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Another One Bites the Dust

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I am sad to say that CX debate has lost one more school: mine. We have maintained a Policy debate program (in addition to LD, PF, and all the non-debate events) for about 50 years. But this year, the kids just aren't interested, especially those who have done CX for the past 3 years.

 

My novices kept asking why the older kids were making fun of CX all the time. I tried to speak fairly of the event - I really do think it can be a worthwhile event. Then I let the event speak for itself: I showed them the first 20 minutes of the documentary "Resolved." I think that film does a decent job of describing (especially in the cartoon parts) the basics of this type of debate.

 

The kids (old and new) thought this event had lost its mind. When the event spoke for itself, it demonstrated how devoid of "common sense" it seems to have become. One coach in the film talks about how ALL disads have to end in nuclear war, preferably multiple nuclear wars, preferably ending in global extinction. My kids couldn't believe that. The part explaining the kritik seemed, to the kids, to defy all logic. Of course, there was also the odd gasping for breath done by the very rapid debaters -- it sounded downright painful to present a speech this way. The kids were shocked that anyone would want to do this type of debate.

 

I tried to tell them that this "game" of CX debate is valued by many folks and that there are lots of students who find intellectual value and fun in this "game." They were sure I was losing my mind.

 

Understand, too, that these are very bright kids who are in multiple Honors and AP classes. They are not academic wimps. They are not doing PF and LD because these events are "easier." However, they have gravitated to PF and LD because they make "sense" to them -- they seem to be more "realistic" and logical than CX.

 

My assistant coach and I have done our best to try to "keep up with the times." I took a class in Foucault that helped me grasp the concept of kritiks. We wrote our own Aff Kritik of Nuclear War disads, focusing on the trivialization of nuclear devastation. I have been on Cross-X.com, learning what I can, for several years now. While I do value the quaint, old-fashioned concept of "stock issues," I tried to prepare the kids for other types of arguments.

 

My kids knew everything about their cases -- only to be defeated by a team claiming heping the poor would increase beef consumption which would lead to deforestation and global devastation. It was very demoralizing.

 

I will continue to offer CX to future debaters, but I am not holding my breath about them taking me up on the offer. I'm sad to see it go, but it seems to me that Policy debate has done this to itself.

Edited by tpeters
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Oh god, this is going to devolve into a "modern policy debate isn't educational"-type blah blah blah new-vs-old argument.

 

Personally, I like the aspects of policy debate that make it a little eccentric. Plus, those people in "Resolved" that speed read and run Ks are ONLY doing it because they are in front of judges that are familiar with the activity. Obviously, you stick kids who have no idea what is going on in front of a screen with some of the best K debaters and fastest speed readers and you're going to get some agape jaws.

 

But, I mean, if there's some people who don't like the activity, that OBVIOUSLY means that all the people who enjoy it in its current form don't deserve to have the activity that they enjoy in the way in which they enjoy it, right?

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I'm not quite sure why you seem so defensive about my post. I am sad that my students don't want to do this event any more. I personally liked CX for what it used to be.

 

But it has moved on -- and my kids aren't interested in its new form. I told them that there are students who believe it is valuable and fun.

 

I hate to lose an opportunity for kids. I'm sad.

 

(Also, yes, the novices were agape, but the advanced kids with 3 years experience were just as critical of what they saw and what they had been seeing.)

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But, I mean, if there's some people who don't like the activity, that OBVIOUSLY means that all the people who enjoy it in its current form don't deserve to have the activity that they enjoy in the way in which they enjoy it, right?

 

Look, this claim can go the other way as well. You are openly patronizing someone who's students have become frustrated because they cannot enjoy the activity in which the way they enjoy it either.

 

(Also, yes, the novices were agape, but the advanced kids with 3 years experience were just as critical of what they saw and what they had been seeing.)

 

I think this proves my argument. The problem that policy is facing now is we are continually becoming more polarizing in defending our preferences. I'm not being critical of what tpeters says, but its a truth. When folks try to stick to their guns in defending what policy debate "was" the other side seems to defend it by telling them to suck it up and be quiet. This is why policy is suffering in some areas nationally....

 

Understandable.

I hope you find the November PFD topic to be a superior academic experience.

 

Steve, I cant tell if you are being serious or a sarcastic jab. Knowing you, it might be a mix of both.

 

When I saw the switch in the november PFD topic, I laughed at first, and then seeing the discussion that was started here, it makes me think......and although it kills part of my inner child to say this, maybe PFD is doing something right.

 

When we want to be critical of what we think policy debate is/was/should be, it turns into a polarized, un-productive discussion. I think this gives PFD debaters an interesting method of defining and defending what they think their activity should look like. Even if it is a hasty decision, I think it is a discussion I might watch with an attentive eye, although I dont have to worry about coaching PFD until February......

