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Les,

 

I apologize. I did not proofread my post before I hit submit. Indeed, Whitney Young WORKED for their success, as did everyone else. They were certainly not spoonfed victories. As I say, one doesnt trip and fall into a national championship let alone the privilege to represent one's district. One EARNS those particular results and opportunities. So yes, my scatterbrained self failed me again. I only meant they were blessed with having so many circuit tournaments in their backyard. If you look at my geographic analysis that I linked prior, you will see that within a driving distance of Chicago, one could feasibly attend a circuit tournament on more than half of all weeks in the debate calendar (from sept to march when the circuit calendar ends). In the northeast, for example, its half that.

 

If we assume that the circuit draws the top talent in competition and in coaching/judging, and we also agree the competing against the best is the best opportunity to learn from the experience of competition, then proximity to tournaments creates a significant distortion in opportunity which can magnify the financial disparities. As I say, a rich private school in eastern Montana with a budget ten times greater than that of WY might still only feasibly get to three or four tournaments because its not the cost-of-travel; its the cost-of-travel-that-far. We can also then assume that if a debater learns from top competition, the top competition can also learn from the lesser teams which bring lesser judges and learning to compete in front of a non-homogeneous judging pool and competing against students who debate much differently also improve a debater, then the individual's debate growth expands when you have diverse squads in your region - ones who travel locally OR regionally OR nationally.

 

One of the most interesting trends I saw in my analysis is that the teams represented at the TOC mirrored the tournament distribution. If 20% of the tournaments were in one region, approximately 20% of the participants at the TOC tended to be in that region. It even held through to some of the elimination rounds (obviously it breaks down when you get to semis and finals). But its why I have been pushing for more bid tournaments (not just % bids) in underserved areas.

 

So I began wondering about some things.

 

So it made me think what would happen if you relocate all the bid tournaments to a single region? The teams that could afford to travel so far from their home would continue doing so, but the rest wouldn't be able to afford their current travel schedules. As a result, over time, their competitive strength wanes because they are not exposed to the level of competition required to compete on the circuit. (remember, one improved by competing against the best). My posit is based largely on nature. A lion doesn't need to run as fast as a cheetah as long as it runs fast enough to hunt down a zebra. A team that competes locally wont compete as well nationally because they only compete well enough to defeat their local competitors. Also, it would result in more competitors from that region represented at the TOC.

 

What happens to a tournament when you strip it of its bid? It dies. If you stripped Glenbrooks of its bid status, sure some teams would still come. But the teams from a far distance will chase bids elsewhere. Then the following year, teams from an intermediate distance will think twice because the best teams from outside the region didnt show the previous year, so they wont either. Pretty soon, it becomes just a largely local tournament. Teams chase bids. Its not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a fact of life.

 

But a lot of schools which travel a lot and produce the best debaters at the national level don't require their students to compete locally beyond the qualifiers necessary to get to nationals. As a result, local debate withers because the best debaters leave and the locals are left competing against themselves with no one to learn from. This creates a chasm between the two where the primary engine of innovation and thought is driven through an inbred system (hence the self-reinforcing cycles). Its perpetuated further by teams that abandon one or the other (local or circuit). IMHO, coaches do their students, and the nation as a whole, a great disservice by abandoning local circuits or by abandoning the circuit because it 'isnt what we like'.

 

As a result, the answers to those two questions made me realize that bid chasing and tournament proximity have a bigger impact than anyone cares to admit. The circuit (Tournament of Champions) doesnt represent the best teams in debate; it creates them. Critics will say that the placement of tournaments is justified because they exist in areas where debate is strong. But as the analysis above contends, those areas are strong because of the resources and tournaments available in those areas. If you strip those areas of the circuit tournaments, those areas will wither. Obviously, thats not desirable. But what does one do about the other areas of the country where debaters are not privileged enough to live within a driving distance of as many tournaments?

 

I liken this to a gradual weakening of the entire debate landscape where the smaller, poorly funded schools begin to disappear. If you wanted a visual, imagine a night view of the US, and you turn off the lights in every town under 10K people. Next under 25K, 50K, and so on. The concentration of light that remains is what is happening nationally - regions where competition at all levels (local, regional, national) is high remain strong (lights on) and regions where there low competitive strength, debate dies.

 

I am just recalling the major points of my analysis so they may be a little out of sync here. I wrote a much more flowing, coherent, and elegant analysis elsewhere on this site but forget where I wrote it.

 

But again, none of this is WY's fault or GBN's. Its not their fault they are in the midwest and more than it is the fault of a team from Montana for being in Montana. But the proximity of tournaments does amplify resource disparities significantly which is why I say there is a synergistic set of three variables which create the situation we have currently: resource limitations (coaching, judging, finances), access to tournaments, and the self-reinforcing cycle of the circuit.

 

=======================

 

One could argue that having legions of assistant coaches which cut arguments for a debater give that debater an edge because s/he will have an advantage in evidence. One could argue that having resources will help a debater attend camp and learn strategies and speaking techniques and drills that will help them develop as a debater. One could argue that having coaches help with your neg strategy in pre-round prep will benefit the debaters.

 

But once the round starts, the only thing the debaters have on their own is the brains they have. The opportunity to think on the spot and develop arguments on the spot, without the impact of outside resources (be it coaching, judging, finances, camp, etc) is what I mean by 'hard work'. Its the product of just the debaters. And as such, it is the greatest of all equalizers in debate because it doesnt matter whether you come from a small school or a big school, rich or poor, it is the realm where hard work always pays off.

 

I would contend that analysis without evidence is the most debater-driven, without a significant degree of outside influences (coaching, judging, financial resources, etc). One can easily learn the technique by reading books on the subject in the library or scouring the internet if one has access to it. A large chunk of it is based on the ever unpopular strategy of debating logical fallacies. What I mean is that it overcomes the resource disparities of coaching, judging and camp ($) because these are resources which don't significantly impact this technique. As a result, a competition of such would be a competition of minds free from the resource disparities that people can claim impact outcomes.

