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4 Speaker State Is A Joke

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I've long wondered about the existence of the 4-speaker division. However, I completely agree that 100 teams in a two speaker division with only 6 prelims and outrounds beginning in octafinals is a disaster. Teams would have to go 5-1 to clear, there would be multiple 5-1's that didn't clear. It's not an effective model for a tournament. I think there are alternatives that do not include continuing the 4-speaker format.

 

However, I think that the 4-speaker model eviscerates the pedagogical benefits of switch side debate, given that teams do not switch sides (obvi). While I'm sure there are some counter-arguments to be made here, including most obviously that teams only attend 1-2 tournaments in this format, I don't believe that this format is educationally useful, given that the content of debate is far less educational than the form. At least I think this is the case in a world where procedural issues, politics DA's, PIC's, consult and conditions counterplans reign supreme. This is the argument that I firmly believe justifies limiting debates to a single resolution- it ensures the continuation of rigorous testing of a semi-predictable literature base. So, while the literature base matters very little to me, the ability to subject a claim to rigorous scrutiny from either side of an issue seems incredibly useful, if not the most relevant part of debate (hence why talking fast can still be quite educational). This is the core of critical thinking, and potentially even more portable than public speaking skills, although that's not particularly relevant to this discussion.

 

Further, I don't think there is a good argument in favor of the continued existence of divisional separation in debate, but I understand that others strongly disagree with me on this point. Let's put that aside.

 

What's the alternative to a 4-speaker tournament, that still allows participation from a wide range of competition? Well, I'd first like the question the premise that a wide range of competition is desirable. Apparently the DCI (which you must qualify for) is one of the greatest in the state, or so I'm told, having never attended the DCI. Taking that on faith, however, I think that it might produce a similarly high level of competition to pare down the state tournament field to the most successful and competitive 65-70 teams in the state. Potentially the tournament could combine the 4-5-6 A division the way 3-2-1A are all combined, in order to create a strong pool of potential qualifiers. Since there is already a qualification tournament date for the four-speaker division, the teams could compete to qualify there. Obviously this creates some additional issues, but that's one way to overcome biases in tournament procedure. Another option would be to use the NDT model of qualification, which includes "first round" qualifiers (top 16 teams via balloting from each of the nation's districts), district qualifiers, like the tournament I've described above, and "second round qualifiers" (enough teams to round out the field qualify via balloting, usually around 10-20).

 

However, if the DCI is analogous to the NDT, perhaps the state desires a CEDA style tournament. In that case, there shouldn't be a restriction on the number of teams allowed to compete per school, given that some schools could easily field more than 4 strong teams. However, this is not particularly feasible unless the tournament is held at a school with an immense number of classrooms. Further, this style of tournament would demand more prelims and outrounds. The CEDA national tournament has 8 prelims and breaks to either triple or partial quadruple octafinals, meaning anywhere from 64 to 128 teams participate in the elimination debates (all teams with a winning record clear). The field at this type of tournament is so large that about half the field (150 or so) teams could potentially clear if there were only 6 prelims.

 

Of course, the KSHSAA tournament is unlikely to yield a tournament this size, even if the 6-5-4 A tournament came into being. My guess is that it would have around 120 entrants at maximum. This is not an impossible size for a tournament. Both USC and CSUF are national college tournaments that have 6 prelims and about 100-120 entrants every year. While there are certainly some 4-2 teams that do not clear, this year only 2 such teams were left out between the two tournaments. Thus, the simplest solution would be to collapse the divisions and have a double octafinal debate, ie clear the top 32, instead of the top 16. For those about to complain about judges, this is 16 outround debates, which is the exact number that currently exists between the 6, 5 and 4A divisions. With access to all three pools simultaneously, the problem is moot. Then, the tournament would allow a large number of participants, while also being "more representative" in a sense. Further, it would resolve the pedagogical issues I have highlighted with regards to switch side debating.

