Author Topic: Diversity in Debate Revisited  (Read 35576 times)


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2011, 10:59:44 PM »
« Last Edit: April 12, 2011, 05:12:15 AM by DevenC »


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2011, 11:10:56 PM »
I must be able to accuse the community of being hostile to me as a minority in order for us to have an open and productive discussion. 

I chose hostile carefully.  There were other considerations.

You decided to jump in on this debate:  why did you choose to comment on my saying the community is hostile to minorities instead of commenting of Joe Koehle's comment that ""Maybe these opinions make me a total asshole, a racist, and a bad educator.  I still will sleep okay tonight."

Which one bothers you more?


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2011, 11:11:20 PM »
An idea has been proposed, decreasing the amount of MPJ.

Either it is the case that the debate community, as a whole, is not open to alternative styles of argument (a claim that is impossible to prove as valid, but that intuition suggests is false, given that alternative argument styles persist), or it is the case that some judges are not open to alternative argument styles, whereas others are open to alternative argument styles. MPJ may well protect teams that employ traditional argument styles, but only to an identical degree that it would protect teams that employ alternative argument styles, given that it allows teams to select the judges that are most likely to be open to their particular argumentation style. If, over multiple iterations, MPJ (a content-neutral system) creates judge placements that are, on average, hostile to alternative styles, I think that one of two things is likely (possibly both):

1. Teams that use traditional argumentation styles are more adept at gaming the MPJ system than teams that use alternative argumentation styles. I find this incredibly unlikely and, at best, only marginally beneficial in terms of wins and losses.

2. The judging pool, when aggregated and averaged, is more receptive to traditional argumentation styles than alternatives.

I think that #2 is more likely. I do not think that this proves such broad pronouncements such as "the community" (as if such a monolithic thing exists) "is intentionally hostile to alternative argument styles." Instead, I think it suggests that more judges prefer traditional argument styles than prefer alternative argument styles. My personal experience is that the gap between the two is not massive in terms of numbers, but has meaningful effects.

What all of this means, ironically, is that eliminating MPJ is probably a NET LOSER for teams that use alternative argument styles. Given the pretty amazing power of Gary's judge assignment algorithm (provided that Gary hasn't designed it to recognize alternative arg teams and screw their judge placements), MPJ is actually better at protecting teams that prefer a smaller portion of the pool than any weaker system of prefs would be, given that such a system would force everyone to go deeper into the pool.

Be careful what you wish for - you might get it.


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2011, 11:35:06 PM »
I must be able to accuse the community of being hostile to me as a minority in order for us to have an open and productive discussion. 

I chose hostile carefully.  There were other considerations.

You decided to jump in on this debate:  why did you choose to comment on my saying the community is hostile to minorities instead of commenting of Joe Koehle's comment that ""Maybe these opinions make me a total asshole, a racist, and a bad educator.  I still will sleep okay tonight."

Which one bothers you more?

I obviously don't know the considerations that have drawn you to interact with Joe the way that the two of you do. I don't have much to add to the conversation between the two to you, which is why I didn't decide to make a comment on his response to your post. Your accusation of selective bias is probably apt and also obviously I don't know what its like to advocate alternative styles in debate.

However, I do think that you are over-assuming the neutrality of your words. There's a difference between voicing a perspective and asserting an entire group of people of INTENTIONAL and OVERT racism. Just as I can't claim to know what your experiences or intentions are like, you can't know what mine is like. I may or may not disagree with what Joe said, but that doesn't mean that its an appropriate response to try and attach those sentiments to everyone else in the community.

All I'm saying is that there's a chance that people respond to your comments negatively more because of the way you've presented them, than because of their content.


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2011, 11:58:52 PM »

I don't think that abolishing the MPJ is the solution to diversity/inclusion/segregation in debate.  I do think that abolishing MPJ is an independently good idea however.

What ideas do you have for changes that can be made to make debate more inclusive and less segregated?

I am of the opinion that alternative styles must cease to exist as alternative styles and instead accounted for as a competing style in a regular debate.  I offered the idea that the debate should decided based on the biggest benefit to the ballot where the judge compares the net benefits of voting for either team based on arguments in the debate.  For instance, I remember on the treaties topic Northwestern used to make an argument about the necessity of making demands on the state in the context of the death penalty.  To me, that is a perfect example of a topical affirmative by traditional standards that reads net benefits to their very own behavior in the debate.  They therefore would be able to weigh the advantages of that performance against a team like say Towson who might perform black rage and discuss the benefits of affirming that performance.  The team with the better solvency argument and comparative impact claim is likely to win.  This offers the possibility of good debates where, including policy and not-necesarilty policy arguments.

Further, if you are a team who wants to just read a plan with heg impacts and weigh those impacts you should be allowed to do so.  If you find yourself in a debate with a performance team that discusses the benefits of voting for them, then you read net benefits to doing the things that you do hopefully that are specific to your aff.  Teams really have to do this on the aff anyways.  The only change I propose is that the role of the negative should not be to prove the aff to be a bad idea, but instead be held to the burden of proving that casting the ballot for the negative is net beneficial.

This of course would eliminate the permutation as we know it because it recognizes forced choice between the affirmative and negative.

In debate terms, this is a permutation to the argument that we need a non USFG actor resolution.  There needs to be a way to include a discussion of the USFG without requiring a discussion of the USFG.  If you want to discuss the USFG identify and defend the benefits of such and argue that those benefits are superior to those captured by the benefits of a negative ballot.  You eliminate the straw-person argument and just compare what each team did in the debate as opposed to the team that identified the worse evil.  It is no longer what you say and all about what you (which includes what you say).  

If judges where more receptive to this debate criteria, do you not think it would foster a more inclusive debate without radically altering the current model, which has its benefits, but is not perfect?  

Let me know, thanks!


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #20 on: April 12, 2011, 12:20:16 AM »
When the moved from the old listserv to the forums we knew there were going to be a lot of adjustments. It took some time to adjust and I know that some folks found the forums not as easy to use. I believe we have become more comfortable with the site and that is good news. This should be a place for not only day to day business but also to advance discussions and thought experiments without an easy solution. It is important to keep in mind, however, that as a site for discussion this site is only as good as we make it. A couple of reflections on the current discussion before I offer some ideas that relate to the original thread.

1 - The posts or absence of comments of posts doesn't necessarily speak to some broader judgment. It certainly can be true, but I am not sure that we are ready to make final judgments on this or any thread. What we can do is to promote a better discussion than we see in other places and allow that to inform our actions, both individually and collective. This site works best if we challenge each other to think and reflect, but I don't think anyone can read any of the threads as conclusive of much more than who decided to reply and who decided to lurk. Watching this thread tonight is reflective that the community notices the controversy. The challenge remains that once the dust of this thread settles we need to assess what we have learned and we can do to improve.