 

I don't mean to backhandedly denigrate the work of so many. That is not my intention. There is nothing wrong with having assistants. If you can afford it, there is nothing wrong with having fifty assistants. Its not your fault you can afford it. But I do mean to indicate that the shift in emphasis away from the argument and into strategy is something which the people on the circuit openly advocate and in doing so, amplify the competitive inequities in debate. So for all the talk of making competitions more accessible and affordable, it doesn't really mean much if the teams that can finally make it to the tournament don't have a prayer in being competitive because you chop off their tongue when they show up.

 

The shift in circuit style away from the essence of the argument is the one thing which is preventing teams from re-joining the world world of debate.

Edited by Ankur

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Yeah, because academics aren't important post-high school.

Within the academic world, I doubt there is another group as pervasive as policy debaters in taking a thought out of an author's context and using it for their argumentation.

 

The context in which I said that we perhaps should not favor pure academics over future careers is one in which the perspective is not that of the college kid but one of the business executive looking to make an investment. From the perspective of the CEO who is bankrolling the debate program, pure academics are the chief concern within high school or after high school. That perspective is one of looking for the future productive employees. That isn't to say they don't value pure academic reasoning, just as they also value the arts and theater, but if they are investing in students they are likely looking for them to develope the skills that will make them productive business leaders in the future.

 

Academics are clearly important post high school, and that wasn't the argument that I was making at all.

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First, a very hearty congratulations to Whitney Young -- we in the Chicago Debate League are very very proud of Misael and Kevin!

 

Now on to a few brief corrections. Honestly, I haven't read a lot of what's been posted on this thread, and much of what I have read I've agreed with in one way or another -- there actually seems to be more agreement on it than not -- but there were a few inaccurate or from my perspective misleading comments made that I'd like to take just a few minutes to try to correct.

 

(i) Whitney Young is an Urban Debate League school because (a) its debate program was founded by the Chicago UDL, i.e., the Chicago Debate League (not Chicago Urban Debate League, though the Chicago Debate League is an Urban Debate League) (B) it is mostly or significantly funded by the CDL, and most importantly © it is a school in the Chicago Public School system, which is the institutional home of the CDL.

 

(ii) Whitney Young has 37% Title I students. Its debate team roughly reflects that percentage. That's a lot lower than the average in the CDL (about 79%), but a lot higher than a school like New Trier (to pick on well known suburban school bogey), which is 2%. Title I refers to the federal definition of students from low-income families, to which additional federal funds are attached.

 

(iii) What makes a school public, rather than private, is who funds it. Public schools are funded by public, governmental monies, private schools by the private individuals' families that attend, or by private donors. Students have to apply to get in to WY, but that's true of a surprisingly high and growing percentage of public schools in Chicago. It's obviously true of most public universities as well. The key point is that while public high schools can require aptitude or achievement, they do not require attendees to pay, so they have no economic discriminatory valence. If the public schools are in a big city, and are selective enrollment (drawing from students from across the city, rather than one neighborhood) they also don't require the student to live in an upper-income, exclusive zip code.

 

(iv) UDLs are organized debate programs in urban public school systems (in Chicago, that's Chicago Public Schools), assisted by a private partner organization (in Chicago that's the Chicago Debate Commission) that do not and should not exclude high-achieving or selective enrollment public schools, if the urban public school system has these, and the vast majority do.

 

(v) The Chicago Debate League, including WY's debate team, is funded based on the following breakdown of sources:

 

Chicago Public Schools -- 63%

Chicago Debate Commission -- 34%

Other Private Donations -- 3%

 

As it happens, WY has gotten more than its fair share of that additional 3%, to help it travel. It has done so in a manner that is the same, virtually, as any school that fund-raises for its debate team: through sheer hard work and determination.

 

(vi) The Chicago Debate Commission's 34% -- which comes from individual donations, corporate sponsors, and foundation grants -- includes and has included for three years a National Circuit Program that is open to any debater from any school in the city of Chicago. The National Circuit Program provides 75% cost coverage to participate at seven National Circuit tournaments through the year, most of them in the Midwest. The other 25% has to come from the local school or local school's debate team. That 25% obligation amounts to on average about $200 per team per tournament -- not free, but a lot more affordable than $800 per team per tournament. WY's additional fund-raising enabled it to go to Greenhill and Harvard, tournaments outside of and simply additional to the National Circuit Program. The Chicago Debate League encourages this kind of autonomy: it has built and is building debate programs that can and sometimes do aspire to going further and farther in debate.

 

(vii) The Chicago Debate League believes that having the highest-performing schools -- of which WY is only one, albeit clearly the most successful one this year -- in the UDL circulates a rigorous, high-achievement standard that affects all (this year) 936 debaters who compete regularly, and all 1,415 who participate.

 

 

 

Les Lynn

Director

Chicago Debate League

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First, a very hearty congratulations to Whitney Young -- we in the Chicago Debate League are very very proud of Misael and Kevin!

 

Now on to a few brief corrections. Honestly, I haven't read a lot of what's been posted on this thread, and much of what I have read I've agreed with in one way or another -- there actually seems to be more agreement on it than not -- but there were a few inaccurate or from my perspective misleading comments made that I'd like to take just a few minutes to try to correct.

 

(i) Whitney Young is an Urban Debate League school because (a) its debate program was founded by the Chicago UDL, i.e., the Chicago Debate League (not Chicago Urban Debate League, though the Chicago Debate League is an Urban Debate League) (B) it is mostly or significantly funded by the CDL, and most importantly © it is a school in the Chicago Public School system, which is the institutional home of the CDL.

 

(ii) Whitney Young has 37% Title I students. Its debate team roughly reflects that percentage. That's a lot lower than the average in the CDL (about 79%), but a lot higher than a school like New Trier (to pick on well known suburban school bogey), which is 2%. Title I refers to the federal definition of students from low-income families, to which additional federal funds are attached.

 

(iii) What makes a school public, rather than private, is who funds it. Public schools are funded by public, governmental monies, private schools by the private individuals' families that attend, or by private donors. Students have to apply to get in to WY, but that's true of a surprisingly high and growing percentage of public schools in Chicago. It's obviously true of most public universities as well. The key point is that while public high schools can require aptitude or achievement, they do not require attendees to pay, so they have no economic discriminatory valence. If the public schools are in a big city, and are selective enrollment (drawing from students from across the city, rather than one neighborhood) they also don't require the student to live in an upper-income, exclusive zip code.