 

Finally, I do not think that a round-robin is the best way to decide a state championship. I think someone made the argument that "you have to debate everybody," but that is misleading. You debate everyone, but all else is certainly not held equal. I know this from experience. Round robins often produce very slanted pairings, generally because of the side and the judge. That might not sound like much, but it produces a much larger effect than one might expect. Additionally, since there are no outrounds, and the pure win-loss record is all that matters (in addition to wildly arbitrary "ranks"), one unfortunate pairing could knock a team out of contention. The argument that "one outround also eliminates you" is a non-starter for me, because one prelim could eliminate you in the world of a round robin, and I trust a panel of judges more than one person. Further, the argument that you could panel the round robin is less feasible than one might think, given the struggle to find enough judges that constantly plagues tournaments.

 

Maybe making the tournament more competitive isn't a good idea, of that perhaps I could be persuaded. However, I refuse to believe any debate format that does not involve switching sides captures the full educational benefit of the debate dialectic.

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I've long wondered about the existence of the 4-speaker division. However, I completely agree that 100 teams in a two speaker division with only 6 prelims and outrounds beginning in octafinals is a disaster. Teams would have to go 5-1 to clear, there would be multiple 5-1's that didn't clear. It's not an effective model for a tournament. I think there are alternatives that do not include continuing the 4-speaker format.

 

However, I think that the 4-speaker model eviscerates the pedagogical benefits of switch side debate, given that teams do not switch sides (obvi). While I'm sure there are some counter-arguments to be made here, including most obviously that teams only attend 1-2 tournaments in this format, I don't believe that this format is educationally useful, given that the content of debate is far less educational than the form. At least I think this is the case in a world where procedural issues, politics DA's, PIC's, consult and conditions counterplans reign supreme. This is the argument that I firmly believe justifies limiting debates to a single resolution- it ensures the continuation of rigorous testing of a semi-predictable literature base. So, while the literature base matters very little to me, the ability to subject a claim to rigorous scrutiny from either side of an issue seems incredibly useful, if not the most relevant part of debate (hence why talking fast can still be quite educational). This is the core of critical thinking, and potentially even more portable than public speaking skills, although that's not particularly relevant to this discussion.

 

Further, I don't think there is a good argument in favor of the continued existence of divisional separation in debate, but I understand that others strongly disagree with me on this point. Let's put that aside.

 

What's the alternative to a 4-speaker tournament, that still allows participation from a wide range of competition? Well, I'd first like the question the premise that a wide range of competition is desirable. Apparently the DCI (which you must qualify for) is one of the greatest in the state, or so I'm told, having never attended the DCI. Taking that on faith, however, I think that it might produce a similarly high level of competition to pare down the state tournament field to the most successful and competitive 65-70 teams in the state. Potentially the tournament could combine the 4-5-6 A division the way 3-2-1A are all combined, in order to create a strong pool of potential qualifiers. Since there is already a qualification tournament date for the four-speaker division, the teams could compete to qualify there. Obviously this creates some additional issues, but that's one way to overcome biases in tournament procedure. Another option would be to use the NDT model of qualification, which includes "first round" qualifiers (top 16 teams via balloting from each of the nation's districts), district qualifiers, like the tournament I've described above, and "second round qualifiers" (enough teams to round out the field qualify via balloting, usually around 10-20).

 

However, if the DCI is analogous to the NDT, perhaps the state desires a CEDA style tournament. In that case, there shouldn't be a restriction on the number of teams allowed to compete per school, given that some schools could easily field more than 4 strong teams. However, this is not particularly feasible unless the tournament is held at a school with an immense number of classrooms. Further, this style of tournament would demand more prelims and outrounds. The CEDA national tournament has 8 prelims and breaks to either triple or partial quadruple octafinals, meaning anywhere from 64 to 128 teams participate in the elimination debates (all teams with a winning record clear). The field at this type of tournament is so large that about half the field (150 or so) teams could potentially clear if there were only 6 prelims.

