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Author Topic: Soliciting input for the 10-11 Topic  (Read 17843 times)
Full Member
Posts: 108

« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2010, 12:54:47 PM »


This is not a knock on the specific ideas (Immigration, Space, etc) or yet-to-be produced papers defending each option.

But, I think referring to these topics not as "Latin America" or "Space", but (in time) referring to them by mechanism is actually somewhat important. I think it is especially important as these ideas begin to float on CEDA forum posts.

... voters have a natural tendency to say "yeah... that's an interesting item for discussion".... "Immigration seems cool"... "I saw Space Jam (featuring Shawn Bradley) - a topic like that would obviously rule"...

But, we very rarely "discuss" the harm area. This is because is not 1982. Yet, it is astonishingly difficult to break that mental approach to voting or topic production. I believe many problems flow from this conceptual starting point. And, I also think that people may support the slogan "immigration topic" or "space topic" more than they support "the curtail illegal immigration topic" or "decrease space militarization topic"

So, while I have faith that each paper will obviously identify mechanisms, I'm rockin' the language K....

...In no way is this to be taken as a broader endorsement of the Kritik...

  -- Will
Full Member
Posts: 153

« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2010, 05:37:00 PM »

with will's insightful comment in mind, perhaps the Topic Committee will consider resolution choices that reflect a diversity of implementation directions/mechanisms as a way of inclusively recognizing that two people who like "immigration" as a topic may have different ideas for how ground should be defined and divided...

Full Member
Posts: 108

« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2010, 08:58:35 PM »

1. gotten backchannels -- want to clarify. Let me see if this helps:

There is a distinction between *topic* papers (the phase we are presently approaching) and *wording* papers (later phase).

I think there never should have been a *topic* called "China" or "Courts"... I think those *topics* should have always been referenced as "the pressure on China topic" or the "overrule topic".

... When the community -- or , more specifically the committee -- is saddled with a popular harm or problem area (say "Europe" or China") that lacks a defined mechanism, we have often wound-up with two problems:

 a) There is no (good) mechanism for that problem area -- and yet a tremendous percentage of the debates themselves hinge on mechanism and not problem area

 b) There is a good mechanism -- but it shifts the focus from the what voters originally thought they'd be getting. I suspect the "pressure China topic" (for instance) would have drawn a different voting constituency than the "China topic".

2. Where I commend the committee -- I know that Gordon has strongly pushed the process towards a mechanism-related focus.

My beef is not (at all) with him. Rather, I think the voters (by and large) need to spend more time reviewing the *topic* papers from the perspective of the end-game. The end-game is the mechanism -- not the problem area. And, most every paper will speak to mechanism(s).

3. Where I slightly disagree with Hester (and this is a quibble):

Instead of asking the committee to include ballot options that reflect a diverse set of opinions of what constitutes a good "immigration" topic, I think there should never be something we reference as "an immigration topic"... Instead, in our hallway and online chatter (as well as our ballot options) our topics should be up-front about the end-game -- and our hallway chatter should re-orient itself towards "the decrease space exploration topic"... or the "increase legal immigration topic"....

... this small rhetorical shift maximizes informed voting and (I think) would leave more of the community pleased with the final *wording* (as it would be more apt to reflect what they voted for/against).

4. No beef w/ Jarrod's paper -- he told me that "we got the mechanisms in the paper".. My comment is more about how we talk and think about topics more generally.

 -- Will
Jr. Member
Posts: 51

« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2010, 10:09:31 PM »

While I largely agree with Will on the point that mechanism should be a focus, I'm not sure that making the topic papers specify the directionality of their topic is the way to solve the problem. I guess this is what Hester is saying. 

Couldn't it be the case that we could decide to debate "space" or "immigration" and then decide the mechanism. Perhaps it could be the case that there could be mechanisms that could have differing telos as a result of discussion after the topic is chosen?

For instance, on "Agriculture" (e.g. the WTO topic) perhaps there should have been a phase in which we could decide to debate about subsidies or something else actually about agriculture. This seems (to me) to be the purpose of "wording" papers, but I know this is not how it is done in practice.

So for "immigration" there are a number of different mechanisms (or policy angles), "decrease illegal immigration" or "increase amnesty" etc etc, does the mechanism have to be set in stone from the topic paper or can the topic committee have a little more leeway in deciding these things.

