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nachobear321

Email Exchange With Peter Ennis

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I think I didn't articulate myself fully enough. What I'm saying is not that cheating occurs elsewhere -> do not stop cheating. You need to somewhat separate the legitimacy of the practice from the possibilities for cheating it creates.

 

This particular practice (e-mail exchanges with authors) is not any more vulnerable to cheating than other practices (cutting evidence from blogs, say). If the practice itself is unethical or unfair, obviously we should stop it. If the practice makes it essentially impossible to detect and stop cheating, we should also probably stop it (unless we have a damned good reason). But if it's merely amenable to cheating, but not particularly more so than other practices we would not choose to reject, there's no reason to reject it. You wouldn't have people stop reading cards in debate rounds because reading cards is necessary to clip cards.

 

This is a slightly better argument but it's still not very good. First of all, most of your examples are non-unique. When called into question, most cards from random blogs are disregarded. They come under the same measure of scrutiny that emails to an author should. Also, your reframing still links to my earlier criticism. Just because there are other practices of dubious ethicality doesn't mean we should condone another. Additionally, the example you provided at the end of your post doesn't really apply. Card clipping is an unethical distortion of an already accepted practice that can falsifiably be determined - one can objectively determine whether or not a debater is clipping. However, the above discussed practice presents a gray area. Like others have discussed, it's impossible to verify whether the debater disregarded emails containing unfavorable opinions.

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Look, what I'm saying is this: if the practice is unethical, don't allow the practice. But if the practice is just hard to police, that doesn't make it unethical. It being hard to determine when unethical things have happened is not equivalent to unethical things having happened.

 

1. Welfare fraud is unethical.

2. It's hard to figure out when welfare fraud has occurred

------------------------------------------------------- <-DOES NOT FOLLOW.

Therefore welfare is unethical.

 

The questions we have to ask are

a. How hard is this practice to police?

b. If it's too hard to police, how bad is the possibility of abuse?

c. If the possibility of abuse is bad, how much do we give up if we abandon the practice?

 

You may have your answers to those questions; it sounds like you're saying a. too hard b. bad enough and c. not much. My answers differ. But I'm not doing what you're accusing me of doing.

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I think the idea of CCing other debaters, maybe make it coaches, 6 or so, on every email, from the beginning, solves most problems associated with this form of research, including the ones I listed below. I believe emailing experts is fantastic. I believe one common place to post all emailed research would also be a good idea.

I originally posted this in 2009 -

I think evidence obtained from email needs to be available to the team you are debating sufficiently before the round for them to prepare for it. Education and Fairness. Posting the evidence somewhere is not necessarily enough but it’s a start. If there is a chance you may read the evidence, then before the round you should give the other team a copy in case they don’t read crossx.com or whatever. And as a side note there are many times at many tournaments where you can’t get access to the internet. We had problems this year at both the NDCA and the TOC. Additionally I don’t think all email evidence is fine. I think email evidence is fine if: It’s predictable. For example you are asking an expert about something they already wrote, either clarification or an explanation on the subject. Asking experts for where to go for something in my opinion is obviously fine. Asking random “expert” sources for random evidence about something they have not written about for me is problematic at best. It does not seem predictable. Has anyone addressed the possibility that someone wrote to 14 random “experts” and got only one answer that supported the point they wanted to make. What if the other 13 where better experts and had more definitive answers the other way? Will you publish all 14 email strings? What if all 14 where the other way? Will you publish them all anyway. If you decide to drop the argument entirely because of this research will you still publish all 14 emails? If the answer to any of those questions is no; then I feel email used in this way seems to me too have to much potential for abuse. With published sources other than email or with predictable emails there is a built in check. I’m not sure education outweighs the abuse potential because the counter interpretation captures a significant amount of the benefit. If a team regularly posted all of their email research their specific credibility would probably be high enough to make the link non-existent.

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I'm going to take a bit of a minority viewpoint....

 

It seems to me that quality argument & quality of author is far more important than the nature of the journal. Sure there is a difference between Scientific American or Ethics and the Sacramento Bee, but I think it would have to be a literal tie between two arguments for peer reviewed academic vs. academic to make a difference.

 

Do you think the troops in the field care that what they get from General Petreas is in an email vs. a peer reviewed publication. No, it doesn't matter--its General Petras. Period.

 

Is the theory of supply and demand described in email any less credible than the Wall Street Journal or some other publication. True arguments are true arguments. The slight nuances in fame we associate with particular publications & credibility is largely hype & PR drivel.

 

The more citations argument is even (largely) ridiculous. If debate teachers you anything, the literature says a ton of stuff--indeed almost everything. (I imagine most malthusian, wipeout, and Caldwell all have citations...but it doesn't make their arguments any more viable at the end of the day). Poor assumptions trump both citations and publications. Period.

Edited by nathan_debate

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What if the NDCA, or some other relevant organization, set up an email address for the purpose of emailing authors to be used in debates. Students could email that address with their message and the person they want to contact, the NDCA sends the email, and publicly posts the response(s) on their website.

 

This seems to solve everything as long as there is someone willing and accountable to do it.

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What if the NDCA, or some other relevant organization, set up an email address for the purpose of emailing authors to be used in debates. Students could email that address with their message and the person they want to contact, the NDCA sends the email, and publicly posts the response(s) on their website.

 

This seems to solve everything as long as there is someone willing and accountable to do it.

