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Author Topic: Hot Take RE: NDT Finals  (Read 7643 times)
Posts: 15

« on: March 28, 2017, 07:40:18 PM »

I am going out on a limb. This is a precarious position, but the stakes are high enough to warrant risky business.
(E. Patrick Johnson)

The black [human] is not. No more than the white [human].
Both have to move away from the inhuman voices of their respective ancestors so that a genuine communication can be born. Before embarking on a positive voice, freedom needs to make an effort at disalienation. At the start of his life, a [human] is always congested, drowned in contingency. The misfortune of [the human] is that [they were] once a child.
It is through self-consciousness and renunciation, through a permanent tension with [their] freedom, that [the human] can create the ideal conditions of existence for a human world.
Superiority? Inferiority?
Why not simply try to touch the other, feel the other, discover each other?
Was my freedom not given me to build the world of you, [human]?
At the end of this book we would like the reader to feel with us the open dimension of every consciousness.
My final prayer:
O my body, always make me a [human] who questions!
(Frantz Fanon, edited for gendered language)

Good intention makes a person think that everything is settled by a resolution. But if anyone allows [their self] to be nourished by good intentions, the resolution itself becomes a seducer and deceiver instead of a trustworthy guide.
(Søren Kierkegaard, edited for gendered language)

This movement/these alternative styles of debate centered around difference aren’t going anywhere, in fact they have proliferated well beyond the Louisville Project. So, people can stick their heads in the mud if they want to, but the movement will continue to see you in the outrounds at national high school and college tournaments.
(Shanara Rose Reid-Brinkley)

Now, after first being “for” society and then “against” it, I assign myself no rank or any limit, and such an attitude is very much against the trend of the times. But my world has become one of infinite possibilities.
(Ralph Ellison)

For those that don’t know me, I’m a graduate student and assistant debate coach at the University of Kansas. The epigraphs above are compiled from my 2013 Master’s Thesis. This post is a reaction to the 71st National Debate Tournament and is motivated by my being deeply unsettled by yesterday’s events. I just returned home to Lawrence and wanted to put this out in the world while it is fresh on my mind. Hopefully you all enjoyed your time on the Edwards Campus and have returned home safely by now. Before I proceed, here are some important framing issues. If you choose to read this, read it as a solipsistic Tumblr post. It is not a Master’s Thesis, it is not an 11-page ballot (although there’s a chance it makes less friends), and it is certainly not evidence to be read in a debate competition. This is a forum post about NDT-CEDA debate, plans, metrics for evaluating debates, breaking brackets in elims, the Policy Research League, blackness, my father’s death, and the Healthy Debater Initiative. Be advised, there are receipts. No coach or judge is safe, including myself. If you feel that I have misrepresented the situation please clarify so we can air things out in the open.

First and foremost, congratulations to Rutgers University—Newark for winning CEDA and the NDT. They united the crowns, y’all. Rutgers MN won 3 of the 6 major second semester varsity tournaments (yes, ADA is a major). Regardless of how you feel about their arguments, you must respect that they came to slay. 2017 has been the year of Rutgers debate. Why? They’ve thought through, and prepared their arguments more successfully than any other team in the nation. Last night, the final round of the NDT was won on a strategy that Rutgers has transparently deployed for months. If you thought it was novel then you did not do the scouting report. Devane even acknowledged he was using aged material.

Shoutout to Nic, top speaker of CEDA and first black woman to win the NDT, for being the best 2AR in the country. Facts. She is unbossed, unbothered, woke, and carefree. You might not know this about Nicole, but when she used to live in Kansas City, Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera would call her for advice.

Shoutout to Devane, top speaker of the NDT, for crushing it as a 2N who does the ins on the affirmative. Whether or not you choose to accept it, Devane was one of the best technical debaters in the nation. You can say whatever disparaging things you want about his arguments, his affinity for those Tims, or his low key J Cole standom. It don’t matter because that line-by-line stay clean. [This is a story for another post—but there’s something to be said about the fact that the two teams to unite the crowns featured a debater who came up as an LDer from Newark punishing lifetime CXers on the line-by-line doing ins]

Shoutout to Ezra and Natalie, champions of Kentucky and Fullerton, for reaching the finals of the NDT. I was genuinely impressed by their performance all weekend. After a season of struggling in elim aff debates, Ezra brought it yesterday. He gave four bold 2ARs on the last day of the season and absolutely stunted on the Copeland in quarterfinals. Ask yourself, when was the last time the semis of the NDT was decided on a 7-0 decision? Also, to be clear, Natalie is a fierce 2N and low key a top-3 1AR in the country. Watching her compete reminds me of when I used to coach Mel. I know that there is a lot of turbulence in the coaching staff of that program after this season but I hope that she sticks around for her senior year. If she does, she is on the short list of people capable of taking the Copeland from Cambridge.  

While we’re at it—shoutout to @KBirz, Mom Cook, Amit, Yorko, Stransky, Alonso, Pedro, Manchester, Mac, Wimsy, Corinne, Corey, Anthony, Viveth, Misty, DML, Josh, Gonzaga JS, Barron, Luis, Bee, Jason, and all the other seniors I left out (do me a favor and shoutout those seniors I left off). Thank you. It has been a pleasure to judge you and learn from you these past four years. I wouldn’t be the same without you, and neither will this activity. Your careers didn’t end the way you wanted them to but they meant something important to all of us. If any of you choose to take a victory lap, know before you come back that you need to be able to derive value from this activity in metrics other than wins and losses.

