuade non-debaters represent the biggest threat.

 

That's what's bleeding debate. (Of course, my own opinion)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the drop in numbers in policy debate is directly related to the number of coaches willing to coach it who have an inkling about how to do it. When a good coach leaves a school, often the program founders. When a good coach moves in, it doesn't take many years before they have competitive policy teams.

 

So I think dress and language are at the periphery. And I wasn't always successful in getting my debaters to dress well and speak vulgarity-free. But while at the periphery, I think dress and language make some difference, particularly with parents who might only see a round or two a year. If parents are supportive, the administration is likely to be more supportive, too. I can explain to a parent why debates are fast and have ludicrous impact scenarios (and sometimes they get it). But it would be easier to explain if the participants looked and sounded like they respected the activity.

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a couple of more thoughts. Tim Alderete has a pretty persuasive post on here as to why circuit debate kills local and regional debate. His argument is pretty compelling, although I'd like to think you can have both. Strengthening regional debate is extremely important, but how?

 

Before you can strengthen it, you have to recruit schools to participate. You can't recruit schools without a) a coach willing to sacrifice the time and effort to field a successful team and B) convincing administrators the activity is worth their resources. Kids will come and parents will support what their kids are interested in.

 

I had a superintendent for nearly five years willing to decently fund programs in my district. So why doesn't every high school have a team? I have more middle school teams than I do high school teams. There are no teachers willing to coach it. Even the ones who have policy debate experience refuse to coach. They say its too much time and too much of a commitment. This is sad. We have football teams that haven't had winning seasons in more than a decade, but never a lack of applicants for the coaching jobs. But for speech and debate teams (and I'm not even talking about policy teams), I have to beg people and principals have to threaten people to get coaching vacancies filled. I have a guy who refuses to go to overnights because he can't be away from his wife and kids. But he refuses to be parted from that stipend. I have another guy who has collected a stipend for three years and has NEVER sent a team to a tournament. What can I say? Nothing. The union has his back. Then these same kinds of coaches complain when the regional power school kicks their butts in parli or pubfo or extemp or LD.

 

Then every time I turn around I have to defend policy debate to the uninitiated. Look kids, I LOVE a good, fast policy round. But there is a time and place for everything. Spewing down in a round where you have one fast judges and two grandmas? Bad PR. Dropping the F bomb when some kid's parents are watching? Great stuff. You look cool to someone I bet, but you may have just cost that kid a chance to go to camp. Wearing flip flops and tattered jeans to a round in front of the Rotary club presidnet? Sweet. Turn another community group into a fan of mock trial or aca deca. Love smoking on documentaries? Or binge drinking at natioanl tournaments? Keep it up. You are so very cool. But as policy keeps losing programs, there won't be enough teams for you to coach and judge while you are in college. So who's going to keep you in cigarettes or fund your pot habit?

 

But as coaches we don't levy consequences for kids ignoring our wishes. So maybe we deserve the backlash.

 

I will tell you that if coaches demanded their students be good ambassadors for the activity, there'd be less of these stupid problems. JSA is about the dumbest form of debate I know, but they get support. AcaDeca is a one day competition for all but the county winners. County winners compete for two days. State winners for three days. They study ALL Fall semester in order to compete for three days, if they are lucky. What kind of sense does that make? Zero. But we are constantly fighting to keep programs in policy. Even if kids use camp evidence all season and do ZERO research (sounds like mock trial), they have a more meaningful educational experience than any of these other extracurricular activities.

 

So I can only ask that we, as coaches, start making our kids be good ambassadors for this activity. When I was in high school and college, people were in awe of policy because they knew it was the preeminent debate activity that demanded discipline and research and superior public speaking and critical thinking skills. Now, there are 45 different kinds of debate and everyone claims to be a debater because they have 32 minute rounds and read Time Magazine every other week. We need to do everything in our power to recapture that status.

 

OK I'm done ranting... for now.

  • Upvote 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the problem could be reversed in a couple of years if every TOC bid round were judged by a panel of educated lay judges who understand the difference between an argument they agree with and a good argument. The fact that these rounds are almost exclusively judged by those of us who grasp and accept all the specialized forms of delivery and argumentation means the best debaters tend to grow more elitist in their approach, over time. And because those debaters are emulated by the rest of the community to some extent, we see reflections of that elitism throughout the activity.