 

Maybe I will have something more to say later, and maybe my thoughts might make more sense when I get done screaming obscenities at my TV because Penn State has no offense....

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Policy has a very steep learning curve, not just academically, but also for novices learning the myriad conventions and lack-of-conventions now ingrained the activity. As the CX community shrinks in many areas, there are also fewer moderating voices in the debating, coaching, and judging pools. While it is unfortunate, I am not at all surprised that new students or current debaters are switching to other events. My school canceled its CX program shortly into my junior year; my partner and I then switched to PF. While they were (and are) quite different events, I had more fun in PF.

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Oh god, this is going to devolve into a "modern policy debate isn't educational"-type blah blah blah new-vs-old argument.

 

Personally, I like the aspects of policy debate that make it a little eccentric. Plus, those people in "Resolved" that speed read and run Ks are ONLY doing it because they are in front of judges that are familiar with the activity. Obviously, you stick kids who have no idea what is going on in front of a screen with some of the best K debaters and fastest speed readers and you're going to get some agape jaws.

 

But, I mean, if there's some people who don't like the activity, that OBVIOUSLY means that all the people who enjoy it in its current form don't deserve to have the activity that they enjoy in the way in which they enjoy it, right?

 

Thank you for providing no comment of intellectual value. Beyond your obvious attempt at loathing and sarcasm, the only thing more remarkable about your position is that you haven't the slightest clue what you are talking about. Congratulations. You just Tommy-ed yourself.

 

Tammie,

I understand. I always struggle in identifying which school of thought I belong to. On one hand, as a judge, I refuse to be an interventionist and limit arguments based on my own preferences. I have always maintained that this activity is and always should be a debater-defined activity. So deeply rooted is that belief that my judging paradigm is partially debater-defined. But on the other hand, as I am sure you are well aware, a number of arguments I have proposed tend to be absurd from a logical perspective. And while the premise of my arguments are illogical, is the mechanics of my arguments which are grounded in true conservative style. But I can say that teams who run my arguments tend to have a fun time with them!

Edited by Ankur
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What are the characteristics of a program where debaters are excited about cross-x debate, and what are the characteristics of a program where debaters lose interest in it?

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I feel like my school may be going through the exact opposite of this. Our novice coach teaches debate in the "traditional" manner, and the vast majority of novices get bored out of their minds and quit, or switch to public forum. I probably would have quit myself, except that I stumbled onto cx.com. Then I started looking at the ndca wiki and seeing what good arguments looked like, and how to structure a 1AC using advantages instead of harms, etc. To me, policy debate is fun because it is obnoxiously competitive and unrealistic.

Edited by Chaos
and unrealistic

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To me, policy debate is fun because it is obnoxiously competitive.

 

this. The group of newcomers to debate each year love the insane competitive aspect of policy.

 

if anything, the only thing that makes some of them try other events is that they don't think they're ready to keep up with the high-work load of an evidence based style of debate.

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I think there is also a social dynamic defining expectations here. Either the advanced kids, the community, or (and I'm NOT describing Tpeters here) the coaches have maybe subconsciously or not given CX the "crazy" vibe.

 

When I showed new kids speeches on video, and described nuclear war disads, they were a little intimidated, but very excited to give it a shot. In fact, it was this very thing (the ability to make arguments that wouldn't fly in my English class) that got ME excited about CX debate. But then, I went to a school where CX was the dominant style, PF didn't exist, and there were a few LDers. I also saw a lot of CX trophies around the squadroom.

 

As for the crazy disads, I've told this story before, but I'll do it again. My junior year the disad I heard most described a situation where Russian hard liners ousted Gorbachev and then did bad stuff....new cold war, nuclear war, etc. At the end of the year we decided to straight turn it with a Yeltsin rise scenario. We were laughed at, because our scenario was considered LESS likely than the disad. Months later it played out almost exactly to our scenario. Policy decisions do have real policy implications. Not all disads are crazy. And good debaters learn to pick apart the bad ones. Not only that, learning how to debate spending, politics and federalism teach very real world arguments about how government really works.

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I think there is also a social dynamic defining expectations here. Either the advanced kids, the community, or (and I'm NOT describing Tpeters here) the coaches have maybe subconsciously or not given CX the "crazy" vibe.

 

When I showed new kids speeches on video, and described nuclear war disads, they were a little intimidated, but very excited to give it a shot. In fact, it was this very thing (the ability to make arguments that wouldn't fly in my English class) that got ME excited about CX debate. But then, I went to a school where CX was the dominant style, PF didn't exist, and there were a few LDers. I also saw a lot of CX trophies around the squadroom.