2 - I mention the old list because I worry this once-promising thread may include some of the troubling features of e-discourse. I have known both Rashad and Joe for years and I have a hard time believing that this conversation would evolve this way in person. I don't pretend they (or any of us) would necessarily agree. They are both very intelligent and strong in their beliefs. I judged them both and I know it was never easy to vote against them :)  No one is looking for us to pretend we agree. I do think, however, that their shared commitment to debate and the people in debate would focus those disagreements toward the important challenge of improving debate. I read some of tonight's comments and cringe because they are not worthy of the fine people that utter them. Especially as coaches and judges, we all have an obligation to express ourselves in ways that set an example for others. Specifically there isn't any room in debate for people who don't share the goal of making debate a healthy site of diverse perspectives and even more diverse people. At the same time, anyone who, as a debate professional, expresses that debate is worthless is at some level being insincere. Debate is a method of inquiry that has played a role in all our lives. It can (and should) always improve, but it is still an essential method of learning.

Now back to the original thread -

I was very much struck by the tension the original post. Returning the judge (and their ballot) to the central role in the debate strikes me as somewhat in tension with the idea of allowing teams to argue and contest the standards for the debate itself. The evolution of modern debate to allow a remarkable amount of discretion to mutually pick the judge has been lauded as a success of allowing students (and coaches) to identify the critics they most prefer. This developed to replace the discretion that tournament directors had to place judges and indeed the fragmentation of modern debate method has often been linked to this trend. Modern debate encourages debaters and coaches to innovate and as long as they can select judges that will validate their perspective. I am not sure that returning the judge (and their preferences) to an elevated position will actually produce the types of changes Rashad suggests.

What you saw tonight is a discussion that there is some frustration from coaches of all ideologies about the hyper-specialization of MPJ. I know I have struggled to find any academic or athletic forum that allows the competitors to pick their critics, without other limits. I do think there is ample room to consider how judge selection (including questions of preference and other determinants of suitability) might better influence the community we want. I think we can agree judging is very important. The question is how to consider judge placement as an instrument of community practice so that it promotes the community sought by the community.

More broadly let me return to Rashad's question about how do we continue to improve diversity in debate? A few years ago I judged a debate at the ADI which included evidence from one of the more significant studies about diversity in debate, Ten Years of Demographics: Who Debates in America. Authors:   Stepp, Pamela L.; Gardner, Beth, Argumentation and Advocacy, v38 n2 p69-82 Fall 2001. It was obvious to me at that point that plenty had changed in the time since the survey was done and that we needed to be able to ask these bigger questions once again. I know it may seem like the most boring answer in the world, surveying our community, but reading the study (which I encourage everyone to do) also opened my perspective to some broader questions. A big question for me is how do we conceptualize the diversity we seek? I imagine that there are a number of ways in which ours, like any community, should measure itself against. Do we know what those even are?

This search for goals got me to appreciate the unique challenge of our community. We are a loose collection of schools. We have public and private, 2 and 4 year, and all types of institutions. Why does this matter? Why did I mention the survey? I think an important way forward in our growth as a community has to be a recognition that our first responsibility to diversity is to faithfully represent our home institutions. We don't arrive at debate tournaments without already having squads that are the product of a large range of issues and policies (i.e., admission, cost, academic, etc.).  We can all point to specific issues that make-up a team at a given moment (i.e, this debater quit, this novice just joined, someone else is sick, etc.) but over a reasonable period (say 4 or 5 years) of time every director and every institution should be able to proudly note that their debate program is representative of their overall student body. Every institution, as Rashad correctly notes, has federal and state responsibilities to ensure diversity of student populations. We also know each of our member schools is somewhat different. Why not take the next step from Stepp and Gardner and assess how our programs do as representative of our institutions?

This idea of benchmarking has become more important to me in recent months because I believe one of our central goals as a community to is nurture our best community practices and work to address our biggest problems. I feel like starting here allows us to recognize the good work of many of our directors even as we accelerate these trends across the country. I mentioned this idea to some folks about NCA panels because I believe we have a lot to consider across the various axis of diversity and that looking to our home units is the most responsible place to start.

I also want us to move in this direction because it correctly fixes an important part of the responsibility for promoting a diverse community among our faculty and coaches. As with any debate arguments in a round, there are limits on what is produced by the end of that debate. We are a better community when our students are talented advocates of how we can improve. At the same time, it is insufficient and a dodge of responsibility to place the burden on undergraduates to field teams that represent the best of our institutions. This isn't a wrong forum argument at all - I have just seen too many talented young people who are placed into harms way because our coaches can't engage in other on important questions.

If you got this far I imagine you, like me, don't believe this is an endpoint. We are only just talking about students and the diversity of our competitors, not our coaches or our climate.

I also believe that if we aggressively represent our institutional practices we will also make headway on hiring practices that engage a second dimension, the professional staffing of our activity. I, like Rashad, believe we are slowly making some headway in our undergraduate population but I also feel that progress is more limited in terms of our coaching. Benchmarking data like what the NCAA uses is a great way to look across our differing institutions and ask some of the difficult questions about who staffs our programs. Over time, there may be no important goal that ensuring that the people who run debate are themselves are a vibrant collection of individuals.

 Perhaps I find myself very conflicted about the belief that moving away from a focus on a single proposition and its emphasis on researching events not within our own frames of reference will satisfy the goals of diversity or intellectually rigorous debate. Policy debate is hardly the only form of debate and it is hardly alone in struggling to do something American society has struggled with, to provide a fair academic environment for students from all walks of life and from all types of institutions. As our society becomes overwhelmed with digital sources of information I find the arguments for engaging this research model to become more, not less, compelling as essential life tools for all of us. This is the reason the new secondary school guidelines emphasize the importance of reading and mastering "complex non-fiction texts." I firmly believe that the skills that academic policy debate can teach is more essential to all citizens today than at any point in the last 100 years. Learning how to function in a sea of questionably qualified information is no longer something that just debaters do.

But in all fairness we need to be reflexive to how we don't maximize full potential of this pedagogy. Stating it is good to engage in policy debate is is not the same as policy debate naturally teaches of the right skills. The competition of debate drives us all and that engine produces the personal investment that makes debate such a remarkable environment. Debate must always be understood primarily through competition - without it we are a panel discussion and all of the attendant loss of personal investment.

