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Found 33 results

  1. Hi All, A friend told me about this site and I thought it was the perfect place to share it! I am starting up a google drive for evidence sharing for the 19-20 policy year. Feel free to contribute as little or as much as you want but be prepared to put in what you get out! The link is below! https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1I9-u4xJPTzrH832nwmF6uSdnZOPBhCl6?usp=sharing
  2. 2019 in debate is a far cry from what it used to be. Goodbye paper, expandos, and tubs. Goodbye photocopying and printing. Goodbye asking to look at a physical card to write down the citation. We exist digitally in word documents, virtual tubs, caselists with full speech documents, and repositories like the Open Evidence Project. Evidence has, in many respects, gone from a hoarded commodity to being a community resource. The ironic thing is, as we create more evidence solutions, we create new problems in how it works: poring through files to find a single card; spending an inordinate amount of time formatting files, structuring them, perfectly naming and organizing headers. Printing a single debater’s dropbox now would likely collapse a handcart. Evidence has become more readily available to all, but as the amount of accessible evidence has exponentially increased, the management and organization of this evidence has become a gigantic task. Arvind Balaji, a 16 year old Junior at Round Rock High School, may have the solution. Arvind is the mind behind debate.cards, an open source, flexible, and free to use evidence search engine. I reached out to Arvind over email to talk debate.cards with him to see where it came from, how it works, and where it can go. [Our emails have been lightly edited for readability in an article format. No content has been censored or changed in meaning.] ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Colin: How long have you been involved in debate? How did you get involved? Arvind: Third year debating. I knew a few friends that debated in high school, figure I would a give it a shot.. and here I am three years later haha Colin: Where did you get your interest in coding and when did you start? Arvind: I've had interest in computers since I was young, my parents are both software engineers which is suppose helped me to foster that interest. I kinda just taught my way to code along the way, from starting out with simple website and working up to full fledged projects like debate.cards Colin: Wow, so you have a pretty deep history with software development. I saw on your github (snooping) that you have developed a debatetimer and an openevidence download tool among other things. Have you done any large projects as sophisticated as debate.cards? Arvind: I think debate.cards is definitely the most ambitious project I've taken on so far, but the smaller projects along the way helped me learn a lot. Colin: Is [software development] what you intend to pursue after you're done with school/is this partly an exercise in building your portfolio? Arvind: I haven't completely decided yet, but I think I'll most likely be pursuing CS. And yeah, I definitely think debate.cards is a good contribution to my personal portfolio. Colin: What programming languages are you most familiar with? Arvind: I'm fairly comfortable with Java, Python, and Javascript. Recently, I've found my self working Javascript/Node the most. Colin: A lot of people draw parallels between debate and other activities (usually something they personally find interesting. Do you see a relationship between coding and debate? Arvind: For me personally, coding and debate are both things that I'm passionate about, so being able to work on a project that combined the best of both worlds is something that incredibly fun and rewarding. Colin: There are some examples of individuals attempting to monetize software solutions in debate. Why open source and not keep it private? Arvind: debate.cards was created with intention of keeping it free. The goal of debate.cards has always been to make evidence more accessible, I feel that monetizing it ultimately detracts from that purpose. Colin: That's an admirable attitude. Developing something that can be used as a public good should have low or no barriers to access it. Debate thrives on individuals willing to do selfless work for the benefit of others. I have a couple of follow up questions here: Why do you think that accessible evidence is necessary? Arvind: I think that more accessible evidence is a good way to help close the resource gap between small and large school debaters. I also think it just increases the overall quality of debate, having access to more specific and well-research evidence allows for debates to be more educational and in-depth. Colin: There are plenty of people in debate who have disliked some technological changes in how debate works, whether it's the use of laptops or paper, use of internet in debate (more in a regional high school context), using cites or docs, or even using the caselist at all. Most commonly there's a fear that debaters will become lazy and retreat from having to learn independent research skills. An example from [my coaching experience] is that we usually have to go through a period of forcing novice or JV debaters to stop relying on the search feature in their virtual tubs so they actually have to learn their files. You're offering a paradigmatic shift in how people can access evidence in various places online. What effect do you think debate.cards will have in this regard? Do you think this is unfounded or do you just think the benefits outweigh? Arvind: I think that criticism of tech in debate is inevitable. I'm sure the same was said for paperless, open evidence, and open source. While yes, there is a risk that software like debate.cards will lead to lazy debate practices, I don't think it's as big of deal as it's made out to be. I don't think it's an issue that's intrinsic to debate.cards and yes, the aforementioned benefits are probably more important. Colin: In simple terms, how does it work (both front and back end)? What makes it easy to use? Where might it have some user interface challenges? Arvind: At its core debate.cards is pretty simple. First, Word documents are fed into a parser, the parser splits up the individual cards in the document and does a little bit of guess work to get information such as the author and date out of the card. All of the parsed data is then indexed, the indexer allows for quick and powerful searches of all the stored data. Think google, but for debateevidence. The then the last part is the actual user interface that allows for searching through the data, and downloading it back into a word doc. I think the super simple interface it what makes it appealing for users. Search for what you want, then download it. No frills. Ironically, I think this is the cause of its biggest shortcoming. The site currently lacks features that would allow for more advanced searches and better evidence discovery, features that would make it an even more useful tool for debaters. Colin: I noticed that the search bar says "Search for a cite or tag..." So the keywords search are for just those 2 parts? When evidence is parsed through, are cites and tags lumped together for keyword searches or separately? Arvind: I guess that isn't completely true anymore, it searches through the cite and tag along with the heading levels. All three of those things are indexed separately but there isn't currently a way for the user to pick which fields to search in. That functionality will be added in the relatively near future though. Colin: How extensive is its library? What kinds of places can it search? How easy would it be for people to configure their own to crawl other places? Arvind: Currently debate.cards pulls data from the past 7 years of the Open Evidence Project and open source documents from this year's High School Policy wiki. Short term plans include adding the LD and College wiki, but my eventual goal is to open it up for users to directly contribute files. There is currently a section on the GitHub readme file on setting up your own instance of debate.cards which would allow people to add in their own custom data sources, which might be an interesting challenge for those that are tech savvy. Colin: What could custom data sources be? Locally hosted for an enhanced vtub search tool? Or does it have to be web-based? Arvind: It could in theory be anything, the application is written in a way that is modular. So people could in theory write their own modules that would add in new data sources. But to be clear, this definitely isn't something I'm recommending to the average debater or team, or even officially supporting it - it's just an idea. Maybe in the future I can look into adding a more user friendly way to do this. Colin: At the college level there has been some discussion of consent to data collection, even for willingly provided open source documents for disclosure purposes. How feasible is it for you to exclude specific caselist pages from debate.cards? Just as relevant, are you willing to take requests to do so? Arvind: This is definitely something I've been thinking about recently. When I initially added open source docs to the wiki, I took the liberty to assume that those that are willing to open source their documents would also be willing to let their documents be used for something like debate.cards - both of which share the same goal of making research more accessible to debaters. However some of the backlash over oodebate has made me question that. I still think that for the most part that is a fair assumption, especially since debate.cards is not a commercial product. However, I think it's definitely important to respect the feelings of the debaters that put these files out in the first place. There is some technical work that needs to be done first, but once that's ready I'll definitely add an opt out option. Colin: Debate.cards has a lot of potential as it is. What kind of development do you see in the future of debate.cards? Is there an end goal vision of what you think it could be? Arvind: I think the coolest part about debate.cards is the fact that, for the first time, there is a structured way to store and retrieve debate evidence. Instead of being confined to folders full of shoddily formatted word docs, having a more structured and semantic way to store individual debate cardshas enormous potential for the future of technology in debate. I'm frankly not sure what the direction of debate.cards itself will be in the future, but I'm confident that the technology behind it will end up being useful for a lot more than just debate.cards A public API for debate.cards is in the works which would allow other developers to use the data from debate.cards in their own applications and projects. Colin: So do you think that the traditional hierarchical structure of debate files should be dropped in favor of individual card searches? Or am I reading too much into that? Arvind: No not really. I just think that technology in debate is inevitably going to progress, and word docs are just not a very convenient format to work with it. Being able to represent the contents of a speech doc in semantic way just makes developing technology for debate much easier. Colin: What kind of data could be called through the API? Arvind: All of the features of debate.cards (searching, retrieving a specific card, downloading as a word doc) will definitely be available. Beyond that, I'm not completely sure yet. I think that once I get the first version of the API running, I can probably expand the feature set based on community demand. Colin: A lot of nerds in debate at the college level are highly interested in data. Are data analytics and/or visualization somewhere on your checklist? Arvind: Creating analytics is not something I currently have plans for, but the data for others to do so is something that can probably make available through the API. Colin: Alright, last question for you. You've done this by yourself so far, do you want people to help out? How can they do so? Arvind: Yeah help is always appreciated, that's part of the reason why debate.cards is open source. For those that feel like they might have the ability to help out but don't know where to start, just shoot me an email and we can talk. Even if you don't have technical skills to directly contribute, things as simple as making bug reports when you find and issue or providing feature suggestions help out a lot. -------------------------------------------------------- If you are interested in learning more or helping contribute, you can visit debate.cards or find the source code on Arvind’s Github here.