 

That's great, the K teams can e-mail gene ray for more cites.

 

Or the policy kids can get their A2: K's from e-mailing people who obviously don't agree with a point, like I know that Pedro and Andrew have already done. This is where the abuse really comes into play.

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if the practice is unethical, don't allow the practice. But if the practice is just hard to police, that doesn't make it unethical. It being hard to determine when unethical things have happened is not equivalent to unethical things having happened.
I made this point earlier. But it bears repeating.

 

There seems to be a consensus....there should be a greater publicness to the process. Whether this comes via:

1) CC-ing on an email

2) A public email account

3) Virtual town hall

4) Stuff being posted all on one blog

5) Or some other method which encourages openness/transparency.

 

BTW...if other folks have comparable or better ways to increase the transparency of the process...obviously posting here would be helpful to the community.

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I made this point earlier. But it bears repeating.

 

There seems to be a consensus....there should be a greater publicness to the process. Whether this comes via:

 

 

BTW...if other folks have comparable or better ways to increase the transparency of the process...obviously posting here would be helpful to the community.

 

 

Transparency is irrelevant. When hendrickson is too lazy to cut cards to answer arguments to the point where they e-mail authors to get them to write them, that's just bad.

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Transparency is irrelevant. When hendrickson is too lazy to cut cards to answer arguments to the point where they e-mail authors to get them to write them, that's just bad.

 

I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that "laziness" is an issue the community should make norms around. Judges don't police whether kids steal camp files, either.

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If there's anyway CX can help lend legitimacy to email correspondence, I'm down as long as it's technologically feasible.

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First, regardless of whether or not we set up some sort of central governing body for passing questions to authors (which logistically, would be a nightmare), the question of how legitimate it is to email authors in the first place should be examined.

 

Yes--in some cases, it may be OK to email an author--in the latest 3nr podcast they address the issue pretty deeply--these cases would be

 

1. Emailing an author to determine if their evidence is being read in context in rounds

 

or 2. Emailing authors for a research-oriented guidance question, AKA asking them to point you to published articles that would help you cut cards/understand the topic.

 

Aside from those few issues, it really shouldn't be necessary to email an author in the first place. Regardless of logistics and accessibility issues, there is a reason debaters are encouraged to do in-depth research on a specific topic. It builds skills that help you with things like homework, jobs, and argumentation in general. It also allows the debater to process more related literature while they are searching for a specific argument--thereby increasing their comprehension on the topic as a whole. Allowing debaters to just email authors for cards short-circuits this process and encourages a wave of emails to your favorite professors, netting for a favorable answer. ChineseSpy was already pretty clear on those issues, and the only person to substantively respond to him was screech--but that was really only only a question of whether or not things are in the lit base.

 

And, if screech's assumptions are true and policy debate goes into a realm of detail that surpasses the lit base, then

 

1.) That's an indicator that debate is not adhering to the academic precedent of people whose job it is to actually arrive at truthful conclusions, not win debate rounds. If the body of scholarship and its respective scholars are not as in depth on an issue as you would prefer, that's probably an indicator that a lot of very qualified people don't feel like such a discussion would be pedagogically of value.

 

2.) This is probably a good thing. The process of argumentation and evidencing is not just collecting piles of evidence on every detail of public policy. A key component is being able to identify the assertions that the literature base makes and inductively apply that reasoning to the specific intricacies of the debate. In a world where could snap our fingers and get a magical 1:1 correlation of detail to credentialed warrants, we would all be a bunch of hyper-teched block monkeys.

 

Additionally, as was pointed out in the podcast, there is a certain value to citing evidence that has been publicly distributed or at least publicly available. That is--articles widely available would be read by other scholars, who in turn would be able to make arguments in response. In a world of author email card cutting, there's literally zero review or academic oversight regarding the material made available to the debaters. In this world it's not only the quality of information that suffers, but also the ability of the other team to respond in a manner with the same level of qualification.

 

 

TL;DR -- Don't worry about cheating when there are reasons that even a perfectly fair system would be more harmful than the status quo.

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I don't necessarily disagree with most of your post, just about the scale of the possible harms and that they outweigh the potential pedagogical benefits.

 

1.) That's an indicator that debate is not adhering to the academic precedent of people whose job it is to actually arrive at truthful conclusions, not win debate rounds. If the body of scholarship and its respective scholars are not as in depth on an issue as you would prefer, that's probably an indicator that a lot of very qualified people don't feel like such a discussion would be pedagogically of value.

 

So stuff policy debaters can read as evidence in a debate round should mostly consist of stuff already published in a credible publication, preferably peer-reviewed. This debate has been sort of ongoing in this thread. Obviously, there is some kind of cost to research skills. But I still contend the value of substantive education, engagement with a scholarly community, etc. balances this at least somewhat, and I don't think there's any risk of debaters replacing all their cards with e-mail correspondence. It's more of a "really need this one perfect card for the 1AC" sort of thing. Plus, it's kind of an empowering experience, and really humanizes the scholars we rely so much on (at least, when I've tried to contact authors, although only for clarification and discussion). Those standards probably wouldn't get you far in a theory debate, but I still think they matter.

 

Finally, and this is kind of a weird argument, if there is actually a risk of seriously undermining these research skills, and kids will just go ask experts whenever they need a new card, doesn't that imply that these research skills are unnecessary, because academics are extremely open and helpful?

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