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Travel restrictions, traditionalist alternatives, etc.

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I've been thinking about how policy debate has evolved or devolved in recent years in certain Midwestern states. Three questions in particular:

 

1) How have de facto and de jure travel restrictions helped and/or hurt policy debate (qualitatively, quantitatively, whatever you choose) in places like Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, and South Dakota? In states where the restrictions have been loosened, what's the result?

 

2) How has the introduction of Public Forum affected debate in those states, and other, more traditional, policy states? When PF was introduced, many assumed that it would not draw much in such states, that it wouldn't be "needed." I think I have some knowledge of how that's panned out, but I'd like to hear more.

 

3) How has a "limited season" for policy debate (e.g., first semester only) helped and/or hurt policy debate.

 

I have no axe to grind here, and have no desire to provoke a debate culture war -- I've just been thinking about these questions and would like to hear some perspectives.

 

I'm also thinking back to the Classic Debate experiment in Minnesota some years back - it seemed quite promising at first and then fizzled a bit?

 

Many thanks.

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1) How have de facto and de jure travel restrictions helped and/or hurt policy debate (qualitatively, quantitatively, whatever you choose) in places like Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, and South Dakota? In states where the restrictions have been loosened, what's the result?

 

The travel restrictions have a negative impact on a small number of extremely high-achieving teams who have maximized their ability to accrue educational benefits from debate within the 500-mile limits. Many teams believe this applies to them, but few really cannot find the opportunities to grow as debaters within these limitations.

 

The other impact is that Kansas has one of the healthiest local circuits in the country. We have more NFL districts than any other state except California and Texas, and every weekend during the debate season there are at least half a dozen healthy tournaments offering multiple divisions of competition. Our largest squads have over 100 students involved in policy debate. We have about 60 and I'd say we are a mid-sized team for our area.

 

2) How has the introduction of Public Forum affected debate in those states, and other, more traditional, policy states? When PF was introduced, many assumed that it would not draw much in such states, that it wouldn't be "needed." I think I have some knowledge of how that's panned out, but I'd like to hear more.

 

With respect to those in Kansas who make a serious attempt at PFD, I would say that the most common reaction to the event is exactly as you say you would expect. Invitationals in the spring often fail to draw enough entries to even offer the event, unless they invite Missouri schools. PFD is generally seen as a low-effort, sound-bite style of debate as compared to the intellectual rigor of a policy debate, even one in front of a community judge. In areas where judging policy debate is the exclusive province of assistant coaches and recent graduates, I can understand the impetus for the event, but it simply fails to fill a need in Kansas.

 

3) How has a "limited season" for policy debate (e.g., first semester only) helped and/or hurt policy debate.

 

First, and I think you acknowledge this with your quotation marks, our season is not really limited, but shifted. Our policy debate season runs from the third week of September until the third week of January, which is then immediately followed by our forensics season, running until the first week of May, where we contest every other event including LD and PFD. Students are limited to eight policy debate tournaments, not including the state championship.

 

In the conversations I've had with national-circuit types, the season seems to run from approximately mid-October to mid-March, and the majority of students don't really compete in more tournaments than ours do. To the extent that our season is limited, I think the impact is probably insubstantial.

 

If anything, I feel like the split season helps emphasize the value of policy debate in Kansas by separating it from all the others. Most of our students who do forensics - even many of the actors - at least dabble in policy debate. Travel costs are low which allows us to have busloads of kids at 2-3 different area tournaments each and every weekend, and policy debate remains the most prestigious and competitive event of any we work to qualify for in NFL.

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Personally my favorite part of the split season is the fact i am able to try out so many different things. If we didn't split i probably would just do policy but because we do i am to compete in policy, pfd, congress, OO, extemp, and occasionally when i am bored IDA. I guess it just feels like a more rounded way to learn.

 

Also I have no real opinion about the travel restriction. In my three years I only have competed outside my district maybe twice not including state. In fact five out of eight tournaments i attend a year are within 45 mins of my home. I personal like my local circuit. I mean i probably be fine if they changed restrictions but ultimately I probably would still debate at home.

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The travel restrictions have a negative impact on a small number of extremely high-achieving teams who have maximized their ability to accrue educational benefits from debate within the 500-mile limits. Many teams believe this applies to them, but few really cannot find the opportunities to grow as debaters within these limitations.