The role for those committed to debate is to identify and express ways in which unchecked competition produces specific unhealthy practices. Here is the the tension, we need to see ourselves both as those who want to compete (or judge) and those who want to ensure a great foundation for that competition. When we consider both roles we can start to point to how we encourage both.

Let me provide one example. For me, as the topic committee chair, I am distressed by the inability to debate domestic topics because of the absurd construction of the states cp. We do debate a range of topics, but even when we have a domestic topic it has to be framed around the unique exercise of federal authority and typically as something that the states alone cannot do or undo. I ranted at length about this in my education topic paper at;topic=778.0;attach=158  and wished that we could come to a competitive/ educational compromise that encouraged certain amounts of state action (such as those demonstrated as possible by past practice)  and discouraged the magic wand of every state acting together (and the federal government providing the funding, etc. etc). This example was designed to allow the engine of policy debate to work, in my opinion, better because our students would debate something incredibly important in their lives and in their society. I don't pretend there weren't other objections, but the presence of this competitive practice clearly dissuades us from voting for or effectively debating many of the most pressing issues of the day.

Like adjusting how MPJ works, or the survey or the national standards, finding a new compromise on the states CP isn't a magic solution to diversity in debate. I highlighted the challenge of getting our range of schools to find commonalities because I think we both need to think big and globally in our efforts while never losing sight that small compromises can be important. We know debate is remarkable because it encourages competition. Our challenge is to find the terms of that competition that promote the values we all seek.

Thanks for reading.


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


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #21 on: April 12, 2011, 02:49:41 AM »

Thank you so much for engaging me with regard to the substance of my original post.  I really think your comments are important.

First, you state that “Returning the judge (and their ballot) to the central role in the debate strikes me as somewhat in tension with the idea of allowing teams to argue and contest the standards for the debate itself.”  

Currently teams do not set the standards for the debate.  Debate standards already exist.  The role of the negative is to prove the affirmative to be a bad idea.  This is a judge made rule and it handicaps performance based teams because it makes them easily susceptible to competition based arguments, especially when the Affirmative is encouraged to say as little as possible.  Current debate standards handicap dabates in favor of a specific style of debate.

I saw this example play out at CEDA nationals.  Traditional Aff team reads traditional Aff against West Va.  West Va argues that I should use my ballot to protest speed.  Aff says no link, we didn’t do anything wrong, we win because the aff is a good idea.  But west va said I could use my ballot to protest.  Who wins?  I think the traditional model says Aff and the Aff knew this which is why they NEVER even attempted to answer the other team’s argument.  They relied on precedent in guiding me in how to decide the debate, but never debated the framework itself.

Further, teams rarely have a fair chance to debate the standards of the debate, because those debates are judged according to biased standards and judges themselves are biased in favor of traditional debate.  Your interpretation of debate relies on an unbiased objective judge who merely interprets the debate.  My argument is that this is a false reality and that judges have opinions and biasis that are a product of their lived experience and that this reality must be incorporated into the debate.  In the absence of that, my concern is that there is no fair way to have a debate.  

You also state that “Perhaps I find myself very conflicted about the belief that moving away from a focus on a single proposition and its emphasis on researching events not within our own frames of reference will satisfy the goals of diversity or intellectually rigorous debate.”  

My concern here is that you think there is a such thing as “researching events not within our own frames of reference.”  The entire debate community is set up from the reference point of heterosexual white men.  This includes the desire to focus on foreign policy, war and the state to the exclusion of identity politics and the structural violence that happens daily including on our very own message boards.  When we talk about the USFG in debates we are talking about the interests of elite white men:  is it no wonder that debate is all about politics, hegemony, economic competition and proliferation of weapons?  All the solutions offered  and all of the evidence written are from that reference point.  So, my question to you is when will the debate community debate in a way that doesn’t utilize the white male as the only frame of reference?

It shouldn’t be surprising that so many minorities and women seek alternative ways of debating.  Alternative models of debate based largely in identity is the only fair way to engage in the debate for these individuals.  Perhaps, it is the only way the women and minorities will ever be the subject of the debate and in the debate.

You also state that:

Policy debate is hardly the only form of debate and it is hardly alone in struggling to do something American society has struggled with, to provide a fair academic environment for students from all walks of life and from all types of institutions. As our society becomes overwhelmed with digital sources of information I find the arguments for engaging this research model to become more, not less, compelling as essential life tools for all of us.

First, you assume that knowledge gained from a specific form of research is superior to other forms of knowledge.  Right now, debate suppresses other forms of knowledge that is valuable.  It’s based on lived experience and it’s relevant to every discussion.  You have to be allowed to have an opinion before you can ever begin to make a judgment on the opinions of others.  Therefore, debate fails to achieve its intended goal for everyone.

Second, you assume that only policy debate with its normative focus will result in research.  I think judge focus would refocus research towards more diverse topics and people.  I am not advocating for the elimination of research and policy discussions.  I am advocating for a more humane and inclusive way of deciding these debates.

Third, traditional debaters are overwhelmed by digital sources AND They are discouraged from making sound decisions because switch side debate is good and so is conditional argumentation.  So they read whatever they want.  Who cares what it really means because they can also preempt, permute and drop it.  Perhaps the other teams should be able to discuss as a debate argument why voting for such a performance is bad even if that team wins that their plan/interpretation is a good idea.  My model of debate always holds teams accountable for their arguments.

You also said:  “The role for those committed to debate is to identify and express ways in which unchecked competition produces specific unhealthy practices. Here is the the tension, we need to see ourselves both as those who want to compete (or judge) and those who want to ensure a great foundation for that competition. When we consider both roles we can start to point to how we encourage both.”

I am so with you here and I think about this a lot and I have thought about it from many different angles.  Please understand that I love debate in most of its forms.  I believe in plans, stock issues and reading more evidence that anyone should ever read in a debate.  But, I also see what positive effects alternative styles of debate have on minority participation.  You will notice what style of debate brought them into the activity.  

As a coach, I once sent two women debaters into a debate round to argue why voting for them as a women was a better way to solve for patriarchy than voting for the two dudes arguing a non-topical queer aff.  We only had evidence about the importance of materiality of the body and a pep talk.  They lost the debate, but they both said they significantly preferred having a debate about themselves because they felt confident in what they were talking about.   It was a confidence I had been trying to get them to speak with all year and it came in knowing you are right because you are talking from lived experience.  

That is one of the ways that debate has the potential to be empowering and transformative.  It can be a place where people can find their voice.  How can we better encourage this type of debate instead of discourage it?  Not instead of, but in addition to?

I want judges have to commit to embracing alternative styles of debate soley because they increase diversity.  Some things about debate might change, but it won’t be the end of the world, right?

If my idea fails, what ideas do you have?