  3. 2019 in debate is a far cry from what it used to be. Goodbye paper, expandos, and tubs. Goodbye photocopying and printing. Goodbye asking to look at a physical card to write down the citation. We exist digitally in word documents, virtual tubs, caselists with full speech documents, and repositories like the Open Evidence Project. Evidence has, in many respects, gone from a hoarded commodity to being a community resource. The ironic thing is, as we create more evidence solutions, we create new problems in how it works: poring through files to find a single card; spending an inordinate amount of time formatting files, structuring them, perfectly naming and organizing headers. Printing a single debater’s dropbox now would likely collapse a handcart. Evidence has become more readily available to all, but as the amount of accessible evidence has exponentially increased, the management and organization of this evidence has become a gigantic task. Arvind Balaji, a 16 year old Junior at Round Rock High School, may have the solution. Arvind is the mind behind debate.cards, an open source, flexible, and free to use evidence search engine. I reached out to Arvind over email to talk debate.cards with him to see where it came from, how it works, and where it can go. [Our emails have been lightly edited for readability in an article format. No content has been censored or changed in meaning.] ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Colin: How long have you been involved in debate? How did you get involved? Arvind: Third year debating. I knew a few friends that debated in high school, figure I would a give it a shot.. and here I am three years later haha Colin: Where did you get your interest in coding and when did you start? Arvind: I've had interest in computers since I was young, my parents are both software engineers which is suppose helped me to foster that interest. I kinda just taught my way to code along the way, from starting out with simple website and working up to full fledged projects like debate.cards Colin: Wow, so you have a pretty deep history with software development. I saw on your github (snooping) that you have developed a debatetimer and an openevidence download tool among other things. Have you done any large projects as sophisticated as debate.cards? Arvind: I think debate.cards is definitely the most ambitious project I've taken on so far, but the smaller projects along the way helped me learn a lot. Colin: Is [software development] what you intend to pursue after you're done with school/is this partly an exercise in building your portfolio? Arvind: I haven't completely decided yet, but I think I'll most likely be pursuing CS. And yeah, I definitely think debate.cards is a good contribution to my personal portfolio. Colin: What programming languages are you most familiar with? Arvind: I'm fairly comfortable with Java, Python, and Javascript. Recently, I've found my self working Javascript/Node the most. Colin: A lot of people draw parallels between debate and other activities (usually something they personally find interesting. Do you see a relationship between coding and debate? Arvind: For me personally, coding and debate are both things that I'm passionate about, so being able to work on a project that combined the best of both worlds is something that incredibly fun and rewarding. Colin: There are some examples of individuals attempting to monetize software solutions in debate. Why open source and not keep it private? Arvind: debate.cards was created with intention of keeping it free. The goal of debate.cards has always been to make evidence more accessible, I feel that monetizing it ultimately detracts from that purpose. Colin: That's an admirable attitude. Developing something that can be used as a public good should have low or no barriers to access it. Debate thrives on individuals willing to do selfless work for the benefit of others. I have a couple of follow up questions here: Why do you think that accessible evidence is necessary? Arvind: I think that more accessible evidence is a good way to help close the resource gap between small and large school debaters. I also think it just increases the overall quality of debate, having access to more specific and well-research evidence allows for debates to be more educational and in-depth. Colin: There are plenty of people in debate who have disliked some technological changes in how debate works, whether it's the use of laptops or paper, use of internet in debate (more in a regional high school context), using cites or docs, or even using the caselist at all. Most commonly there's a fear that debaters will become lazy and retreat from having to learn independent research skills. An example from [my coaching experience] is that we usually have to go through a period of forcing novice or JV debaters to stop relying on the search feature in their virtual tubs so they actually have to learn their files. You're offering a paradigmatic shift in how people can access evidence in various places online. What effect do you think debate.cards will have in this regard? Do you think this is unfounded or do you just think the benefits outweigh? Arvind: I think that criticism of tech in debate is inevitable. I'm sure the same was said for paperless, open evidence, and open source. While yes, there is a risk that software like debate.cards will lead to lazy debate practices, I don't think it's as big of deal as it's made out to be. I don't think it's an issue that's intrinsic to debate.cards and yes, the aforementioned benefits are probably more important. Colin: In simple terms, how does it work (both front and back end)? What makes it easy to use? Where might it have some user interface challenges? Arvind: At its core debate.cards is pretty simple. First, Word documents are fed into a parser, the parser splits up the individual cards in the document and does a little bit of guess work to get information such as the author and date out of the card. All of the parsed data is then indexed, the indexer allows for quick and powerful searches of all the stored data. Think google, but for debateevidence. The then the last part is the actual user interface that allows for searching through the data, and downloading it back into a word doc. I think the super simple interface it what makes it appealing for users. Search for what you want, then download it. No frills. Ironically, I think this is the cause of its biggest shortcoming. The site currently lacks features that would allow for more advanced searches and better evidence discovery, features that would make it an even more useful tool for debaters. Colin: I noticed that the search bar says "Search for a cite or tag..." So the keywords search are for just those 2 parts? When evidence is parsed through, are cites and tags lumped together for keyword searches or separately? Arvind: I guess that isn't completely true anymore, it searches through the cite and tag along with the heading levels. All three of those things are indexed separately but there isn't currently a way for the user to pick which fields to search in. That functionality will be added in the relatively near future though. Colin: How extensive is its library? What kinds of places can it search? How easy would it be for people to configure their own to crawl other places? Arvind: Currently debate.cards pulls data from the past 7 years of the Open Evidence Project and open source documents from this year's High School Policy wiki. Short term plans include adding the LD and College wiki, but my eventual goal is to open it up for users to directly contribute files. There is currently a section on the GitHub readme file on setting up your own instance of debate.cards which would allow people to add in their own custom data sources, which might be an interesting challenge for those that are tech savvy. Colin: What could custom data sources be? Locally hosted for an enhanced vtub search tool? Or does it have to be web-based? Arvind: It could in theory be anything, the application is written in a way that is modular. So people could in theory write their own modules that would add in new data sources. But to be clear, this definitely isn't something I'm recommending to the average debater or team, or even officially supporting it - it's just an idea. Maybe in the future I can look into adding a more user friendly way to do this. Colin: At the college level there has been some discussion of consent to data collection, even for willingly provided open source documents for disclosure purposes. How feasible is it for you to exclude specific caselist pages from debate.cards? Just as relevant, are you willing to take requests to do so? Arvind: This is definitely something I've been thinking about recently. When I initially added open source docs to the wiki, I took the liberty to assume that those that are willing to open source their documents would also be willing to let their documents be used for something like debate.cards - both of which share the same goal of making research more accessible to debaters. However some of the backlash over oodebate has made me question that. I still think that for the most part that is a fair assumption, especially since debate.cards is not a commercial product. However, I think it's definitely important to respect the feelings of the debaters that put these files out in the first place. There is some technical work that needs to be done first, but once that's ready I'll definitely add an opt out option. Colin: Debate.cards has a lot of potential as it is. What kind of development do you see in the future of debate.cards? Is there an end goal vision of what you think it could be? Arvind: I think the coolest part about debate.cards is the fact that, for the first time, there is a structured way to store and retrieve debate evidence. Instead of being confined to folders full of shoddily formatted word docs, having a more structured and semantic way to store individual debate cardshas enormous potential for the future of technology in debate. I'm frankly not sure what the direction of debate.cards itself will be in the future, but I'm confident that the technology behind it will end up being useful for a lot more than just debate.cards A public API for debate.cards is in the works which would allow other developers to use the data from debate.cards in their own applications and projects. Colin: So do you think that the traditional hierarchical structure of debate files should be dropped in favor of individual card searches? Or am I reading too much into that? Arvind: No not really. I just think that technology in debate is inevitably going to progress, and word docs are just not a very convenient format to work with it. Being able to represent the contents of a speech doc in semantic way just makes developing technology for debate much easier. Colin: What kind of data could be called through the API? Arvind: All of the features of debate.cards (searching, retrieving a specific card, downloading as a word doc) will definitely be available. Beyond that, I'm not completely sure yet. I think that once I get the first version of the API running, I can probably expand the feature set based on community demand. Colin: A lot of nerds in debate at the college level are highly interested in data. Are data analytics and/or visualization somewhere on your checklist? Arvind: Creating analytics is not something I currently have plans for, but the data for others to do so is something that can probably make available through the API. Colin: Alright, last question for you. You've done this by yourself so far, do you want people to help out? How can they do so? Arvind: Yeah help is always appreciated, that's part of the reason why debate.cards is open source. For those that feel like they might have the ability to help out but don't know where to start, just shoot me an email and we can talk. Even if you don't have technical skills to directly contribute, things as simple as making bug reports when you find and issue or providing feature suggestions help out a lot. -------------------------------------------------------- If you are interested in learning more or helping contribute, you can visit debate.cards or find the source code on Arvind’s Github here. View full article
  4. zizek v peterson debate.mp4
  5. An adaptation of Scrum for agile project management in Debate. Regular file production is something of a lacking function in many high school debate teams, notably for schools that primarily operate as clubs with no established coach on staff. Much of the time, their work relies far more on using openevidence, the caselist, whatever other files happen to come their way, and then far down the priority list is doing work themselves. This results in pre/post season work being unfocused, unorganized, inefficiently done, or non-existent while waiting to see what camps/file selling sites (oops)/caselists put out in terms of files. This problem can exist for a variety of reasons: lack of research ability, card cutting ability, or general confusion when considering how to approach a topic. But, assuming that a high school team has individuals capable of these things, what is lacking? Why is it difficult to have regular original file production? A laisse-faire approach to work ends up being the norm, with debaters all working on their own side projects with little interaction over what they are working on with others (minus the always existing gushing over cool arguments that they found). When that is the case, no matter the size of the team, there will be sizable gaps in the virtual tubs or at minimum, a lack of originality in work. What should occur is team organization: how to identify assignments, distributing them, how to work on them, etc. My goal is to outline a model of team organization built on Scrum, an agile project management framework. While it may seem inconsequential, project management structure has increasing value for debate with the expansion of topic size, information available, and subsequently the number of arguments that exist. For many teams who already have a central process for assignments and file work, this will likely feel familiar. So, a brief introduction to Scrum. Scrum is an agile project management framework, typically used for software development. Agile refers to a set of values for completing assignments. A core principle of agile that Scrum is built off of is continuous improvement. Scrum is a more defined process, a heuristic that prizes adapting to changing factors in how the work process goes. This means re-prioritizing and short release cycles to consistently learn, adapt, and improve work. And Scrum intends to take an incremental approach by breaking down projects into smaller work goals. So let’s break down and define the elements of the Scrum framework and then modify the process to be more applicable to a debate team. (Be mindful that there is a wealth of literature surrounding project management models; the aim here is to minimally define concepts as necessary.) Scrum Team Development Team (Assignment Group) – These teams are a) self-organizing (teams themselves decide how to best accomplish work) and b) cross-functional (all members of the team are capable of accomplishing their work without depending on other team members). This does not refer to the squad as a whole (unless you have a small squad). The ideal group size is in the 3-9 range to ensure there isn’t a loss of team interaction on the smaller end or too much complexity at the larger end. Group organization does not necessarily require that every member of an Assignment Group is working on the exact same file. Rather, Assignment Groups will all be assigned a set of files (or one large file) that they delegate work on among themselves. An important facet of the Assignment Group dynamic is that while groups may be strategically designed to have varying skill levels to balance out group effectiveness, the debaters in the group should take an egalitarian approach with no outside labels, titles, so on affecting the dynamic of the group and impeding effective collaboration. It does not make for an effective group for a debater to be labeled a novice or JVer who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Product Owner (Assignment Lead) – A better term for debate is the assignment lead and likely is a head coach, team captain, or simply the person who has the best sense of the pulse of the topic. The assignment leader controls the product backlog, or list of assignments for overall work period, and prioritizes importance of assignments. An important feature is that there is one, singular assignment lead purely for the sake of ensuring that there is consistency and lack of contradiction in priorities. This does not mean that there cannot be input from others, but that there is an executive decision made about how to prioritize and hand out assignments to decrease the risk of the ever dangerous “too many cooks in the kitchen.” While in a typical Scrum framework, the Assignment Lead is removed from the actions of Assignment Groups, to better fit the typical format of a debate team, they would likely have a second role as a Group Lead. Scrum Master (Group Lead) – A better debate term is group lead, but that is still a slightly misleading term. This is either a more senior debater or a coach. The point of this role is not a hierarchical authority that working groups are answerable to. Instead, the goal of the group lead is to coach the assignment group to be self-organizing, coach individual team members in cross-functionality (referring to completing their assignment from research to formatting to quality to file organization to file submission), and removing impediments to progress (ie helping identify and filling file gaps, assisting in overcome research blocks, etc). Outside of working with the Assignment Group, Group Leads should coordinate with the Assignment Lead and other Group Leads to discuss organization, planning implementation of Scrum and when it should occur, and how to improve efficiency. Scrum Events - Sprint (Wave) – A sprint is a time period of a month or less in which a “Done” and usable “Increment” is created. These time periods should be consistent during a development effort and a new sprint starts immediately afterward. Some key rules for a sprint