 

Of course, the KSHSAA tournament is unlikely to yield a tournament this size, even if the 6-5-4 A tournament came into being. My guess is that it would have around 120 entrants at maximum. This is not an impossible size for a tournament. Both USC and CSUF are national college tournaments that have 6 prelims and about 100-120 entrants every year. While there are certainly some 4-2 teams that do not clear, this year only 2 such teams were left out between the two tournaments. Thus, the simplest solution would be to collapse the divisions and have a double octafinal debate, ie clear the top 32, instead of the top 16. For those about to complain about judges, this is 16 outround debates, which is the exact number that currently exists between the 6, 5 and 4A divisions. With access to all three pools simultaneously, the problem is moot. Then, the tournament would allow a large number of participants, while also being "more representative" in a sense. Further, it would resolve the pedagogical issues I have highlighted with regards to switch side debating.

 

Finally, I do not think that a round-robin is the best way to decide a state championship. I think someone made the argument that "you have to debate everybody," but that is misleading. You debate everyone, but all else is certainly not held equal. I know this from experience. Round robins often produce very slanted pairings, generally because of the side and the judge. That might not sound like much, but it produces a much larger effect than one might expect. Additionally, since there are no outrounds, and the pure win-loss record is all that matters (in addition to wildly arbitrary "ranks"), one unfortunate pairing could knock a team out of contention. The argument that "one outround also eliminates you" is a non-starter for me, because one prelim could eliminate you in the world of a round robin, and I trust a panel of judges more than one person. Further, the argument that you could panel the round robin is less feasible than one might think, given the struggle to find enough judges that constantly plagues tournaments.

 

Maybe making the tournament more competitive isn't a good idea, of that perhaps I could be persuaded. However, I refuse to believe any debate format that does not involve switching sides captures the full educational benefit of the debate dialectic.

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Seems weird that the only tournament during the year that requires 4Speaker is state. If it was the preferred way to determine a champion wouldn't other schools adopt?

 

I think Laker 24 alt has some possibilities.

 

When I debated and we had to take covered wagons to state, we didn't have 2-speaker option. The field was solid but I thought debating all aff or all neg was boring. Every debate was kind of the same, and same arguments.

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I have always felt that DCI is the state championship that the community recognizes, and KSHSAA State is the state championship that administrators and other non-debaters recognize.

 

KSHSAA trophies mean more money and support for programs throughout the state, in every classification. They mean more respect for debaters in the school hallway and more novices enrolling the following year. They mean increased job security for coaches. These are purposes worthy of service; serving them doesn't require us as a community to indulge the pretense that the tournament provides an absolute determination that a given team or school is the best in Kansas.

 

I haven't entered teams in 4-speaker in several years and may never do so again. I don't think anyone ought to attend it in the expectation that the format or judging will provide a terribly legitimate test of debating excellence as we understand it. I fully understand the criticisms of four-speaker raised in this thread. I just don't consider them relevant to the tournament's actual purpose, and I don't know why anyone would have a problem with its existence or would seek to eliminate it. Two sets of state title trophies mean that more outsiders in positions of authority wind up caring about debate, funding it, and protecting its interests. That can only be a good thing.

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Let me congratulate the community for a mostly positive dialogue. Too bad we can't change the name of the thread. As usual my friend from STA says it better and with fewer words than I can. Mr. Kennedy makes good points too. A couple of you could take out your double posts though!

 

Good luck to all!

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I too am very impressed that this dialogue has mostly been positive.  I knew it was possible, and glad to see it.  

 

I think what I'm hearing is that students want a champion regardless of any division.  Something that the community sees as the crowning acheivement.  Something that says, "I'm the best of the people in the good state of Kansas."  Okay, I'm cool with that.