 

You want participation and administrative support to increase? Force debaters to adapt to non-debaters as judges. It doesn't take some radical change in rules or the establishment of a dress code. All it takes is making sure debaters have the skill to argue in front of both the superintendent of schools and the panel of college debaters.

 

Wouldn't it be great if you could send the two best teams in a school district to argue in front of the local chamber of commerce or elks club in an effort to build community support? It's not t-shirts or swearing that makes such an idea ridiculous - it's debaters' inability to argue in plain english and at any speed less than 200wpm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've wrote this before, I'll write it again - states and areas having trouble attracting policy programs, or losing those programs which do exist to other forms of debate, should consider implementing "Classic Policy Debate" as we have it hear in Virginia.

 

Classic policy is regular policy with two differences - 1) You can't spread, and 2) Cross-Ex is not open. That's it - otherwise all the times, arguments, etc are exactly the same as a "regular" round of policy debate - there are just a few less, and they are debated more slowly.

 

This division has lead to ressurgence of debate in Virginia. At last year's state tournament we could not fill the "Contemporary" Policy Debate division (it only attracted 5 teams, 12 is the full complement), but the "Classic Division" was filled. The first WACFL tournament of this year attracted about 20 teams in all divisions, all from traditional programs..our third tourney of the year, held yesterday, had 59 teams, INCLUDING 31 novice teams and 18 JV teams in teh "Classic Divisions". We had enterants yesterday in Classic from two League programs which abandoned policy debate in the mid and late 90's, and we had two new schools which had never before done policy join us. The coaches were all very pointed that they came back because of the "space" classic offers for kids to learn the ropes of debate - before they move on to the varsity levels (Yesterday's varsity division was won by team which had won the last JV Classic Division) (Our Varsity level is "open" and allows speed, etc.) (And when I say all the arguments are on the table in Classic, last year's state final round featured 3 DA's, a CP, 2 T's and was decided on "Conditionality Bad" they are all there - it's just slower, and a bit more in depth.)

 

Try "Classic" you'll like the results....I almost guarantee it. It won't solve the shift totally - some kids think PF and LD require less work than policy and there's nothing you can do about that - but it will preserve what you have, and perhaps lead to an increase!!:)

 

And..of course...make sure you're kids aren't swearing/smoking/drinking..etc..that goes without saying...

Edited by hylanddd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here in Georgia our novice division has restrictions. There are no Ks and no CPs. Speed is not specifically addressed but the kids that can do speed are recommended to move up to JV and generally do. In my opinion it has helped start new programs that never would have begun without it. Now, how much that will translate into varsity programs we will see.

 

I like the classic idea. I have sent kids to camp at Liberty and they meet some of those classic kids and some the home school kids. Their "lack of speed" as they put it was a new experience for them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What I like about "Classic" is that it doesn't restrict arguments - our kids can run K's and CP's..but since the round is slower, it gives them more time to learn the ropes of running the arguments before moving up to the speed...speed can be taught (as can, of course, the basics of arguments), but having space to learn about good debate practices, etc..before moving to speed is a key, I think, to producing talented debaters.

 

This is anecdotal, of course, but we adopted Classic in 2000 - from 1998 to 2003 the Arlington Dioecese never broke a team at NCFL's Since the advent of "Classic," debaters who have started in classic and moved to open style debate, have broke at nationals 11 times...it serves as a nice foundation for later success.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have two objections to the idea of a "classic" division: fragmentation and unnecessary rules. Most areas now offer no less than three varieties of debate. By dividing the cross-examination division you dilute the pool even farther. Suddenly the kids who have the energy and commitment necessary to commit to CX will find themselves split between two camps. Even if it is used for recruiting and proves to generate solid teams at nationals, the danger remains that kids who wish to spread become marginalized or end up in LD.

 

The more important objection is the one of rules. Debate is the one activity which offers few or no structural obstacles to intellectual exploration. Every time a rule is added, the freedom to try something different is lost.