In the current situation the topic committee produces a set of topics that are simply different wordings of achieving basically the end goal. Is it totally out of the question to have a more diverse set of options on the topic slate so we don't have all vote on different wordings of how to "increase federal control of space"

I guess what I'm saying is that this stage of voting ends up unintentionally voting on mechanisms, but I'm not sure that's the most productive. This maybe a criticism of the controversy process, but I'm not sure that a controversy by its nature has only one direction. Doesn't a controversy have more than one side (or mechanism) by its very nature?
Sr. Member
Posts: 334

« Reply #19 on: April 14, 2010, 02:13:58 AM »

Great feedback. Keep it coming.

When I took over as chair of the topic committee I felt very strongly that the committee had too large of a task. Steve and the folks at that point did a herculean job of accepting just about any paper (finished or not) and then letting the community vote on the broad 'topic.' This produced two major concerns for me:

1) There was always the potential of a large disconnect between the topic that folks imagined they were voting for and some of the options that would inevitably get considered in the wording stage. Examples - China and Russia as rogues options, Trade or military only topics (not to mention Taiwan). This was the logical outgrowth of giving the committee nearly no direction beyond 'places' like Europe. Remember folks who complain about the Indian Country topic. That paper was written to decrease federal control. The only way we got to increase was the
'freedom' of the topic committee to produce resolutions that were opposite of the paper submitted by a community member. That is not a very good process.

2) The old approach changed the responsibility of the committee to answering all of the options, not just the relevant questions.  When people asked how pressure became the key term in the China topic the answer was it was given some time. It was not given very much time because of all of the other options on our plate during those 2 1/5 days. As the scope of the job increases it is easier to make 'small' mistakes that can become very large during the season. I won't say our work is fool-proof under controversies, but we have a narrower scope and more time to assess essential terms.

The controversy process empowers authors and voters to know much more clearly what to expect. Our guidelines don't prohibit multiple controversies from one subject matter, but they do ask that we have some sense of clearer guidance. Consider the difference between the Middle East and China topic processes. For China, all options were on the table. Increase military coop or decrease it. Increase economic coop or pressure. Human rights and Taiwan were also considered as topic mechanisms. For the Middle East, we had a clear mission to produce wordings that best reflected a new engagement policy.

I am willing to see criticism that the controversy and wording process is too constrained for the committee. It is an approach that allows us to fine tune topics, not reinvent them in the short window we have. We are swarmed with contradictory input in those narrow windows and everyone asserts that they know 1) the will of the community and 2) what is best for the community. With the controversy process we ask the community to play a much larger role in that formulation than any single one of us.

I firmly believe the best way to produce topics is to create more time for the community to write papers that are targeted to some goal. Sarah is right - you can and should have more than one mechanism to address a controversy. During the ag topic, for example, it was important the authors framed it as 'reducing ag support' because we assessed both subsidies and tariffs. The controversy was lessening federal support to farmers. With that more narrow task in mind we were able to assess the  relative merits of specific mechanisms.

The new process has tried to make this work by stretching out the early phase and making it possible to write papers in the off-season. I wish we had even more time, but there is sustained opposition to pushing the summer meetings in the mid-summer workshop and summer school schedule.

I invite more discussion of the approach and guidelines. I am proud of the work that the committee has done and continues to do under this system.


Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
kevin kuswa
Sr. Member
Posts: 345

« Reply #20 on: April 14, 2010, 06:06:15 AM »

Another mid-stage process that helps this (agreeing with Sarah) is diversity on the final wording ballot.

Last year had more diversity than most years and I think that helps a lot.

You get more room for diversity in two ways: 1) moving from the fidelity of the area paper (which will not happen in the squo and is probably a good thing); 2) having diversity in the area paper and the wordings.

So talking about a "Space" area is fine at this point--even if the area paper includes "decrease" and "increase" junk/weapons/exploration wordings.  

What is most important in my opinion (in the interests of keeping the topics short and somewhat simple/elegant) is more diversity in the final slate of wordings.  To get to that diversity, we need area papers to include a variety of different types of wordings/mechanisms etc.  Also, for Will, what exactly is a "mechanism"?  My word critique here is that you are conflating mechanism with verb and that hamstrings the whole process.

Enjoying it,

« Last Edit: April 14, 2010, 03:16:40 PM by kevin kuswa » Logged
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