P.S. - If you work with me on diversity, I’ll work with you on the states CP.   I’m pretty sure it’s a voting issue.


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2011, 11:11:34 AM »
A side comment on eliminating MPJ, because i found it irresistable--

If DevenC is right about an issue which can only express with the caps lock key, then there is a real sense in which Zizek's account of ideology can help shed light on why MPJ persists in the face of calls for diversification.  Ideology operates by being "disavowed"--we know a situation to be one way, but we act as if it is another.  We know that debate is not as diverse as it could be, but we act as traditional policy debate can fill the gap.  We know that judges absolutely cannot disconnect their subjectivity from their decision, but we act as if decisions generally come from neutral ground (and then proclaim the bias of the status quo for traditional policy debate as natural--that is, as a community "commited to diversity", we presume against diversity).  For Zizek, the structure of disavowal is necessary for the subsistence of ideology because it allows us to endlessly circle around the kernel of ideology (for Zizek, class conflict; for this situation, perhaps diversity) without committing ourselves to the psychic burden of actually "believing"* said ideology.

For Zizek, in societies committed to some vision of liberal multiculturalism, racial and cultural oppressions will form kernels of ideological investment which can never be acknowledged but must constantly recirculate themselves in order to maintain the original structure of oppression.  It should come as no surprise, then, that when faced with an actual embodiment of oppression and the attendant "emotional outbursts" that may entail, the privileged and elite call for "politeness" or "political correctness," because, after all, we all want diversity, we are all committed to a cosmopolitian culture.  In his bleaker moments, Zizek may announce that it is precisely the commitment which is desired and so racism must live on so that we may have something to fight against, but I don't think that this has to be true of the debate community.  What I do think is true, however, is that traditional policy debate certainly does link to the diversity K if only because the bodies which make up the TPD community seem not to reflect the bodies which make up the nation.  The weakest of all possible links, I suppose, but this is my starting point...

What does any of this have to do with MPJ?  If we assume that Deven or Rashad are right to say that the lack of diversity in debate can only be sustained by the kinds of practices we endorse, we must then recognize for each and every individual his or her complicity in the establishment and maintainence of the non-diverse structure of debate.  If Zizek is right, this reality is what must be passionately disavowed in order for said structure to maintain itself.  The elimination of MPJ might then be characterized as a traumatic encounter with the Real, the judging community coming face to face with a world which it has itself had a hand in creating.  That is, those who appeal to explanations of non-diversity in debate which rely on its being an "accident" of priviledge (and not, for example, the result of who we are, what we want, and what we care about) instead would encounter themselves constantly voting against diversity, instead would encounter expressions of privilege in the community that appear necessary.  So instead of realizing that MPJ enables some alternative styles of debate to win every so often (as if the goal of this kind of debate is the accumulation of ballots outright), one realizes that MPJ's isolation of certain styles and groups of critics is what disavowal does to maintain a legitimate-looking commitment to diversity while containing the radical potential of this commitment. 

And of course it's disavowal all the way down--the way the community would continue to vote as if nothing had happened post-MPJ-elimination would find its explanation in how the traditional teams were simply "winning," "better arguers" with "more better evidence."  And so we disavow ourselves--**


*For Zizek, the content of belief is not exhausted by cognition; rather, there is a behavioral dimension to belief whereby if one does not act on what one supposedly believes, there is no belief.  He draws examples from religion, how religious belief is meaningless if it does not manifest in ritual.  In other words, belief is performed.

**Zizek usually leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but he has certainly perverted me in ways I cannot imagine.  For example, this post, which I hardly recognize as my own, was literally seething in my brain until I wrote it because (for once) Zizek really seemed right about something.  So, if you hate Zizek as much as some do, I suppose the only solution is to stop being so amenable for his analysis. 


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2011, 11:45:25 AM »
So much of debate is so entrenched that very little is up for debate.  This is a lesson you learn as a debater.  There is tons of precedent within the community that dectates how debates are decided.  This is how as a 2N or 2A you know whether and what you are wining:  because you know how the debate community decides these things.  Which means that all of “traditional debate” is an artifact of it’s non-diverse days.

I do not believe that 'debate' (as if some monolithic, homogenous entity existed) "entrenches" anything. In terms of the community, literally EVERYTHING is up for debate; from the speeches to the debaters themselves, from the policy content of a resolution and speeches, to the way arguments epistemologically know and understand reality, to the way debaters themselves ontologically orient themselves. We debate both the debate's content (key to heg) as well as the debater's actions ("don't say fuck").  

This becomes more strongly relevant as you call for change outside of 'traditional debate'; there is no reason that debate can't be racially inclusive AND 'traditional' in an argumentative sense.  

Further, I will posit that it is indeed how debates are decided that produces such racial polarization.  I have always been of the opinion that debate is racist because the people itself are racist.  It’s not speed, not the USFG, not the flow.  It’s the people, more specifically the judges who have removed themselves from responsibility in how they decide debates.  As a debater, it’s was always the judges that made me feel the least comfortable.  The other team can say what they will and I will be there to call them out, but how the judge decides the debate in an allegedly “objective” way is where the problems begin for me.  I would win racism outweighs nuclear war in every debate that’s judged by Tiffany Dillard Knox and I would lose that debate 10 out of 10 times if (insert generic judge x here) were judging.  Who’s right in that?  The debate community would have you believe it’s because TDK is a bad judge.  I would have you believe that Generic Judge X is just voting as a white male would and telling me that I lost the argument.

I think the first part of your post is exactly why this idea wouldn't work, but I'll put that later.

If you "won" it or "lost" it, then you should of won or lost; I do not see why a judge's predisposition should affect your argument. I thought that was the point of arguing. If you provide deductive reasoning as to why something is true, then it does not matter who your critic is - logic is universal. This is back to basic Toulmin 101; you provide a claim, you give empirical or analytic evidence that the claim is true, and then you explain the claim's impact. None of those things are contingent on your judge.

It is possible that many judges view some arguments as non-falsifiable or based on non-falsifiable claims, and therefore only true contingent upon their support of your argument to begin with. This seems to be the case, based on your description; some judges accept the premise of your claim while others do not, which is where the element of discomfort is introduced.

If that is the case, then your argument really boils down to "more people should agree with me to begin with!" without justification. If you can justify a position not only as GOOD but also as TRUE, then it should be given weight. And honestly, I think everyone agrees that racial disparity in the debate community is BAD. But the nature of that disparity, its manifestations, and its intrinsic ties to the community (the TRUTH of your position) is where I think you lose most people. Its not about the people making arguments, but the false nature of the arguments they're making.