 

(iv) UDLs are organized debate programs in urban public school systems (in Chicago, that's Chicago Public Schools), assisted by a private partner organization (in Chicago that's the Chicago Debate Commission) that do not and should not exclude high-achieving or selective enrollment public schools, if the urban public school system has these, and the vast majority do.

 

(v) The Chicago Debate League, including WY's debate team, is funded based on the following breakdown of sources:

 

Chicago Public Schools -- 63%

Chicago Debate Commission -- 34%

Other Private Donations -- 3%

 

As it happens, WY has gotten more than its fair share of that additional 3%, to help it travel. It has done so in a manner that is the same, virtually, as any school that fund-raises for its debate team: through sheer hard work and determination.

 

(vi) The Chicago Debate Commission's 34% -- which comes from individual donations, corporate sponsors, and foundation grants -- includes and has included for three years a National Circuit Program that is open to any debater from any school in the city of Chicago. The National Circuit Program provides 75% cost coverage to participate at seven National Circuit tournaments through the year, most of them in the Midwest. The other 25% has to come from the local school or local school's debate team. That 25% obligation amounts to on average about $200 per team per tournament -- not free, but a lot more affordable than $800 per team per tournament. WY's additional fund-raising enabled it to go to Greenhill and Harvard, tournaments outside of and simply additional to the National Circuit Program. The Chicago Debate League encourages this kind of autonomy: it has built and is building debate programs that can and sometimes do aspire to going further and farther in debate.

 

(vii) The Chicago Debate League believes that having the highest-performing schools -- of which WY is only one, albeit clearly the most successful one this year -- in the UDL circulates a rigorous, high-achievement standard that affects all (this year) 936 debaters who compete regularly, and all 1,415 who participate.

 

 

 

Les Lynn

Director

Chicago Debate League

 

How many schools do you have in the CDL?

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51 high schools

12 middle schools

 

Good work.

 

I think UDL is doing a lot of what people have been advocating for years--setting up programs and local leagues.

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First, many thanks to Les Lynn for -- well, for everything he's done for years and years, but, at present, thanks for his excellent post on Chicago UDL.

 

Mr. Volen writes:

 

Policy numbers are declining, and I believe it was the only event with less than 200 entries. Houston's openning remarks show the clear concern for the future of the event as it decreases in participantion and decreases in relevance to those who pay for it (mostly administrators and boards of educators). No other event is feeling the same threat. No other event feels like it has to justify itself.

 

One reason that policy numbers are decreasing at NFL Nationals, specifically, is that fewer policy schools wish to attend that particular tournament. I think the reasons are partly philosophical but also financial and logistical. Schools in New York, New Jersey, and New England are a special case: they're still in school, and administrators and state officials have become less lenient in excusing kids from school and end of year high stakes exams. Obviously the tournament is expensive. Many programs across the nation just choose to put their dollars elsewhere.

 

That said, "policy numbers have been declining" for at least forty years. (I suspect that the large number of UDL policy debaters means that those numbers are no longer declining, but that data would disturb the narrative . . . (- ). The death of policy debate has been forecast for at least that long. We got problems, no question; but the last rites have been administered repeatedly, plans for the funeral and interment and wake have been drawn up many times, in anticipation; the patient is still alive and active; subject to ambient maladies, but so are we all . . .

 

For decades, lay people have been complaining that policy debate is not accessible to lay people. Increasingly, lay people and traditionalist coaches are complaining about Lincoln-Douglas debate. It is not true that LD is under no pressure to justify itself; some coaches are fleeing LD for PF, just as people fled policy for LD a generation ago. PF has been with us for seven years, and the inexorable trend toward professionalization, specialization, and complication (handbooks, websites, workshops, TOC bids) is well advanced. I'm hearing the complaints already: it's getting too fast! In ten years (if not sooner) we'll create an event to serve people who are fed up with speed and jargon in Public Forum.

 

Reduced numbers in policy debate, or in any event, can create economic and logistical problems, and that's a serious issue. Apart from that: why is a reduction of participation in any particular event bad, in and of itself? If people prefer LD to policy, well and good; if a critical mass of people want to create a new event, so be it. I was deeply troubled when the NFL birthed Public Forum; today I teach and coach it happily.

 

In any case, I think the process I describe above is long-term and organic.

 

Regarding administrators: Mine always loved policy debate, fast and technical though we were, because I (and parents) taught them what it was and what it was not. I introduced the activity by showing them students brainstorming arguments, researching, working together. They appreciated the superb intellectual intensity. And they admired the rounds that they saw, though they didn't expect to understand everything that went on, any more than they'd expect to understand everything that happened in, say, an AP Physics classroom.

 

In another post, Mr. Volen says: lets put everyone on a level playing field and limit traveling to national tournaments.

 

I think it's pretty obvious that "limiting travel" would move us only microscopically toward the mythical "level playing field." But, more important: Do you hope to solve the problems of debate by telling a substantial portion of the debate community that they cannot do what they want to do? Presumably via a system that punishes or sanctions offenders? I am guessing that part of the sanction or punishment might include "you can't debate any more," or "you can't debate here."

 

Is this how you propose to increase participation?

 

Even if you're right -- and, obviously, I think you're wrong -- how does this work? Solvency cards? (-

 

On the other hand, Mr. Volen writes: lets foster new local debate programs in other urban schools. For every NC tournament, we could have dozens of local tournaments.

 

Yes. Absolutely. We agree 1000%. In many cities, UDL has accomplished this. And, as Mr. Lynn notes, they do it as they systematically encourage national circuit participation. That's true of the New York UDL, Baltimore UDL, Jersey UDL, and many others, as well.

 

As forensics changes, much is lost, and much is also gained. That's how change is. Trying to stop change is counterproductive and, in the long run, futile. (Usually, it's futile in the short run, too.) Encourage and model the practices you prefer; tolerate other people's practices; and get as many kids as possible to do forensics: policy, LD, PF, extemp, junior girls' Bible reading, whatever they can be good at.