 

With due respect to Eric (knowing the teams he works with and his coaching ability, I'll defer to him a lot of the time), I'll take this statement 1 step further. I believe that I have yet to meet the team that was hampered by not being able to travel beyond the 500 miles (I know I've had some students that would disagree with me).

 

Some of the best teams that I have been associated with, while debating on the national circuit 3 or 4 times in a year, also competed at slow lay-type tournaments other times that year. If they had gone beyond the 500 miles on top of their other travel within 500 miles, it would have taken away from their local experience, and the educational value from creating that balance between being able to win by persuasion and and being able to win they high intellect, strategic rounds, is priceless.

Edited by King

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I've been thinking about how policy debate has evolved or devolved in recent years in certain Midwestern states. Three questions in particular:

 

1) How have de facto and de jure travel restrictions helped and/or hurt policy debate (qualitatively, quantitatively, whatever you choose) in places like Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, and South Dakota? In states where the restrictions have been loosened, what's the result?

 

2) How has the introduction of Public Forum affected debate in those states, and other, more traditional, policy states? When PF was introduced, many assumed that it would not draw much in such states, that it wouldn't be "needed." I think I have some knowledge of how that's panned out, but I'd like to hear more.

 

3) How has a "limited season" for policy debate (e.g., first semester only) helped and/or hurt policy debate.

 

I have no axe to grind here, and have no desire to provoke a debate culture war -- I've just been thinking about these questions and would like to hear some perspectives.

 

I'm also thinking back to the Classic Debate experiment in Minnesota some years back - it seemed quite promising at first and then fizzled a bit?

 

Many thanks.

 

 

1. Just to clarify, KS has a 500 mile out of state travel limit (from the KS border). Students are unable to travel to any tournament outside of that limit with the exception of NFL or NCFL Nationals. KS students are unable to compete at the TOC or NDCA tournament because they haven't as yet been given exemptions.

 

As mentioned, there have been some students who have felt that they were denied opportunities because of travel restrictions. The rule seeks to maintain the participation level of our local tournaments. I'm not sure that lifting the travel ban would have a big negative impact because I don't think that there is a great deal of desire from coaches to travel out of state any more than they already do (for the most part).

 

2. PFD in KS runs in 2nd semester (with forensics, congress and LD). It has had no effect on anything at all. Most coaches hate the event. I would be shocked if there was more than 20 teams at any of our NFL qualifiers. Invitationals will get 6-12 teams (if that).

 

3. KS has debate 1st semester only. This serves to create a healthy debate and forensics circuit (in their respective semesters). I'm not sure that forensics and congress would be viable in KS without the split seasons, it helps keep the participation numbers up for both. A large majority of policy debaters participate in forensics 2nd semester.

 

The negative effect would be that coaches are forced to travel more than they would if there was year round debate. Most coaches (that coach both) go out to tournaments almost every non-holiday weekend of the school year. Also... forensics kind of sucks, but it does give the students a chance to experience different....blah blah... it sucks.

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1. Just to clarify, KS has a 500 mile out of state travel limit (from the KS border). Students are unable to travel to any tournament outside of that limit with the exception of NFL or NCFL Nationals. KS students are unable to compete at the TOC or NDCA tournament because they haven't as yet been given exemptions.

 

.

 

I know. I once observed Vicki Fellers of Wichita East demonstrate that the distance to the Glenbrooks was 499 miles, rather than 501 miles.

 

Some years ago, wasn't the exemption much smaller/shorter? Or wasn't there an absolute ban, except for NFL Nationals? Enlighten me.

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The standard has evolved somewhat over time from an absolute restriction. At one point it was possible for Kansans to compete everywhere--provided that they didn't officially represent their schools or have their head coach along. Cindy Burgett can probably give you a better sense of this particular rule than anyone on this board.

 

I agree almost entirely with Eskog's assessment. I would add to it, however, that the specific set of regulations that govern Kansas debate and forensics have had what I would call a crippling effect upon the development of LD debate in the state and are starting to hold us back in Congress.

 

Your interest is welcome. I think many Kansans, even those of us who believe in the way we do things here, would not want to see the practices of Kansas debate universalized--we do benefit, in terms of the standards our elite teams hold themselves to, from the different practices that prevail nationally.

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I would like to touch on part of the Kansas debate system I hold most dearly. That is the separation of the policy debate season from the forensics season. While I love policy debate, and travel outside of Kansas for the majority of my season, and while I may disagree with many KSHAA policies. I do believe that this one has undoubtedly succeeded.