A thought experiment shows this; do you expect a judging difference between a black debater that runs "heg good" versus a white debater who does the same? No; it would boil down to whose arguments defeated other arguments. I do not this this is a controversial premise.

However, when a debater (of ANY race) begins to make broad, sweeping and untestable indictments of the people and actions of those who populate the debate community, judges are hard-pressed to see the truth value of the position. I see this echoed in your post; you brand the judging pool as "x generic judge" and then attack them as being structurally unwilling to vote on racism > NW. I do not see why a majority of judges have any structural bias against racial arguments - and this is an empirical question. Where is your data to back this MASSIVE claim up?

Did you do a survey of RFDs? Even a survey of paradigms? And your data isn't  judges who DONT vote on racism > NW (because the team running NW may have won that debate), but judges who WONT vote on racism BECAUSE its racism. Framed in this way, it becomes extremely clear that behind your extremely powerful rhetoric, you rely on empirical premises which do not have empirical backing.

This broad, unsupported type of claim seems representative of many which your post makes, and is a reason that I am comfortable affirming increased diversity while simultaneously being comfortable discarding other broad and unwarranted claims you make.

What is odd is that judges are largely left out of the discussion in most debates.  It’s as if the judge is just interpreting what happened as opposed to an active participant in the debate.  Focusing on arguments as opposed to people is at the core of this.  Judges aren’t decided whether Heg is good or bad, but instead are voting for the team they found most persuasive.  What is persuasive is largely dictated by who you are.  In other words, who is deciding these debates and how?  Judges must be brought in the debate.

Again, I see claims that are not warranted.

At  the end of a debate, the judge IS deciding the truth value of an argument. You say heg; at the end of a heg debate, the judge chooses whether, in terms of that debate, heg had been demonstrated as good or bad. Just because a judge can think of arguments that defeat a debater's position (which is why they don't personally believe it) does not mean that they should inject those unmade arguments into an rfd; but at the end of the debate, the judge's duty is certainly to evaluate the truth value of arguments made by the debaters.  

I admit that there are certain basic assumptions that most people make, as conditioned by their lives. That a day is composed of 24 hours and completed by a rotation of the earth on its axis. That saving human life is a good thing. That being alive is a good thing.

I think that's what paradigms are for, or at least should be for: they explain these basic assumptions. We have reasons for believing these are true, and thus do. This is inevitable; life forces us to form opinions on certain issues. A paradigm articulates these opinions explicitly, so that the debaters can have a better understanding for their arguments.

Its important to note that these assumptions are not IMMUTABLE, but only existent. In other words, if a team really wants to run timecube in front of me, they need some way to justify that a day is NOT 24 hours. Justification (and what counts as justification - which is another assumption we should identify in paradigms) is probably not existent, so timecube teams may have a problem winning their argument. This is their fault, not mine - they have the duty to prove their argument true. I am unwilling to make assumptions for them in order to grant their argument. It is their duty as debaters to prove any argument they bring up.

This applies as much to race based arguments. I do not view debate as structurally racist, because I have never seen proof that it is. I would require empirical justification of this claim before I was willing to evaluate any argument which was contingent on winning the premise of debate being racist.  

Hence,  I have a modest proposal for deciding the debates that may improve diversity.

Resolved:  The judge/ballot should be the focus of the debate and not the plan.

Under the current traditional model of debate, the negative must prove that the plan/aff is a bad idea.  Some may call this parametric debate.  But ultimately, the question is whether the aff is a good idea.

With you so far.

I think there should be equal access to the ballot and recognition that there is always forced choice between the affirmative and negative and that ultimately the judge votes for teams and not arguments.

Not with you anymore. The judge only votes for a team BECAUSE of the arguments they make in the debate. That's why the activity is called debate. The team is the vehicle for affirming the arguments made by that team. If Northwestern got up there and just beat off for an entire round, the judge wouldn't vote for them because they're Northwestern. Even though they as a TEAM are probably better than whoever they're beating off against, they're just beating off. The judge's role is to adjudicate whose arguments are true, and, once truth value has been ascertained for all arguments, how those arguments interact in terms of impact. ie; its true that voting aff solves genocide, but true that it also causes nuke war. Absent a different impact framing, more lives are saved by voting neg. I admit this assumes that saving life is good; this is one of those basic assumptions earlier identified.

Therefore, the question becomes what is the most productive way to cast my ballot.   What are the advantages to voting aff vs the advantages of voting negative, which means both teams have to do DO something that is net beneficial.

Exactly what kinds of things do  you think a team should "do"?

I am a white, middle-class male who attends the University of Florida. By nature of my genetics, the top three -ism's do not apply to me; racism, classism, sexism. How exactly would debaters like me, who love this activity, participate in your model of debate? You seem as exclusive as the worst which you identify in your post.

That aside, I think that there is a disadvantage to making "do" over "truth" the determinant of debate. First, it brings us away from the critical analysis that makes debate worthwhile; abstract 'good' or 'bad' is only as useful as it is relevant - and its relevance is determined by the truth of its applicability.  

Second, I think your model of debate opens the door for classism. Let's say I offer the judge to donate 1000 dollars to a charity of their choice. I CERTAINLY "do" more than almost any other team. But this narrows debate down to 'who has more cash'. I admit, I do not have a grand for every round I debate. Nor should debate be an auction-room for "who does more". Explain to me, then, how you can advocate voting for who can "do" the most when that model is more exclusive and possibly classist?    

Finally, if it is the judges who are structurally unwilling to vote on this type of argument, what on earth makes you think that they would be willing to do so in your model?

I stopped here because I was unsure of what "your model" even constituted. What exactly are you proposing be done? Does CEDA/NDT formally declare a performance focus? Are you just affirming the idea of focusing on the judge in the abstract? If so, how do you manifest that idea in a specific form? How exactly do you translate it into reality? Please explain.

Reasons to prefer:

1.   Better limit on the debate.  It would allow smaller teams to focus on a negative strategy that is most persuasive as opposed to chasing down the Aff.  In today’s  debate community where teams apparently may or may not have to be topical the research burden on the negative is ridiculous.  I don’t hear much of a discussion of this any longer, but negative research burden used to be important.  I mean, you know have to carry so much evidence it has to be on a computer.  Judges also demand cards for everything so it’s out of hand.  Debaters are like student athletes and let’s not forget the student part.  I think this is particularly important for students of color who may not be as prepared for college as their counterparts.

This doesn't seem to support your project; you outline a number of bad practices and throw the baby out with the bathwater. If it is bad that "judges demand cards for everything", why would they stop demanding cards under your model? Why not try to teach new judges not to demand cards constantly?

