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Author Topic: Soliciting input for the 10-11 Topic  (Read 17845 times)
stables
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« on: November 10, 2009, 12:13:05 PM »

At the upcoming NCA meeting, the topic selection committee will be discussing potential areas of research for the upcoming topic selection process. Please consider this to be an open forum to make such suggestions.

At this point we are just brainstorming, so the goal is really coming up with interesting ideas. In the last four years we have utilized a range of topics and the committee is open to any potential subject matter (domestic, legal, international, etc.) for this upcoming season.

As a reminder full information about the process is available at  http://topic.cedadebate.org/?q=Topic+Process

Thanks
Gordon
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Gordon Stables
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Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
kelly young
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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2009, 10:05:23 PM »

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I agree that World of Warcraft gold selling should be next year's topic. The China economy DA will rock...
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loghry
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2009, 08:28:10 PM »

Space.
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lacyjp
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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2009, 09:44:01 PM »

Energy is always a favorite.

We can get around Uniqueness/Inherency issues. We're doing it now.
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kelly young
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« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2009, 10:15:37 PM »

I've mentioned this at the topic committee meetings before, but I think there could be something formed out of a Critical Infrastructure Protection topic. What are critical infrastructures? They include:
Banking and Finance
Electric Power Systems
Emergency Services
Gas and Oil Production Storage and Transportation
Information and Communications (cyber terrorism)
Transportation (including port security)
Water Supply System

Why do they matter? After 9-11, there became an immediate awareness of the complete lack of protection we have on many of these infrastructures. Despite uproar about it, not much happened as a result. From this month, a top newsletter/magazine on CIP ranked our protections no higher than a "C"--http://cip.gmu.edu/archive/cip_report_8.3.pdf

Why is it a potentially good topic?
Fairly well-defined literature base
Critical Infrastructure protection is a term of art
Still rather timely--whether its terrorism concerns, lack of energy infrastructure, lack of disease control protections, etc.

Downsides?
Diverse set of areas--while it is a unified topic due to the overarching them of CI protection, it deals with a rather random set of issues--banking, water supply, computer infrastructure. Concerns about terror attacks is an obvious broad connection, but I'm not sure there a very clear common neg set of arguments other than economy/biz con, federalism, competitiveness, spending DA and spending tradeoffs, regulation v. incentives CPs (**Please note that I also haven't read a ton about this topic to make a definitive assessment here. I tried writing a topic paper on this a few years ago and just didn't have the time to invest to check it out completely)

Good neg ground: Specific areas have some nice negative ground, but I worry about the core neg ground (as mentioned above). In my mind, this is the first place any investigation into this topic really needs. The aff ground is clearly there.

Could be a uber large topic: There are definitions of infrastructure and CI that include very long list of items. Could be difficult to pare down. At least there's literature that has intent to define. E.g., http://www.fas.org/irp/crs/RL31556.pdf

Final thoughts:
I'm not sure why this topic has always interested me, but it seems like we debate this a little on SE Asia (cyber-terror affs) energy and Indians, but not in much depth. I tried to write a topic paper, but: A) I just don't have the time to do this; and B) I am really bad at trying to construct a topic paper. I would be very happy to assist, but in no way oversee, a topic paper on this subject. Either way, I'm not 100% sold that this is a great idea, but one that's been on my mind for several years.

Kelly
« Last Edit: November 11, 2009, 11:55:09 PM by kelly young » Logged

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Ryan Galloway
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« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2009, 09:11:06 AM »

At NCA in Chicago, the topic committee met and floated some topic ideas.  I'll first describe what I view as being an important test for topics, and then discuss some of those ideas.  In a follow-up post, I'll defend why we should debate treaties in 2010-2011 (meaning the US signing on to a multilateral treaty in which it is not currently a part).

Rubric for topics:  The Obama problem.

I think President Obama is a great president.  But he is bad for debate.  Even this year, we've seen massive changes in the topic occur on the day of tournaments.  The day before GSU, Obama moved missile defense out of Europe, creating big problems for this topic...but would have even been worse if we were debating Russia.  A day before Richmond, he was granted the Nobel Peace Prize, complicating a bunch of uniqueness questions.  At Liberty and Wake, huge health care votes happened that complicated the politics of the topic.

