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kevin kuswa
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Posts: 345


« on: November 16, 2012, 06:20:21 PM »

As change is in the wind and we are coming up on a bit of a break before January (I know there are still a few tournaments, but it's sort of down time), it's time to re-open the conversation on a convention of debate that really needs to be re-visited:  the USFG agent problem.

USFG, USFG, USFG, USFG, X 10

That's how creative we are with our topic agents.  You should not have to ride the Imagineering Figament to know this is stale and embarassing, let alone pedagogically unsound.  Creative thinking is being muted because of misplaced fears even though one of the best things debate is designed to encourage is creative thinking.

What do we need to have a viable controversy paper with the possibility for a non-USFG agent?  Is it possible to re-work the economic inequality paper?  Another area?  Specify the non-USFG agent instead of arguing for the passive voice?  A paper that only details the passive voice and does not leave open the option for both passive constructions and the USFG?

Other thoughts here?

Would also like to hear from those schools or voting members of squads that would never ever ever vote for a controversy area that entertained a non-USFG agent.  Why is that your feeling?  Is there any space for change despite the fact that you fall in the "never ever ever" category?

Maybe the upcoming Courts/legal topic (at least once over the next three years) is a chance for a relatively benign non-USFG option?

Let's get some thoughts out there if possible--hoping to do some planning and work so that there are some options put together before the last minutes after NDT prior to the topic deadlines. 

Any sort of sharing--even secret backchannels--would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Kevin
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joe
Jr. Member
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Posts: 73


« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2012, 07:08:17 PM »

People will never give up their politics DA and hege debates.  Although personally I'd be willing to be down for trying something new, I doubt this goes anywhere.
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KKernoff
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Posts: 6


« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2012, 08:38:33 PM »

Charles Olney floated the idea over the summer of writing a topic paper for a resolution along the lines of Resolved: The United States Constitution should be amended as a possible middle ground (since there are clear and limited processes for amending the Constitution) and a legal topic.
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charrigan
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Posts: 105


« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2012, 09:07:01 PM »

I wouldn't say never. An OK way to get political support for change might be to retain a focus on public policy but utilize a non-USFG agent. The topic could be passive voice, but would probably be more likely to be chosen if it used the States, EU, Canada, or another English-speaking country as the actor.

I'm not saying this is my preference (actually still like USFG as actor) but more of a suggestion if the goal is to put together a topic that stands a reasonable chance of winning.
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antonucci23
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Posts: 138


« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2012, 06:58:11 AM »

I wouldn't say never. An OK way to get political support for change might be to retain a focus on public policy but utilize a non-USFG agent. The topic could be passive voice, but would probably be more likely to be chosen if it used the States, EU, Canada, or another English-speaking country as the actor.

I'm not saying this is my preference (actually still like USFG as actor) but more of a suggestion if the goal is to put together a topic that stands a reasonable chance of winning.

An idea along similar lines:

Given a significant constituency for non-usfg topics, it seems reasonable to include this is a topic option on any topic slate.  (I believe one super listy topic should be included for similar reasons, even if that's not my preference.)

Kevin, it might be worthwhile to encourage paper authors to include a non-usfg option without committing them to an entirely non-usfg paper.  I'm not sure what the non-usfg version of this topic might have been (IAEA?  Just China?  China agent topics would be kinda spicy), but it seems on principle that there should be latent international issues in most any topic.
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Ryan Galloway
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Posts: 119


« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2012, 11:44:22 AM »

I tried this by submitting the IMF topic paper the year the nukes topic won.

The IMF paper (which had the IMF and World Bank as the agents) came in last.  I'm happy to try this experiment again, but I don't see evidence of the constituency that Kevin envisions for a non-US agent.

RG
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DarrenElliott
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Posts: 112


« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2012, 12:03:29 PM »

What about a non-specified agent topic?
Resolved: The prison system in the United States should be overhauled.

Resolved: International trade restrictions should be loosened.

Resolved: The United States legal system should overturn laws restricting one or more of the following: same sex partner benefits, race-based standards for collegiate admissions, women's reproductive rights, health care.

Gives you a domestic option, an international option, a courts option.
All options allow flexibility over the agent which is good (problem area debate is good for the community).
Forces creative thinking on what agents are best.
Preserves disad ground for politics folks. Just forces more and better link cutting Smiley

Not sure why we have to specify the agent in the topic if creativity and flexible debating is something we mostly all can agree is a good thing.

Chief
KCKCC
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ScottElliott
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Posts: 148


« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2012, 01:19:32 PM »

What about a non-specified agent topic?
Resolved: The prison system in the United States should be overhauled.

Resolved: International trade restrictions should be loosened.