 

Build programs, build tournaments, build leagues. Build! Instead of complaining that some externality, or those bad people over there, prevent your success, build!

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That said, "policy numbers have been declining" for at least forty years….
I found this interesting and thought provoking. I appears that I’ve been perceived as Chicken Little. I’m guess I should quit claiming the sky is falling and just allow the natural course of events occur.

I think students get benefits out of policy debate, so if participation is down, it would follow that less students are getting the benefits of policy debate. I advocate that we do the things that will reverse the trends that are occurring that are reducing participation.

 

I did think it was interesting that the fact that we have to keep inventing new events rather than reforming the ones we have is not seen as problematic. I would advocate that instead of continuing to create new events to get what we really want out of debate, perhaps we should look to stop the corruption away from what we want out of debate in the current events.

 

For those who challenge my notion of “what we want out of debate”, I look to participation as a informal vote. Participation in an activity that at least makes the attempt to be accessible to the masses is increasing while participation in an activity that is self-segregated is decreasing (to no surprise).

 

I guess having different events for people to get what they want out of debate makes sense. Perhaps instead of advocating the continuation of Policy debate as I see beneficial to students, I should advocate a completely new event that follows the fault line in the policy community. Those who view policy debate as purely academic can have their event, and those who view policy debate in a more “traditional” manor can have a separate event.

I think it's pretty obvious that "limiting travel" would move us only microscopically toward the mythical "level playing field." But, more important: Do you hope to solve the problems of debate by telling a substantial portion of the debate community that they cannot do what they want to do? Presumably via a system that punishes or sanctions offenders? I am guessing that part of the sanction or punishment might include "you can't debate any more," or "you can't debate here."

 

Is this how you propose to increase participation?

 

Even if you're right -- and, obviously, I think you're wrong -- how does this work? Solvency cards? (-

I thought it fair to answer your questions, as I wasn’t sure they were rhetorical. Yes, I would hope to tell the questionably substantial portion of the debate community that they cannot do what they want to do. I don’t have a problem with that. Students like to travel because it is fun. I get that. They’ll also claim that it is more educational for them. That is fine too. I think increasing participation by using the same funds that would have been used for travel to instead foster programs in schools that don’t have them is justified in denying students who what to travel. I think denying students what they want is often good coaching and happens in classroom management every day. Put simply, you don’t allow the inmates to run the insane asylum.

 

Yes, I think travel restrictions would increase participation. The initial setting may upset the questionably substantial portion of the debate community who want to travel. I keep saying questionably, because if we did foster participation in policy debate more on a local level, my thought is the number of students who put a high priority on travelling would decrease in both percentage and number. Kids want to travel now to go to “the best tournaments”. If the local tournaments were better, there would be less need to travel. In addition, after 4 years of travel restriction, students shouldn’t even feel the desire to travel because it was never an option for them.

 

How does it work? I guess we could have the federal government pass a law (or an executive order)…just kidding! Seriously, there could be several mechanisms for this. The easiest would be for programs to self regulate. As coaches, we are the decision makers. Just quit travelling. Given that we all don’t agree on this, then there would have to be some kind of organization that acts as enforcement. In Kansas, our state activities association does this. It has been controversial because other states don’t, and so there are people who want to be like the other states. If all the states did this, the controversy would end. Or, school boards could enforce since they have the purse strings. They can simply say that travel expenses are not justified so if you choose to travel they will cut your budget till you can’t anymore. I think there are several ways travel restrictions could be implemented and administered, to which I don’t have all the answers. But I do advocate that they would be a good thing.

 

I don’t think I’m trying to stop change. I’m advocating change. I think I’m encouraging the model that I perceive to be most beneficial for the activity and for students. Perhaps I’m perceived to be complaining about “the bad people”, but that is not my intent. My intent is to share my views on what would be best for students, and that does differ with what others advocate as well as some trends.

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Mr. Volen writes:

 

I think students get benefits out of policy debate, so if participation is down, it would follow that less students are getting the benefits of policy debate. I advocate that we do the things that will reverse the trends that are occurring that are reducing participation.

 

Can you prove that participation is in fact reducing? It may be, but I don't think either of us really know.

 

I am reminded of my elderly cousin, who lives in a small town in Texas. For years she and her friends have been complaining that the population of the town is decreasing, that the town is dying, etc. Census figures reveal that the population of her town is increasing. It's just not increasing with her kind of people.

 

 

 

In any case, if a decrease is occurring what "follows" is that students have chosen to spend their time elsewhere, perhaps drawing the benefits of other forensics events, and perhaps drawing benefits from some other academic or athletic activity, and perhaps playing more video games. We don't know. In any case, there's no particular reason why any of that is bad.

 

I did think it was interesting that the fact that we have to keep inventing new events rather than reforming the ones we have is not seen as problematic. I would advocate that instead of continuing to create new events to get what we really want out of debate, perhaps we should look to stop the corruption away from what we want out of debate in the current events.

 

Could you explain why that is problematic? Why do you describe change and evolution -- the way other people choose to debate -- as corruption.

 

For those who challenge my notion of “what we want out of debate”, I look to participation as a informal vote. Participation in an activity that at least makes the attempt to be accessible to the masses is increasing while participation in an activity that is self-segregated is decreasing (to no surprise).

 

The hidden and unsupported assumption here is that things that a lot of people like are [therefore] better than things that fewer people like. That is a profoundly debatable assumption, in any context.

 

Yes, I would hope to tell the questionably substantial portion of the debate community that they cannot do what they want to do. I don’t have a problem with that. Students like to travel because it is fun. I get that. They’ll also claim that it is more educational for them. That is fine too. I think increasing participation by using the same funds that would have been used for travel to instead foster programs in schools that don’t have them is justified in denying students who what to travel. I think denying students what they want is often good coaching and happens in classroom management every day. Put simply, you don’t allow the inmates to run the insane asylum

 

You are characterizing career professional educators, who have made well considered decisions about the types of programs they want to run, as "inmates [in] an insane asylum?" Ms Tate, Ms Green, Mr Batterman, Mr Alderete, Mr Lynn, Mr Hyland for that matter, myself, are inmates in an insane asylum? Some of these folks -- Ms Tate, Mr Batterman, Mr Lynn, Ms Nicole Serrano, others -- have done SO MUCH to make debate more democratic, have leveled the playing field more than you could imagine.