He supports reducing nuclear weapons.  He supports cap & trade style initiatives for the environment.  He supports moves to health care.  Basically, he is an activist, liberal president that generally supports things the community likes, making uniqueness very difficult under the Obama administration.  Any topic chosen for 2010-2011 must deal with the Obama problem.

It seems Bush was good for some things after all.  He was great for comedians, and he was good for debate...

Solving the "Obama problem"

I can see four potential solutions to the Obama problem for debate:

1) A situation where Obama isn't the only relevant factor.  There may be some structural actions that Obama can't get through because he doesn't have the votes.  Presidents need 67 votes in the Senate to get multilateral treaties ratified.  There are several good articles on the "problem of 67" with relation to Obama.

2) Things Obama supports that our liberal community might oppose:  Obama has sanctioned China on various trade issues.  He may not be negotiating trade agreements with Latin America correctly.

Oh, and he didn't sign-on to the Ottawa Landmines Protocol this morning. 

3) A non-US actor:  UN reforms, the IMF, the World Bank are possibilities.  Someone said the Court, but they'll have to fight that fight.

I think it will take many, many wins for me to have enough political capital to push a courts topic anytime soon   Grin

4) A conservative topic:  this might be the second best approach, honestly.  Require the AFF to go conservative or free market on environment, health care, etc.  In my sort of mental queue for topics, I think it's time to debate an environment topic, and preferably not a carbon emissions environment topic.  There is a new article out in either Foreign Affairs or Foreign Policy on the debate regarding non-c02 style pollutants.


Straw Poll at NCA/Wake
Some of the topics discussed at NCA and in some hallway discussions I had at Wake, people thought of the following ideas:

Treaties
Latin America
Higher Education
Bio-Ethics
Internet Regulation
Financial Regulation
Grand Strategy:  Troop Decreases Around the globe
Space
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Ryan Galloway
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« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2009, 09:25:49 AM »

I think the best solution to the "Obama problem" outlined in my previous post is to debate treaties in 2010-2011.  Treaties was one of the most popular topics of the last decade (many say THE most popular topic), and the case is ripe to debate it again.  I feel we can move to different treaties, take advantage of the current political situation where Obama is either opposed to or can't get support for the US to sign on to major multi-lateral treaties, and debate a topic with a focused mechanism that also allows for a broad range of ideas to be discussed.

The Problem of 67
Simply, Obama can't get enough support for popular treaties he might want to push like the Law of the Sea Treaty.  He just doesn't have the votes to do it in the Senate.  It is extremely unlikely that the political winds will change sufficiently during the 2010 elections that will cause this to occur.

This helps "insulate" the topic from some of the discussion in the previous post, like Obama's support for reductions in nuclear weapons during the topic.  I get that it doesn't insulate us from health care debates during the topic, but the notion that a major treaty will be ratified during the year approaches almost zero percent risk. 

Simple Mechanism, Broad Ideas
Treaties neatly fits the balance between creating a stable mechanism that allows for a broad reach out to various ideas that we could debate.  Even a beginning set of treaties can get the juices flowing on what all we could debate.  We should pro-actively seek out treaties on important international issues we think are worthy of debate.

For example:

The Law of the Sea Treaty
The Ottawa Landmines Protocol
The Right of the Child
CEDAW
The Basel Toxic Waste Convention

The ICC (this may be recyclable because he thinks the debate on it has changed enough since 2003).

A lot of very different ideas packaged into one topic, with a neat bow on top as to how to unify the mechanism.  I add two cautions:
1) I oppose bi-lateral treaties.  The question of this topic, to me, is whether or not the US should sign-on to a multi-lateral treaty that puts restrictions on the United States in the name of bolstering international norms and regulations in a given area.  I thought SORT deviated from that theme in 2003, and I'd rather put a lid on that.
2) Right now, I oppose inclusion of the CTBT, because it is both a case on this topic and because so many of the issues are ones we are directly debating now.

Treaties was really popular
Some might be concerned that we're "going back to the well" on an issue.  I don't know why we should be afraid to recycle good ideas.  Almost every debater I've ever talked to liked the treaties topic.  SORT seemed to be one minor downside, and some may have thought the number of treaties was too small.  The topic was also "CTBT heavy."  I would support moving out to 7-9 treaties for flexibility.