Special shoutout to Spurlock, Nidhi, and Kristen. It’s not fair that you never got to have your last debate. You’re amazing teammates and you should be proud of yourselves for handling such a difficult situation with grace and nobility. It is evil that the sanctity of the bracket is more important than our seniors at national championship tournaments. [1]

Back to the NDT Finals and the inevitable discussion that will arise in the coming months about plan focus debate and propriety in competition spaces. Let me reiterate, this is a solipsistic take of the events that transpired. It is not an authoritative account. I didn’t flow the debate. I don’t intend to have the final say on the issue. My only intention is to tell a story about my NDT experience. It is my goal that this facilitates a hard discussion about the purpose and goals of the activity. I am merely doing my best to practice disalienation. Hopefully you get something out of this.  

Resolved: last night’s journey through the land of petty was not the NDT finals debate that this community wanted, but it is the one that this community deserved.

Minor premise: No one wanted that particular finals debate to happen.

Plenty of people in that audience were mad Rutgers was there. These folks didn’t and still don’t think Rutgers arguments count as legitimate debate. During the debate, many thought that it was abusive and bullying, questioning why Rutgers deserved to be there and if there was any merit left to the activity. [2] One might object based on the crowd’s interaction with Rutgers strategy (read: it was intentional, practiced, and well thought out) to my premise by saying people liked watching Georgetown get insulted. Sure, supporters of Rutgers enjoyed the Georgetown roast and felt vindicated by the outcome. That said, show me one person who cheered after each Rutgers speech last night that genuinely wanted Ezra and Natalie to make it to the finals and I will show you a liar. I would wager that Rutgers’ supporters, if given the opportunity, would have preferred that any of Rutgers’ debates on day 4 had taken place in the final round instead of early in the tournament. USC, UMKC, and Wake have all made deep elim runs this season so it’s entirely plausible that these debates could have occurred in the finals. [3] The presumption that anyone, including myself, woke up yesterday wanting these exact teams in the finals in advance is post hoc at best.  

Major premise: Last night’s debate was exactly what this community deserved.

In a former NDT champion from MSU’s reaction to watching the debate on the live stream he said it was not a debate, and instead bullying. There is merit to his concern about bullying. Particularly, I thought the 1NR’s performance of rage was mean, unnecessary (based on 2AC concessions about the nature of embodiment), and at some points genuinely disturbing. That said, I am confident that we owe Nicole and Devane an apology and not the other way around. They owe us nothing and will be sipping their Larmanade in the Penthouse while the Internet burns down. I have spent the last six years at two of the largest, most prestigious programs in the nation. In this span I have had the opportunity to attend and judge deep elimination debates at almost every major invitational tournament. I know what gets said behind closed doors because, at times, I’ve been in the room where it happened and/or seen it happening while being barred from entry.

We owe Nicole and Devane an apology for our community’s dependence on a wiki and a word processing template given to us by a man who believes that our fidelity to reading evidence in competitions is the only thing that separates us from the savages. We owe Nicole and Devane an apology for forgetting the names of the Fresno State debaters that got first and second speaker at Kentucky because black is only beautiful in debate when it stays winning. We owe Nicole and Devane an apology for selecting two climate change topics in five years, thus enabling white students to shame black students for not being concerned enough about global warming when they pose the question of anti-blackness. We owe Nicole and Devane an apology for valuing arguments weaved together with dubiously sourced news articles and hyperbolic, implausible extinction impacts more than peer-reviewed evidence from Performance Studies. We owe Nicole and Devane an apology for four years of false promises about the topical version of the aff when we were never bold enough to write affs for ourselves with structural violence impacts that stared down the weight of the politics disad and its “risk of a link.”

Returning to the MSU debater's objection, I think he’s an interesting character to think about when we ask ourselves the question, “Was last night’s debate bullying?” Full disclosure, I’ve considered him a close friend of mine in debate since the 2006 Mean Green Workshops Senior Scholars lab. The last decade has been interesting and tumultuous journey for both of us and we’ve both separately experienced devastating loss. I think we can all agree that he is a different person now than when he debated. Unfortunately, my most vivid memory of him is and will always be when he lost to Northwestern FS in the prelims of the Texas tournament on the Nukes Topic. I remember standing outside MEZ with a group of people while waiting for the round 8 pairing and watching through the window as he, unrestrained by fellow MSU debaters and coaches, berated M. Maffie for the audacity of voting against him in favor of his lifelong rivals amid a tight Copeland race.

The uncomfortable truth that last night’s debate reveals is that it has been acceptable for competitors to say wildly aggressive and uncouth things to each other in heated competition for decades because we value the line-by-line more than anything else. Fundamentally, what is different about how Nicole spoke during the 1NR last night and how a young NDT Champion from Sparty or a young Northwestern KM spoke to their competitors and to their judges when they lost? Whiteness.[4] It is an open secret that once students at major national programs get a little taste of success in this activity they get to say wild things to their opponents and judges. Rutgers didn’t invent animosity; they just used it as a strategy to throw the scent off of their procedural argument. Why should Rutgers MN bear the brunt of culpability for taking a culture of argument where you can say whatever you want as long as you win the line-by-line to it’s entelechial limit? How many communication scholars does it take to disregard the role of the comic frame in Rutgers’ argument?