are: no changes are made that would veer from the sprint goal, quality goals do not decrease, and the scope can be clarified or re-negotiated between the assignment leader and the development team as new issues arise. Each sprint has a goal of what to accomplish, and a flexible plan to meet that goal, and a finished increment at the end. Sprint Planning – Self-explanatory name. The key questions are what can be achieved in the sprint and how will the work to complete a file be achieved. Work is selected from the assignment list (product backlog) and put into the sprint assignment list (sprint backlog). This is a collaborative session for the Assignment Group; the Group Lead should take a monitoring and assisting role, not leading it. This is a time period that Daily Scrum – This is a daily, roughly 15 minute box of time for the development team to synchronize work and plan for the upcoming day. This time is used to examine progress toward the sprint goal and completing work in the assignment list. An important distinction to make is that this is not a status meeting. This is not a time where debaters report their work to a coach or lead on their assignment and then are told what they should do different. This is a self-organizing exercise where debaters discuss and collaborate in their working groups to measure group progress toward achieving their sprint goal, identify issues, adapt as necessary, and set daily goals together. It should happen at a consistent time and have full participation. It is important that this happens at a single time is to ensure group participation and effective group evaluation of progress. A series of facebook or slack messages from varying group members throughout the day is not productive because that simply devolves into giving status updates. The group leader should supervise, but only for the sake of ensuring that the working group is staying on task and keeping to the point. Sprint Review – This is held at the end of the sprint to inspect file work done and adapt the assignment list if needed. This includes the development team, the group lead, the assignment lead, and all other relevant parties. The goal is for the assignment group to demonstrate work that is “Done,” for the assignment lead to determine what is “Done,” and for the entire group to collaborate on what should be changed about the assignment list and what should be done in the next sprint. Sprint Retrospective – This occurs after the Sprint Review and before the next Sprint Planning session. The goal is for the assignment group to discuss what went well during the Sprint, what could be improved, and what they will commit to improve in the next Sprint. The Group Lead will oversee the meeting in order to ensure that debaters are participating and understand the purpose of the meeting. By the end, the Assignment Group should commit to making changes to their process to be more effective AND more enjoyable during the next Sprint. Scrum Artifacts Product Backlog (Squad Assignment List) – The product backlog is an ordered list of everything needed in a product. In context of debate, that means an assignment list for everything that will be needed in the tubs. It should be ordered by priority. This does not need to happen all at once, but can be broken up in varying sprints/assignment waves. Sprint Backlog (Sprint Assignment List) – This is the set of product backlog items that are being worked on in a sprint, or assignment wave. An important note is that this is a forecast of goals that the team believes can be accomplished within a sprint. To ensure that improvement goals are being met, it should improve at least one high priority process improvement from the previous retrospective meeting. Increment (Completed Files) – An increment is the sum of all of the backlog items completed during a sprint and the value of increments from previous sprints. The goal of Scrum as a framework is to “deliver” a “Done” increment. The definition of what “Done” means is important. There is no stable definition I can provide outside of a file being usable. The key is that there is a shared understanding from team members of what “Done” means, what makes a file usable, what elements are needed, etc. Application to Debate Now that the model has been generally defined, let’s walk through what the application of this model can look like for a debate team. Early pre-season/Topic announced: Team does a basic mapping of what the topic can entail, different areas for affirmatives, negative files to cut, arguments to anticipate, etc. Debaters and coaches express arguments that they have the most interest in, think will be most relevant, etc. This enables the Assignment Lead with input from others to build the Assignment List, define what these assignments are with a general concept of what they should be upon completion, and appropriately prioritize arguments. Given the structure of teams and balanced outside obligations for debaters, weekly team meetings should be of multipurpose function for Sprint Reviews, modifying the Assignment List, distributing assignments to groups, then groups break off for sprint retrospectives of the previous sprint and Sprint Planning for the current set of assignments. In the Sprint Review, the Assignment Lead will evaluate “Done” files (or have done so before the meeting starts since that can be time consuming), the Assignment Group and Group Lead will make recommendations for what should change about the Squad Assignment List (completed files should be removed, a file isn’t complete and should carry over to the next Sprint, new file ideas were discovered while working on the Sprint, etc.). The Assignment Lead will appropriately modify the Squad Assignment List based upon completed files and recommendations in Sprint Reviews. Individual Assignment groups will have their Sprint Retrospectives. This is an opportunity for debaters to discuss how they could improve their coordination, individual work efforts, adjust the level of work they think they can accomplish (“did we take more than we could complete?”), and carry those changes into the next Sprint. Assignment Groups choose or are given a set of assignments based upon what those groups believe they can handle. This can vary. In the early pre-season, putting together an affirmative master file or a large case neg for a presumed core of the topic aff can require the coordination of an entire assignment group, depending on its size. For smaller assignments such as DAs or CPs, those can be handled by one or two people, depending on capability. The Assignment Lead ensures that the Assignment Groups understand the files that they have been assigned are and what they entail. For building larger or a greater quantity of files per group in the summer, longer sprints (up to a month) can be more useful to ensure that assignments will not HAVE to be carried over to the next sprint. Assignment Groups will plan their sprints. This will involve outlining and mapping out what a completed file should include, functionally creating sub-assignments within the assignment, defining what makes the file “Done,” and then delegating file work among themselves. Even if working on different files, the group should collaborate as a whole to outline files. This is especially important if a group has a large number of smaller assignments given to them, meaning that initially, not all files will have someone working on them and will only be taken up by an individual debater after completing a previous file. This will make file completion a more incremental process that can result in meaningful goal-setting and accomplishments on a daily basis. Given the modular nature of file work being done, debaters in their groups should also delegate who will compile which master files. In Daily Scrums, debaters will talk as a group, set goals for themselves for that upcoming day, discuss what they accomplished or didn’t accomplish of their goals in the previous day, examine how they should adjust their work process or work level they are capable of in the upcoming day, and discuss any modifications that should be made to file outlines based on research that they came across. This is a self-reflexive period in which debaters should aim to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Other debaters should aim to offer advice on goal-setting or execution of the different elements of file-building (search terms, databases to look at, what a card should say, formatting, file construction, etc.). Part of the goal is for the Group to assess overall progress of their Sprint Assignment List. Based upon self-assessment and outside assessment from their Group Lead, they should consult with their Group Lead for assistance and how to improve. While doing work during a Sprint, debaters should pay attention in their research/file work for possible future assignments that could be added to the Squad Assignment list, appropriately saving articles/books and taking note to recommend to the Assignment Lead in the Sprint Review. If it is pressing, it should be sent to the Group Lead who will communicate to the Assignment Lead. Simple reason for the hierarchy: on larger squads, this can result in the Assignment Lead being bombarded by constant messages from a dozen or more different debaters on a regular basis. The Group Lead has the responsibility of regularly reviewing work put out by debaters in order to ensure quality, monitor performance of Group members, and ultimately approve of files being done. Depending on the deadline and total progress being made, the Group Lead should cut cards to fill holes of files or assist in research for difficult portions of files. The Assignment Group should have their files “Done” before the end of their sprint or made as much progress as possible. They should have time for their Sprint Review BEFORE the file submission deadline is due. Then we come back to the team meeting and it all starts over again. Additional notes: The Group Leads and Assignment Lead should regularly discuss changes to the model, different group capabilities, file prioritization, etc in coaches meetings or over a chat medium. It makes the most sense to have this meeting not long after overseeing Sprint Retrospectives. Every person on the team is responsible for reporting holes in files, avenues to research, etc. It makes the most sense to do so on a central spreadsheet or through Group Leads so the Assignment Lead does not get bogged down with messages, especially as team size scales up. Organization This model requires a lot of coordination and in turn, organization. Here are some guidelines for what that should look like: The squad writ large should have a messaging medium (team slack, fb messenger, POLICYDB8 CLUB, gchat, etc.). Assignment Groups should each have a messaging medium (slack channel, different fb chat group, DIFFERENT POLICYDB8 CLUB, different gchat group). These communications should include audio/video chat capabilities or an alternative should be used for those functions so various meetings do not have to occur in person. The Squad Assignment List should be on a spreadsheet or some other open, transparent location the team as a whole can see. Ideally only the Assignment Lead can modify it (because people will undoubtedly mess it up and cause confusion at some point.). Highly recommend Google Sheets. Also, of course, POLICYDB8 CLUB (use the forums and edit a post continually). Assignment Groups should have a spreadsheet as well. This is where things get interesting. Assignment groups will have their sprint assignment list. They should have this organize into an interactive visualization of work being done. List items should be categorized into “To Do,” “In Progress,” “Blocked,” “To Verify,” and “Done.” “To Do” should be all of the items that the group wants to complete during a Sprint. “In Progress” is all items currently being worked on (taken by debaters as a daily goal). “Blocked” are items that debaters cannot complete or need help with. It is the responsibility of the Group Lead to help with these items. “To Verify” is for items that debaters believe are done but the Group Lead needs to check. “Done” is for items that have been completed. Only the Group Lead should move items into the “Done” column. This model also means that files should be sorted differently during Sprints. Assignment Groups should have a shared cloud folder (Like Dropbox). Different Assignments should be in different folders (Heg folder vs Aff Case folder), and then should be split into Master Files and Daily Files. Master Files are the final product of a Sprint. While the Sprint is in-progress, the Master File will be organized in an outline format with headers reflecting list items. Daily Files are for the work that are done on a given day by individual debaters. As Daily Files get verified and categorized as “Done,” they should be compiled into the Master File. Team-wide file sharing method doesn’t matter that much. Can be a listserv, dropbox, POLICYDB8 CLUB, Onedrive, etc. Other recommendations for a more tech-minded team would be self-hosted file sharing web applications like ownCloud or NextCloud, both of which have integrations with various chat or project management features that could aid in the execution of this kind of assignment process. So why use this model? This sounds complicated, I know. It takes more thought than just “hey debater, what do you want to work on? Cool, work on that." However there are a variety of benefits. Makes work manageable Overwhelming younger debaters is real and burnout is real. Incrementalization makes tracking progress on file work simple and ensures that work levels are easily changed without the typical "so and so checked out" or "x novice/JVer doesn't get it" appearance. For many who don’t have as much experience, the idea of doing a file by themselves is daunting to the point of not being able to accomplish anything. For many who have other life, school, or work events come up, the idea of taking regular large files sounds like a recipe for stress and disaster. By nature, this structure teaches debaters how to approach file structure, how to manage time, and how to ask for help. Educational for less-skilled debaters Understanding what goes into mapping out a file and how to manage doing file work can be elusive for debaters. By doing this process in a collaborative environment, lower skilled debaters can learn from more experienced debaters how to do so by effect of Sprint Planning sessions. Moreover, Daily Scrums are an opportunity for direct engagement and consultation between debaters and coaches as well for advice and assistance. Ensures file work is transparent and debaters are honest about their limitations There is always an issue of debaters volunteering for more assignments than they are capable of. By reducing file assignments to a variety of small parts that are individually worked on daily, debaters get a better feel for how much time they really can put into debate in a day and how much work they can do. Part of the function of the Daily Scrum is for debaters to be up-front about how much they think they can accomplish that day. This resolves a lot of the “bite off more than they can chew” problem. Moreover, the assignment boards and direct involvement with their group and group lead ensures that progress is shared in an open environment. This means coaches and group members have a solid idea of how files are coming along. It also means that coaches have a better indication of when they should intervene with debaters who have trouble completing their assignments. Creates an environment for consistent work being done Oftentimes assignments are levied on a weekly basis for debaters to finish, leaving it on them to determine how to balance out work on a given file. For more than a few, this results in procrastination and last minute all-nighters, typically resulting in a lackluster file or vague excuses like “uh I ran into walls while researching.” Daily goal setting in Daily Scrums means daily work being done. Allows for flexibility The Scrum model can vary in scale on time, group size, and level of engagement based on a given squad’s needs. Even further on flexibility, the incremental nature of file work along with the open showing of file work done means that any given person in a group or the group lead can pick up where someone left off and finish a file. This may sound unwieldy for effectively operating during the regular season, especially when considering school, classes, and so on interrupting the ability to regularly work or coordinate. Something important to note is that the time period for Sprints can be scaled down as much as necessary (like getting assignments on Tuesday for a tournament starting Friday) and Assignment Groups do not always have to take a massive group of assignments. Clearly people can take a break on days when it’s necessary (need to do schoolwork, need some personal time, the assignment list is small and doesn’t require everyday work) or skip Sprints when necessary (midterms week, finals week, family vacation, etc.). The advantageous thing about the Scrum model is that it is flexible by design, capable of many different degrees of intensity. Lastly, this is a valuable resume material Learning project management and having experience in it (particularly a popular method like Scrum) is a valuable skill that is marketable. While debate has a variety of different portable skills that can be pointed to (public speaking, critical thinking, research, etc etc), a lot of those can sound vague to an employer. Being able to say “I have x number of years of experience in Scrum project management as a development team member/scrum master/product owner” is much more tangible and is an attractive resume item. Find this interesting? Discuss it in the comments or the forums. The best thing about a model like this is that it is and should be adaptable. Most importantly, it is something I want to get feedback on and discuss. Want to go even further? Policydb8 will be doing a free summer workshop for high school debaters that will use this model to produce files as well as give lectures to equip them with the necessary tools to avoid camps. If you're interested in participating (even if you are not a high school student), stay tuned to our email list and/or social media pages for further details.