The List Question
I have explained my personal list ideology before.  Lists work for certain ideas, and not others.  Lists are a tool to achieve an end, not an ideology in themselves.

I opposed a list for 2009-2010.  I don't like plan lists, because I think they lead to murky T debates (witness the various T debates on Europe regarding DNA harmonization and Iraq).  A list for the sake of doing a list makes little sense to me.

I like lists with a stable mechanism and then a clean list of ideas for that mechanism.  I like lists when they work for what we are trying to do (answer the question of whether or not the US should bind itself to international treaties in the name of bolstering international norms and regulations). 

Perhaps someone could come up with a way of doing treaties without a list and get around the "list-phobia" in the community.  I think the case for treaties is strong enough that even if a coach generally didn't like lists that they could support the idea of a treaties topic.

Obama's decision this morning to not sign on to the Ottawa Protocol only clarifies the case for treaties.  Treaties solves the uniqueness problem, has currency in literature being discussed as we speak, and allows us to debate a broad range of ideas under a coherent rubric.

Vote for treaties in 2010-2011.

RG

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antonucci23
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2009, 04:13:04 AM »

I'm (probably) writing a controversy paper on Internet regulation.  I want to develop it further before really wading into any extended discussion.  Any initial comments or thoughts would be appreciated, however, either here or at mja72@georgetown.edu.  I'm actually acutely interested if you think the whole project's a fail, because I don't want to burn the time if the topic's a loser from the outset.

I think treaties would be an excellent topic as well.  Internet reg's a bit fresher - which I like - and potentially less listy - which matters to some people who aren't me. 

It's all moot, however, prior to a knowledgeable report on potential wording and mechanisms, which I hope to deliver before the deadline.
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Hester
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« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2009, 12:12:38 PM »

they may have the same answer for some, but they are different:

1) what topic would be best for purposes of creating a year-long, competitive season of debate?

2) what topic would best fulfill educational purposes of debating a single topic each season?

prior to the topic merger, the NDT community consensus was that a topic "rotation" of sorts was most beneficial in terms of education. at least one foreign policy, one domestic policy, and one court (actor) topic every four years (with the extra year allowing for a repeat. that is one way to answer #2. whether it's formally adopted, it's also the way most people think about topics (i.e., "aww, we just debated that...")

this is Year 21 for me in college debate. with that history greatly influencing my opinions, here they are:

A) Topics that we (college debate - i don't give much weight to what high schools "debate") haven't debated as Resolutions in the last 20+ years and are currently HUGE issues in US public policy:

- Infrastructure, ala K Young's proposal.
- Transportation
- Biomedical R&D
- Health Care (the insurance/care part as distinct from biomed)

B) Either Topics that we've debated, but it's been awhile or Topics that may not seem (on the surface, at least) to be "hot topics":

- Space (nope, no Space topic in NDT 1989-1995, or CEDA/NDT 1996-present)
- Privacy (the last time this was a college topic, cell phones didn't exist for anyone except the wealthy and Men in Black, AOL was relevant to Internet discussions, and DNA testing was more of a sci-fi discussion)
- Latin America
- Election Reform

C) Obama's policies affect RESOLUTIONS, not TOPICS. i'm not advocating a Climate topic (we've had multiple "environment" topics since we last debated several other issues that are just as important), but to avoid debating it b/c the Obama administration may/will act on it is bad method. the direction of the Resolution determines whether uniqueness will be a problem, not the topic area itself. the Resolution can always be written to go the other way. if it's a true public controversy, there's ample aff literature on different sides. if we're going to promote college debate as a relevant voice in public policy (which appears to be the trend), then we cannot shy away from certain topics just because Obama (or whoever's in office) is motivated to act in that area. in fact, that may be a warrant for choosing that topic!

from the debate coach's perspective, i'd rather see a Critical Infrastructure topic than a Treaties topic. it's more timely in terms of what the US has ignored at its own peril, it's been wholly ignored by the college debate community, and it'd be nice to see debaters have to read some different literature rather than scouring backfiles for Congressional-Executive Agreement CPs.
imo, Treaties is not a topic area, but just a mechanism subset within the larger area of International Law. now THAT could be a cool area - old school  "USFG should <insert directional verbage> international institutions."