Let’s be clear about the facts of the debate. Rutgers was negative last night and argued the plan did not solve the advantages. They won the NDT on a procedural argument because the 2AC did not correctly respond to the 1NC violation. If the finals had been Northwestern FP talking shit for 8 and a half minutes of the 1NC and then waxing Kentucky HT on ASPEC you all would not be this shook. Despite what transpired in the debate (yes, it was a debate), the winning 2NR line-by-lined a procedural argument and out executed a fantastic team. It is unfortunate that Georgetown KL was rendered into a straw person for plan-focus debate. However, based on the arguments presented in the time-bound speeches, four judges decided the Larman rightfully belongs in Newark. Deal with that.

In his ballot from the 2013 NDT final round, Harris disputed Emporia’s claim of racially segregated applause during awards ceremonies. At the time, I agreed with him that it’s very selective to assert that white students only clap for white students and black students only clap for black students. That was until the 1AR concluded last night. Although I was not flowing, I remember being impressed with Natalie’s 1AR and thinking she rebuilt Georgetown’s ethos after a rhetorically powerful neg block. Then it finished and the applause set in. We can deliberate the post-1AR applause’s merits, but it was entirely reactionary.

Devane was correct when he replied to the applause by shouting, “This is uniqueness!” Rutgers gave us what we deserve last night. While I don’t necessarily agree with Rutgers arguments about plan focus debate or even about the role of embodiment in communication, I think that the ethos of their argument rests on the fact this activity relies on a set of contradictions to sustain itself. We value diversity in the bodies of our debaters but not in their opinions about how we should relate to the resolution. We value in-depth research about topics and far away places we don’t directly relate to but are generally poor at writing resolutions that let us engage the issues that our portable skills are supposed to enable us to confront. I would wager my bank account that the active members of the community most offended by last night’s debate are the same people who stripped the winning Trinity/Kuswa Immigration Topic Paper down to a resolution about visa policy that functioned to make discussions of amnesty simultaneously untopical when affirmative and susceptible to the permutation when negative while it was the core of the controversy.

Given that Rutgers chose to expose some hard truths about our activity last night, where do we go from here? Debate is not going to die because Rutgers reunited the crowns. Yes, there will be unfortunate copycats that do injustice to the argument. That said, I predict the final round to be much less impactful than the cult of personality that Krakoff and Morgan have made infectious among young high school debaters. Kansas HW is unlikely to start debating like Rutgers just because they won the NDT. It’s more likely that they just tweak their blocks and might even ask me where our K of embodiment is located in the dropbox.

The final round does, however, provide an exigency for discussing communal problems. There are a series of unresolved flaws in our activity that we have to address at some point or they will keep dominating the content of our debates. While I agree in the abstract that debates are an unproductive place to resolve communal issues and absolutely do not believe that being awarded a ballot is a remedy for “psychic violence,” how else do you expect students to hold their competitors accountable to questions of structural fairness? Seriously, what is the correct way for Colin Kaepernick to protest? What are we going to do about MPJ? How do we resolve the contradiction between protecting Louisville debaters from the Katsulas rules and creating a system that allows Tiffany to judge a policy debate between two elite teams? How can we complain about Trump voters getting duped when within our own community we’re committed to excluding judges instead of adapting to them? Selfishly, I’m tired of judging framework debates. If I never judged another framework debate in my life I would not miss it. The ultimate punishment for not being ideological in this activity is framework purgatory.

As a community, we’ll soon begin the discussion of selecting a legal topic controversy. How do we make next year’s topic accessible? Should we select a topic with grandiose visions of debating a certain impact backfile or should we strive for selecting a topic that galvanizes the interests of our students and allows our students to affirm the resolution in an accessible way? Will we take seriously Rutgers objections to plan focus debate? Personally, “USFG should” makes sense to me. At the same time, however, I acknowledge that the topical versions of the aff offered to black students would rarely stand muster in competitive debates because of process counterplans and far-fetched disads. If you hack for the neg in framework debates on topical version of the aff will you also hack for that aff on PICs bad?

In 2015, the night before Thanksgiving, I had what I thought to be a relatively innocuous conversation with my father about my goals in life. At the time, I had decided to leave debate after the 2016 NDT and go to work for his residential solar sales and installation company in Las Vegas. He asked me, “If money wasn’t an obstacle, what would you do in life?” I said, “That’s easy. I’d be a debate coach.” Within eight hours, my father died of a gunshot wound inflicted by my mother. While I don’t care to fully explain the situation, know that I am currently the lead witness in my mother’s ongoing open murder investigation. You should know that as my father took his last breaths I ran away from his dying body, down the stairs, to my driveway to alert police first responders to the fact that my younger brother and sister were asleep upstairs and that they are Black. The unfortunate reality is that the decision-making skills debate taught me in that moment was that the inevitability of my father’s death did not warrant me staying by his side because the risk of the impact that the cops might kill my younger brother for a crime my White mother committed exceeded .0000001%. At the end of the day, what you’re going to see here is that he was guilty of being asleep in his bed in a gated community while Black. That solar company went out of business shortly thereafter. The point of this story is that life comes at you fast.

I brought up my dad’s death because it’s a cautionary tale for the Healthy Debate Initiative. As most of you who’ve bothered to read this far probably know, I publicly took several extremely petty shots at Sherry and the Healthy Debate Initiative on Facebook over incidences of nut allergies at the Harvard tournament. For those of you who didn’t know that information, it should help explain why you saw me frantically writing signs and communicating to people that there are nuts in the muffins on the morning of day 2 of the NDT. Nut allergies are scary and my primary fear was that a student would eat a muffin and have to withdraw from the NDT due to an allergic reaction, or worse. I would be lying to you, however, if told you I did not recognize the irony of the situation. For the record, I was completely deserving of that public humiliation. I am grateful that no one was harmed because the tournament I was in part responsible for hosting failed to label the food with nuts in it. Part of Sherry’s reasonable objection to my behavior in 2015 was that it was unfair to target the Healthy Debate Initiative. What I think about it all the time is that she defended the initiative based on her experience of friends in the activity dying from symptoms related to living unhealthy lifestyles encouraged by sedentary activities and careers such as debate. According to the coroner’s report, my father probably would have survived his gunshot wound if he lived a healthier lifestyle. Salt was a primary accomplice in my father’s death.