  6. NDT Second Rounds went out recently. This has restarted the perennial discussion about their utility and fairness, as well as the health of the NDT. This time it seems like there are two camps that are extra aggrieved: - A camp that thinks that deserving third teams from a number of schools got the shaft by not getting an invite, thanks in large part due to the cap on third teams. - A camp that implies, heavily, that certain teams that were accepted to the NDT as second rounds were not competitively justified to be allowed. I think the second camp represents a aggrieved petulance that is unworthy of discussion at length, but the first camp (even with its tinge of the latter opinion) represents a real grievance that should be recognized. I want to briefly explore this, its history, and a modest proposal to fix the problem: This isn’t the place for a proper history of the NDT’s eligibility rules. Suffice to say that the NDT has always dealt with a problem of declining participation year over year. Originally the NDT only invited one team per school, but over time it started including second teams, and then a limited number of third teams so as to make sure it could fill out the pool. We’ve even been in this position before, where the number of second rounds and third teams was barely enough to make the NDT happen according to the rules, in the nineties. The result of that crisis was the merger between CEDA and the NDT which drastically inflated the pool of eligible teams by letting CEDA schools into the mix. I don’t want to rehash something that has been basically accepted by the community writ large at this point, but I think it can take at least a brief repeating: the elitism of the NDT intrinsically drives schools out of the activity. Partially because of the frustration that results from the exclusion of not being able to qualify, and partially because of the sheer costs that are required to be able to overcome that exclusion. I will, personally, place a lion's share of that blame directly at the feet of the Second Round At Large process: National Circuit tournaments have always existed, and potential first round teams coupled with the existence of well-financed teams will always make a pseudo-national circuit emerge as top level teams travel across the country to debate each other. Theoretically this should be fine as teams that aren’t at the very top of debate should feel comfortable simply debating in local and regional circuits and not travelling to national tournaments, unless they want to. However, teams that fear that they won’t get out of districts need to protect their second round chances, and that requires repeated outings on the national circuit to prove competitive viability. That costs way more than local travel (the cost to fly two teams from the mid-west to the Cali Swings more than equals bringing multiple teams to two or three local tournaments) and these costs directly trade off with both local tournament attendance and team size. This has real consequences both in terms of the viability of local tournaments, novice participation, etc. as well as in terms of participation in the community itself: Once those costs pile up it becomes harder and harder to justify having a debate team both internally to students who deal first hand with the questions of competitive inequity, and to administrators trying to track return on investment in a debate program when these factors don't exist in parli formats.* The result has been the community losing teams year over year, with long-time stalwart programs either disappearing or going off to the ‘other side’ of parli debate. (See, most recently, Vanderbilt). Herein lies the real pain of the first camp I outlined: the limits placed on the number of third teams allowed in was designed to protect a broadly diverse mixture of competitive schools who felt like they were being locked out, the decline in participation means that those schools no longer exist, which means that they are now being excluded in what appears to be an act for exclusion’s sake while competitively inferior teams are being let in because _someone has to be let in_ to make the tournament happen. While I don’t think their pain should necessarily be prioritized over the joy of inclusion that the included second round teams have, I do think that this reveals an underlying question of how we should balance the elitist demand of the NDT** with declining participation and other concerns. In that regard, I propose the following solution as a framework to look at: - As a premise I imagine keeping the NDT, but increasing the number of participating teams. The actual number can be fluid, but I think a pool of around 90 sounds perfectly workable. - Then maintain the first round process for sixteen teams. Let as many teams who are voted in via the first round, even third or fourth teams from schools, into the NDT in the initial stage. - At this point let every subscriber school nominate one team to the NDT. I’m inclined to put some barebones requirements on this team (a minimum number of rounds during the year, let each district nominate a ‘district’ tournament during the year and require these teams to have attended at least two of those tournaments, a winning record in Open, etc.), but nothing too strenuous. These teams should be allowed in if they clear those requirements. - This should fill up a majority of the slots to the NDT. To fill out the rest I propose having a National Qualifying Tournament. A tournament held in February that is open to every school and is run like present day district tournaments, except open to every team in the country. (We can rotate the hosting duties of the NQT between the schools every year). Every school can bring as many teams as they’d like to the NQT, and the top qualifiers will be let into the NDT to fill out the numbers. Obviously, this is not a perfect system, but I think it allows a baseline of compromise between the exclusionary demands that underlie the NDT’s focus on elitism with the real need to open the NDT up to more schools and participants and break the hold of the national circuit on schools***. There are also problems with this system that may make particular parts of it unworkable. For instance, the intra-squad discussion of which team to nominate to the NDT will probably be heart-rending and divisive. I also know that some schools would absolutely opt to use their nomination for a ‘B’ team while choosing to send their ‘A’ team to the NQT, which is less than ideal. But, this is a starting point and not a final product and I think that there are many things that recommend it over our current system which is fundamentally broken, and has been since the 70s. At a core level, if we want to preserve the activity we need to come up with a fix that allows more schools in, there isn’t another parallel debate league to merge with a-la CEDA in the mid-90s, and if we don’t do something soon to fix the structural problems in the activity it might be too late to actually right the ship. Rob Glass is the Editor in Chief of Policydb8 and debate coach for the University of Houston, before this he has worked for schools like Binghamton University, the University of Rochester, and Stuyvesant High School. * If we were to abolish the second round and simply give those bids to the districts, either as part of the district tournament or as a second round bid to be given out by them, I think we would be in a far better place. ** I will gladly flag here that the response of “elitism bad” is a fair one. Abolishing the NDT as a poisoned relic and embracing CEDA as the end of year championship is something that should absolutely be on the table for the community. *** One of the great shames of this year is that the splitter movement that fled the Cali swings for the Miami Georgetown tournament weren't called out for the damage that that move did to community cohesion. The spirit of the PRL still haunts the activity and we are all worse for it.
  7. NDT Second Rounds went out recently. This has restarted the perennial discussion about their utility and fairness, as well as the health of the NDT. This time it seems like there are two camps that are extra aggrieved: - A camp that thinks that deserving third teams from a number of schools got the shaft by not getting an invite, thanks in large part due to the cap on third teams. - A camp that implies, heavily, that certain teams that were accepted to the NDT as second rounds were not competitively justified to be allowed. I think the second camp represents a aggrieved petulance that is unworthy of discussion at length, but the first camp (even with its tinge of the latter opinion) represents a real grievance that should be recognized. I want to briefly explore this, its history, and a modest proposal to fix the problem: This isn’t the place for a proper history of the NDT’s eligibility rules. Suffice to say that the NDT has always dealt with a problem of declining participation year over year. Originally the NDT only invited one team per school, but over time it started including second teams, and then a limited number of third teams so as to make sure it could fill out the pool. We’ve even been in this position before, where the number of second rounds and third teams was barely enough to make the NDT happen according to the rules, in the nineties. The result of that crisis was the merger between CEDA and the NDT which drastically inflated the pool of eligible teams by letting CEDA schools into the mix. I don’t want to rehash something that has been basically accepted by the community writ large at this point, but I think it can take at least a brief repeating: the elitism of the NDT intrinsically drives schools out of the activity. Partially because of the frustration that results from the exclusion of not being able to qualify, and partially because of the sheer costs that are required to be able to overcome that exclusion. I will, personally, place a lion's share of that blame directly at the feet of the Second Round At Large process: National Circuit tournaments have always existed, and potential first round teams coupled with the existence of well-financed teams will always make a pseudo-national circuit emerge as top level teams travel across the country to debate each other. Theoretically this should be fine as teams that aren’t at the very top of debate should feel comfortable simply debating in local and regional circuits and not travelling to national tournaments, unless they want to. However, teams that fear that they won’t get out of districts need to protect their second round chances, and that requires repeated outings on the national circuit to prove competitive viability. That costs way more than local travel (the cost to fly two teams from the mid-west to the Cali Swings more than equals bringing multiple teams to two or three local tournaments) and these costs directly trade off with both local tournament attendance and team size. This has real consequences both in terms of the viability of local tournaments, novice participation, etc. as well as in terms of participation in the community itself: Once those costs pile up it becomes harder and harder to justify having a debate team both internally to students who deal first hand with the questions of competitive inequity, and to administrators trying to track return on investment in a debate program when these factors don't exist in parli formats.* The result has been the community losing teams year over year, with long-time stalwart programs either disappearing or going off to the ‘other side’ of parli debate. (See, most recently, Vanderbilt). Herein lies the real pain of the first camp I outlined: the limits placed on the number of third teams allowed in was designed to protect a broadly diverse mixture of competitive schools who felt like they were being locked out, the decline in participation means that those schools no longer exist, which means that they are now being excluded in what appears to be an act for exclusion’s sake while competitively inferior teams are being let in because _someone has to be let in_ to make the tournament happen. While I don’t think their pain should necessarily be prioritized over the joy of inclusion that the included second round teams have, I do think that this reveals an underlying question of how we should balance the elitist demand of the NDT** with declining participation and other concerns. In that regard, I propose the following solution as a framework to look at: - As a premise I imagine keeping the NDT, but increasing the number of participating teams. The actual number can be fluid, but I think a pool of around 90 sounds perfectly workable. - Then maintain the first round process for sixteen teams. Let as many teams who are voted in via the first round, even third or fourth teams from schools, into the NDT in the initial stage. - At this point let every subscriber school nominate one team to the NDT. I’m inclined to put some barebones requirements on this team (a minimum number of rounds during the year, let each district nominate a ‘district’ tournament during the year and require these teams to have attended at least two of those tournaments, a winning record in Open, etc.), but nothing too strenuous. These teams should be allowed in if they clear those requirements. - This should fill up a majority of the slots to the NDT. To fill out the rest I propose having a National Qualifying Tournament. A tournament held in February that is open to every school and is run like present day district tournaments, except open to every team in the country. (We can rotate the hosting duties of the NQT between the schools every year). Every school can bring as many teams as they’d like to the NQT, and the top qualifiers will be let into the NDT to fill out the numbers. Obviously, this is not a perfect system, but I think it allows a baseline of compromise between the exclusionary demands that underlie the NDT’s focus on elitism with the real need to open the NDT up to more schools and participants and break the hold of the national circuit on schools***. There are also problems with this system that may make particular parts of it unworkable. For instance, the intra-squad discussion of which team to nominate to the NDT will probably be heart-rending and divisive. I also know that some schools would absolutely opt to use their nomination for a ‘B’ team while choosing to send their ‘A’ team to the NQT, which is less than ideal. But, this is a starting point and not a final product and I think that there are many things that recommend it over our current system which is fundamentally broken, and has been since the 70s. At a core level, if we want to preserve the activity we need to come up with a fix that allows more schools in, there isn’t another parallel debate league to merge with a-la CEDA in the mid-90s, and if we don’t do something soon to fix the structural problems in the activity it might be too late to actually right the ship. Rob Glass is the Editor in Chief of Policydb8 and debate coach for the University of Houston, before this he has worked for schools like Binghamton University, the University of Rochester, and Stuyvesant High School. * If we were to abolish the second round and simply give those bids to the districts, either as part of the district tournament or as a second round bid to be given out by them, I think we would be in a far better place. ** I will gladly flag here that the response of “elitism bad” is a fair one. Abolishing the NDT as a poisoned relic and embracing CEDA as the end of year championship is something that should absolutely be on the table for the community. *** One of the great shames of this year is that the splitter movement that fled the Cali swings for the Miami Georgetown tournament weren't called out for the damage that that move did to community cohesion. The spirit of the PRL still haunts the activity and we are all worse for it. View full article
  8. Does anybody have any Language Ks they would be willing to trade or put up in the market. If none of the above apply, could somebody recommend a place to find Language K files. Thanks, Niko
  9. I have fallen in love with debate because of all the loving people here and noticed that the LGBT community in LAMDL has thrived. How is LGBT in in your guys' (plz dont roast me for using this word is swear to the Lord I meant it gender-neutral) circuit?