 

I think giving lay judges with relevant educational or professional experience the same preference as a college sophomore who smokes dope and listens to phish tapes when not judging is worth a try. It's considerably less extreme or coercive than creating a whole division to kill the spread. And it would still encourage all the top teams learn to argue in a more conversational style.

 

And I should point out that I have nothing against fast debates or debaters. I simply think the activity would benefit if the occasional big round were understandable to the average person in the field of discussion, and to the administrators who determine budgets.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Suddenly the kids who have the energy and commitment necessary to commit to CX will find themselves split between two camps. Even if it is used for recruiting and proves to generate solid teams at nationals, the danger remains that kids who wish to spread become marginalized or end up in LD.

 

Perhaps I am reading it wrong but I think the purpose of the classic division is to prepare kids to move into the other areas of policy. I am not sure that you would lose any more kids to LD or dropping out because they don't want to spread or don't like the speed anymore than they just don't like it after their first year if they were already in "contemporary" policy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Classic policy is regular policy with two differences - 1) You can't spread

 

How is this rule enforced: wpm, the judge's discretion, when a debater starts double breathing? It seems to me there will inevitably be a difference in rate of delivery, even in your "classic" format. My conversational pace is faster than most, would that mean I wouldn't be allowed to compete or be forced to slow down?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just some anecdotal evidence: I have a team of sophomores in CX, and this is their second year. They are seriously considering changing to PF next year because of a disgust with the type of arguments they continue to encounter in CX. I'm not referring to kritiks or even speed. These young men are really frustrated with everything ending in nuclear war. Somehow the use of algae to create biofuels will lead to India nuking Pakistan (of course, current terrorist attacks wouldn't possibly have anything to do with it!). They hated hearing about how China will destroy the world last year because they might be challenged in Africa for humanitarian influence. The same applies to any end of the world scenario, whether military or economic or environmental. many of them defy logic and common sense.

 

The next school to our west ended their policy program about 3 years ago for the exact same reasons. The coach is the same and the school had been extremely successful for years in policy. But the kids got very turned off by these sorts of arguments. They found PF debates a bit more grounded in reality (actually, much more grounded in reality).

 

The kids I know of who are leaving CX are doing so because of the concepts debated -- not necessarily speed, etc. Now I may complain about policy debate and some of the "progressive" things that are happening, but I'm very upbeat and supportive of my kids. If they want to compete, I work as hard as I can to make sure they are prepared for whatever comes their way. I try to build up CX as an option for new kids; in fact, I probably speak more positively about CX than the other forms of debate so we can keep it alive. But when the kids hear about the arguments used, especially end-of-existence arguments, they laugh at it and run to LD or PF.

 

I doubt if any "rule" would fix this issue. CX Debate has been "pulling dead bodies across the flow" for decades (at least two), with each side trying to show more and more devastation. It has gotten ridiculous. But I have no idea how to fix it, other than help my little team find reasonable ways to answer such silliness and to rely on their good judgment not to run simliar scenarios.

Edited by tpeters

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tammie, get yourself a copy of this book. There are some interesting cards in there on how the more extreme the prediction, the less likely it becomes. If nothing else, it can turn the balance to timeframe and probability over magnitude, allowing for a more reasonable impact calc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

HI, "Classic" is simply CX at a slower speed. We have kids using it to learn the ropes of policy debate before jumping into contemporary debate, or we have kids who just debate classic throughout their career (these are kids who don't want to go on the circuit.) That is why we also offer a contemporary division - kids who want to spread from the get-go go over there and compete. We don't exclude anyone, we simply try to provide some space.

 

I agree with you on rules, but sometimes, to preserve the life of the activity you need rules. Rules create safe environments where people can learn..I mean I'm all for freedom, but I'm more for increasing debate - and when I see program strenght drop to 3 high schools regulary purusing policy debate, pre-classic, and go up to 15 high schools pursuing policy debate post classic (and that's just in Northern Virginia), I'm very happy.

 

Hmm...lay judging? Wouldn't that defeat the kids who want to learn to run technical issues. My team last year won the state classic title won on conditionality, and did so in front of a panel of college debaters - as such, they learned how to debate technical theory issues - I'm thinking a lay panel might not have given them the same experience.