Let me do everyone a favor and bring this back to the journey through the land of petty. I’ve been thinking about Nicole’s CEDA and NDT thank you speeches and her comments about positive energy. I think I have too much pent up negative energy and need to get my spirit right. As such, I’ve decided to stop being petty to people about things out of their control. Let me go through some things specifically:

Sherry—I want to reiterate my apology for the way I spoke to you about your tournament administration. You were a force this weekend and continue to succeed as a coach and NDT committee member. Congrats on retaining the Copeland.

A. Barron—I apologize for being a jerk in your break round. I could have handled that situation in a manner that better respected your contribution to our activity.

Nicole and Devane—I apologize for not being prepared to answer, and dismissing the implications of your question about Bobby Rush in my decision during round 8 of the 2016 NDT.

I do, however, plan to continue to be petty about the things that we can control when it comes to maximizing competitive and educational opportunities for our students. That said:

JP—I thought it was awesome the way you stuck up for Natalie and Ezra last night after the decision was announced. I wish you the best in whatever you choose to do after you leave debate. That said, I was in DC during the 2013 NCA while you were met with directors of debate to help orchestrate the PRL. The cabal was real. I saw it assembled in The Gibson. If the worst thing you experience as a result of your role in those negotiations is that a handful of 18-25 year olds laughed at the smell of your breath during the finals of the NDT, quite frankly you got off easy. There’s an awkward correlation among white liberals in our community who feel schadenfreude by watching GOP congresspersons crash and burn in AHCA town hall meetings and people who felt uncomfortable last night about decorum violations. The inclination that people should move on and act like nothing happened because the PRL failed to take off is unrealistic. Enjoy the Walker Memorial Trophy. Display it proudly. We better see Mel’s name on that plaque next to yours when it comes back to the NDT with Natalie next season. Good luck improving your golfing.

Lincoln Garrett—You promised me a flow after the conclusion of the double-octafinals post round. Multiple people witnessed you acquiesce to my request. It’s now been almost two whole days and still nothing new from you to hit my inbox. Although only a lowly graduate student, I expect more from an esteemed Assistant Director of Debate from a blue-blood program such as Kentucky.

I came back to debate after putting my family’s solar company into bankruptcy. Having experienced life on the outside, and tremendous financial loss, I relate to this activity differently. What is still clear to me however, is that I’m committed to coaching debate. I enjoy argumentation. What unsettles me about last night is how unprepared Georgetown was to debate the issue of embodiment on a theoretical level. If you disagreed with the decision—ask yourself, if Devane had kicked the black humor arguments and only gone for the 1NC’s interpretation would the 2AR have a disad to the procedural? If you’re a student and you enjoyed Rutgers’ tactics—were you prepared to go toe-to-toe with the Hoyas at the NDT?

We deserved last night’s debate because our culture of argument is fragmented and reactionary. The community is functionally segregated on ideological lines because MPJ has created two twin publics of groupthink. We can’t even watch the debate in front of us without a pre-set of rules used to indoctrinate students at summer workshops. At the level of form, debates are remarkably homogenous (both Rutgers teams being the clear exception). Students recycle arguments and strategies because they’ve been accepted by the cult of public opinion. It doesn’t have to be boring but we’ve allowed it to become this way. For the record, your ability to make a truth-testing argument does not justify you ignoring the case comprised entirely of peer-reviewed evidence.[5] Framework and impact defense is just as boring and played out as non-topical aff’s designed to say nothing and flip the burden of proof onto the 1NC.

Despite all this, I really enjoyed yesterday. I was operating on 45 minutes of sleep (I wasn’t on any strike card) and got to watch the season end on some awesome debates from some really talented students. Ezra spoke in the finals about the appreciation people expressed for his semis debate against Cal GW. That debate was awesome. Cal’s block was cheeky, enjoyable and centered on convoluted counterplans. At the same time, Wake and Rutgers had a great debate that tested what we currently think about argumentation at the level of form. It’s interesting that for two years in a row now the seeding at the NDT has functionally created a “K bracket” and a “policy bracket,” thus ensuring a <clash of civilizations> in the finals. That said, even Dana Cloud thinks that ideograph played out. What yesterday revealed is that debate has enough room for all of us. Rutgers united the crowns by outdebating their opponents. Full stop.

The question now is what are we going to do to about the inevitability of blackness in debate. Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley is right. Let me repeat that for the record: The DSRB is correct. It took over 15 years for a team to win both CEDA and the NDT. It wasn’t Cal or MSU or Kansas or Wake who did it. It was Emporia State. Now, Rutgers-Newark has added their selves to that legacy. Are we going to act like this isn’t happening and keep writing resolutions designed to protect policy teams from critical arguments? We’re about to restart topic negotiations and my fear is that we’ll begin to engage in a form of doublespeak where the term “fair division of ground” will be used in a way to exclude blackness from the resolution. I don’t think I have the best answers to any of these questions. One thing I am pretty sure about, however, is that we should all try to be less petty about our ideological divide. Rutgers did it for the culture last night. Besides, no one will ever be as good at petty as Devane Murphy. Hopefully someday their detractors will understand where they’re coming from.