  10. Why is there a trend this year that many teams are choosing to be policy focused , over previous years which were heavily K oriented ?
  11. Over the past few months I have been analyzing the voting histories of over 400 active judges on the College Policy Circuit, covering just about every judge who has been to a major national or large regional tournament in the past year and a half. I have posted publicly about some of the insights this brings on which judges have judged the most rounds, and what this can show about how judges behave and the question of judge predictability. For my latest project I’ve been investigating school bias in judges, testing to see if judges can be biased towards teams from a school (or set of schools) when compared to other judges. That analysis is still in its embryonic stages, but in the meantime I felt that there might be interest in what the raw data tells us about the successes of various schools. I will make a separate, longer, post going deeper into the methodology behind this data, however the basic process was scouring through the Tabroom judging record of 416 Judges, analyzing the over 48,000 ballots that they had between them, parsing which schools were involved and who won, and then compiling that data. While this isn’t a complete history of the tabroom era it does give a relatively representative understanding of the past six years of debate history. Below I present three relatively basic metrics for school success: Percentage of ballots won (the data treats each ballot as a separate decision as opposed to analyzing panel decisions holistically), the total number of ballots won, and the most ballots contested. This data explicitly excludes swing-teams but does count the rounds of teams who were debating swing teams. There was no differentiation made between Novice, JV, or Varsity divisions in the compiling of this data. The top ten most successful teams* by percentage of ballots that they’ve won are: 1. Harvard – 63.0% of ballots 2. Northwestern – 62.1% of ballots 3. Towson – 60.7% of ballots 4. UC – Berkeley – 59.2% of ballots 5. Georgetown – 58.8% of ballots 6. University of Michigan – 57.8% of ballots 7. Oklahoma – 57.3% of ballots 8. Rutgers-Newark – 57.3 % of ballots 9. Kansas – 56.6% of ballots 10. Wake Forest – 56.2% of ballots The top ten most successful teams by won ballots are: 1. Liberty University – 2,583 Ballots 2. George Mason – 2,268 Ballots 3. Kansas – 2,186 Ballots 4. Wake Forest – 1,777 Ballots 5. Emory – 1,562 Ballots 6. University of Michigan – 1,556 Ballots 7. Harvard – 1,509 Ballots 8. Oklahoma – 1,346 Ballots 9. Northwestern – 1,189 Ballots 10. James Madison University – 1,181 Ballots Honorable mention goes to Binghamton University in a very close 11th place. The top ten most successful teams by ballots contested are: 1. Liberty University – 4,681 RBallots 2. George Mason University – 4,090 Ballots 3. Kansas – 3,860 Ballots 4. Wake Forest – 3,162 Ballots 5. Emory – 2,844 Ballots 6. University of Michigan – 2,693 Ballots 7. James Madison University – 2,625 Ballots 8. Harvard University – 2,394 Ballots 9. Binghamton University – 2,393 Ballots 10. Oklahoma – 2,347 Ballots * Not including teams with under 40 ballots in my data set. Apologies to Columbia, SUNY Broome, and City College who would otherwise have places on this list.
  12. So you know what would be sick: Live Debates You know what would be sicker: An audience for that debate You know what would be the sickest: VODs of these debates and the ability to hold a tournament using Twitch and maybe Discord or TeamSpeak Thoughts??
  13. Editor's Note: This speech was originally presented at the Barkley Forum a number of years ago. It is one of my favorite pieces of debate writing, and Les Phillips has honored us by letting us reprint it here, with a few, very minor, updates. I turned forty in October. I don't feel old, or middle aged, but I don't feel young either. I am a person who counts years. When I see a newspaper article about a new Clinton Administration appointee, or a profile of some suddenly successful actor or businessman, my mind quickly settles on the detail of age -- two years younger than me -- one year older than me -- six years younger than me. Until recently, I thought of myself as young. So, it astonishes me to count back and realize that this is my twenty-sixth year in forensics; my fifteenth year in coaching high school debate; my fourteenth Barkley Forum. When St. Augustine sat down to write his Confessions, and toted up all his misdeeds, his work in forensics was near the head of the list. He wrote: "From my eighteenth to my twenty-seventh year I was led astray and led others astray in turn. I was a teacher of public speaking. How wicked are the sins of men!" I have now exceeded Augustine's record of depravity by thirteen and one half years. I have sinned, I continue to sin, and I shall go on sinning. I know who to blame. I blame not my parents for raising me badly, nor the Christian education of my childhood for its inadequacies. I do not blame society for creating an imperfect world. One person did this to me. I blame Mrs. Charline Burton, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You may recoil in shock at my bad taste. Blame Charline Burton! Such a wonderful lady. Not even here to defend herself. But listen: Eight years ago this evening it was Mrs. Burton who stabbed the key into my breast and emitted a bloodcurdling exhortation: "Les! Become one of our old warhorses!" This command has hovered over my life ever since. It has had the effect of a curse or a prophecy in a Greek tragedy. After much consideration of the difficulties of a beast of burden, and with one eye on the glue factory, I'd have to conclude that, indeed, I'm going to be an old warhorse. And I want to share with you this evening my reflections on that decision -- on why I will grow old in debate, and how. It has not exactly escaped my attention that fewer and fewer people are growing old in this activity -- even as old as I am. This is not new. I had two wonderful high school coaches. The first one got out when she was twenty-eight and never looked back. Her successor made it to thirty. Most of the people I coached with in the Northeast ten years ago have gotten out. Fifty women and men have been named Key Coaches of the Barkley Forum in the past fifteen years. Twenty of them have gotten out. Several good coaches my age or younger are hanging on by their thumbs, desperately seeking a successor; they are trying to get out. They are tired. I am tired. Some weeks I am just exhausted. The driving -- farther and farther each year, as New England debate completes its collapse. The practice rounds, sometimes four or five a week. The grading, the fundraising, the talks with parents, the amateur medical treatments, the photocopying, the adolescent crisis management, the adult crisis management, the tournament-running, the seven years' war against the assistant principal, the state tournament-running, the district tournament running, the thirty years' war against the custodians, the car washes, the undone laundry, the friends not seen, the letters unanswered, the family neglected, the van which breaks down at 1 a.m. on the Massachusetts Turnpike when the wind chill is thirty below. Inherency asks: Why do good men tolerate evil? Debate coaching asks: Why do sane women and men tolerate this? But when I asked myself whether I wanted to quit, the answer was always surprisingly clear. No. Will I keep the same pace into middle age? No. I've cut back already. Do I want to travel less? Yes. Do I want to go home earlier? Yes. But I will keep going. And what keeps me going, apart from a compelling need to appease my landlord and pay the Visa bills? I do love my students. But I could find students to enjoy outside debate. I like arguments, but the fascination I used to have with the design of a debate round is gone. I am not looking for one last championship to crown a career. I have been to enough round robins. I am not sentimental about the value of what I do. And I do not think I am indispensable. But I will keep on because I think we have a mission. There are special things that we have to do. First of all, debate must be a force which counters the dilution of secondary education. Now I am very uncomfortable in the role of educational traditionalist. I am not frequently confused with a conservative of any sort. But I hope I am not the only person who notices that high schools are dumbing down their curricula and expectations. I speak only for myself, but I find that year by year I must pull and push and stretch and goad my freshman debaters harder, longer, more vigorously to get them where they need to be intellectually. Their middle school preparation has simply left them without the social studies context, the reading skills, the notetaking skills, the attention span, or the simple work ethic necessary to do this activity well -- or to do any other serious academic work. I know that academics is not all of secondary education. I truly believe that schools must help build a whole person, and that self-esteem is the key to that whole person. But when schools make self-esteem and challenge mutually exclusive, when they seek to insulate students from difficulty or the possibility of failure, they have betrayed the meaning of self-esteem. No one knows better than the people in this room that self-esteem is built by presenting students with challenges -- goals beyond their reach -- and then preparing them to meet that challenge. When schools allow their expectations to decline to the level of what a fourteen-year-old happens to feel like doing that day - - when schools treat sloth as a "learning style" instead of a deadly sin -- they betray education. Robert Frost once defined education as "hanging around until you've caught on." Robert Frost was wrong. An educator, true to the Latin root of the word, leads the student out of his self-satisfaction to something new. I will go so far as to predict that as the rest of education is watered down, and as it becomes "incorrect" to focus on gifted students, parents will rediscover the value of forensics. I want to be around to see that happen. The second thing we need to do is make certain that debate continues to be education. There are any number of committees, platforms, and movements afoot to enhance, reform, and expand debate in America. My three predecessors at this pulpit have spoken somewhat programmatically, and I'm not going to try to improve on what they have said. My particular worry is that fewer debaters seem to understand that debate is arguing, not reading; that the best arguments are those you derive, not borrow or purchase; that evidence should come from the library, not the friend who knows someone who was in Cheshier's lab last summer. I worry that actual debate, rather than reading, may be retreating into a small elite corner of the activity. Working on the fundamentals with students is not always interesting. But it is what we on the front line of debate education must do. The summer institute teacher may know the evidence better. She may be the superior strategist. But no one at Dartmouth or Michigan or Northwestern is better equipped to teach thinking better than the people in this room. None of these good things happen if we all get out. I can't presume to tell anyone here how to live their lives. Each of your circumstances are different, and I don't know them all. But I know that, as I decided not to get out, I knew that I could not stay in unless I made some changes in the way I did things. And I was able to see how to make those changes precisely because I am getting older. Four years ago my aunt, a person I loved very much, died too young. Then an uncle, a year later. My mother and father are