 

As for the things "you think" (above and elsewhere in your post), why do you think those things are true? You are right, my questions aren't rhetorical.

 

Perhaps I’m perceived to be complaining about “the bad people”, but that is not my intent.

 

See "corruption," "inmates in insane asylum," above.

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I think a comprehensive, longitudnal study of debate might be in order - kind of a State of the State type thing. Let's see if the numbers have declined. Let see why the schools who no longer do policy, stay away. Let's get hard data on college acceptance and graduation rates for debaters, etc. A lot of this could be accomplished, it would just take time and many years, but it might be valuable.

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lp writes: Can you prove that participation is in fact reducing?

 

Prove? No. I did not count how many programs did policy debate in 1990 nor have I recently counted. I am relying on what I'm told. I have been told that there was many programs in Nebraska and Iowa in the 90's and there are not many now. I was told by a coach in Ohio that the number of programs that do policy debate has declined.

 

You keep saying it is not bad if kids don't choose to participate in policy debate. Why? I think the benefits of policy debate (whatever the style) have been well addressed, and it is logical to say that if the benefits are experienced less than that is a bad thing. Why do you say that if kids are not praticipating in policy debate, that is a good thing?

 

lp writes: Can you explain why that is problematic? Why do you describe change and evolution as corruption?

 

It is problematic in that we have goals and benefits that we hope to acheive in the activity. And when those benefits are no longer being realized, instead of fixing the underlying cause of the reduction of those benefits, we create something else that also sees a reduction of benefit. It is a matter of root cause.

 

However, through your analysis, I am starting to see some reason to just create new events rather than "fix" the old. New events do foster more participation in a debate event rather than just in policy as we know it. I am starting to see some possible good in just splitting policy debate as we know it to satisfy the needs of the participants.

 

I don't believe that I described change and evolution as corruption, I categorized the change that is taking place as corruption. You assume that evolution is occuring, which is the formation of growth. I believe change is inevitable, but the actual change that is occuring is not inevitable nor would I consider it growth. I believe that I've been making the point that we are getting further away from the benefits of policy debate, and so that change would be corruption.

 

lp writes: The hidden and unsupported assumption here (my position on participation) is that things that a lot of people like are [therefore] better than things that fewer people like. That is a profoundly debatable assumption, in any context.

 

I could have misunderstood you, but I think you made the same claim when you said that travel restrictions would be telling a "substancial portion of the debate community that they cannot do what they want to do". If the number of people who feel a specific way doesn't matter, I guess it doesn't matter if the substancial number of people are being denied their interest in travelling.

 

I agree it is a debatable assumption. Utilitarianism is debatable. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be used for weighing decisions. Is there a reason that we should choose what the minority wants and let that dictate to what the majority wants? Even if there is, which I admit there might be, that doesn't change the concept that less people participating means less benefits, so we should do what would increase participation to increase benefits.

 

lp writes: You are characterizing career professional educators...

 

No, no I'm not characterizing career professional educators. I don't think I implied I was talking about educators at all. The example right before the comment in question was about teachers managing a classroom of students. I'm not sure how that jumped to talking about the teachers rather than the students. The context was that I was discussing students wanting to travel. And I wasn't even characterizing students as being insane (though that too is debatable), but using a metaphor to illustrate a point. It is a saying. The point is that students do not and should not be in charge. Yes, the activity is for them, but that doesn't mean they run it.

 

Ms Tate, Ms Green, Mr Batterman, Mr Alderete, Mr Lynn, Mr Hyland, and you are not insane (to my knowledge). Their efforts are respectible and I appreciate them. We may disagree on what is best for the activity, but we are all doing what we think is best for the students and that is important.

 

lp writes: why do you think those things are true?

 

Why do you think the things you think to be true are true? Lets not dive into the epistimology, and just accept each other's arguments. As for travel restrictions, I warrented my claims on reducing the big cost of attending tournaments and redistributing that money.

 

Perhaps you are asking from where does my perspective come from? I work for large financial company and have found that the skills that I developed in policy debate have been instrumental in my success. My ability to think on my feet, verbally respond in a persuasive manner, diagnos and conceptionally solve problems, research issues, and logically fight for my ideas have been huge benefits to my career and my ability to be a productive contributor to my company and society. That isn't to say I also didn't enjoy the competitive and academic aspects of policy debate, but it was those skills that made me a better person (not that I'm a good person, just better than I would have been). Therefore, those are the values that are of utmost importance to me and what I coach so I can pay back to the community that provided for me. I'm an advocate for change because I feel like that is my duty to the community, to help provide the same oppotunity for growth that I received. Does that anwer your question?

 

I get that I have a different perspective than other people. And that is why I, for right or wrong, share my views. Those who advocate opposite my views are not "bad people", because they are also working to make things better, but since I think that is making things worse, my disagreement is not to lable them as bad people, just those that I disagree with.

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This entire argument/thread is so dumb. Not because it is a one-sided debate, or because any of the arguments are stupid; if anything, the arguments are too smart. The amount of time, effort, energy being put into this purposeless thread is outrageous. Think about the magnitude of the improvements to the debate community that could be accomplished in all of the wasted minutes arguing in circles on cross-x. Yes, debate is not structurally fair. Instead of spending your time criticizing someone online, go do something about it. That's what's truly fucked up about the debate community. You have brilliant people just doing a lot of things that really don't matter in the world; engaging in a lot of really time-intensive arguments about meaningful topics and putting their time into the argument rather than the act. Seriously, if this thread was deleted tomorrow, mid-argument, and this issue was never "resolved," the world would probably not bat an eye. And even worse, if this thread wasn't deleted tomorrow, and was eventually "resolved" after a bunch of long, well put together posts, the world probably wouldn't bat an eye either; nothing would change. Shouldn't we all talk less, do more?