 

Many of the things that Mr Skoglund references, such as the ability for us to have huge numbers of debaters wouldn't be possible without the seperate season system. I know that at my school a strong majority of our squad is novices. We have well over 100 debaters, and I believe one thing that allows for novices, is one semester. I know many myself included aren't dead set to debate before novice year. Allowing for debaters to test the waters allows for more people to get the great educational opportunity that debate makes.

 

Furthermore, as someone who competes nationally I do not think it would be possible for me to maintain both a forensics season and a policy debate season if they coincided. I absolutely adore impromptu but I don't think I would be able to find the time for it if it coincided with my policy debate season.

 

At the same time there are significant flaws in the KSHAA system, but I would prefer not to address those because I do not think it is productive when the community argues on some stupid internet forum.

 

I think there are many positives you will find in Kansas and not anywhere else, and embracing them may allow you seasons of success.

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I had not thought too much about the "first semester" thing. It seems to me that that might work well in that there's a limited season for novices and less ambitious programs and then more intense programs can continue their season out of state second semester? That could work nicely. I would like to hear from people who find the first semester restriction deleterious . . .

 

"As mentioned, there have been some students who have felt that they were denied opportunities because of travel restrictions. The rule seeks to maintain the participation level of our local tournaments. I'm not sure that lifting the travel ban would have a big negative impact because I don't think that there is a great deal of desire from coaches to travel out of state any more than they already do (for the most part)." -- that seems reasonable; what the rest of you guys think about that?

 

Very very interesting that PF gets no traction in Kansas, gets immense traction in places like Colorado and South Dakota, with significantly reduced South Dakota policy numbers as a result . . .

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"As mentioned, there have been some students who have felt that they were denied opportunities because of travel restrictions. The rule seeks to maintain the participation level of our local tournaments. I'm not sure that lifting the travel ban would have a big negative impact because I don't think that there is a great deal of desire from coaches to travel out of state any more than they already do (for the most part)." -- that seems reasonable; what the rest of you guys think about that?

I agree that the travel ban doesn't make a difference to most programs. However, I think it does hurt quality of tournaments teams can get to if they do choose to travel. Ten years ago, there were decent tournaments in Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa. Now those tournaments (if they even still exist) are pretty awful, but they're the only option.

 

My preference would be for an out-of-state cap instead, say 2-3 tournaments per squad, where those tournaments could be anywhere in the country. I think that would allow the more competitive students to do a reasonable amount of travel to some tournaments where they will actually learn something without letting them vanish from the local tournament scene.

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I had not thought too much about the "first semester" thing. It seems to me that that might work well in that there's a limited season for novices and less ambitious programs and then more intense programs can continue their season out of state second semester? That could work nicely. I would like to hear from people who find the first semester restriction deleterious . . .

 

"As mentioned, there have been some students who have felt that they were denied opportunities because of travel restrictions. The rule seeks to maintain the participation level of our local tournaments. I'm not sure that lifting the travel ban would have a big negative impact because I don't think that there is a great deal of desire from coaches to travel out of state any more than they already do (for the most part)." -- that seems reasonable; what the rest of you guys think about that?

 

Very very interesting that PF gets no traction in Kansas, gets immense traction in places like Colorado and South Dakota, with significantly reduced South Dakota policy numbers as a result . . .

 

I don't think you expect to get all that much feedback of that nature. I am one of the people who vehemently despises Kansas travel restrictions, but speaking out against them is just asking to lose ethos and rounds.

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I don't think you expect to get all that much feedback of that nature. I am one of the people who vehemently despises Kansas travel restrictions, but speaking out against them is just asking to lose ethos and rounds.

 

It depends how you speak when you speak out against them. I'm also opposed to travel restrictions and I think I have sufficient cred in the community, and have never seen a judging backlash against my teams.

 

At any rate, I think that Mr. Phillips may have been asking about the "first semester restriction" in the sense that our policy debate season runs from September to January, not in the sense that travel is restricted during the first semester.

 

And on that issue, I'll let the advocates of year-round debate in Kansas speak for themselves. I will note in passing, however, that the universalization of the Kansas one-semester system is something I would never want to see; teams which do the work necessary to qualify for nationals SHOULD have the opportunity to compete during the second semester, and outside the state's borders, and that can't happen if the rest of the nation is doing things our way.

Edited by STADB9

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