Have a great offseason everyone!
--Brendon Bankey

[1] It is also evil that CEDA has not thought out procedures for acknowledging seniors participating in their last debate. I was told at CEDA that the tournament would not acknowledge Amit, 2016 NDT elim participant, as a senior competing in his last debate when they announced his final decision because it was unfair to other seniors not competing at the NDT that would not receive recognition. Why not instead acknowledge all of them?

[2] Those speaker awards were built, not bought. Devane and Nicole deserved everything they got last week based on years of preparation and speaking drills. No team on the topic took it more to heart than Rutgers that debate is a speaking activity. It was their predominantly white, traditional policy-debate educated judges that gave them the highest honors. Stop gaslighting and acknowledge that Taylor, Brittany, and Khalid (who, if we’re being honest, would definitely fit the PRL’s profile of a bad judge) do not have the numbers to collude so Rutgers could hold down the TS. Their judge variance is out of control because they give a shit about speaking to an audience. If you think Rutgers got 1 and 2 “because they’re black” you should remove yourself from this activity because you can’t look past your racism to see fantastic debaters.

[3] Statistically speaking, Georgetown KL was weak on the aff in panel debates versus arguments concerning anti-blackness and/or white privilege. Despite this, they struck fear in the hearts of their opponents all season. I have personally seen the look on students’ faces when the pairing comes out and they see they have Georgetown KL. It is rarely, if ever, a happy one. Let’s all be adults here, if you are a student and you cheered for Natalie and Ezra to lose last night you should look at your life and look at your choices. There is a distinction between wanting Rutgers to win and wanting Georgetown to lose for whatever slight they might have caused you. Ask yourself, however, was a part of you happy that you didn’t have to experience the pressure and anxiety that would come if you were debating Georgetown in the finals of the NDT? Pick 5 random judges in the pool and do you have what it takes to D up on Natalie and Ezra? Can you cover? Would it be close or would there be in blood in the water on the live stream? Rutgers was absolutely ready to go. This is not an indict of them. They were prepared. Were you? Enjoy your blessings but realize that Rutgers graced you with them, and they were not owed to you.

[4] This objection also applies to me. I remember being particularly rude to a Pitt team at Northwestern and an Emporia team at Wake in debates my senior year. I left myself out of the original version because I was never as good at the activity as the people I mentioned.

[5] There are people in the pool who are predetermined to vote against an aff at the NDT comprised entirely of peer reviewed research that has been read for months because it violates T-USFG and therefore constitutes a non-falsifiable proposition but have never considered voting neg against a new aff broken at the NDT filled with skeptical sources and dubious internal link chains on T-substantial because voting neg on T disincentivizes intrinsically valuable substantive case debates. If that characterization might apply to you I encourage you to spend some time this summer exploring the distinctions between procedural and structural fairness.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2017, 01:34:30 PM by BrendonBankey » Logged
Posts: 3

« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2017, 10:12:03 AM »

I don't have any good quotes to begin my post with- I'm not that well read.
I don't have any unique insights about the 2017 NDT Finals Debate- I'm not that smart.

But taking both of those premises to be true enough, I find that Bankey's post taps into something that has been keeping me up since elims at CEDA. So, I will opt out of a discussion of this round in particular and engage only in the parts about our community.

Notes about this post:
I will use "K" and "policy" debaters as shorthand to refer to teams that would likely stay with CEDA in a split vs those who would likely stay in the NDT circuit. These terms are not sufficient or ideal, but we can basically wrap our minds around what we're trying to say, and that is good enough for right now.

After a particularly emotional out-round at CEDA, ML and I stepped outside to discuss the context of the round and situate it within the whole of college policy debate. We thought about the growing fracture in our community, and ML remarked that a split seemed inevitable. I think this sentiment has been steadily gaining sympathy from debaters and coaches on both sides who would like to see the community debate about 'their thing' and only 'their thing.' It's the limits argument, isn't it? If the community had a smaller scope of discussion, those discussions would be more developed and researched.

The thing is, I don't think it's true. And I think it would be a real devastating thing to see this community split, so I've been giving a lot of thought to this lately. A few notes written in the in-between time of 3 straight hours of student meetings:

1) This is on the coaches.

Policy coaches: Your debaters take heat so often because they treat K arguments like jokes- who do you think they learned that from? How many of y'all could afford to read a little more, to invest in conversations with coaches of teams you don't really 'get' over a beer? Over an email? When was the last time you truly invested in the literature so you could provide a patient and strategic understanding of an aff like Rutgers MN's? That shit changed my whole life. Reading literature I thought was stupid because I wanted to understand it changed everything about the way I understood the world, and we can't deprive policy debaters of those revelations just because we don't want to do the work. If I hadn't had a coach who forced me to see the perspective of teams I didn't think had much going on besides cheap tricks and ideological purity, debate would have forced so much less personal growth. We could all do a little better here.

K coaches: I don't know. We do care about some policy things. We'd all prefer that states didn't pass fucked up bathroom bills. We'd prefer that DAPL didn't happen. And I think we all readily admit that (and make like... really good policy judges lowkey as a result! hint hint). Rutgers was so successful in part because they engaged that discussion in really badass ways- watching Devane go for T: "Have a policy that relates to your real-life activism" was pretty awesome. Finding ways to make policy affs the kind of things we'd like to see and talking through those things with coaches and in the post round is part of what we should do as educators? Maybe? If we don't want to see this community split- if we think there is any value to having policy debaters to clash with, to test us, to surprise us all with a niche policy that is actually really cool- then yeah, I think this is an imperative.