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Let me start with a quick note to the understandably irritated Mr. Lamp (I do not know his full name, although apparently he is a “Hoosier Daddy”). This thread may be baggy and unedifying, but every discussant in this thread whom I know personally commits a whole lot of time to action as well as discussion. And though we must act, we must also talk about what we should do and why we should do it (even if we admittedly do too much of that).

 

But I thank Mr. Lamp for prodding me toward a bit of a final focus. (The original name for that last Public Forum speech was “The Last Shot,” but NFL Executive Councilor Kandi King thought that sounded too much like something that happened at Columbine High School, and insisted on a new name. I wish someone would get around to renaming the Crossfire, not to mention the Grand Crossfire.)

 

Mr. Volen protests that he respects circuit coaches as educators and was not comparing them to inmates in an asylum. (Mr. Alderete, whom I adore, is in fact insane; the other people on the list are quite harmless.) But he seems to view a desire to attend lots of national circuit tournaments as a childish impulse which ought to be governed by responsible adults, and that does not seem respectful to me. Mr. Volen: if you and your school and presumably the parents and the community have made considered decisions about how you want to run your program, its core values, where you will take kids and how often and why –and then some externality walks in and tells you that you can’t do some of those things, you are prohibited from doing some of those things, you would be rather alarmed; and you would want that externality to provide you with some damned good reasons, a quite compelling case, for why some of what you’ve decided to do has been banned. No? Well, if you want to limit national travel, for instance, you should, first, respect that those who do that have serious reasons for doing what they do, and be able to present an even more serious case for why they shouldn’t. And, with due respect, you haven’t come close to that.

 

I wrote, and you wrote:

 

lp writes: why do you think those things are true?

 

Volen writes: Why do you think the things you think to be true are true? Lets not dive into the epistimology, and just accept each other's arguments.

 

Well, forgive me, but – no. You speak at length about the great value of traditional policy debate. This discussion began with you proposing a policy. Policy debate, any discussion of what is to be done, certainly has an epistemology, and that epistemology is rather simple; it would involve evidence and warrants, which I have been prodding you to provide. (If you assert repeatedly, as a major premise, that "participation is declining," I think you should have better backing than "somebody told me that it's true.") And policy debate provides a framework – stock issues, if you will. And I’ve been making good solid traditional arguments: alternate causality, presses for evidence, reasons why the inherency overwhelms the solvency. Traditionalists value argument from analogy and example; I’ve done that too. I’m not sure what your answers are.

 

I think I can turn your case, as well. Your plan is to compel big circuit teams to attend fewer big circuit tournaments. Large squads would need to send their kids somewhere, so they’d send more to local tournaments. This is what you want? Be careful what you wish for. Suppose that you are the coach of Fright Hills, the regional hegemon, with highly motivated and skilled students whose parents have the money to send them to workshops, large budget, assistant coaches, etc. I am the coach of East Bangoo, the local struggling doormat team. I take my kids to local tournaments; only once in a while do we have to debate Fright Hills. Suddenly you send two or three times as many teams to local tournaments. Your kids take lots of fairly easy wins, and learn not much. My kids get massacred. They get nosebleeds, and they cry most of the way home.

 

Can you explain to me how this levels the playing field? I think we have a case turn here. And this is not just a hypothetical. I used to coach Fright Hills, and I’ve seen this dynamic in play many times.

 

Go to inherency. I think that your core goal is to “level the playing field.” There are any number of mechanisms in the status quo, active, vibrant mechanisms, that are working to solve that: UDLs, open evidence projects (spearheaded by Ms. Serrano and Ms. Tate), a resurgence in local workshops (cf. Maggie Berthiaume’s work in Georgia), and more. May I propose a minor repair? Pump more resources into these efforts. I’ll go retro in another way and hypothesis test: you haven’t proven any intrinsic relationship between your proposal and the advantages you seek. No connection at all between limiting travel and “leveling the playing field.”

 

You are writing from Kansas. And there is much to admire in the Kansas circuit, very much to admire. But for you to stand in Kansas and assert that American debate should be reformed by having all the states be like Kansas (and please don’t backtrack, sir, that is literally your proposal) – well, I think you’re assuming a pretty high burden of “epistemology.”

 

We’ve gone several rounds, and, truly, I don’t know how you support your arguments. I wish you an excellent summer, and excellent success in the fall for you and your students.

 

And with that: om, shalom, good night.

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Let me start with a quick note to the understandably irritated Mr. Lamp (I do not know his full name, although apparently he is a “Hoosier Daddy”). This thread may be baggy and unedifying, but every discussant in this thread whom I know personally commits a whole lot of time to action as well as discussion. And though we must act, we must also talk about what we should do and why we should do it (even if we admittedly do too much of that).

 

But I thank Mr. Lamp for prodding me toward a bit of a final focus. (The original name for that last Public Forum speech was “The Last Shot,” but NFL Executive Councilor Kandi King thought that sounded too much like something that happened at Columbine High School, and insisted on a new name. I wish someone would get around to renaming the Crossfire, not to mention the Grand Crossfire.)

 

Mr. Volen protests that he respects circuit coaches as educators and was not comparing them to inmates in an asylum. (Mr. Alderete, whom I adore, is in fact insane; the other people on the list are quite harmless.) But he seems to view a desire to attend lots of national circuit tournaments as a childish impulse which ought to be governed by responsible adults, and that does not seem respectful to me. Mr. Volen: if you and your school and presumably the parents and the community have made considered decisions about how you want to run your program, its core values, where you will take kids and how often and why –and then some externality walks in and tells you that you can’t do some of those things, you are prohibited from doing some of those things, you would be rather alarmed; and you would want that externality to provide you with some damned good reasons, a quite compelling case, for why some of what you’ve decided to do has been banned. No? Well, if you want to limit national travel, for instance, you should, first, respect that those who do that have serious reasons for doing what they do, and be able to present an even more serious case for why they shouldn’t. And, with due respect, you haven’t come close to that.

 

I wrote, and you wrote:

 

lp writes: why do you think those things are true?