in good health, but those other deaths forced me to really think about my parents' mortality. They will die. Which means -- you are unequivocally the adult now. Your full maturity is not something that will happen later. You have become what you will be. So, if you are a debate teacher, it's time to batten down and prepare for the long haul. That meant confronting the workaholic martyr in myself. The part that worried that if I admitted that any portion of the work that I did turned out to be dispensable, somebody might come along and get rid of all of me. The part of me that needed to think of the job as huge, impossible, thankless. I had to begin to tame that inner workaholic. I had to start delegating. I had to learn to get in the car and go home at four-thirty. I can assure you that my program has not collapsed as a result. My principal has not hauled me up on charges of negligence. My students have noticed that I stay home once in a while and don't hear quite as many rounds. They have also noticed that I'm a little more approachable, a little more fun to be around, less exhausted. Besides, everyone has noticed that Lexington never wins the final round if Phillips is present at the tournament. I'm going to work hard for thirty more years doing what I think I do well -- teaching novices, especially, and advanced debaters to be critical, to be subversive in their questioning and thinking. Whether you stay in for another year or another thirty, or more, please do what you do best. Teach the young. Love your work. And goodnight, Mrs. Burton, wherever you are. - Les Phillips is the Director of Debate at the Nueva School, for many years he directed debate at Lexington High School. His students have won national championships in Policy, Lincoln Douglas, and Public Forum. View full article
  14. Editor's Note: This speech was originally presented at the Barkley Forum a number of years ago. It is one of my favorite pieces of debate writing, and Les Phillips has honored us by letting us reprint it here, with a few, very minor, updates. I turned forty in October. I don't feel old, or middle aged, but I don't feel young either. I am a person who counts years. When I see a newspaper article about a new Clinton Administration appointee, or a profile of some suddenly successful actor or businessman, my mind quickly settles on the detail of age -- two years younger than me -- one year older than me -- six years younger than me. Until recently, I thought of myself as young. So, it astonishes me to count back and realize that this is my twenty-sixth year in forensics; my fifteenth year in coaching high school debate; my fourteenth Barkley Forum. When St. Augustine sat down to write his Confessions, and toted up all his misdeeds, his work in forensics was near the head of the list. He wrote: "From my eighteenth to my twenty-seventh year I was led astray and led others astray in turn. I was a teacher of public speaking. How wicked are the sins of men!" I have now exceeded Augustine's record of depravity by thirteen and one half years. I have sinned, I continue to sin, and I shall go on sinning. I know who to blame. I blame not my parents for raising me badly, nor the Christian education of my childhood for its inadequacies. I do not blame society for creating an imperfect world. One person did this to me. I blame Mrs. Charline Burton, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You may recoil in shock at my bad taste. Blame Charline Burton! Such a wonderful lady. Not even here to defend herself. But listen: Eight years ago this evening it was Mrs. Burton who stabbed the key into my breast and emitted a bloodcurdling exhortation: "Les! Become one of our old warhorses!" This command has hovered over my life ever since. It has had the effect of a curse or a prophecy in a Greek tragedy. After much consideration of the difficulties of a beast of burden, and with one eye on the glue factory, I'd have to conclude that, indeed, I'm going to be an old warhorse. And I want to share with you this evening my reflections on that decision -- on why I will grow old in debate, and how. It has not exactly escaped my attention that fewer and fewer people are growing old in this activity -- even as old as I am. This is not new. I had two wonderful high school coaches. The first one got out when she was twenty-eight and never looked back. Her successor made it to thirty. Most of the people I coached with in the Northeast ten years ago have gotten out. Fifty women and men have been named Key Coaches of the Barkley Forum in the past fifteen years. Twenty of them have gotten out. Several good coaches my age or younger are hanging on by their thumbs, desperately seeking a successor; they are trying to get out. They are tired. I am tired. Some weeks I am just exhausted. The driving -- farther and farther each year, as New England debate completes its collapse. The practice rounds, sometimes four or five a week. The grading, the fundraising, the talks with parents, the amateur medical treatments, the photocopying, the adolescent crisis management, the adult crisis management, the tournament-running, the seven years' war against the assistant principal, the state tournament-running, the district tournament running, the thirty years' war against the custodians, the car washes, the undone laundry, the friends not seen, the letters unanswered, the family neglected, the van which breaks down at 1 a.m. on the Massachusetts Turnpike when the wind chill is thirty below. Inherency asks: Why do good men tolerate evil? Debate coaching asks: Why do sane women and men tolerate this? But when I asked myself whether I wanted to quit, the answer was always surprisingly clear. No. Will I keep the same pace into middle age? No. I've cut back already. Do I want to travel less? Yes. Do I want to go home earlier? Yes. But I will keep going. And what keeps me going, apart from a compelling need to appease my landlord and pay the Visa bills? I do love my students. But I could find students to enjoy outside debate. I like arguments, but the fascination I used to have with the design of a debate round is gone. I am not looking for one last championship to crown a career. I have been to enough round robins. I am not sentimental about the value of what I do. And I do not think I am indispensable. But I will keep on because I think we have a mission. There are special things that we have to do. First of all, debate must be a force which counters the dilution of secondary education. Now I am very uncomfortable in the role of educational traditionalist. I am not frequently confused with a conservative of any sort. But I hope I am not the only person who notices that high schools are dumbing down their curricula and expectations. I speak only for myself, but I find that year by year I must pull and push and stretch and goad my freshman debaters harder, longer, more vigorously to get them where they need to be intellectually. Their middle school preparation has simply left them without the social studies context, the reading skills, the notetaking skills, the attention span, or the simple work ethic necessary to do this activity well -- or to do any other serious academic work. I know that academics is not all of secondary education. I truly believe that schools must help build a whole person, and that self-esteem is the key to that whole person. But when schools make self-esteem and challenge mutually exclusive, when they seek to insulate students from difficulty or the possibility of failure, they have betrayed the meaning of self-esteem. No one knows better than the people in this room that self-esteem is built by presenting students with challenges -- goals beyond their reach -- and then preparing them to meet that challenge. When schools allow their expectations to decline to the level of what a fourteen-year-old happens to feel like doing that day - - when schools treat sloth as a "learning style" instead of a deadly sin -- they betray education. Robert Frost once defined education as "hanging around until you've caught on." Robert Frost was wrong. An educator, true to the Latin root of the word, leads the student out of his self-satisfaction to something new. I will go so far as to predict that as the rest of education is watered down, and as it becomes "incorrect" to focus on gifted students, parents will rediscover the value of forensics. I want to be around to see that happen. The second thing we need to do is make certain that debate continues to be education. There are any number of committees, platforms, and movements afoot to enhance, reform, and expand debate in America. My three predecessors at this pulpit have spoken somewhat programmatically, and I'm not going to try to improve on what they have said. My particular worry is that fewer debaters seem to understand that debate is arguing, not reading; that the best arguments are those you derive, not borrow or purchase; that evidence should come from the library, not the friend who knows someone who was in Cheshier's lab last summer. I worry that actual debate, rather than reading, may be retreating into a small elite corner of the activity. Working on the fundamentals with students is not always interesting. But it is what we on the front line of debate education must do. The summer institute teacher may know the evidence better. She may be the superior strategist. But no one at Dartmouth or Michigan or Northwestern is better equipped to teach thinking better than the people in this room. None of these good things happen if we all get out. I can't presume to tell anyone here how to live their lives. Each of your circumstances are different, and I don't know them all. But I know that, as I decided not to get out, I knew that I could not stay in unless I made some changes in the way I did things. And I was able to see how to make those changes precisely because I am getting older. Four years ago my aunt, a person I loved very much, died too young. Then an uncle, a year later. My mother and father are in good health, but those other deaths forced me to really think about my parents' mortality. They will die. Which means -- you are unequivocally the adult now. Your full maturity is not something that will happen later. You have become what you will be. So, if you are a debate teacher, it's time to batten down and prepare for the long haul. That meant confronting the workaholic martyr in myself. The part that worried that if I admitted that any portion of the work that I did turned out to be dispensable, somebody might come along and get rid of all of me. The part of me that needed to think of the job as huge, impossible, thankless. I had to begin to tame that inner workaholic. I had to start delegating. I had to learn to get in the car and go home at four-thirty. I can assure you that my program has not collapsed as a result. My principal has not hauled me up on charges of negligence. My students have noticed that I stay home once in a while and don't hear quite as many rounds. They have also noticed that I'm a little more approachable, a little more fun to be around, less exhausted. Besides, everyone has noticed that Lexington never wins the final round if Phillips is present at the tournament. I'm going to work hard for thirty more years doing what I think I do well -- teaching novices, especially, and advanced debaters to be critical, to be subversive in their questioning and thinking. Whether you stay in for another year or another thirty, or more, please do what you do best. Teach the young. Love your work. And goodnight, Mrs. Burton, wherever you are. - Les Phillips is the Director of Debate at the Nueva School, for many years he directed debate at Lexington High School. His students have won national championships in Policy, Lincoln Douglas, and Public Forum.
