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Author Topic: Affirmative Ground and Side Skews  (Read 8628 times)
jgonzo
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Posts: 81


« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2013, 04:02:39 PM »

Not to be a broken record, but putting the word "substantially" in a resolution does not actually fix this problem- it is a placebo.

I beg to differ. Even placebos are occasionally effective.
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tcram
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Posts: 165


« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2013, 04:29:19 PM »

Malgor,

You have correctly sensed that I was not advocating that as a justification for 'no change'.  Galloway has had me ever since he quoted chapter and verse of Ziegelmueller & Kay 97.  I am also with Kearney that any paper must ask the question 'what is the disadvantage?' and if the answer is 'politics', the paper should immediately be placed in the shredder.  We are also in complete agreement on the sorry state of research present in most policy debates (let's call this the 'addon-ization' of the 1ac). My point is simply to check for blind-spots so that in the great rush to never suffer through a bad topic again we don't set ourselves up for failure.  We shouldn't ask 'what is the big cool thing?' or 'what is the disadvantage?', but rather should find the controversy.
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kevin kuswa
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Posts: 345


« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2013, 05:00:27 PM »

Funny. Maybe "exclusively prioritized" would be better than outdated.  Smiley

This is where we say, "but I have lots of friends who prefer the USFG."

In answer to your question--it's a "both and some" situation.  How much does the topic matter?  How much should a preference for an agent determine every year's agent?  How much has the agent part of the topic become less meaningful in actual debates?

My point (along with many others) is that that we can and should try some other options.  We have in the past and there are good pedagogical and competitive reasons to vary it up a bit.  In many instances those reasons are unanswered or responded to with fear and unfounded speculation about research availability.

On the other hand, even if we do have a change in the agent (something that will have to be voted in by the community--a vote that is still tough to imagine despite recent momentum), the folks who prefer to debate and coach the usfg will still be able to do so in many instances:

1. on the aff and the neg with a passsive agent
2. on the aff and neg on years with the usfg (like we have had recently)
3. on the neg with other agents
4. on the aff and neg regardless of the topic construction if they want to fight the same framework and ethics battles that many teams in the community have had to fight in order to carve space for themselves to debate on the aff in the first place.

Is "reverse racism" a call to challenge a living legacy of exclusion and race-based stratification, OR, is that mantra gesturing back to Hopwood and the charge used by whites to claim that they were being discriminated against through affirmative action policies?

Great to see the discussion, Kevin

Regardless of framework arguments, the contention being made by a larger and larger portion of the community is that our topics are out-dated in terms of the agent of action.  There are other agents we can and should debate--whether we do so using an explicit framework apparatus or not.  The bigger position here is not about side equalization, but about meaning, focus, and pedagogy.

Is it the topics themselves which are outdated, or just the people who prefer to debate and coach USFG-actor topics? Or both?
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Ermo
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« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2013, 08:34:22 PM »

In answer to your question--it's a "both and some" situation.  How much does the topic matter?  How much should a preference for an agent determine every year's agent?  How much has the agent part of the topic become less meaningful in actual debates?
The agent is pretty significant for teams who constrain themselves to reading topical affs, which is still most. The world where 25% decline to defend the topic and 75% do seems more manageable that a world where 100% are far less constrained and topicality is abolished as a strategy.

My point (along with many others) is that that we can and should try some other options.
Seems like an argument to have tournaments with other topics, or non-topics, and study them. Perhaps even let them apply to count for points. Seems far more palatable than a season-long commitment.

On the other hand, even if we do have a change in the agent (something that will have to be voted in by the community--a vote that is still tough to imagine despite recent momentum),
I agree it is tough to imagine that vote. So, what happens if the topic includes both constructions and the USFG version wins? Or is the argument to produce a slate of topics without the USFG to foreclose this possibility? I have not heard this demand made in the frame of "write both, let people vote."

the folks who prefer to debate and coach the usfg will still be able to do so in many instances:
1. on the aff and the neg with a passsive agent
2. on the aff and neg on years with the usfg (like we have had recently)
3. on the neg with other agents
4. on the aff and neg regardless of the topic construction if they want to fight the same framework and ethics battles that many teams in the community have had to fight in order to carve space for themselves to debate on the aff in the first place.
If they are negative against a non-USFG affirmative, the option of going for topicality is removed. When a team makes that their sole option (as did Northwestern in the finals), it is a way of saying they don't consent to be a party to a dialogue unrelated to the topic. If you expand the topic to include a lot more than it includes now, attendance is consent. People have to decide if they will continue to attend or find alternatives. I say this as a coach who encourages teams to engage the affirmative from more angles than the topicality angle.