I guess what I'm trying to say to my fellow coaches is that we need to think about what we want this community to be, and how we get there. I suspect we can agree on some things:

A. We want good debates- we want debates that have clash and are focused, generative, and deep. We want high levels of thought and ideas.

B. We want debate to be a good experience for people- we want our debaters to be healthy and happy. We want other debaters from other squads to be healthy and happy. We want debate to be a positive experience for our students.

C. This community is strongest when it is big- This is just a programmatic thing. The more teams, the bigger the circuit, the more debates, the safer all of our jobs are. The safer the future of the activity is. If we can't remedy this divide, we need to think about the very real consequences that a split has on emerging and 'big tent' programs.

If we are going to accomplish those things, all of us coaches are going to have to have some deep, dark convos in which some of us (it's meeeee) do a lot of repenting and others do some forgiving and others still agree to make space for each other but to do no more than that.

2)  We have to do something about these topic papers.

Call me an optimist, but I actually believe policy debaters would rather talk about the substance of the aff than read FW and Cap. I know I personally have felt stuck coaching framework by my own lack of time and expertise. When its the preround and there is nothing in the dropbox, generics are going to win out every time. USFG resolutions are maybe the best solution we have, but then we should include the critical aff ground in topic papers. Accept that this is what our community looks like. We have to have to have to include ground for everyone when we dream.

Therefore I think topic papers should include at least the following:

A. Resolution

B. Aff ground- including the boundaries of both topical and anti-topical affs. If the issue is that we can't have deep discussions because K affs are too boundless, then just WRITE THEM INTO THE TOPIC. Agree on limits in advance. That's literally the whole damn point of the topic paper. Do it with everyone in mind this time. And yes, that means some things just get read on the neg. That's okay.

C. Neg ground- including neg ground to the un- or anti-topical affs. Consult teams who would read these affs. Get deep. Talk to coaches. I'll meet the strictly-policy folks half way: we'll keep writing topics that give you the ground you want if you actually utilize the ground you've been asking for.

This solves the problem of having 'k topics' that inevitably result in some debaters stepping way out of their lane to talk about groups in paternalistic/problematic ways. Those things will still happen, of course, but this is one way to limit it vs a big anti-state topic.

3. Debate in rounds, converse in the hallways. Build with each other. This community is 100% what you make of it. I watched MN roast the hell out of other teams this year, and then afterwards hug it out and chill. This wasn't some like magical civility effect, this was because they were friends before the debate happened. Because they spoke to each other, learned about each other, cared about each other. When Wisconsin read framework against GSU HW, they did it with love and respect and cautiousness because they didn't want to make their friends feel excluded. That's fucking beautiful! Try it out? IDK, it's pretty tight.

But this all goes back to the question of 'What do we want this community to do?' I think we want it to be a competitive space. There are other deliberative and dialectic spaces, but very few 'controlled' forums for eristic arguments. I think we do it better than any other activity, and while it's not for everyone, there's a ton of value to it. But competitive doesn't have to mean life-draining. Competitive can still mean friendly- but all us coaches have to lead that charge. Debaters take a lot of cues from us, whether we want that responsibility or not.
Posts: 15

« Reply #2 on: March 29, 2017, 11:31:15 AM »

Thanks CV for your post.

Some quick clarifications:
1) I'm not trying to take down any students. This is not about Northwestern or MSU or Georgetown. It's a statement about how we let competition get the best of us. Bringing up antics of student competitors was not a statement about their character, it's a statement about how we allow certain students to grow and the ones that get the benefit of the doubt more often than not are the white children. It just so happens that in my 10 year memory of this activity these are the people who were really good and the examples I remember. Northwestern pops up because they're in the finals a lot, not because they're bad people. I really like this squad and think they're fantastic at debate. Also nothing in this applies or should be read as a current indict of their current debaters.

2) I took the full names of debaters down because of job applications. Good call. I'm still adapting to life after Facebook. Shoutout Suo.

3) Yes, there's a distinction between how students talk to judges and how students talk to students.
A) My examples are not a 1:1 similarity. Just making a point about it being ok for people to say wild things to people.
B) If you flowed the debate, do you think that the 2AR argument about body shaming was sufficiently impacted enough to outweigh the procedural argument? If so, will you also vote aff for the language/discourse K in framework debates?
C) Clearly students and coaches should get to check judges that do not take their responsibilities seriously. Hence, it's day 3.

4) I could be wrong about this applause thing. I'm not sold that my original take is correct. I think it should be a communal practice to clap after rebuttals at the NDT, especially when seniors are debating. But it felt, to me, in that moment, to be a reaction to other debaters applauding for Rutgers. Barring the 2AR, the applauding parties were separated by the color line.

5) This is all a long con to get struck.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 12:28:14 PM by BrendonBankey » Logged
Posts: 15

« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2017, 11:13:29 PM »

A couple people have back-channelled me today to discuss what I wrote. Both disagreed with chunks of my argument but we had an amicable conversation. I think that they were productive. I understand that there's a disincentive to post about this issue in this forum because of the Screenshots DA. I'm not going back to Facebook to talk about debate though. I'm going to do it out in the open with a searchable record of communication.

The first conversation that inspired my first clarification was with a successful former competitor. This second one is based on a separate conversation with a DoD who had at least one team participating in the tournament. I've been chewing on some of the issues discussed and need to get this out so I can get some sleep. From now on if you backchannel me I'm going to bring up the most salient issues brought up here. I won't snitch and my intentions are pure.