 

Nor do I. that's why I've fielded both types of teams for years - I've had my circuit debaters who loved the spread, and my kids who just wanted to do policy without the pressure of the circuit's requiresments..it's worked for us.

 

 

And, as for the person who asked what fast is..the common sense guideline that exists is that the debater should talk no faster than a tv newsbroadcaster, a lawyer delivering a closing argument to the jury, or a senator addressing the senate...I know it's subjective, but people tend to know spreading when they hear it.

Edited by hylanddd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Let me preface this by saying I have only been around the activity at a high school level for roughly 3 yrs (2 in PA, one in NC--- trying to start a team with $0, so we're not active but trying to be.)

 

I think that the notion of making the activity more accessible is the key to reversing the death of policy debate. The problem is, as discussed, how.

 

Incorporating more lay judges is a great idea in that it forces students to taylor their arguments towards something digestable by the masses. There are 2 problems with lay judges that I see, however. The first is that some of the arguments flowing around are hard to digest. The fact that an idea isn't "easy" should not mean that it is "invalid" in a debate round. Postmodernism is a concept I believe HS students should be exposed to, but with today's high stakes testing environment, it is impossible to be a curricular idea. That's what makes debate so important-- exposure to ideas. Explaining pomo to a lay judge might be problematic but may very well have real-world impact that should be addressed in a policy-making framework (let alone the other frameworks that the community uses). Too many times I've seen lay judges strike down a team for not understanding the arugment. Yes, part of that is on the debaters, but explain Nietche in conversational speed for 8 min while trying to convince someone that it applies to today's energy policy-- not an easy task, but one that should be undertaken.

 

The other issue with lay judges is that they are not familiar enough with the style/"rules" (norms) of debate. I do believe that debate is specialized the point of being elitist, but there are some aspects that are vital to the activity. Picking up a random person on the street and giving them a ballot may not be the best defense against issues of fairness/ground/jurisdiction. How do you propose to uphold these ideals with the influx/promotion/recruitment of lay judges?

 

The problem with speed is--- how do you define fast? Do you sit there and stop flowing as a judge to count WPM? What is speed for one person is converstaional to another.... how do you differentiate?

 

And what about arguments that take a while to develop? Should you not use an argument because it takes 10 min. conversationally to develop fully (or 2-3 min. in a round)?

 

My belief is that we really need to push electronic/internet debating. Force the students to have everything electronic and be able to file-share during the round (that way they can see each other's cards). Have the judge share all cards, just to make sure that everything was fair (i.e., no looking up during the round-- or just get rid of that rule. I mean, if I was debating a point with a friend, wouldn't I go look up information in the conversation if I had a computer handy? Isn't that the most real-world and the key to finding the best policy option?) This should eliminate travel costs.

 

If the community was serious about extending its arms to new programs, the community should pool together resources to give to new programs. Coaching resources/textbooks are a great start (which are floating around cyberspace, I know), but what about a foundation for new schools to get access to muse/lexis/ebsco/jstor/etc. or startup materials (tubs/laptops/paper/printers/facilities) or try to do more matching of either stipends for coaches (if necessary) or excite collegiate debators to give back and coach AFTER college.

 

The smoking is an obvious no-no. It's illegal and against school policy so it shouldn't be done. Shame on coaches who do not crack down on it. (sticky situation-- do you reprimand the coach? how do you do that while keeping the coach active/involved part of the community?)

 

The dress issue-- well, what could it hurt? A number of HS debators are headed towards those types of careers with business attire, why not get used to it now? (And the foundation I proposed above would be able to help low-wealth areas in clothing-- public outreach, good press, less elitism...)

 

Cursing--- should only be used when it is vital within the framework in the round. Using the n-word as a racial epithet is appalling. Using the n-word as a defense of queer theory is debate. Only when it is necessary to the argumentation should that be used/accepted. Yes, the proper response would be lowering speaker points as a judge. (and if the discussion of the f-word (sorry, at school) mentioned above was endemic to the in-round discourse, then those 2 debators should not have been reprimanded, but I'd have to be there to make a clear personal judgment)

 

I don't know if this helps the conversation, but at least it's an original thought... no matter how highly unlikely...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

×
×
  • Create New...