Is "reverse racism" a call to challenge a living legacy of exclusion and race-based stratification, OR, is that mantra gesturing back to Hopwood and the charge used by whites to claim that they were being discriminated against through affirmative action policies?
I accept the utility of distinguishing between prejudice and racism, as prejudice by the institutional order has different kinds of consequences. Thus, I dispute the premise that your question, as presented, was relevant to my point.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2013, 08:37:23 PM by Ermo » Logged
kevin kuswa
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Posts: 345


« Reply #19 on: April 05, 2013, 11:19:40 AM »

Ermo, thanks for the engagement.  As you know, a lot of this has been hashed and re-hashed over the years and I'm striving for some constructive paths rather than burrowing in the ontology of Groundhog Day.  Two things seem to warrant more discussion, though.

1. Topicality.  Your claim is that it would go away.  My claim is that it would be reinvigorated and shift from bad USFG/framework arguments into more literature-based questions surrounding the core of the topic itself.  I think empirical instances are on my side here--topicality debates on Africa and privacy were much more about the core terms of those resolutions even though those topics were constructed in the passive voice.  Kritiking was not at its current phase back then, but the search for a viable negative strategy was still a constant.  Moveover, there is a uniquess argument on my side given the fact that topicality is not always a strong option now and does not always help to position the core of the topic as important to the debate.  Finally, in instances where topicality might be more difficult, the counterplan will fill in some of the gaps.

2. Some people want to debate about the USFG.  Of course, and they still can.  The wording of the topic will not erase the importance of the USFG--it might even open up new avenues for exploring what the government means/does/symbolizes instead of the stale process arguments that animate policy-v-policy debate in many instances.  The USFG matters regardless of the topic wording and that is not going to change.  What can and should change is the belief that we must (pretend to) debate the usfg as the agent year after year after year.

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bcs2000
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Posts: 4


« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2013, 10:24:33 AM »

I’ve been thinking about the “WHAT’S NEXT?” dimension of our activity and hope to post on that once I’ve read Scott Harris’ ballot again.  In the interim, let me jump in briefly.    First,  I want to add my own statement of appreciation to others about the tireless and thankless work of the topic committee.     Having served on the committee long ago for five years, the efforts at openness and transparency in recent years have been tremendous.   In that spirit, I have a few related questions:
ACCOUNTABILITY TO VOICES--Gordon alluded to the large number of interests that might not be represented in this online conversation and the committee’s obligation to meet their needs along with the most vocal.  I concur.    My first question is: what number of programs represents a significant enough “block” to warrant inclusion of a particular ballot typology by the committee?   
Let's say I would like to see a big change aff topic on the ballot.  Might not vote for it but I’d like it to be included.  I’d like a passive voice wording topic included as Hester suggests.  Might not vote for it but I’d like it to be included.   I’d like a non-USFG actor topic included as Kuswa advocates. Might not vote for it but I’d like it to be included.  You get the idea.  If someone collects petitions from 30 other coaches who share those same topic ballot desires, how would the committee treat that outcome? 