  15. Institutions of higher learning all have mission statements and make public proclamations that espouse the value of developing critical thinking skills, creating engaged citizens, and building rigorous educational programming. Policy debate programs help universities meet these requirements like nothing else can. When done well full-service policy debate programs are more academically rigorous than any class students will take, and when combined with an extensive public debate program have the potential to engage the entire student body. Seven years ago, JMU Debate received a fairly large budget increase. It was in my 5th year as Director of Debate and interestingly it had only a slight connection to our competitive success as a team. We had grown very rapidly and it was due in large part to my inability to say no and belief that debate should be open to everyone (if you aren’t willing to embrace the big tent model of the debate that allows people at all levels to be involved you should probably stop reading right now). We were bursting at the seams, and our budget simply did not allow for me to recruit any more debaters. We had 12 fairly committed students returning and I did not know how we could continue to recruit students in good faith that we could not afford to travel. Honestly, this is not a problem that would have led to our budget increase. The university would have been fine at the budget level we were at with us having a half dozen successful teams at the junior varsity and open levels. The thing they really cared about were our public debate and outreach efforts. The simple truth is that for really good public debates you need to have experienced students and if more and more of our debaters were sticking around it meant that we would have no new debaters to train for public debates in the future. I made the argument that if you want to have a robust public debate program in three years we need to recruit and train those students as first year students and that work could not be done without a budget increase. In my budget proposal I outlined all of our public debate and outreach efforts, the incredible students that we were recruiting and value that having debate students in class added to class discussions (complete with testimonials from professors from almost every college on campus). I explained that we had grown to our capacity and if the university wanted us to continue to do our good work they would have support us financially. I even threatened to dial back our efforts and only focus on competition if our budget stayed the same (I’m not sure what I would have done if they had called my bluff). I probably need to mention at this point that our competitive success mattered as well. If we had just had a vibrant public debate program then I doubt we would have been able to recruit the same students and, more importantly, our triumphs let me make the argument that we had superior debaters who had honed their skills against the best teams in the country. And we had the tournament success and national rankings to prove it. So, we were doing it all on a shoestring budget and the university was touting our successes as an example of what the engagement university should strive for. Only after we had done all of that work did we receive a budget that allowed us to compete at the level we were capable of (even though it was still well below the national average). Imagine if a football team had to show they could be competitive (plus do a ton of community service) in order to get their budget approved. So, the real question is why doesn’t every university in the country have a debate team, and why don’t those who do have them support them at the level that they support less academic endeavors? There are 774 college football teams in the United States, but there are significantly fewer college debate programs. Whose fault is that? Is it the universities that fail to support college debate programs or is it the fault of the debate programs themselves? The truth is both parties are to blame. The Failure in University Priorities Many universities’ priorities are way out of whack. This is not to say that the university cannot focus on athletics or great facilities or top-notch graduate programs. What I am saying is that when those things are done while undergraduate education is ignored then a university has to take a long hard look at what they place a value on. A debate budget is tiny when it comes to the general operating budget of a university. Yet debate budgets are often on the chopping block when departments or universities are looking for savings. This demonstrates that many universities are simply not willing to match their stated goals with their spending priorities. I was extremely lucky that at JMU our debate program was safe and, after pushing for a budget increase for years, well supported. That didn’t happen by accident though. It required a sustained and consistent effort to raise the profile of the debate program and ensure that individuals throughout the university understood the importance of supporting the debate program. The Failure of University Debate Programs There are very few college debate programs that are truly safe from budgetary issues. You can count on two hands the debate programs that are so well supported and so well-funded that they are guaranteed to exist long into the future. Additionally, there are only a small contingent of debate programs that can exist on the basis of competitive success alone. Most debate programs need to find ways to connect with broader university goals in order to justify their existence. Here is my advice based on what worked for us at JMU. First, connect the work your debate team does to the university mission and vision statements. This is low hanging fruit. An analysis of over 120 university mission statements from universities (thanks to Marie Eszenyi and Oliver Brass for their assistance with the coding) that have had policy debate programs in the past ten years indicate an emphasis on the following attributes that align directly with most debate programs: · Autonomy, Choice or Democratic Problem-Solving · Experiential Learning or Applied Research · Creativity · Critical Thinking, Debate, Advocacy or Communication · Diversity of People or Ideas · Empowerment · Responsible Civic Engagement · Holistic Personal Development · Leadership · Collaboration · Research · Academic Rigor · Service Every single university mission statement that was included contained at least three of these characteristics with some containing as many as nine. Interestingly, the results did not vary based on the type of institution. Community Colleges, regional public universities, small private universities and big national research universities all placed the emphasis on creating deep learning opportunities for undergraduate students. This analysis proves that universities already value what we are doing. The fact that they don’t realize how central debate is to their mission and vision is our fault. For too long we hid out on the weekends afraid that someone would find out that we are speaking fast or talking about topics that seem to the untrained observer as unrelated to the resolution. Thanks to Youtube that cat is out of the bag. Everyone can see what we are doing and it’s time for us to embrace it. It’s time for us to say that speaking quickly increases the research burden and the academic rigor of what we do and that just as performance studies or critical race studies or any other disruptive practices exist on our campus then also exist in debate (and give students often great access than they receive on their own campuses). As we defend debate we should do so in a way that confronts university administrators’ perceptions of debate by tying it directly to the official statements that universities make about what they value. At the same time, we need to add to our repertoire. We can no longer just compete and hope that is enough. We need to reach out and form partnerships across campus and into our local communities. We need to do big public debates so that others on campus can no longer say “I didn’t know we had a debate team.” Finding ways to showcase our students’ ability to research and capacity to teach our communities how to engage with difficult or complex ideas is the best path to making sure that debate survives for future generations. It is hard work, but if we find ways to embrace what our universities think matter (especially when we are already doing much of it) then we might just leave something for the next generation of debaters. - Dr. Mike Davis is the Executive Advisor to President Jonathan Alger of James Madison University. Before his he was the Director of Debate of James Madison University's debate team, and coached at the University of Georgia and the University of Rochester. He debated for Syracuse University, and is the namesake of the Michael K. Davis Award given annually by CEDA East. View full article
  16. Institutions of higher learning all have mission statements and make public proclamations that espouse the value of developing critical thinking skills, creating engaged citizens, and building rigorous educational programming. Policy debate programs help universities meet these requirements like nothing else can. When done well full-service policy debate programs are more academically rigorous than any class students will take, and when combined with an extensive public debate program have the potential to engage the entire student body. Seven years ago, JMU Debate received a fairly large budget increase. It was in my 5th year as Director of Debate and interestingly it had only a slight connection to our competitive success as a team. We had grown very rapidly and it was due in large part to my inability to say no and belief that debate should be open to everyone (if you aren’t willing to embrace the big tent model of the debate that allows people at all levels to be involved you should probably stop reading right now). We were bursting at the seams, and our budget simply did not allow for me to recruit any more debaters. We had 12 fairly committed students returning and I did not know how we could continue to recruit students in good faith that we could not afford to travel. Honestly, this is not a problem that would have led to our budget increase. The university would have been fine at the budget level we were at with us having a half dozen successful teams at the junior varsity and open levels. The thing they really cared about were our public debate and outreach efforts. The simple truth is that for really good public debates you need to have experienced students and if more and more of our debaters were sticking around it meant that we would have no new debaters to train for public debates in the future. I made the argument that if you want to have a robust public debate program in three years we need to recruit and train those students as first year students and that work could not be done without a budget increase. In my budget proposal I outlined all of our public debate and outreach efforts, the incredible students that we were recruiting and value that having debate students in class added to class discussions (complete with testimonials from professors from almost every college on campus). I explained that we had grown to our capacity and if the university wanted us to continue to do our good work they would have support us financially. I even threatened to dial back our efforts and only focus on competition if our budget stayed the same (I’m not sure what I would have done if they had called my bluff). I probably need to mention at this point that our competitive success mattered as well. If we had just had a vibrant public debate program then I doubt we would have been able to recruit the same students and, more importantly, our triumphs let me make the argument that we had superior debaters who had honed their skills against the best teams in the country. And we had the tournament success and national rankings to prove it. So, we were doing it all on a shoestring budget and the university was touting our successes as an example of what the engagement university should strive for. Only after we had done all of that work did we receive a budget that allowed us to compete at the level we were capable of (even though it was still well below the national average). Imagine if a football team had to show they could be competitive (plus do a ton of community service) in order to get their budget approved. So, the real question is why doesn’t every university in the country have a debate team, and why don’t those who do have them support them at the level that they support less academic endeavors? There are 774 college football teams in the United States, but there are significantly fewer college debate programs. Whose fault is that? Is it the universities that fail to support college debate programs or is it the fault of the debate programs themselves? The truth is both parties are to blame. The Failure in University Priorities Many universities’ priorities are way out of whack. This is not to say that the university cannot focus on athletics or great facilities or top-notch graduate programs. What I am saying is that when those things are done while undergraduate education is ignored then a university has to take a long hard look at what they place a value on. A debate budget is tiny when it comes to the general operating budget of a university. Yet debate budgets are often on the chopping block when departments or universities are looking for savings. This demonstrates that many universities are simply not willing to match their stated goals with their spending priorities. I was extremely lucky that at JMU our debate program was safe and, after pushing for a budget increase for years, well supported. That didn’t happen by accident though. It required a sustained and consistent effort to raise the profile of the debate program and ensure that individuals throughout the university understood the importance of supporting the debate program. The Failure of University Debate Programs There are very few college debate programs that are truly safe from budgetary issues. You can count on two hands the debate programs that are so well supported and so well-funded that they are guaranteed to exist long into the future. Additionally, there are only a small contingent of debate programs that can exist on the basis of competitive success alone. Most debate programs need to find ways to connect with broader university goals in order to justify their existence. Here is my advice based on what worked for us at JMU. First, connect the work your debate team does to the university mission and vision statements. This is low hanging fruit. An analysis of over 120 university mission statements from universities (thanks to Marie Eszenyi and Oliver Brass for their assistance with the coding) that have had policy debate programs in the past ten years indicate an emphasis on the following attributes that align directly with most debate programs: · Autonomy, Choice or Democratic Problem-Solving · Experiential Learning or Applied Research · Creativity · Critical Thinking, Debate, Advocacy or Communication · Diversity of People or Ideas · Empowerment · Responsible Civic Engagement · Holistic Personal Development · Leadership · Collaboration · Research · Academic Rigor · Service Every single university mission statement that was included contained at least three of these characteristics with some containing as many as nine. Interestingly, the results did not vary based on the type of institution. Community Colleges, regional public universities, small private universities and big national research universities all placed the emphasis on creating deep learning opportunities for undergraduate students. This analysis proves that universities already value what we are doing. The fact that they don’t realize how central debate is to their mission and vision is our fault. For too long we hid out on the weekends afraid that someone would find out that we are speaking fast or talking about topics that seem to the untrained observer as unrelated to the resolution. Thanks to Youtube that cat is out of the bag. Everyone can see what we are doing and it’s time for us to embrace it. It’s time for us to say that speaking quickly increases the research burden and the academic rigor of what we do and that just as performance studies or critical race studies or any other disruptive practices exist on our campus then also exist in debate (and give students often great access than they receive on their own campuses). As we defend debate we should do so in a way that confronts university administrators’ perceptions of debate by tying it directly to the official statements that universities make about what they value. At the same time, we need to add to our repertoire. We can no longer just compete and hope that is enough. We need to reach out and form partnerships across campus and into our local communities. We need to do big public debates so that others on campus can no longer say “I didn’t know we had a debate team.” Finding ways to showcase our students’ ability to research and capacity to teach our communities how to engage with difficult or complex ideas is the best path to making sure that debate survives for future generations. It is hard work, but if we find ways to embrace what our universities think matter (especially when we are already doing much of it) then we might just leave something for the next generation of debaters. - Dr. Mike Davis is the Executive Advisor to President Jonathan Alger of James Madison University. Before his he was the Director of Debate of James Madison University's debate team, and coached at the University of Georgia and the University of Rochester. He debated for Syracuse University, and is the namesake of the Michael K. Davis Award given annually by CEDA East.