 

Volen writes: Why do you think the things you think to be true are true? Lets not dive into the epistimology, and just accept each other's arguments.

 

Well, forgive me, but – no. You speak at length about the great value of traditional policy debate. This discussion began with you proposing a policy. Policy debate, any discussion of what is to be done, certainly has an epistemology, and that epistemology is rather simple; it would involve evidence and warrants, which I have been prodding you to provide. (If you assert repeatedly, as a major premise, that "participation is declining," I think you should have better backing than "somebody told me that it's true.") And policy debate provides a framework – stock issues, if you will. And I’ve been making good solid traditional arguments: alternate causality, presses for evidence, reasons why the inherency overwhelms the solvency. Traditionalists value argument from analogy and example; I’ve done that too. I’m not sure what your answers are.

 

I think I can turn your case, as well. Your plan is to compel big circuit teams to attend fewer big circuit tournaments. Large squads would need to send their kids somewhere, so they’d send more to local tournaments. This is what you want? Be careful what you wish for. Suppose that you are the coach of Fright Hills, the regional hegemon, with highly motivated and skilled students whose parents have the money to send them to workshops, large budget, assistant coaches, etc. I am the coach of East Bangoo, the local struggling doormat team. I take my kids to local tournaments; only once in a while do we have to debate Fright Hills. Suddenly you send two or three times as many teams to local tournaments. Your kids take lots of fairly easy wins, and learn not much. My kids get massacred. They get nosebleeds, and they cry most of the way home.

 

Can you explain to me how this levels the playing field? I think we have a case turn here. And this is not just a hypothetical. I used to coach Fright Hills, and I’ve seen this dynamic in play many times.

 

Go to inherency. I think that your core goal is to “level the playing field.” There are any number of mechanisms in the status quo, active, vibrant mechanisms, that are working to solve that: UDLs, open evidence projects (spearheaded by Ms. Serrano and Ms. Tate), a resurgence in local workshops (cf. Maggie Berthiaume’s work in Georgia), and more. May I propose a minor repair? Pump more resources into these efforts. I’ll go retro in another way and hypothesis test: you haven’t proven any intrinsic relationship between your proposal and the advantages you seek. No connection at all between limiting travel and “leveling the playing field.”

 

You are writing from Kansas. And there is much to admire in the Kansas circuit, very much to admire. But for you to stand in Kansas and assert that American debate should be reformed by having all the states be like Kansas (and please don’t backtrack, sir, that is literally your proposal) – well, I think you’re assuming a pretty high burden of “epistemology.”

 

We’ve gone several rounds, and, truly, I don’t know how you support your arguments. I wish you an excellent summer, and excellent success in the fall for you and your students.

 

And with that: om, shalom, good night.

 

Damn that was long

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This entire argument/thread is so dumb. Not because it is a one-sided debate, or because any of the arguments are stupid; if anything, the arguments are too smart. The amount of time, effort, energy being put into this purposeless thread is outrageous. Think about the magnitude of the improvements to the debate community that could be accomplished in all of the wasted minutes arguing in circles on cross-x. Yes, debate is not structurally fair. Instead of spending your time criticizing someone online, go do something about it. That's what's truly fucked up about the debate community. You have brilliant people just doing a lot of things that really don't matter in the world; engaging in a lot of really time-intensive arguments about meaningful topics and putting their time into the argument rather than the act. Seriously, if this thread was deleted tomorrow, mid-argument, and this issue was never "resolved," the world would probably not bat an eye. And even worse, if this thread wasn't deleted tomorrow, and was eventually "resolved" after a bunch of long, well put together posts, the world probably wouldn't bat an eye either; nothing would change. Shouldn't we all talk less, do more?

 

Of all of the posts in the thread, I disagree with this one the most. Having established debate coaches discuss the future of our activity on an open forum is actually one of the most productive things I've seen on this website. I know a lot of these people in this thread (Les Lynn, Les Phillips, Tara Tate, Tim Alderete, many more) dedicate their entire lives to debate, fundraising, and helping the future of the activity. I'm sure you do a lot for debate - I try to as well, although lab leading at a UDL camp and writing UDL core files isn't nearly the commitment a lot of people here have really given - but I don't think it's fair to say that they are wasting their time defending in a public manner the way they contribute to debate.

 

I really don't think the time commitment is too outrageous. There is no way anyone has spent more than three or four hours typing out posts in this thread... fundraising obviously takes a ton more time than that, just ask people in this thread like Les Lynn who have spent the better part of fifteen years creating urban debate leagues that expand access to thousands of students. Would that time be more productive spent securing funds or planning leagues? Arguably.

 

But I don't think any of these coaches are really clocking hours on their jobs posting on cross-x, I think they're dedicating their free time to defend their particular instructional methods on this website. I know the time I would have spent writing out my two or thre posts in this thread is time that would have been spent watching TV or playing video games or going on another website on the internet. The same is probably true for a lot of the people posting in the thread. I also know that I have a lot more insight into the debate community and the thought processes and various positions that coaches of the community find themselves in thanks to reading this thread, so I am glad that they have dedicated their time accordingly to discussing this on an open forum.

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lp, it bothers me greatly that you have repeatedly stated that you feel I’ve been disrespectful to some great coaches in this activity. My intention has never been to be insulting nor disrespectful, but if that is the perception created from my posts than I must deeply apologize. If anyone else reading my posts feels that I’ve been disrespectful to those who clearly do not deserve it, please accept my apology.

 

I did not consider my arguments to be disrespectful. I don’t think it is disrespectful to the USFG to advocate for a change in the way they do things, so I didn’t think it was disrespectful to advocate for the community and the coaches within the community to change the way they do things. Yes, I openly disagree with some very great coaches, and given the activity that we all are dedicated to I see that opposition as both fair and healthy.

 

I don’t think I compared extensive national circuit travel as a childish impulse, but if that is the way that it has been taken than I should correct my position. My position has been that students don’t and should not determine how a program is run. The original argument that I was responding to was that students want to travel. The argument that coaches want to travel is an entirely different argument that would elicit a different response from me.