Resolved: The United States legal system should overturn laws restricting one or more of the following: same sex partner benefits, race-based standards for collegiate admissions, women's reproductive rights, health care.

Gives you a domestic option, an international option, a courts option.
All options allow flexibility over the agent which is good (problem area debate is good for the community).
Forces creative thinking on what agents are best.
Preserves disad ground for politics folks. Just forces more and better link cutting Smiley

Not sure why we have to specify the agent in the topic if creativity and flexible debating is something we mostly all can agree is a good thing.

Chief
KCKCC

All of those have the U.S. federal government, or the state governments, as agents of action...unless, of course, you want to allow the Affirmative to argue the Government of Fiji should relax its trade restrictions. And, the negative will just choose the USFG as the counterplan ground. So, I do not see how it really advances anything to exclude the USFG from the agent of action. It just makes the affirmative even more shady and negatives will just run heg, etc. on the negative as a net benefit. Unless you are going to debate things like, "Resolved: bright orange is preferable to burnt orange," there is always going to be an agent of action.  I can already see my first affirmative case on the "prison system reform" topic: Plan: the state government of North Dakota will build a sweat lodge inside its state penitentary. (there is actually a court case about this). Its much better to at least hope the affirmative is tied to one agent of action.
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DarrenElliott
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Posts: 112


« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2012, 06:19:47 PM »

And this is why 2 people on the topic committee from the same school should not be a big concern (that amendment failed the Business Meeting anyways).

Being tied to an agent does not prevent aff "shadiness" nor does it prevent people from running Heg.  If those are the only 2 disads, they are non-unique and no topic process will set out to prevent those (especially the Heg as a strat one). 

Yes, Aff's will have to defend an agent of action.  My argument for why the topic should be problem focused and not agent focused is the flexibility it allows.  If the risk is some debates devolve to USFG as the CP, then it's marginally (at the very least) better than all Aff's having to defend the USFG when a large component of the community understands the value of agent debates and exploring options that are not USFG.  Also probably important to understand how agents besides the US Congress work.  Virtually none of our debaters will end up in Congress.  Understanding how lobbyists work, how other governments work, how lower courts work, how state governments work, how individual people approach topics are all beneficial and mostly foreclosed by the squo.

Maybe the answer is the "list" problem/issue we face is the alt.  Have an agent list with a broad topic area.  Though I still think the topic without the agent is not a doomsday scenario.

People should embrace large topics and not be scared.

Finally, and this may immediately scare some away, a non agent focused res would allow people to approach the topic from their own personal perspective/location.  Yea, yea framework decides this question in many debates and look where that is leading us.  On the question of switch side, personal politics allow you to switch "sides" on a problem area while not forsaking your convictions.  Something else the community should at least be open to.  Perhaps.

Define a problem.  Allow creativity and flexibility (Steinberg and Freeley in 08) and allow debates to become organic. This is much more in line with opposing the mentality to predict all NDT affs that you, Scott, feels is one of the biggest drawbacks to the topic process.

Worst case, we do it one year, it's a failed experiment, and we return to the squo.

chief

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cramhelwich
Jr. Member
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Posts: 67


« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2012, 06:50:12 PM »

This argument implies that there is a dichotomy between "agent" focused resolutions and "problem area" focused resolutions.

There is no dichotomy. These are only two elements of resolution construction.

In my experience, many (if not most) "fix a problem" topics quickly devolve into "agent" topics--see any "problem" focused high school topic from the last 15 years.

Resolutions produce the best debates when they force debaters to pick sides on the most salient controversy (or controversies) in the literature. Given consensus on the existence of many "problems" (at least among folks that the vast majority of the debate community deems credible), controveries often center on *how* we should address those problems.

Such how questions sometimes involve matters of agent. More often they revolve around questions of mechanism (which sometimes, but not always, imply agent questions).

This is not an argument for or against "alt agents" (I think they are fine as long as a) they actually have a literature base that can sustain a season of debate and b) they are relevant to lives of coaches and debaters). I shudder at the thought of "fix it" resolutions.
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spurlock
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Posts: 24


« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2012, 11:26:45 PM »

My vote-
Resolved: Syria. 

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spurlock
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Posts: 24


« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2012, 02:11:23 AM »

Or Resolved: Iran to avoid recent topic overlap. 
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ScottElliott
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Posts: 148


« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2012, 08:04:01 AM »

My vote-
Resolved: Syria. 
 I wish cedaforums had a "like" button.