RESOLUTIONAL JUSTIFICATIONS-- While I advocated for cross-checking our wordings with a grammarian and an expert in that policy area before finalizing our wordings, our process is imperfect.   Would the committee consider providing rationales for each of the final wordings provided so we're clear on their thinking? 
In other words, under resolution one it might say,  this wording reflects THE BEST STEM for producing balanced debates based on the topic literature with solid advocates.    And under resolution two it might say, this wording is intended as the big change resolution the community requested.    Personally, my major disappointment is our seeming reliance on a particular stem once we land on a preferred wording at the exclusion of all other options raised in the discussion.   In some years, one or more of the final wordings appear to come out of left field or worse, seem to preclude large segments of the pre-discussion. For some, other wording options provides comfort or at least an illusion of choice.   
 CLASSIFICATION OF FEARS—One central, shared goal is avoiding a bad topic.     We spend a lot of time trying to describe what makes good topics in advance but unfortunately after a year of debate, we find ourselves lamenting the bad topic based on the debates we’ve seen.  When organizations/corporations/teams try to improve their mission statements or their operations, they consider both their strengths and weaknesses to pinpoint the key areas of improvement.  Perhaps, we need more time initially discussing what we hope to avoid to facilitate finding a least restrictive means approach.   Would members of the topic committee be willing to post their ideas on what is a bad topic or what are they afraid of in the topic process (e.g. opening up space that legitimizes poor interpretations as Mancuso used to suggest, too unstable to insure ground for aful year because of current policy discussons or conflicts, helping K teams gain ground in framework debates, and/or having a poor final round at the NDT)? To me, a bad topic is one with no solvency advocates in the literature,  incorrect terms of art, more than 20 words in length (less accessible for novices, alumni, administrators and donors) and esoteric subject matter (hurts recruitment).   My list definitely reflects the priorities of NYU’s specific program.  The committee members list might be dramatically different from Scotty P’s, Kuswa’s or Galloway’s and mine.  But if it informs the process, we should understand it.    This is the unsaid part of the job even in the posted deliberations.  It might make it clearer why certain types of topics don’t make the cut.   


Will Baker
NYU Director of Debate
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kevin kuswa
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Posts: 345


« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2013, 10:38:49 AM »

Will,

I love this post (almost as much as an E-Prime assignment for undergrads!).

One key is to have a big enough controversy area to allow for divergent wordings that might not overlap too much.  In other words, instead of having 5 lists with the same stem, we need fairly different wordings under the same controversy, perhaps even four or five different agents represented with a rationale under each (I like that "rationale" idea).

As I work through the economic inequality topic paper again (please contact me if you would like to help), I am realizing that the convention of listing "aff and neg ground" works against a diverse set of wordings in some ways because it implies that the aff and neg ground will be the same under all the wordings provided.  That might not always be the case.  For example, the aff ground under "R: The USFG should substantially reduce economic inequlity" is actually the neg ground against a topic that says "R: Social movements should take direct action against poverty to substantially reduce economic inequality."

In other words, I think the controversy papers need to be bigger in order to offer more distinct wordings.  I also think the controversy papers could entertain different stems and different agents in the same paper.  Gordon's guidelines do not at all preclude this type of approach to the controversy (in fact, they encourage broad strokes at this point).

What happens, however, is that the people who vote for controversies shy away from the bigger ones because they think the scope of the controversy = the size of the wording.  That equation is false.  In fact, a very large controversy might allow for distinct, but smaller wordings under the same topic area.

Just a thought--but I do love where Will is taking this....we can think about some unique options on the same ballot to really make this work.  It is true that when it comes to selecting a topic, fear does not generate good resolutions.

Kevin


« Last Edit: April 16, 2013, 10:41:11 AM by kevin kuswa » Logged
Ermo
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Posts: 243


« Reply #22 on: April 16, 2013, 11:58:40 AM »

Since the topic committee consists of 9 individual (2 in the process of being chosen), selected through different means, I suspect there will be 9 different answers. Further, a topic committee rep is in an interesting position trying to balance broader community opinion, personal experience & beliefs, and the particulars of the topic area.

Also, since we moved the 2013 topic meeting to D.C., I am very hopeful we can get topic area experts to offer their perspectives and provide us some guidance.

Here are my thoughts on the questions Will raised..

