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Author Topic: Voting Criteria?  (Read 4521 times)
JimClarion
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Posts: 87


« on: May 06, 2010, 12:44:08 PM »

I am curious what it is that we are supposed to vote for when we vote for a topic area.  I ask this question because I would like to know if we are voting for a topic paper or a topic area?  It seems that if we assume that there is (a) a reason we ask people to submit papers and (b) use the process we employ to judge debates, then we should vote for the topics based on the papers that have been submitted.  In fact, I would ask people to make their final decisions with this in mind.  There are papers that I read and say, "That's a well assembled paper," and papers that I look at and say "This may be a good area but based on the paper...ugh." 

I dunno.  Maybe people disagree but it seems to me that if the process of topic development/selection is to have value then we need to make sure we carefully scrutinize the proposals on their own terms. 

Now, some may say but the purpose of the paper is to generate some energy behind an idea for people to run with, and I agree with this but I also think the threshold for entry into consideration should have a little something behind it.  Otherwise, I would have been interested to see some of the work behind a couple of the topic possibilities that had their papers fall short.

Jim

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sspring
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Posts: 51


« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2010, 01:28:13 PM »

I agree with Jim entirely. Should we assume that if the topic paper has "fallen short" that the topic committee will pick up the slack and just figure out the direction of the topic OR will they give us more options on the second ballot. I think this is a key question that has arisen a number of times, both in my internal squad discussion and on this list.

Sarah
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stables
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Posts: 334


« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2010, 02:03:42 PM »

I think a little clarification might help, so please follow up.

The papers are designed to offer the foundational controversy for the first ballot. We also use their guidance to help organize wording work. It is hard to answer what seem to be potential questions here, so I can, for now, encourage you to vote for the specific controversy that you think is best to have as the 2010-11 topic.

The paper is an important part of how the wording work is organized, but ultimately we debate the controversy the community votes for and not the paper.

I am hoping folks don't misread my comments. We certainly want and appreciate excellent work from authors in the controversy stage. These folks help provide a ton of foundational work that goes into determining our scope of options for the wordings. For example, the immigration paper outlines the basic direction it would suggest but also allows for some consideration of other good options. The first amendment paper outlines key cases that should be included. If you vote for these controversies the paper sets the foundation for the wording work. So you are voting for the controversy, but the paper is an important means of limiting how we approach that controversy.

Again - please be willing to ask more specific questions. I am really enjoying folks weighing in on specific aspects of the potential topics, like the recent sub-thread about the Ottawa Protocol. These kinds of posts and comments are very helpful.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2010, 02:08:48 PM by stables » Logged

Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
JimClarion
Jr. Member
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Posts: 87


« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2010, 02:23:36 PM »

Let me try the question another way...

If my squad and I feel that a topic paper fails the test of providing a good argument for the consideration of an area, but we think the area may have merit should we vote for it? 

When I read a topic paper I want a real sense of the issues that are up for debate.  I want to know what the realm of the aff looks like and have some sense that there is a healthy case debate to be had for the neg.  I want to know that there is more than a politics DA.  When I read a paper and I see a list of possible affs without a sense of what the negative arguments could be (other than the inevitable for any topic: politics and qpq cps and such)  then I say that paper has failed. 

My argument is that if you read a paper and walk away with that feeling you should not vote for it.

Jim
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stables
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Posts: 334


« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2010, 03:12:23 PM »

Thanks for the clarification Jim.

You raise an excellent question. The committee does make its own judgement if each of the controversy papers had met the basic criteria for the papers. Although we did not exclude any papers this year, in the past we have declined to include papers because we felt they did meet be basic requirements.

At this point, the committee has placed all of the controversy papers for community consideration and the community will make their own judgments. I tried to clarify that we are working on plans to help transition from whichever controversy paper is selected. We believe that we can work with each of the papers to help organize and prepare wording options. We will certainly work within the template suggested by each author. In that way, I can certainly see that folks might feel that they do not like how either a paper defines that controversy or that the paper is insufficient in that task.

Ultimately each school should determine their vote as they see fit.  Our primary consideration now is how to pick up from the foundation provided by the controversy paper to frame the wording options.

Hope that helps. If not, keep the questions coming.
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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
twhahn215
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Posts: 44


« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2010, 03:30:16 PM »

Even if the committee has agreed that all submitted topic papers meet the basic criteria, I think Jim has a good point concerning what a topic paper is and what it should be. If it is true, as Gordon stated, that
Quote
Our primary consideration now is how to pick up from the foundation provided by the controversy paper to frame the wording options
then it is necessary for that paper to provide a clear guideline of what the topic would look like and where ground might be divided. If we do not require this threshold, than we will find ourselves voting for generic topic areas and later complaining that the wording options were not what we had hoped for.

If all the current topic proposals meet the required guidelines, than we might consider raising the bar for paper proposals. As is, I have two primary concerns for how the current requirements determine what qualifies as a 'finished' paper.

1. Under the current guidelines, Kelly Young and I would have been able to submit our Critical Infrastructure paper as-is, missing core discussions on the topic and limited coverage on certain topic areas. While this paper was not completed, it would not have been the least detailed option available for this year.

2. Topic papers should provide an educational opportunity to debaters. Even if we all know what each topic would look like, it is difficult to tell my novice debaters to become active in the topic development process when in-depth analysis and topic consideration is lacking. Yes, I could easily supplement any missing information, but it should be the burden of the paper’s authors to do so.

Voting should focus on the best resolutional ground, but it should also take into account the precedent of what is required of a topic paper. Simply because we might like the topic is not a reason to vote for it – we must also consider how much analysis we should expect from these papers.

Just some thoughts.

Taylor
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stables
Administrator
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Posts: 334


« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2010, 07:40:29 PM »

I absolute welcome discussion of raising the bar about papers. Our challenge is to make sure we get enough papers first but then we need to work hard to make sure they are complete and useful.

I guess we could either have this discussion in the context of which of the current criteria do yo feel should be adjusted or which of the proposals is inadequate. I am a little worried that folks have real concerns about some or all of the proposals, but don't want to air those. If folks are worried about certain controversies, please share those concerns. This is a deliberative space for folks to assess the proposals before they vote.

I know folks may be leery of making these criticisms in public, so feel free to backchannel. We are a community of professionals and this can't work if we are afraid to critically assess our work. Feel free to call out the education paper, for example, if you have concerns. We are all interested in the same process. 

Gordon
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Gordon Stables
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs
Director of Debate & Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism
University of Southern California
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