 

As for the crazy disads, I've told this story before, but I'll do it again. My junior year the disad I heard most described a situation where Russian hard liners ousted Gorbachev and then did bad stuff....new cold war, nuclear war, etc. At the end of the year we decided to straight turn it with a Yeltsin rise scenario. We were laughed at, because our scenario was considered LESS likely than the disad. Months later it played out almost exactly to our scenario. Policy decisions do have real policy implications. Not all disads are crazy. And good debaters learn to pick apart the bad ones. Not only that, learning how to debate spending, politics and federalism teach very real world arguments about how government really works.

 

This is true for the novices at my school, too. We only have one debate class, thus the novices see advanced arguments and practice rounds. All of their DAs and cases end with what most people would label the internal link (econ collapse, Middle East instability), due to the heavy lay influence in the novice and open divisions of my circuit. The first time we said "and this leads to nuke war," they instantly wanted all of their disads to end that way too.

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The problem, as I see it, is culture shock. When my school's varsity policy debaters teach the novices, we have to make sure we don't teach them the ridiculous stuff first. After all, if novices see that debate is an activity of talking faster than they ever thought they'd want to be able to talk, why would they do it? Especially when such speed isn't necessary in novice division.

 

Basically, showing movies like Resolved and exposing kids to spreading, kritiks, and nuclear war from the get-go isn't the way you're SUPPOSED to teach policy debate. It is necessary to ease the novices in before you show them the scary stuff.

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But some already know. Whenever I try to recruit people, the first thing they ask me is, "Do we need to do that event where you talk really fast?" It's a huge problem, and it has probably scared people away who assume that's all there is, and so they don't investigate further. It's easy to see why people wouldn't want to do it.

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I think that most novices tend to freak out when they hear spreading because it is so aesthetically unpleasing, but other than that they like debate culture.

 

Pretending that we will all die in a nuclear war is fun. Listening to awesome debaters trash their opponents is fun. Watching performance teams like the WGLF is fun.

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You'd think the whole rez issue with PFD would deter any interest in it

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I have a "whole rez good" framework argument I'm working on.

 

Unexpected arguments are fairly efficient time sucks.

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The problem, as I see it, is culture shock. When my school's varsity policy debaters teach the novices, we have to make sure we don't teach them the ridiculous stuff first. After all, if novices see that debate is an activity of talking faster than they ever thought they'd want to be able to talk, why would they do it? Especially when such speed isn't necessary in novice division.

 

Basically, showing movies like Resolved and exposing kids to spreading, kritiks, and nuclear war from the get-go isn't the way you're SUPPOSED to teach policy debate. It is necessary to ease the novices in before you show them the scary stuff.

 

also this. I think the easiest way to begin teaching policy isn't by indoctrinating the practices we use, but instead the theory of argumentation.

 

This is where the stock issues are especially applicable. Eventually, they'll move on to a comparative advantage understanding of debate. But this type of argumentation is still rooted in the concepts of stock issues. This framework for understanding debate may come obsolete as novi progress, but nothing helps a bunch of freshman understand debate like an easily remembered (and slightly immature) acronym like SHITS.

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I am sad to say that CX debate has lost one more school: mine. We have maintained a Policy debate program (in addition to LD, PF, and all the non-debate events) for about 50 years. But this year, the kids just aren't interested, especially those who have done CX for the past 3 years.

 

My novices kept asking why the older kids were making fun of CX all the time. I tried to speak fairly of the event - I really do think it can be a worthwhile event. Then I let the event speak for itself: I showed them the first 20 minutes of the documentary "Resolved." I think that film does a decent job of describing (especially in the cartoon parts) the basics of this type of debate.

 

The kids (old and new) thought this event had lost its mind. When the event spoke for itself, it demonstrated how devoid of "common sense" it seems to have become. One coach in the film talks about how ALL disads have to end in nuclear war, preferably multiple nuclear wars, preferably ending in global extinction. My kids couldn't believe that. The part explaining the kritik seemed, to the kids, to defy all logic. Of course, there was also the odd gasping for breath done by the very rapid debaters -- it sounded downright painful to present a speech this way. The kids were shocked that anyone would want to do this type of debate.

 

I tried to tell them that this "game" of CX debate is valued by many folks and that there are lots of students who find intellectual value and fun in this "game." They were sure I was losing my mind.

 

Understand, too, that these are very bright kids who are in multiple Honors and AP classes. They are not academic wimps. They are not doing PF and LD because these events are "easier." However, they have gravitated to PF and LD because they make "sense" to them -- they seem to be more "realistic" and logical than CX.

 

My assistant coach and I have done our best to try to "keep up with the times." I took a class in Foucault that helped me grasp the concept of kritiks. We wrote our own Aff Kritik of Nuclear War disads, focusing on the trivialization of nuclear devastation. I have been on Cross-X.com, learning what I can, for several years now. While I do value the quaint, old-fashioned concept of "stock issues," I tried to prepare the kids for other types of arguments.