1. Bad topics are those which:
a. Distort the topic area paper that the community selected.
It's fine to offer subsets (as with visas and amnesty on the immigration topic), but if someone writes a paper assuming "USFG only" and it wins, the resolutions should reflect that. If the topic area paper explicitly advocates offering "non-USFG options," then the TC should try to write some. If the topic paper is silent on this question, selecting it means deferring this question to the TC. Ugh.

b. Undermine the principles of the merger.
The NDT (and ADA, I think) have a process to opt out of the CEDA topic and write their own. It speaks well of the TC since 1997 that this has not occurred. If there were a move to de-merge, it should happen on its own merits, not as a reaction to the topic. Of course, you might get more than one topic on the same topic area, which might fall short of de-merging but could be very interesting. I wasn't a head coach at the time of the merger, and many head coaches were not coaches at all. I am eager to hear publicly or privately if people have opinions about how this should implicate the TC, because my perspective is based on conjecture mostly.

c. Exclude large, deep affirmatives.
I don't mind if 50% read SMR's, if the literature base is good. It's unfortunate that the nukes topic largely excluded CTBT. The immigration topic mostly sidestepped the undocumented migrant debate, although the ballot did have topics that would had waded in, and the community voted for the visa route.

d. Make negative ground unpredictable or bad.
I like when topics demand change from the SQ, have a directionality, and have some affs with a deep literature base. I dislike when affirmatives can hide behind uniqueness, when politics becomes the only viable disad, and when there isn't a viable interp to check affirmatives from going opposite directions. I don't mind if some of my perspectives link to the "fear K."

e. Use phrases that aren't terms of art.
Having lots of definitions on a phrase is good, since T debates are good, particularly if these is some depth to the controversy over meaning. Having terms that cannot ground a limiting T interpretation does not make T debates go away, but it makes them worse. 

f. Are written by committee.
Oh wait, that's all topics. Seriously, I do think that the TC discussion sometimes suffers from the well documented dangers in group decision making. I'm not saying we should move to a less open process, but I think we all need to avoid cases where people are attacked for saying unpopular things. That said, there is benefit to hearing multiple sides, taking a vote, and then moving on instead of rehashing the same controversy again.

2. These concern are secondary, from a TC perspective, but might influence my vote on a topic area/wording ballot.
a. Long topics.
Although the Europe topic feels like an abomination at 100+ words, I think most topics over the last couple of decades have been fine. The courts topic probably hard wired too much non-overrule neg ground that it became less about the 4 cases than ideal. Elegance is a nice, but it is secondary to me relative to things above.

b. Esoteric topics.
I think this is a community choice at the topic area paper level, and the topic committee has to work with whatever wins.

3. More thoughts on the "USFG should" question
a. Having both on the ballot
The wording of the winning topic area paper is important here, so I encourage authors to make clear whether have authorizing "non-USFG" options when we selected your paper. I debated 4 years in CEDA and coached there 5 more before we switched back the year before the merger. You can have meaningful debates on topics without the "USFG should" construction. Whether those are the kind of debates the community wants is an important question, and whether there is a community (in the singular sense) is a related question.
I do think the topic is more relevant to those trying to be topical than those who win by avoiding the core of it. I don't expect a broader topic will persuade people to stop avoiding the topic if doing so remains a winning strategy. I acknowledge that the choice to suborn the topic may be based on more than just strategy.

b. Petitions.
Although I'm probably a hard sell on the "non-USFG" option, I would find the sort of petition Will suggests to be meaningful in the context of adding non-USFG options to the ballot. I would still want more than one "USFG should" option (or "IMF should" ... the topic area paper is also relevant). I would find it more compelling if the signatories pledged to coach their teams to defend the topic assuming their suggestions were incorporated.  I am more concerned about how topics influence topical case construction than on making them effectively foreclose topicality as a strategy against non-topical or marginally topical affirmatives.

c. Passive Voice
My concern with passive voice is that affirmatives will defend only themselves as agents of action, despite the limited literature base about them (individually). I think making debates about how the aff team should act put the negative in a terrible position - there were multiple rounds at the end of the season where people suggested it was NOT the place of the judges to evaluate the affirmative from their social location. If so, it might not be the place for the negative team to comment either. That doesn't mean that a topic should not be discussed - it just means that it is bad as the topic for a competitive debate where ground should be reciprocal and judges should strive for neutrality. I think a topic that authorizes cases where the aff team becomes the agent seems worse than one where it was the whole debate community, or some larger and clearly defined non-USFG actor.
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