 

Fun fact, there are 6 football state champions.  Each one of those administrations brag to the others about being state champions.  Some regionals were harder to get out of, and some teams didn't play others, and we all know any given Sunday...er... Friday you can have a bad night or injury that stops you from being the champion.  Some teams are better playing in the rain or cold where others are best when the conditions are just right.  There are tons of variables that go into winning a state trophy.  But, the six schools who earned that trophy are pretty darn proud, regardless if they truly were the best or just the best in the situation.  I am not sure that supports or refutes changes in 4 speak, but it is something to think about

 

If you are the very best in the state of Kansas in HI, DI, Prose, Poetry, Extemp, etc, you get a medal, not a state trophy.  Your preliiminary rounds count toward winning a state trophy.  So, to be a part of a state trophy and receive the recongnition from your administration, you have to hope that there are 15 other people in your school who are also pretty good (for 6A at least).

 

If we get rid of 4 speak, then 2 speak individual teams would likely not receive state trophies as they do now, just like the individual events for forensics.  Instead of the cool hardware that administrations brag about, you will get a nice shiny medal that you can put on your letter jacket.  

 

The reason the negative team wins in a tie is due to presumption.  That is changing the SQ is unpredicatable, and thus always has risk.  I'd hate to see changes or elimination of 4 speak lead to drastically less recongnition for debate students.

 

Sad fact, if you win state in LD debate, you only get a medal and a handshake.  You don't even help contribute to the forensics squad sweeps state trophy.  Personnally, before we make changes to policy debate that isn't truly broken, perhaps we can address the injustice that occurs for those who do LD.  They are bound by all the rules of having a state tournament but get none of the reward.  It only breaks to semis, which means losing a round with bad points and you are out, and lterally have no hope of even contributing to a state trophy.  That isn't even a joke, it is cruel

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I agree that there is nothing wrong with the current system. I like to debate the critique, but I understand the need for adaptation, something it appears my peers do not. I would say 4 speaker better represents real world debate, not the game we all love and play. Its probably better in indicating the real best debater, not just the best game player. For example, BVW BS are good at the game of debate, but in a real discussion i would take Manhattan PW, BVN EJ or SME HC 9 times out of 10. Taking it away would kill all real world value to debate (i would still do it for fun but thats another story, LOL).

 

Sad fact, if you win state in LD debate, you only get a medal and a handshake. You don't even help contribute to the forensics squad sweeps state trophy. Personnally, before we make changes to policy debate that isn't truly broken, perhaps we can address the injustice that occurs for those who do LD. They are bound by all the rules of having a state tournament but get none of the reward. It only breaks to semis, which means losing a round with bad points and you are out, and lterally have no hope of even contributing to a state trophy. That isn't even a joke, it is cruel

 

That being said...LD is retarded, as are most forensics events, and i think the less recognition they get the better!

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I agree that there is nothing wrong with the current system. I like to debate the critique, but I understand the need for adaptation, something it appears my peers do not. I would say 4 speaker better represents real world debate, not the game we all love and play. Its probably better in indicating the real best debater, not just the best game player. For example, BVW BS are good at the game of debate, but in a real discussion i would take Manhattan PW, BVN EJ or SME HC 9 times out of 10. Taking it away would kill all real world value to debate (i would still do it for fun but thats another story, LOL).

 

Seriously though who are you?

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I agree that there is nothing wrong with the current system. I like to debate the critique, but I understand the need for adaptation, something it appears my peers do not. I would say 4 speaker better represents real world debate, not the game we all love and play. Its probably better in indicating the real best debater, not just the best game player. For example, BVW BS are good at the game of debate, but in a real discussion i would take Manhattan PW, BVN EJ or SME HC 9 times out of 10. Taking it away would kill all real world value to debate (i would still do it for fun but thats another story, LOL).

 

Since I think this is a pretty blatant call out on Ideen and me, I feel that I have the right to respond. First, I think that if you are going to make bold claims about us not being good at "real debate", you should probably identify yourself (rest assured, we know who you are, just tell the community.) Second, while neither Ideen nor myself claim to be fantastic "lay" debaters, we had moderate success this year in rounds with inexperienced judges. Third, we never debated any of those 3 teams that would beat us 9 out of 10 times in lay rounds.

