Author Topic: Need for a Discussion of standards to determine a yearly topic.  (Read 5758 times)


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Final Round of the NDT: Affirmative runs dealert (or some other NFU plan) via a Supreme Court mandate. Neg. runs a Congressional action c-plan and a ploitcs net benefit.  Wow, I really learned a lot about U.S. nuclear weapons policy.  Final Round of the CEDA Nationals: Oklahoma recycles Nietzche for the millionth time and a policy team from Whitman crashes on the framework debate. Yawn, have another drink at the bar. Is this what policy debate has become? I'll pony up and say it, the nuclear weapons topic sucked, was horribly boring, was, HORRIBLY worded...and was not that eduactional. I learned everything I needed to know about this topic by the middle of October, 2009.

I have written ot co-authored topic papers for a number of years. There seems to be a problem with the topic selection process. The topics we have chosen over the years have not met my subjective standards. I will posit some claims for discussion:
1) Directors of debate have lost focus on the purpose of debate topics. Little a. Coaches/programs are more worried about how they will fare under a topic rather than looking at the underlying purpose of debate and debate tpics. Little b. Coaches, and worse, grad assistant coaches, are too focused on the fact that they debated a topic sometime in the last fricking decade. We need rediscover the fundamental purpose of debate topics.
2) The current topics are stagnant. Are we REALLY alredy down to infrastructure, space, treaties or Latin America?  The merger between NDT and CEDA requires that we debate a year long topic...I posit that this overlimits our ability to serve students (see the first claim above). Why? because there are a lot of topics that can be covered in a semester...and that should be discussed. However, to try to craft a year long topic, that somehow protects big schools from being suprised in quarterfinals of the NDT, it is nearly impossible to come up with innovative and meaningful topics.


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Re: Need for a Discussion of standards to determine a yearly topic.
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2010, 09:51:51 AM »
This might be funny if it weren't insulting to the teams in the final rounds.
1) De-Alert and NFU are different. And, the plan from finals was RLOD, which is distinct from both. Seems like you should have kept reading after October.
2) NU did resort to generics in the final round - as most people do against new affirmatives. Throughout the season their approach has been very specific to the topic and innovative.
3) OU was reading new cards in the finals, and their aff was crafted around the role of nuclear weapons. It wasn't just Nietzche.
4) Whitman didn't go for framework. They went for a CP, case and a disad.

I didn't like the wording of the topic either, but I watched some fantastic debates this year about deterrence, proliferation and the interaction between nuclear and conventional weapons. Frankly, I fail to see how semester-long topics or allowing more affirmative flex would avoid the generic debates you criticize. Seems like it would create an incentive for people to go generic.


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Re: Need for a Discussion of standards to determine a yearly topic.
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2010, 12:40:28 PM »
I would encourage folks to review the guidelines for controversy paper submission. We specifically ask for folks to consider topics that have not been recently discussed and that would provide unique educational experiences. Speaking for myself, I believe a number of people found the opportunity to discuss nuclear policy during such a year of public consideration to be a reason to support that topic. I can't know for sure, but that argument was made in the controversy paper by debate alums working in that field.

I would also look back to a short time ago when we debated agricultural policy. It was a paper largely written by current students and it offered us a chance to discuss an important topic that had not been considered for some time.

We have papers being worked on this year in a number of areas that have also not been discussed recently: immigration, the first amendment, infrastructure, and education to name a few. It is the community's decision what topic to vote for, but I do feel the committee (who are writing the bulk of these papers) is doing what it can to provide a range of options.

We can't satisfy all of our community all the time, but we do try to improve our governing documents each year. If there are other concepts or approaches that we can include, please review the documents and let me know.

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: Need for a Discussion of standards to determine a yearly topic.
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2010, 01:36:24 PM »
Finals of CEDA was not Nietzsche, it was kinda the opposite.


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Re: Need for a Discussion of standards to determine a yearly topic.
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2010, 06:40:52 PM »
um it's spelled KEDA.

i'll be here all week, folks!

Anyway, Scott,  I could be wrong on this but i believe our governing documents require a year long topic.  You could always propose an amendment to change that.

also it was the sems not finals that had nietzsche.

i do agree that both K and policy teams tend to recycle a lot of the same ole crap.  I tend to think that in general K teams are slightly worse violators.  Policy teams tend to recycle impact areas, K teams tend to recycle everything.  I don't know if it's a year long topic that is the primary motivation for this.  I thought the nuclear weapons topic was pretty solid.  There seemed to be a healthy amount of new affirmatives as the year went on, and T was often a viable option.

You tend to say this every year when the topic is announced and when it is finished.  Maybe you just learn way faster than the rest of us.  If you need to be in something that innovates constantly to stimulate your brain... parli?