Further, you acknowledge that teams refuse the topic; if you somehow get "your model" (whatever that is) to be implemented, what makes you think that people will conform? Just like we have policy models of debate which performance teams kritik,  if we have a performance model of debate then policy teams will kritik it. Except instead of the first words of the 1NC being "fiat is illusory", they'll be "roleplaying is good". Simply declaring one of two schools of thought as superior does not - in any way - make the second school of thought go away. All you do is invert the current binary; instead of A vs B, you make it B vs A, and do nothing to address the REAL crux of your problem - the "structural racism" which you apparently think the community embodies.

2.   Better clash.  In the squo, the Aff is encouraged to say as little as possible so as not to generate links for the negative.  This allows that “we could do that” syndrome.  Or, “we aren’t anything so we can be everything, including your K.”  Indeed, I have seen 2 minute affs with 6 mins of preempts.  Ridic!  Permutations on the K have become out of control and they stem from the idea that the job of the negative is to prove the aff a bad idea.  Maybe that shouldn’t be the role of the negative.  Especially, if the Aff doesn’t have to be topical.

The less they say, the less ground they have. If they say too little to give ANY links but eke out some ground, they are not substantial (policy terms) or are in-round abuse (non-policy terms).

Also, if an aff can outline how it solves a problem in the status quo that would not otherwise be solved in two minutes, then good for them! Why do you get to judge that?

3.   Increases the value of performance.  I can read a poem and then make arguments about the value of voting for that poem and the aff can’t just snatch it and add it the 1AC.

Sure they can. The 1AC will just be a different poem instead of "key to heg". How does your model eliminate the usage of opportunity cost?

I attended the Michigan debate camp several times and Roger Solt would always give the K lecture in which he would say the Kritik is a verb and not a noun, which means you have to DO IT in order for it to be done.  Judge focus means that only one performance can be voted for AND every debate is a performance.

This misses the reason perms exist. They are not simply some structure 'created' by the debate community to give affs some leeway on K's. "perm" is logical shorthand for a more lengthy explanation of opportunity cost. If your performance is not an opportunity cost to my performance (meaning that it is an opportunity intrinsically foregone) then there is no reason to believe the aff is less good.

And if it just becomes about "who can do more", then the neg can behave in a way that functionally perms the aff; after the 1AC is done, the neg can redo their performance, slightly differently and just a little better. With better grammar, let's say. Technically, the neg has "done" something better than the aff. If opportunity cost is out the window for a "who can do more" model, the neg just refocused the debate to

Also - how would you compare performances? Especially those centering around art, music, or poetry. These are things which have intrinsic worth, which is also not comparable (either inter-comparison or intra-comparison). Who are you (and HOW can you) say one piece of art is better than the other? What metric are you using and why should everyone use it? Does poetry outweigh art, but only if its in iambic pentameter? Is verse a voting issue? I do not see a way to compare performances that is not infinitely more arbitrary than the harms you outline now.

4.   Bodies matter.  Who says what and when MUST BE UP FOR DEBATE.  Voting for teams, people and performances as opposed to ideas, independently of how they were presented opens the debate up.  For example, in last year’s pro debate tournament me and Deven Cooper had the privilege of debating Mike Hester & Jon Sharp.  We read our quare aff and they argued community backlash.  But, as far as I am concerned they performed the community backlash in the debate.  Two white men, one from Kentucky and the other from Georgia arguing to 2 (non black or gay judges) that there will be violence if those judges vote for the black queers is problematic?  What does it mean when the judge casts his ballot for that argument?  There is no account for the role of the judge and the autonomy that judge has in choosing what to affirm.  If we just evaluate that debate in terms of whether our plan/performance can produce the advantage identified (change debate) the negative may very well win.  Just because they win the argument doesn’t mean they win the ballot because the material harms to voting for them outweigh the benefits.  

I think their argument was a little (a LOT) more complex than "community backlash", and reducing it to that is as silly as reducing performance teams to "vote for me because I'm black". Neither is true, and you're wrong to do it. However, sharp and Hester are plenty qualified to defend themselves, so I'll leave this be.

5.   Teams should ONLY be accountable for what they do and MUST be accountable for what they do.  For example, fullerton reads their K of whiteness against Towson.  Because Fullerton spoke first and positioned themselves against whiteness now the negative has to either defend whiteness or find another way of talking about it.  But, what does the Aff’s K of whiteness have to do with the negative, especially if they themselves are not white.  Why should the negative have to defend the behavior of others?  Further, what does the Aff’s indictment of USFG policy have to do with me?  Perhaps each team should discuss the benefit of what they do.

Your model doesn't change this...
In your world

5.   Teams should ONLY be accountable for what they do and MUST be accountable for what they do.  For example, fullerton reads their poem against Towson.  Because Fullerton spoke first and positioned themselves against anti-poetry now the negative has to either defend anti-poetry or find another superior thing to talk about.  But, what does the Aff’s  poetry have to do with the negative, especially if they themselves are not anti-poets?.  Why should the negative have to defend the behavior of others?  Further, what does the Aff’s indictment of anti-poetic policy have to do with me?  Perhaps each team should discuss the benefit of what they do.

6.   Normativity.  Current debate takes place as if we are describing a world that we ourselves are not a part of.  This is the most problematic of it all.  We are all a part of the field of pain a death and our current style of debate prevents us from recognizing that.  For instance, I judged a debate in elims of CEDA nationals in which East LA was negative against Whitman and they argued that black people were slaves and went on and on about the plight of the black body.  I didn’t find it persuasive and I found it quite disturbing to listen to.  Why would I enjoy being called a slave by two non-black bodies and told how I must decide the debate.  

I just told them that I wasn’t voting for it.

I then had a long discussion with their coach about the truthiness of the argument, which I found to be irrelevant.

Then you found wrong.

An argument presented poorly is only relevant insofar as it affects the truth articulation. WHY would you refuse to vote for something which is TRUE? The reason it was "disturbing" and "not persuasive" was because it was false (in your eyes). If you dropped them just because you didn't like them, then you are an EXAMPLE of the worst of the community which you indict above. Disliking someone is not a (legitimate) RFD.

 To me it mattered more how the debaters presented the argument (Liberty slayed me with the argument earlier) and that he and they failed to realize that I was the only black body in the room and that their words had an actual effect on me.  In other words, their debate argument was playing out in real life.  I am the black body and I agree that it’s pretty tough, but hearing East LA call me a slave didn’t make me any happier that day.  Neither did Whitman’s casual “global warming outweighs slavery” argument, but I digress.  We are talking about people people!  We need to debate the consequences of voting one way or another and we need to openly discuss and debate who finds what persuasive.