 

lp, you make the argument that coaches want to travel and if they were denied that there would have to be good reasons. I think the underlying assumption is that coaches should have autonomy if deciding what is best for their program. And that if those coaches lost autonomy, than there would have to be damn good reasons. I completely agree. I 100% believe coaches should have measures of autonomy, and that restrictions should be justified. Budget restraints due to a more equal distribution of resources could be (but may not be) a justified reason to restrict autonomy. Equity in education could be (but may not be) a justified reason to restrict autonomy. Minimizing the amount of class time that is missed by travelling students could be (but may not be) a justified reason to restrict autonomy. I think the externality that you are referring to is the coach’s administration, and I don’t know about all schools, but if the administration says we aren’t travelling, for whatever reason they feel like, then we aren’t travelling.

 

lp, we disagree whether participation is declining and neither of us has hard evidence. Fair enough. There are factors that I can point to that lead me to believe the numbers are declining: Less programs doing policy in Neb, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, concerted efforts to reverse the trend in some regions/states, decreased entries in policy debate at both NFL and NCFL while other events are increasing (so schools are active, just not active in policy), testimony from other respected coaches that participation in policy is decreasing, etc. Sure, all of that is circumstantial, but it definitely points in a direction and at least warrants looking toward solutions.

 

Yes, the Kansas circuit is my test case. What I’m advocating (not backtracking, you are right it is literally my proposal) is more states be like Kansas. It works here. So, I guess as my evidence I’d submit the continued support and high participation we experience in Kansas.

 

And as far as turning my case, I appreciate that your experience, but mine (albeit perhaps less than yours) is the opposite. 1st, local competition has so much participation, that there are multiple tournaments within the same weekend for coaches to choose from. They can send their more competitive teams to the more difficult tournament and send their less accomplished teams to a tournament that more matches their style/skill level. That is the great thing about having a large, diverse local circuit that you have more choice and can do more to match skill level to facilitate growth in the students. 2nd, to borrow your example, when Fright Hills hits East Bangoo, it may be a massacre, but that is where East Bangoo kids learn from the Fright Hills kids. The less skilled learn from the more skilled. Isn’t that the educational benefit of debate? When Fright Hills travels out of the region, brain drain occurs and the East Bangoo kids never learn and get better. And the Fright Hills kids become entrenched in mindset rather than getting the diverse experience that comes from scrappy East Bangoo kids arguing something that wasn’t regurgitated to the Fright Hills kids at camp. It can be a horrible experience as you illustrate, but it can also be a win-win experience if the coaches are dedicated to making the community stronger.

 

Alas, a good debater knows when the round is over and accepts the decision of the audience. That is a skill that I never mastered, but I need to work on. I probably haven’t convinced a soul, but I hope that I at least did enough justice to promote thought. May peace be with you as well!

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Of all of the posts in the thread, I disagree with this one the most. Having established debate coaches discuss the future of our activity on an open forum is actually one of the most productive things I've seen on this website. I know a lot of these people in this thread (Les Lynn, Les Phillips, Tara Tate, Tim Alderete, many more) dedicate their entire lives to debate, fundraising, and helping the future of the activity. I'm sure you do a lot for debate - I try to as well, although lab leading at a UDL camp and writing UDL core files isn't nearly the commitment a lot of people here have really given - but I don't think it's fair to say that they are wasting their time defending in a public manner the way they contribute to debate.

 

I really don't think the time commitment is too outrageous. There is no way anyone has spent more than three or four hours typing out posts in this thread... fundraising obviously takes a ton more time than that, just ask people in this thread like Les Lynn who have spent the better part of fifteen years creating urban debate leagues that expand access to thousands of students. Would that time be more productive spent securing funds or planning leagues? Arguably.

 

But I don't think any of these coaches are really clocking hours on their jobs posting on cross-x, I think they're dedicating their free time to defend their particular instructional methods on this website. I know the time I would have spent writing out my two or thre posts in this thread is time that would have been spent watching TV or playing video games or going on another website on the internet. The same is probably true for a lot of the people posting in the thread. I also know that I have a lot more insight into the debate community and the thought processes and various positions that coaches of the community find themselves in thanks to reading this thread, so I am glad that they have dedicated their time accordingly to discussing this on an open forum.

 

Many of the posts in this thread are with great merit. I respect the educators you listed out, and know a few of them quite well.

Tara Tate was once my lab leader. But notice how most of the really productive posts are coming from them whereas a lot of the other posts are of questionable value.

 

If you refer back to Tara's original post, notice how it was critical of this entire thread because it was an example of the debate community tearing itself down.

 

Deliberation and discussion is important, but there comes a point when you need to just start doing. Even if an imperfect solution has been devised, sometimes you just need to act, instead of quibbling about whether or not cross-x reputation is a sound indicator of someone's credibility or not.

 

My point is that this discussion has been hashed out again, and again, and again -- to the point of excess. I know firsthand (here's some background for you Les). I have been very vocal -- sometimes too much so -- on this topic. The inequity and other concerns related to the national circuit model of debate have been topics I've dealt with a great amount. I debated for four years at a high school in KS, qualifying to the TOC my junior and senior year. I attended the tournament my junior year (breaking the KSHSAA travel restriction rule) causing myself to be sanctioned by KSHSAA my senior year. This prevented me from debating in my state my senior year, and despite receiving three bids my senior year, I was prevented from attending the TOC my senior year because if I attended, then KSHSAA would issue a sanction on my school.

 

Your bit about "if I wasn't posting on cross-x, then I'd be playing video games" drives home my point: it's not an either/or issue, maximize your time/energy, and instead of doing either of those, do something that can really result in positive change for the community that we both love so much.

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That is a good question, I am not sure. Most grants are given by private foundations for very specific reasons - like the one I work for, we give money to educators who want to promote science, technology, engineering and math. I am not sure of any who give money to debate teams - I know Soros used to give money for the UDL, but I'm not sure if that happens or not anymore. I would guess for debate/speech, you'd be looking for grants for leadership development, etc.

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Dear Lamp,

 

Thank you for the background, etc. So, in your opinion, What Is To Be Done? And about what? If you don't want to feed a thread, feel free to answer me privately.

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