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ScottElliott
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Posts: 148


« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2012, 08:34:35 AM »

So, in the world of "problem" focused areas, negatives get to negate the following problems/topic areas?:

"oppression is bad"
"poverty is bad"
"environmental destruction is bad"
"prisons need some type of reform"
"international trade is unfair, problematic"
"human rights good"
"same sex partner benefits,"
"women's reproductive rights,"
"health care"

I disagree with Kevin that there are "controversies" within the judging/debate community. Outside of a very limited set of critique authors, most people already agree with one side of each of the so-called controversies listed above. The only issue is how to solve those problems, the mechanism. Take this year's topic controversy area. Under this agentless/no mechanism format, I guess it would be, "United States energy policy should be changed," or "Energy policy in the United States sucks, it should be changed, by somebody, or something, in some way." 

By defining them as "problem areas" from the jump, the debates are already skewed. Few people would want to be on the wrong side of these debates.....especially if the affirmative gets to choose any mechanism she wants to solve the problem.

I read Darren's post, and his example of personal politics is exactly what I fear the most. Imagine a world in which many teams, quite topically, and within the framework of an agentless resolution, get to say, "I am personally resolved that women should have reproductive rights [insert personal narrative about being a victim of sexual assault, and being grateful to be offered a morning after pill in the emergency room]........your turn to go negative." 
Or, how about, "I personally am resolved that homosexuals deserve equal rights. I am gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender [pick one], and my dad called me bad names when I came out of the closet.......your turn to go negative." 

Or, a real example from my life: "Poverty sucks. I am resolved that people should not live in poverty. I was homeless my freshman year of college and it sucked.....your turn to go negative."

Finally, to use Chris' example of "Resolved: Syria."  "Man, shit in Syria just got real, I am not down with that.....your turn to go negative."

What ground, other than a few kritiks, does the negative have in the world of these debates? Even if I run, a counter-plan, the USFG should do your advocacy, the affirmative can easily 1) permute it and 2) read some pretty compelling disads about personal agency.

Its not about predicting what will be run in semifinals NDT [my pick of power generation in Guam has already been run this year]; my issue is fair division of ground. Darren is right that I think people obsess over limiting affirmative choices. But, the proposed solution seems to go too far in favor of the affirmative.
The problem areas cited by agentless topic advocates so far are not fair division ground.
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Ermo
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Posts: 243


« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2012, 09:49:47 AM »

The problem areas cited by agentless topic advocates so far are not fair division ground.

Here is another way to think about the topical ground question:

"No Link" & "perm" are affirmative's version of topicality. If it is harmful (for variety of reasons) to require the affirmative to uphold the resolution, it is harmful (for similar reasons) to require the negative to affirm the antithesis of whatever resolution can be teased out of the 1ac.

Arguably it is worse, because the non-topical resolution which the 1ac suggests as a replacement is usually suffers from one or more of the following problems which would preclude it from receiving majority support on a year-long topic ballot:
a. It is self-serving and imbalanced
b. It varies by the team, leading to tens or hundreds of resolutions instead of one. If this approach were widely accepted, what we've seen thus far is logically just the tip of the iceberg.
c. It may descend into the personal (who am I to tell you what strategy you 'ought to' use to deal with personal issues in your life?)
d. It is strategically ambiguous
e. It often differs in important ways from the literature base supporting it, such that refutations of that literature base are not presumed relevant

The edifice of 'affirmative choice' stems historically from resolutions written so that any (one or more of the following) single topical plan could logically prove the whole topic. I recall reading an article once about the use of "existential qualifiers" (a/an/one or more of the following). The logic of such a resolution would allow alternative justification approaches, but limiting the affirmative to a single topical case came to be preferred over A/J or counterwarrants on the assumption that a deeper debate is a better one. The epistemological unhinging of 'affirmative choice' from these roots is widely practiced, but rarely scrutinized except through the limited perspective of topicality.

Instead of asking "why should we demand that the affirmative be limited to defending a topical case," we should ask "why should we demand that the negative be limited to defending a topical case" (by which 'topical' means 'competitive with the affirmative case').

None of this precludes a topic constructed to address concerns of whiteness, blackness, or other issues worthy of concern. In fact, a topic designed to facilitate a debate with balanced ground on those issues might be the only way to assure in-depth discussion of those issues. I don't promise to vote for such a topic, but, if someone wanted to persuade me to do so, demonstrating a way to construct it which allowed balanced ground would be a great start. I might also be more willing to spend a tournament on such a topic as an experiment than committing to it for a full season. Unless one is concerned about sanctioning for points, I see no barrier to someone offering to host an invitational committed to a different topic or a different type of topic. But that possibility is distinct from my primary thesis, which is that "no link" and "perm" arguments achieve much of the same effect for the affirmative as topicality does for the negative - they all serve to signify which arguments you expected to answer and which ones you are not obligated to refute.
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