This comment has stuck with me:
"but I think there's a PR problem (if Rutgers gets "defined" as "what college debate is like") and a retention problem (my students want the PRL to return in the immediate aftermath, might quit if it doesn't happen)"

I'm sure that this has been on more than one person's mind. It certainly was something I thought about while driving home to Lawrence. Retweeting CV, this one is on the coaches. If you are seriously worried about your program (what to tell the admins, your current students, your high school recruits), consider switching sides. I'm not being facetious. You are a director of debate with a team at the National Debate Tournament because you are skilled in argumentation. Everyone has the ability to defend Rutgers argument if they devote an afternoon to researching its origins. I'm not suggesting we valorize their particular strategy but rather that we prepare ourselves to defend its validity.

Go back to the debate and flow it. Ask Rutgers for their cites (and/or just go find that Campbell card from Emporia's wiki). Defend embodied communication. Be prepared to explain Rutgers strategy and why, even if you disagree, the academic freedom debate provides gave them the flexibility to test arguments from Whiteness Studies about enhancing white discomfort for the purpose of exposing structural inequality. Recognize that Devane's doubling disad is not something he made up and instead a developed theory of institutional ethics from Darrell J. Fasching.[1]

Then, when you've navigated your way through and are comfortable explaining Rutgers' argument. Be prepared to explain where it fits in academic conversations. Start with DSRB's dissertation. It's been published for a decade and most of you have never read it. Assign it to your students. Discuss it. Then read my thesis. Assign the 4th chapter your students. Discuss it. Then read the response to it on the Resistance Wordpress. Assign it to your students. Discuss it. Was my characterization of DSRB's dissertation fair? What do we agree on? What do we disagree on? Who's right? Make sure to talk about Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s theory of Signifyin(g) with your students and be honest about if your backfiles are in the right shape. Cut the articles I cited in my thesis. Check the cited by on Google Scholar--see if you find anything spicy.

Give your students a supplemental knowledge of our discipline, especially those that don't take COMS classes. Assign your students the Toulmin Model, Solt's article about logical limited conditionality, and the rest of the classics. Explain why a warrant is an "analytical bridge" and to stop confusing "multiple warrants" with data. Make sure people really get the burden of proof and the burden of rejoinder (Rutgers won semis on burden of rejoinder bad). Reinvest in presumption and how it relates to counterplans and alternatives. We can explain complex textual and functional competition but we can't explain simple negation. Make sure your students know the implications of the distinction between a permutation as a test of competition v. a combination of strategies (read: only one of those is accurate).
Be prepared to tell your boss that what happened last weekend isn't novel. Tell them it's based on a long tradition of argument that we've been documenting in academic publications. Identify salient issues where polemic spectacles manifest (DAPL, Flint, AHCA townhalls) and explain Rutgers argument as an example of what happens in the public sphere. Point them to important scholarship not about debate that discusses issues of embodied communication. Start with Debra Hawhee's Moving Bodies: Kenneth Burke at the Edges of Language, Christopher Peterson's Kindred Specters: Death, Mourning, and American Affinity, and Simon Strick's American Dolorologies: Pain, Sentimentalism, Biopolitics (this book list is really white but off the dome these are about embodiment and communication--send me suggestions and I'll update it). Publish your own ideas about how to improve the model of debate. I am confident that Richard Colling and Mike Ritter would let us do a special edition in the National Journal of Speech and Debate--it's registered in the Library of Congress.

Redefine the image of debate. Host a dope public debate on campus about something your students care about. Write a great season ending press release highlighting your squad's accomplishments. Find other debates from last weekend that demonstrate our diversity of arguments. Show them a good policy v policy debate. Show them a good policy v K debate. Be comfortable showing them tape of your students' debates. We don't have anything to hide. The debates were good last weekend, y'all. Our activity, although structurally gerrymandered, is still pretty cool in the grand scheme of things. What's that thing 2A's always say about not making the perfect the enemy of the good?

Last thing, CV and I can't be the only ones going public. Facebook doesn't count. Commit yourself to an opinion and stop forcing graduate students and 20-something year olds to do the labor of negotiating the <clash of civilizations>. I have two degrees in communication and get paid $90 a week by KU to be a debate coach. Judging your teams directly trades off with me completing my PhD. A lot of you out there are coasting right now and not doing the work. Stop telling your students that if you read Talisse 5 you don't have to answer the case. My friends are considering quitting the activity because we don't get paid enough to settle beef between Directors of Debate that have walled themselves behind ideology. It's not just the students--we are actively exhausting the next generation of coaches. It's time to let your students know that you value their participation and that you're going to help them ease on down the road.

[1] The card that Devane consistently references is a Fasching and DeChant 2001 card that Emporia used to read. I don't have it but here's some substitutes from my old Fasching file*:

Fasching 1993 (Darrell J., Professor of Religious Studies at University of South Florida, The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima,Pp. 92)
"Doubling," Lifton argued, "is the psychological means by which one invokes the evil potential of the self. The evil is neither inherent in the self or foreign to it. To live out the doubling and call forth the evil is a moral choice for which one is responsible, whatever the level of consciousness involved. By means of doubling, Nazi doc¬tors made a Faustian choice for evil: in the process of doubling, in fact, lies an overall key to human evil."30 In this process doubling begins not through an act of commission but of omission. The demonic dou¬ble overtakes the personality not when that person wills to do evil. No, the will to evil is a secondary parasitic act that depends on a prior lack or absence of a will to truthfulness and self-knowledge. It is out of that absence and lack that the demonic double is born in self-deception. What makes self-deception possible is that the self does not have to do anything. The double emerges through "not doing." Thus the self can say to itself—"How can I be responsible, I didn't do anything?" In that moment of refusal to heed the inner doubts and questions, the inner demand for truthful self-knowledge, there is a failure of self-transcendence. In that moment the demonic assumes flesh and evil becomes a real ontic presence. Demonic doubling can be short-circuited if the reflecting self reclaims and reintegrates the double, assuming responsibility for the actions of its public self. This would require the reflecting self to use its capacity for doubling (i.e., for self-alienation and self-reflection) not to distance itself and disown the actions of its public self but call itself into question. Unlike the case of demonic doubling, this reflec¬ting self remains dialectically related to its public role identities and is prepared to accept responsibility for all its public selves (i.e., social roles). The demonic double, by contrast, is a substitute for genuine self-transcendence. Instead of surrendering itself to its own doubts and self-questioning, which would open the self to the infinite inner demand for truthfulness, the demonic double confines both itself and its victims to the hell of the closed totalitarian world created by its self-deception.

Fasching 1993 (Darrell J., Professor of Religious Studies at University of South Florida, The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima,Pp.92-93)
The third and final factor necessary for the demonic is largely a response to the first two; namely, the process of doubling. Doubling is undoubtedly incipiently present from the beginning, but once the myth has been embodied in the total institutional structure of society, doubling becomes a pervasive social phenomenon, not only in the death camps but in society at large as well. The massive institutional embodiment of the demonic, legitimated by the mythic narrative, makes its bureaucratic structures appear to be impenetrable and un¬changeable. They become part of the natural order and thus simply a given that is not a matter for ethical reflection any more than trees and mountains. One is simply faced with reality and must learn to accommodate by being "realistic." Realism is the language of the de¬monic whose purpose is to seduce us into thinking we have no other choice. Again and again, the Nazi doctors justified what they "had to do" with the thought that nothing could be changed, that once the bureaucracy had selected the Jews for the camps they were already dead. Everything that followed was a mere formality, fulfilling their predestination. Hence, the Nazi doctors did not see themselves as do¬ing the selecting at all—that, in a sense, was already complete.

*(no, I don't think anyone who attended the NDT is a Nazi)
« Last Edit: March 30, 2017, 12:17:35 AM by BrendonBankey » Logged
Posts: 15

« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2017, 06:49:39 AM »

It's come to my attention that I have a naive understanding of how budgetary allocations work for debate programs at the university level. Fair. All the more reason to make this a public discussion among concerned DoD's. Secret meetings are how we got here.
Posts: 3

« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2017, 06:17:16 PM »

I just want to crosspost something I wrote in a fb topic discussion, because I threw out some lofty ideas about a more inclusive topic, and wanted to elaborate on that a bit more:

The biggest thing standing out to me as a bridge between the status quo and no topic is think careful about what exactly we are trying to accommodate.

What I mean by that is that anti-topical affs, and in this case I mean affs that are against any topic at all, will always exist because they link to the boundaries themselves, not the resolution. So this doesn't attempt to remedy that debate because it is a valuable one- the debate over whether any boundaries on discussion are okay is fascinating! I think any changes we make to the topic structure shouldn't eliminate debates like framework, they should just give teams the option to mix and match mechanisms, actors, and theories.

So giving "performance" affs, by which I mean not affs that are high theory (such as the anti-topical aff above), but affs that debate critical scholarship tied to some sense of embodiment a way to articulate them as topical isn't a way to shut down ALL framework debates because those have value, too. Instead, it gives teams that want to talk about the issues above a way to do that which ensures the deepest amount of clash (because its predictable, it's in the topic, people will be forced to research it).

My whole thought here is 'how can we enrich the scholarship that this community produces?' and so depth of discussion on issues we historically have not been effective at developing (like Blackness in debate) is my primary measure of success.

Not many teams have ever wanted to totally cede the political (in the literal abandonment sense, not the burn it down sense)- we all get the value of deep policy discussion. What we desperately need, however, is that depth on issues of scholarship that starts from the perspective of their legitimacy as an affirmative. We shouldn't force critical/performance aff teams to defend that no policy action is ever good just to affirm carefree Black girl as a strategy, for example. There are only two reasons those end up mutually exclusive:

1) If the team wants that to be their argument (and that possibility is preserved in my version of the topic)

2) Because of some artificial nature of zero sumness that we've created through framework (and that's the one I want to avoid).

Anyway, my brain is shot, I have 10000 more things to grade, but hopefully this makes some sense.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2017, 06:49:36 PM by cvtheresume » Logged
Full Member
Posts: 156

« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2017, 09:11:44 AM »

Thanks to CV and Bankey for making this a topic for public discussion among the debate community/ies. One comment made by CV hit on the note that resonates most with me,  the need for all of us to 'think carefully about what exactly we are trying to accommodate.' i would expand this to "We need to think carefully about what exactly we are doing, that thing we call CEDA/NDT debate." Some folks call it "policy debate," some folks have called it "c-x debate," and some outsiders in other activities have referred to what we do as "extended prep" debate.

My apologies for being late to this discussion - post-nationals is always a 'catch up in the classroom' time for me. Now that i have my non-debate work somewhat taken care of, i will be attempting to outline some personal thoughts about our activity, what it is we do and perhaps even what it is we can all agree we should be doing. i will be posting those thoughts to this forum and the NDC facebook page (if there are other forums or channels of communication folks think i should use, please let me know).
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