 

Now I want to respond to some of the underlying assumptions of your post. First, you seem to imply that fast debate is not educational. I think that Patrick Kennedy raised a good point earlier in the thread when he said that it is the knowledge gained from these debates that is beneficial but rather the method of argumentation. I would argue that fast debates enhance the educational benefits whereas slow debates are often repetitive and quite frankly, dull.

 

Obviously this post is not extremely responsive to the rest of the thread but I felt that I had a right to refute.

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Why aren't there regionals for 2 speaker state?

 

Would that not help with some of the field size concerns and judge supply.

 

Jiggly- nice and fair reply

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I agree that there is nothing wrong with the current system. I like to debate the critique, but I understand the need for adaptation, something it appears my peers do not. I would say 4 speaker better represents real world debate, not the game we all love and play. Its probably better in indicating the real best debater, not just the best game player. For example, BVW BS are good at the game of debate, but in a real discussion i would take Manhattan PW, BVN EJ or SME HC 9 times out of 10. Taking it away would kill all real world value to debate (i would still do it for fun but thats another story, LOL).

 

Lolzy. I guess BVW MN is the new A team then...

 

Seriously though, that's just silly. In a "real discussion" with a mommy in the back of the room, I can look her into the eyes and tell her "I did not have sex with that woman" while I'm plowing Monica Lewinsky during prep time. That doesn't make me smarter, prettier, or better at debate than Chris and Ideen. Subsequently, Michael Hill is probably 3x as smart as myself and infinitely better at debate than I am, and that doesn't always actually equate to wins in a "discussion", based solely on the fact that Michael talks too fast for an "Assistant Coach", and I don't.

 

I'm also not sure how 4-speaker is "real world debate". Last time I checked, Lawyers don't get 5 minutes of prep-time and they certainly don't use egg-timers for their opening statements.

 

And I'm also not really sure how 2-speaker state and a "flow round" destroys the "real world value" to debate. It teaches critical thinking, note-taking, and intense styles of research. All of these things equate to real-world skills that can get you a lot farther than "Talking Purty" or wearing "nice ties".

 

On an unrelated note: You are a troll.

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Sadly, this discussion is going the way of too many threads--folks are resorting to ad hominems and wild generalizations based upon their own experiences, however limited. Folks, I've seen styles of debate come and go over the last almost 40 years. What you think is the best and most educational may be laughed at in 20 years.

 

I wasn't going to post anything (I almost never read this forum--it's bad for my blood pressure), but I feel compelled to, as my school's experience is far different than most of yours.

 

Here goes.

 

Just a few late words from the viewpoint that hasn’t been well-represented in this discussion: a school that has had considerable success at 4-speaker (26 total state champs; 11 in the last approx. 15 years.) Caveats: We are 321A, which has implications in the style of debate we prefer, the amount of time the coaches have to prepare individual debaters, and the expectations we have for debaters to switch immediately to forensics and succeed there (We’re too small to specialize, and we expect success in all events; to wit: Mr. Stucky at Moundridge has coached multiple forensicators to NFL nationals, with finalists in international extemp 4 times and one national champion in IX* Some of our best interpers have been fine debaters, too).

 

First and foremost: we must keep any and all awards KSHSAA will grant our activity. Those Kansas-shaped trophies truly DO impress our administrators and our constituency. And debate needs all the help it can get. Keep both 2 and 4 speaker.

 

Second: Reasons we prefer 4-speaker BASED ON OUR EXPERIENCE 1. Round robin. Implications for prep for the tournament (we know who will be there; we know their style/strengths/weaknesses); the fact that no one can duck the strong teams; eliminates the luck factor in power matching/brackets (as in 2-speaker.) 2. Judging panels. A unique opportunity for our students to learn to address multiple paradigms in one round. This happens in out roundsin 2-speak--but doing so for 8 straight rounds is a super opportunity. 3. Team building. We do this intentionally. 4. Opportunity to advance specific skills. 5. Opportunity to develop, as a team, the very strongest affirmative we can. 6. We feel the format is more coaching-intensive; our small size means that the head coach can spend all his time at state reading 4-speaker ballots, coaching between rounds, etc. 7. After a very long season, our students look forward to something new. 4-speaker is a challenge they embrace.