 
« Last Edit: December 14, 2009, 12:16:50 PM by Hester » Logged
jtedebate
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« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2009, 08:21:30 PM »

my area preferences...

1. Grand Strategy/Reduce Deployments (if not HS topic)
2. Space
3. Treaties
4. Latin America

Alternate ideas that might be fun/interesting
-Overpopulation
-Resources & Minerals
-domestic democracy (increase?)
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N. Brown
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« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2009, 08:52:15 PM »

I really want to debate biomed research. I feel like debaters rarely discuss science in any kind of serious way, which I've always found disappointing. Scientific literature is rich and diverse, and a nice break from the very well researched field of international relations. I don't know if people are afraid to jump into this literature or if there are simply too many problems with making it an actual debate topic. Is there any interest in debating this?

I think it would be really cool to debate space. Seems like a good mix of science, international relations, etc.
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Jake Weiner
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« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2010, 10:57:03 AM »

A couple of random thoughts about choosing a topic and resolution, not that anyone cares.

It seems like we are out of new ideas, and I say this knowing I am no better.  We have gotten some good areas recently, but I don't know if recycling old topic areas until they eventually win is the best way to go.  We just need more brain storming and we need more topic papers from a wide number of sources.  Do I have a solution to this problem?  No, of course I don't, but I think maybe we should step back and think of new structures that we can undertake to make topic papers easier to create, discuss and distribute earlier. 

While I don't envy the complicated process of resolution creation that the topic committee has to go through every year, I do have to say that it has been increasingly evident that the topics are indeed created by committee.  While there really is no recourse for a "bad" topic area, we have had some good topic areas go wrong because the topic committee has to cobble together something from a wide variety of "special interests" (like limiting the number of cases, potential CP ground, etc).  It seems in the attempt to worry about the potential cases that could be run before the topic is even created we have basically destroyed much of the innovation that was the impetus for creating a limited topic in the first place.  In essence, I am just asking if the pendulum has now swung too far the other direction.

It just seems that many of the topics are "gerrymandered" to try to please everyone.  It has created convoluted wordings, confusion and some incredibly long resolutions.  This year we even ended up with multiple dependent clauses.

I think that it might be time for the topic committee consider simplicity when trying to phrase the topic area.  I understand that simplicity and "special interests" are almost antithetical, so I am just suggesting that trying to predetermine the balance of the resolution in one weekend prior to the year even starting may be too much for anyone to do and it may be better to prioritize the value of having a "good" wording over having a "balanced" wording.

That all said, I have a huge amount of respect for the amount of work that the topic committee does prior to and during the meeting.  It is one of the most thankless jobs in debate, and I have absolutely no doubts about the quantity and quality of the work that goes into making a topic.  I applaud everyone that takes part in the process, and keep up the amazing work!
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JannaReynolds
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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2010, 12:02:11 PM »

Anyone know who is writing the Latin America Topic Paper?
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stables
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« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2010, 06:02:55 PM »

Two items for folks -

1) Jarrod Atchison is working on Latin America.

2) In reply to Jake - I really think you are largely basing your input on how we have historically framed topics. Ever since we shifted to the two stage (controversy and wording paper stage) process the topic ballots very closely follow the lead of the original author. We can't always use the exact phrases and we very much want to create some options within those approaches, but we do start with the winning controversy paper as an foundation.

If there is a certain approach (i.e., list or nonlist, actor, etc.) I would suggest folks consider how they could be blended into the controversy papers. When the Middle East topic was written, for example, it started with the foundation that a list of countries would be productive. A similar judgement was made by the authors of the agricultural support controversy paper. When the International Institutions paper was submitted last year, it explicitly argued an international actor would be 'the' actor. If that paper had been selected by the community, we would not have listed a US actor on the wording ballot.

In short, the shift to controversies is a way for the community to resolve many of the disputes you mention. If the community would like to frame the central proposition in a certain way it should be linked to that controversy paper. We can certainly consider some of these questions in the wording stage, but if the winning paper lays a foundation for a certain approach it makes a great deal of sense to work with that perspective.

Thanks for the feedback.

Gordon



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Gordon Stables
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Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
Jarrod Atchison
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« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2010, 09:45:06 AM »

Quick clarification, our group is focusing solely on immigration. If someone wants to work on a larger Latin America paper then they should jump right in.
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