Reasoning should rule the day. It is the only fair, objective standard - or the closest we have to being object. "I don't like" is INFINITELY harder to predict than "this doesn't logically follow". You "disliking" something does not mold reality, and is not fair as a metric.

I just wish debate could be more fun for certain of us.  This requires that we humanize debate.  I think this is a start.

We go from discussions of the best pedagogy to 'being more fun'.  ::)

Other notes:
1.   This is kind of like plan-plan, but it’s performance-performace.

So...all the reasons plan-plan is bad apply?

3.   There are undoubtedly advantages to plan focus debate, but it doesn’t do anything to humanize debate.
Here is where I ask you to defend why the advantages of plan focus are outweighed by and/or mutually exclusive with "humanizing debate".

4.   I argue that Judges are racist not because they hate people of color, but because they are largely indifferent to the racially disparate impacts of current debate practices.  

So your solution is...FORCE them to care? I'm certain that they'll form opinions, but these opinions seem more likely to resent your application of force than to appreciate it.

Education is different than forcing a model of debate; I support education and awareness. I do not support coercion.

Further, we have to stop talking about “whiteness” and start talking about white people (humanize the debate).  Judges are complicit and must realize that casting their ballot one way or another has material consequences, so they must be reminded when they are white.  There must be individual responsibility as opposed to institutional responsibility arguing that debate is racist means that no one in particular is responsible when everyone in particular is responsible.

You have not demonstrated that casting a ballot has consequences outside of determining 1/6 of a prelim record, or 1/3 of an elim round. What do you think is a material consequence?

tl;dr "no solvency and case turns itself"
« Last Edit: April 12, 2011, 11:48:28 AM by CChessman »


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #24 on: April 12, 2011, 11:55:36 AM »
That was dope.  Zizek speaks to people.  I have often wondered why we don't use the arguments we learn in debate to alter the way we debate.  I have developed my own thought on debate after debating CLS, gender IR, Heidegger, Spanos and most importantly normativity.  These are debate arguments, but also real discussions about how we orient ourselves.

I was thinking to myself and there is only one person that explains debate to me in a way that I can  understand.  The only author ever read in debate that spoke to me:  Pierre Schlag, in The Problem of the Subject, (69 Tex. L. Rev. 1627, 1668) speaks on much of what I have already said here:

Now, in one sense, the rule-of-law vision has largely ignored this problem. For much of its history, the rule-of-law vision has simply presupposed the existence of such a competent subject. In its scholarship, for instance, the rule-of-law vision has quite systematically and unconsciously assumed the perspective of a normatively and epistemically competent agent and, in turn, reduced the agent to a certain idealized image of the appellate judge. Indeed, most rule-of-law scholarship is addressed to this idealized image of the appellate judge -- an image that depicts appellate judges as important legal decision makers who operate more or  [*1668]  less autonomously within a field of legal doctrine, but who are receptive to rational legal argument and committed to accepting the better argument. 135 The idealized appellate judge is one who does a "close reading" of the cases, venerates legal precedent, and rarely departs from the traditional pathways of conventional legal interpretation or reasoning. In this way, by presupposing the effective presence of such a competent agent, rule-of-law thinking has elided the problem of the subject.

Yet there is another crucial sense in which the rule-of-law vision has always been concerned with at least one version of the problem of the subject. Rule-of-law thinkers have been persistently concerned that, insofar as law as craft depends upon the individual subject, his or her actions and thoughts need to be constrained in some way. Typically, the problem of the subject first presents itself to the rule-of-law vision as the risk that some errant individual subject, some person occupying the critical role of judge, might fail to read the doctrine "correctly" and thus might "impose his personal values" on the rest of us. 136 This way of thinking about the problem of the subject is so deeply ingrained in rule-of-law thinkers that they are often incapable of or unwilling to think about the subject in any other way. Instead, they often subsume or reformulate other very different concerns about the problem of the subject within this problematic strategy of constraining the deviant autonomous individual subject.


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #25 on: April 12, 2011, 12:04:12 PM »


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #26 on: April 12, 2011, 01:48:48 PM »
I wish people would stop saying that I am making general assertions about the debate community as if I don’t know anything about debate.  I debated for 8 years.  I have been to every major debate tournament in high school and college debate.  I didn’t miss a single major debate tournament in 8 years of debating from 1995-2003.  I have been to all the best debate camps (a whopping total of 17 cumulative weeks at debate camp).  I’ve had all of the best lab leaders you can imagine.  I’ve taught side by side with some of the best debaters and debate coaches at debate camp.  I have been coached by some of the best debaters, judges and coaches.  As a debater I talked about debate all the time because I thought it was the only thing I had in common with debaters.  So I kept track of what happened in my debates, my friend’s debates, my coach’s debates.  8 years of dedication to learning a craft. 

You cannot win CEDA nationals and get to the semi-finals of the NDT without understanding how judges evaluate debates.  For me, not much of debate is natural.  I learned it from judges.  I always thought that the only person that mattered in a debate is the judge and that’s where my focus should be.   I always wanted to know what is going on in debate.  I remember when I first heard of a floating pic.  I thought to myself, wait judges are going for this?  Bet, I can dedicate 3 secs of my speech to this one sentence that could dramatically alter the debate and should the aff drop it I will force this judge to vote for this argument because a debate was already won on it, therefore there’s binding precedent.   I also remember losing a T debate because the negative asserted development assistance has to be in the plan.  I thought, that’s it?  Judges are falling for that?  Sure, I can take 3 secs to drop that and see where it goes.  You tell me what you are voting on and I will do it.  Point blank.  Eventually, I realized that my speeches were writing themselves because in debate you are not only debating the other team, you are also debating the judges silent expectations that good debaters know are there based on experience and precedent.

In the process of studying what judges do want to hear, I also learned what judges don’t really want to hear or vote on.  Whereas I would like judges on record expressing disavowal for certain arguments in a debate (the same way I expect people here to speak out against certain things), policy judges prefer to “make an objective opinion about the validity of arguments.”  It’s difficult to engage in a fair debate when two white males are arguing to a panel of three white men that genocide of native americans is good because the west is best.  Indeed, it’s hard for me to even debate the topicality sheet of paper in that debate because I cannot get passed the fact that the west is best argument is problematic at best.  How is this a fair debate?  I guess I should have to debate the logic of the argument, but I don’t even fully have the language to compete.  It’s hard to engage in debates when you feel attacked.  However, it’s because I certainly don’t think these three white males are racist, right?  Surely, they don’t want to vote for this argument?  Surely, they realize they have a choice in how they vote, right?  If I just make the argument that they shouldn’t vote for this argument the good person over there (sometimes my friend and/or mentor) will vote for me, right?  The answer is NO.  9 out of 10 times.  Why?  Because judges have somehow removed themselves from having any responsibility in debates.  This does not foster an inclusive environment.  That’s why I think it is important to recognize the choice involved in how judges cast their ballot.  It’s accountability.