 

Third: I believe that in order to do consistently well at 4-speaker, coaches and students must be very intentional in preparing for it. See reasons we prefer.

 

And no, debating one side 8 rounds isn’t dull. It’s grueling, it’s exhausting, and it’s only dull if you stop thinking and debate by rote.

 

Over the many, many years I’ve been judging 4-speaker, generally the best teams do rise to the top. Sometimes the order doesn’t exactly reflect what I heard in my rounds, but the judging panels don’t really screw it up too badly. Sometimes we’ve been pleasantly surprised to do as well as we have; a few times, we’ve been disappointed. It happens.

 

If you prefer 2-speaker, that’s fine. But if you really want to explore why some schools do consistently well at 4-speaker, get their input before you come to any conclusions.

 

Finally: the style of debate you prefer, the awards you win, aren't nearly as important as the entire skill set you acquire. You may disparage open-style debate, but our graduates from MHS overwhelmingly have found satisfying vocations. One recent grad is in the creative writing program at Stanford. Another is at the University of Chicago Law School (look it up). Others are in med school. Debate, regardless of format or style, enhances your ability to learn, to think, and to succeed.

 

*By recounting these stats, I’m not out to brag--just establish credibility in a forum dominated by large schools in NE Kansas, some of whose students have probably never even heard of Moundridge.

 

If anyone wants the warrants behind some of my claims, ask. I'll reply privately.

 

Gail Stucky

Assistant Debate Coach (MHS)

Assistant Forensics Coach (Bethel College)

--only one of six colleges and universities in the nation to qualify students to the AFA-NIET every year since its inception

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Finally: the style of debate you prefer, the awards you win, aren't nearly as important as the entire skill set you acquire. You may disparage open-style debate, but our graduates from MHS overwhelmingly have found satisfying vocations. One recent grad is in the creative writing program at Stanford. Another is at the University of Chicago Law School (look it up). Others are in med school. Debate, regardless of format or style, enhances your ability to learn, to think, and to succeed.

I don't think that learning to speak eloquently is unique to the 4-speaker format. Persuasion is a necessary element in any type of debate, adaptation to the audience is essential in the 2-speaker format and debaters still switch sides. However, failing to switch sides forfeits one of the most important parts of debate, engagement with alternative viewpoints. This is the part of debate that encourages critical thinking- in my opinion its the largest pedagogical benefit of the activity. That said, I am a 4-year college debater, and I still think that persuasive speaking skills are one of the biggest benefits of high school debate.

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Mr. Kennedy: The comment you address was (I admit) a bit off-topic. Let me try to clarify: no matter what your preference (2 vs 4; varsity/champ vs open), debate teaches important skills. The tendency on this forum has been to dismiss open debate as inferior, and I don't believe that is true in terms of educational outcomes.

 

The bottom line: keep debate healthy--in all its permutations and formats--because it's important to the educational process. Both debate and forensics have been shown (in masters' level research) to increase academic achievement in AP high schoool students over their non-debating/forensicating peers. Education needs to keep them. And to do so, we have to keep pounding on our administrators that they are important.

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Mr. Kennedy: The comment you address was (I admit) a bit off-topic. Let me try to clarify: no matter what your preference (2 vs 4; varsity/champ vs open), debate teaches important skills. The tendency on this forum has been to dismiss open debate as inferior, and I don't believe that is true in terms of educational outcomes.

 

The bottom line: keep debate healthy--in all its permutations and formats--because it's important to the educational process. Both debate and forensics have been shown (in masters' level research) to increase academic achievement in AP high schoool students over their non-debating/forensicating peers. Education needs to keep them. And to do so, we have to keep pounding on our administrators that they are important.

 

Agreed.

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