 

My kids knew everything about their cases -- only to be defeated by a team claiming heping the poor would increase beef consumption which would lead to deforestation and global devastation. It was very demoralizing.

 

I will continue to offer CX to future debaters, but I am not holding my breath about them taking me up on the offer. I'm sad to see it go, but it seems to me that Policy debate has done this to itself.

 

i know this was said before. but the death of your policy squad is not the failure of policy debate it is more the showing them the "weirdest" parts of the event first before the learning of the basics.

as for the varsity members of your squad. did they attend a camp? And the use of Disadvantages is probably the most predictable thing in any form of debate and is the most real world. granted nuclear war isn't real world.

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Just to clarify: I did not show Resolved first. It was not used as a way to pull kids into the event. I showed Resolved only AFTER the advanced kids had abandoned the event -- kids who had learned stock issues and kritiks and counter-kritiks and disads for 3 years. Those kids were telling the novices that it was a crazy event.

 

On the other hand, I do show National Finalist tapes during the first two weeks of school in LD, PF, OO, Extemp, Humor and Drama. Those don't seem to intimidate students -- they tend to generate excitement.

 

Finally, this happened before the current PF topic controversy (which happened on Saturday, when there was no school). When I present the new topic to them today, it will be interesting to see what they have to say -- both the new kids AND the kids who have done this for 2-3 years with great success.

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Tammy: I am sorry to hear that your CX program has gone by the wayside. I am also sorry to hear the defensive tones being directed against you by several posts here.

 

CX is a game, and I think it's a good game. However, it's rapidly becoming a game that several people are opting not to play for whatever reason. I have always suspected that the the slow collapse of policy has been triggered by the time needed to compete effectively in it - not for other reasons. It is hard to tell a kid taking 5 AP classes that they also need to invest 20+ hours a week in gearing up to be effective policy debaters. Some can do it, most can't. I am curious to see, over the next decade or so, if the same thing happens in LD now that the spread, and other elements of policy debate continue to enter into that community as well.

 

BC's post saddens me. For 8 years Yorktown had very good policy teams, and a large number of kids who were very excited about "talking fast." It leads me to conclude that involving kids in policy is all about how you present it - if you present it as "talking fast and nuclear war" then you probably don't get many kids interested. If you present it as "intellectual speed chess" where the nuclear war stuff is just a tool to force the other side to lose, you might get more interest. However, once you tell a kid the amount of time it takes to really do well in policy, they sort of blanche and walk away, which again is probably a factor of academic course loads and other activities than anything else.

 

For those who get hostile in attacking those who point out the problems of policy you are doing a disservice to the activity. When you take strategic management classes, you'll learn that to make organizations, or in this case activities, stronger you often have to tear them down and speak honestly about their negative parts - only by doing that do you build a better organization. All Tammy said was "showed my kids CX, they didn't like it - they thought it was weird, they opted out." I'm pretty sure she shouldn't be attacked for that, especially since these kids had already invested 3 years in the activity. There is a lot of good in policy debate, one of the reasons I haven't walked away from it, but there is also a lot that is not attractive and which repels more and more people every year. If the community wishes to survive and thrive again, it should consider those other voices.

Edited by hylanddd
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Duane, I have a lot of sympathy for the views you've expressed. Let me quarrel a little with one point. I agree it is hard to ask a student taking 5 AP classes to spend 20 hours a week on debate, but I'm not sure that is the entire target population. I think debate offers the most benefit to students who have native intelligence, but aren't taking 5 AP classes. I'm sure we agree the structure of which AP classes are emblematic does not work for all students, including some very intelligent ones. I think we've all seen students shine in debate whose success could not be predicted by other academic success.

 

So, I guess a problem arises, in part, when you have some smart kids who are willing to commit a large percentage of their free time to the activity. Not surprisingly, with good coaching, they are likely to succeed.

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Birdwing..You are of course right. I wasn't meaning to imply that debate only be open to those who take multiple AP classes. I think debate should be open to every single kid in the school. I just toss the AP figure out there because that was about hte number of AP classes some of my kids were taking..that's all. No..debate MUST be open to everyone. I have seen kids on the "votech" track go on to become fierce debaters, and much better students, because they were smart and debate gave them the confidence they needed to push themselves both in the classroom and in the rounds.

 

My example was merely an example of the trade-off between academics and other obligations and the time needed for policy success. Sorry, I should have clarified. I have a firm "Everyone takes part" rule - as long as you meet the state mandated academic minimums, you can be on the team and debate..and it really does changes lives. I know..I was one of those kids way back in the day. If it weren't for a 7th grade teacher who thought I knew history pretty well, even if I rarely ever spoke, I'd have never found debate or speech!!:)

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