I find it important to speak in part from my personal experience.  And perhaps only those close to me understand the way in which I struggled between speaking my mind on issues of race and gender and competitive success.  I have delivered speeches that I didn’t want to give because a first-round was on the line (and a first round was almost always on the line for us).  I know what it’s like to let things go that are killing you inside slide because you are winning heg impact turns.  I know what it is like to debate for more than yourself and sometimes in sacrifice of yourself.  It’s a terrible fucking choice. 

The point is this, when I describe debate I do it as an expert in policy debate and from personal experience.  I have also made some pretty specific link and impact arguments related to the epistemological violence of current judging practices.  Those were hardly assertions.

I actually think I have unique insight into debate because so much of it was a learned behavior for me.  You see, in debate, I am not Michael Vick, I am Peyton Manning.

Now, enough about me, what ideas do you have?

Paul Elliott Johnson

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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #27 on: April 12, 2011, 02:55:56 PM »

is it your position that a there is not a language intelligible to policymakers that can make racism a more important problem than that of international conflict, or is it simply that so far debaters have failed to find that language? If it is the former, then you are identifying a structural issue with debate itself (and indeed, policymaking), and one that speaks to a potential failure of switch side to promote pedagogical reflexivity. With that as your conclusion, you seem to locate its cause in the refusal of judges and debaters to activate their agency in ways that disrupt this globalized "policy centric" logic. If it is the latter, then perhaps what you are really after is the production of a set of public idioms that can emphasize to policy-centered judges that the actual costs and consequences of racism are very high indeed. And it seems as though triangulating to the topic, while risking the annihilation/reconfiguration of the more radical politics you gesture towards here, is also a maneuver that holds out hope that we might produce these race-conscious public idioms that enable judges to decide that social justice issues ARE more important than international conflicts.



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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #28 on: April 12, 2011, 03:08:59 PM »
There is a lot to digest going on in this thread (I'm sure there's some Zizekian term for when a topic is nothing more than the subsumed whole of its tangents), but I think a reason why there is a divide between your observations based on experience (extensive though it is) and the inability for several other people to see the structure of racism may be related to inherent limitations of your experiential method.  Does your experience demonstrate that you were an exceptional debater? Undoubtedly.  But please realize that the deep elimination rounds of the NDT (or any other major national tournament) is a club that the average debater and average judge is not privy to.  Many of us who couldn't afford that 17 weeks of debate camp or were never had 'first rounds' on the line see different structures in place.  So, while your experience gives you strong evidence to draw inferences from, there needs to be a qualification to those inferences, or there should be a research effort to find how far and how deep these structures of racism run in the community (random aside: a sub-forum for coordinating research projects or announcing calls for papers on this website would be a great way to facilitate the important work that Gordon so aptly demonstrates the need for in his well-written post).  Because when a strongly felt inference that you draw is (and it IS. I can find no such qualifying statements in your original post) applied to every person who participates in intercollegiate policy debate, it does feel like a strong assertion without evidence to make it ring true.  But this is all a digression.  

I am with you in terms of a gutshot feeling that debate often feels like it is 'getting worse'.  Evidence is more recycled.  Cards are worse.  Judges call for EVERYTHING.  Real communication is pushed to the margins.  Some schools are concentrating debate wealth and talent on such a scale that it can only be described as 'gross'.  Elimination round participants are far more often than not white men.  Judges are far more often than not white men.  Whether or not any of this is reducible to a structure of racism, I am not convinced.  But I am relatively confident that race is a relevant variable at times and certainly alters dynamics in debate.  I think that the voices that get to speak in debate are much more so reflections of economics than race, but I can certainly understand the epistemic value that increased diversity has.  So I do want to press on and talk about ideas.

First, CChessman does raise a lot of good questions about your proposed 'role of the ballot' model.  Putting aside some of the claims that are more specious (like logic is universal for EVERYONE), could you comment on some of the workability questions he/she raises?

Second, in the vein of Gordon's appeal that education must temper competition, what would we think about shifting the question away from how judges judge for a moment and instead think about creating topics that allow for different creative approaches and a diversity of content?  If it is true that outside of the top 20 or 30 'critical' judges and the 20 or 30 'hardline policy' judges is nothing more than a big soft (white?) middle that silently prefers the marginalization of alternative perspectives, creating a new persuasive appeal centered around 'teams assert the role of the ballot' would likely just produce more of the same.  Debates will recycle the same old tropes of every 'clash of civs' debate as we spiral back into a framework question.  

Another problem with the 'role of the ballot' model is that I think it will reinforce trends that make it harder and harder for average squads and students to compete.  You are correct; research burdens matter.  But they matter less for large squads with lots of resources.  Students who are relatively new to the activity will find it even more difficult to stay engaged when there is no 'topic' but rather dueling oratories about 'x cause is more efficacious than y cause'.  And a large school with three or four coaches and more researchers on retainer can produce files on 'x method is bad' and 'y method is good'.  We have to face the facts sometime: policy debate now requires students to master more things than ever.  Sometimes that is easy for the gifted or well-coached.  It is difficult for other people and I think your model may reinforce a worse trend or structure of exclusion.

As a result, I really do think things need to start at how we select topics.  A compromise must be struck between education and competition if the activity is going to thrive in the long term.  In a lot of ways, I thought the immigration topic was an enormously wasted opportunity.  We said we wanted to debate about one of the most pressing, interesting and complicated issues that we as citizens encounter and instead it was the 'economy' topic in a lot of ways.  I think debate can be made better, but I think that requires a return to the resolution, both by squads that seek to avoid anyting 'kritiky' at all costs and by those squads who think the resolution has nothing to offer them or (worse) use it as their primary strategy regardless of topic content.

Just some thoughts.  Good discussion for the most part.


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #29 on: April 12, 2011, 03:44:22 PM »
This discussion is an example of why these debates are handicapped.  It's impossible for me to discuss racism because only you can decide when racism is happening and you will do that based on a rational thought process and research.  In this world nothing I say matters because you are unwilling to comprehend what I am saying.  And you don't think that this opinion is at all related to who you are and is instead just an honest evaluation of the discussion.

Still, no one is arguing that debate isn't exclusionary, that debate isn't hostile to minorities or that I am wrong about anything I've said.  You just said that I can't prove it  BY YOUR STANDARDS.