  17. Debate can take you nearly anywhere. Places you never imagined you could go. Sometimes, places you wish you’d never found—places like media outlets dedicated to disseminating white supremacist ideologies. For the last year, my research interests, background in debate, and generally antagonistic personality have brought me deep into the world of “bloodsport debating,” a style of unstructured, polemic debate practiced by the white supremacist far-right. By arguing amongst themselves, the right has created the aesthetic of flourishing political discourse while never straying too far from their core belief that the composition of a nation must be carefully curated and maintained. A significant contingent of the left has rejected the political utility of debating those who hold such abhorrent views—a feeling I suspect is tied to an understanding of debate that is the most pedantic, elitist version possible. Such a case was recently made in an article by English feminist author Laurie Penny, who collapsed all forms of debate into “the way [she] was taught to do it at [her] posh school,” and “fundamentally an intellectual dick-smacking contest dressed up in institutional lingerie, and while there are plenty of women out there who can unzip their enormous brains and thwack them on the table with the best of them, the formula is catastrophically macho.” Yikes. That’s a link. Most of us recognize that form of debate, primarily practiced by very online avatars, but it’s far from the only kind that exists. Policy debate presents us with an argumentative training ground that isn’t just about logic, but about persuasion more broadly. In a recent piece in Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson explains that “‘debate’ is not strictly a contest of logical argumentation; it is a contest of persuasion, and the strict presentation of factual arguments and conclusions is only one of the ways in which this occurs.” The most valuable aspect of policy debate is its uncertainty and ability to accommodate diverse intellectual tactics, putting everything from the audience to the argument style to the very definition of winning and losing up for re/interpretation. Understanding debate holistically is critical for real-world advocacy. One significant reason white supremacists win the public relations war with the majority of civically-minded citizens is that they tend to the audience rather than beating someone over the head with the most correct and logical information. Any debater who has been caught with an unsympathetic judge in the back of the room knows that if your audience doesn’t have the intellectual tools or frame of mind to understand your argument, you may as well have never made it. White supremacists excel at speaking to the audience instead of the facts, tapping into the “common-sense” racism most Americans feel. Rather than allowing this to lead us to the conclusion debate is impossible, we should redouble our commitment to strategizing around the audience and truth, instead of hoping the truth will speak for itself. Some readers may now be wondering, “Why bother?” The answer is simple. At some point, you aren’t just refusing to debate—you’re also refusing to persuade. The hesitation around this kind of engagement, Robinson argues, has tangible consequences: “There’s something that sounds faintly dirty about encouraging people to think beyond purely rational forms of persuasion. But it’s that refusal to get one’s hands dirty with rhetoric that is the problem, not the willingness to use language rather than physical force as one’s chief political weapon. The choice is not necessarily between “trying to reason logically with the other side” and “engaging in violent struggle.” It could also be that for progressives, persuasion is usually best effected neither through violence nor formal deductive reasoning, but through effective messaging, telling people things that actually get them to support your politics. In other words, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it and who you are.” I have been met with my fair share of suspicion and horror for engaging white supremacists in their spaces but am no less convinced of its importance. It’s not true that, as the refrain goes, “There’s just no debating white supremacy” or “We can’t debate over people’s humanity.” Those debates are already occurring, with or without us, in well-funded spaces and highly publicized platforms all over the world. Of course, any engagement must be careful to avoid amplifying or strengthening white supremacy’s public platform, but the fight for liberation and justice requires walking into deeply immoral spaces and hijacking them with better arguments and the kind of credibility that you can only build through repeated exposure and thoughtful consideration of your audience. After all, white supremacy is not simply immoral in the abstract—it’s immoral because it’s a terrible argument whose backing falls apart with even the slightest application of scrutiny. Articulating those embarrassing gaps in white supremacy’s logic strengthens people’s convictions against it and empowers them to tackle those arguments in their daily life. Debate certainly can’t save us on its own (and we should not all run out to debate every random racist on the internet), but it is one important tool in the Big Box of Tactics because you lose 100% of the flows you drop. When persuading people to turn away from the alt-right, I rely on four main lessons from my time in policy debate. While other forms of debate are wonderful for teaching public speaking skills or introducing someone to a civil or traditional method of argumentation, there’s nothing quite like this activity. Lesson 1: “Framework Makes the Game Work” Anyone who has debated in the Southeast in the last decade has heard Erik Mathis repeat this phrase, though I was far less appreciative of it as a competitor. The process of moving through a debate round teaches us that, no matter what you choose to do with your life, you will have far too little time to do it. The further you get into a career or a doctoral program, the more you have to make difficult choices about where to spend your time building depth at the exclusion of something else. Given these temporal constraints, framework provides an argument about what information the audience should dedicate their time to evaluating. In other words, framework controls the rubric for what it means to win. When it comes to debating white supremacists, the stakes can feel exceptionally high if “losing” means more people walk away believing in the elevated humanity of whiteness. Reworking a debate to be about something else—like the ethics of even allowing white supremacists to advocate for their position when it is not cogent enough to meet even a basic burden of proof—sets the bar higher and changes how people are approaching the question as they evaluate the arguments. Lesson 2: Know Your Opponents Argument Better Than They Do If there’s one thing that sets policy debate apart from every other activity, it’s the depth of research. From deep, two-sided research emerges “round vision,” or the ability to predict an opponent’s available strategic options in their last speech before the debate even begins. Those new to debate will often get caught up in the logical minutia of something that can be easily conceded in favor of ten new, late-breaking examples that can’t all be adequately examined. A deep understanding of what your opponent believes is the single best predictor of how persuasively you can preempt their positions. For example, many on the right have begun to cite a recent academic “hoax” wherein people spent a year attempting (and mostly failing) to publish outrageous fake articles in feminist studies journals. There are a host of reasons why this hoax is not a sufficient indictment of entire academic departments, but anyone that invested in delegitimizing research that undermines power will quickly turn to hyperbolic examples about professors or graduate students that spoke too candidly about whiteness, or masculinity, or colonialism on Twitter. It’s far more powerful to indict evidence in the broader context of your opponent’s worldview—especially if you can explain their arguments and ridiculous examples before they do. Lesson 3: Truth and Tech Matter Differently Hillary Clinton may have won the flow in every presidential debate against Donald Trump, but a disproportionately powerful minority of people saw her as a loser. As she prattled off policy details and encouraged people to seek out live fact-checking websites, Trump accused her of starting ISIS and paraded in women who had accused her husband of sexual misconduct. The audience, with no idea how to compare those two things, defaulted to whoever and whatever they trusted before the debates began. Knowing your opposition’s content is important, but so is knowing their form. A bombastic persuasion style must be met with something equally invested in emotional connection while also seeking the upper hand in credibility. A highly technical, civility-minded opponent requires a more controlled style that tackles precision with more accessible, but still truthful, explanations. Advocates find ourselves faced with every kind of interlocuter, and nothing teaches you to adapt your explanations to the setting quite like approaching the same topic 50 different ways with different opponents and audiences each time. Lesson 4: Research, Test, Clash As Wisconsin’s own Assistant Director Jordan Foley always reminds me, “You can’t beat the game in one night.” Debate is an iterative process of persuasion that can’t be reduced to even the most impressively and thoroughly researched files. Creating a persuasive message requires taking research and testing it by clashing against those who hold other perspectives. Things that seem obviously persuasive in your own head or friend group may have no resonance whatsoever with those outside of it. There’s no better way to figure out what is convincing than to try to convince people, failing, and reworking your arguments until you break through. Clash also provides the opportunity to attack weak arguments—I truly cannot overstate the impact of the phrase “Can you point to a line in the study that says that?” in front an audience who has never seen their intellectual icons pushed to prove they are characterizing evidence fairly. Debate will take you to places you never imagined, and to some you’ve surely been eyeing since you began your educational lives. No matter where you wind up, debate will have taught you a core set of lessons about how to persuade people, and what they can (and can’t) be persuaded of in any given context. By the end of your career, you will have spent years training yourself in a particular style of argumentation. You will take what you've learned out of the often-cruel world of competitive debate and into a much crueler world that you will find yourself desperate to change. Along the way, persuasion will be a critical part of asking for help, building a base, and making real forward movement. Growing into an advocate is a lifelong process of honing and sharpening and adjusting our tactics. As debaters, we have something necessary (but not sufficient) to spur change—good or bad. With those skills in mind, where will debate take you? CV is the Director of Debate at the University of Wisconsin--Madison and a doctoral candidate in the department of Communication Arts. They study institutional use of genetic data and human taxonomies in political discourse. View full article
  18. Debate can take you nearly anywhere. Places you never imagined you could go. Sometimes, places you wish you’d never found—places like media outlets dedicated to disseminating white supremacist ideologies. For the last year, my research interests, background in debate, and generally antagonistic personality have brought me deep into the world of “bloodsport debating,” a style of unstructured, polemic debate practiced by the white supremacist far-right. By arguing amongst themselves, the right has created the aesthetic of flourishing political discourse while never straying too far from their core belief that the composition of a nation must be carefully curated and maintained. A significant contingent of the left has rejected the political utility of debating those who hold such abhorrent views—a feeling I suspect is tied to an understanding of debate that is the most pedantic, elitist version possible. Such a case was recently made in an article by English feminist author Laurie Penny, who collapsed all forms of debate into “the way [she] was taught to do it at [her] posh school,” and “fundamentally an intellectual dick-smacking contest dressed up in institutional lingerie, and while there are plenty of women out there who can unzip their enormous brains and thwack them on the table with the best of them, the formula is catastrophically macho.” Yikes. That’s a link. Most of us recognize that form of debate, primarily practiced by very online avatars, but it’s far from the only kind that exists. Policy debate presents us with an argumentative training ground that isn’t just about logic, but about persuasion more broadly. In a recent piece in Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson explains that “‘debate’ is not strictly a contest of logical argumentation; it is a contest of persuasion, and the strict presentation of factual arguments and conclusions is only one of the ways in which this occurs.” The most valuable aspect of policy debate is its uncertainty and ability to accommodate diverse intellectual tactics, putting everything from the audience to the argument style to the very definition of winning and losing up for re/interpretation. Understanding debate holistically is critical for real-world advocacy. One significant reason white supremacists win the public relations war with the majority of civically-minded citizens is that they tend to the audience rather than beating someone over the head with the most correct and logical information. Any debater who has been caught with an unsympathetic judge in the back of the room knows that if your audience doesn’t have the intellectual tools or frame of mind to understand your argument, you may as well have never made it. White supremacists excel at speaking to the audience instead of the facts, tapping into the “common-sense” racism most Americans feel. Rather than allowing this to lead us to the conclusion debate is impossible, we should redouble our commitment to strategizing around the audience and truth, instead of hoping the truth will speak for itself. Some readers may now be wondering, “Why bother?” The answer is simple. At some point, you aren’t just refusing to debate—you’re also refusing to persuade. The hesitation around this kind of engagement, Robinson argues, has tangible consequences: “There’s something that sounds faintly dirty about encouraging people to think beyond purely rational forms of persuasion. But it’s that refusal to get one’s hands dirty with rhetoric that is the problem, not the willingness to use language rather than physical force as one’s chief political weapon. The choice is not necessarily between “trying to reason logically with the other side” and “engaging in violent struggle.” It could also be that for progressives, persuasion is usually best effected neither through violence nor formal deductive reasoning, but through effective messaging, telling people things that actually get them to support your politics. In other words, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it and who you are.” I have been met with my fair share of suspicion and horror for engaging white supremacists in their spaces but am no less convinced of its importance. It’s not true that, as the refrain goes, “There’s just no debating white supremacy” or “We can’t debate over people’s humanity.” Those debates are already occurring, with or without us, in well-funded spaces and highly publicized platforms all over the world. Of course, any engagement must be careful to avoid amplifying or strengthening white supremacy’s public platform, but the fight for liberation and justice requires walking into deeply immoral spaces and hijacking them with better arguments and the kind of credibility that you can only build through repeated exposure and thoughtful consideration of your audience. After all, white supremacy is not simply immoral in the abstract—it’s immoral because it’s a terrible argument whose backing falls apart with even the slightest application of scrutiny. Articulating those embarrassing gaps in white supremacy’s logic strengthens people’s convictions against it and empowers them to tackle those arguments in their daily life. Debate certainly can’t save us on its own (and we should not all run out to debate every random racist on the internet), but it is one important tool in the Big Box of Tactics because you lose 100% of the flows you drop. When persuading people to turn away from the alt-right, I rely on four main lessons from my time in policy debate. While other forms of debate are wonderful for teaching public speaking skills or introducing someone to a civil or traditional method of argumentation, there’s nothing quite like this activity. Lesson 1: “Framework Makes the Game Work” Anyone who has debated in the Southeast in the last decade has heard Erik Mathis repeat this phrase, though I was far less appreciative of it as a competitor. The process of moving through a debate round teaches us that, no matter what you choose to do with your life, you will have far too little time to do it. The further you get into a career or a doctoral program, the more you have to make difficult choices about where to spend your time building depth at the exclusion of something else. Given these temporal constraints, framework provides an argument about what information the audience should dedicate their time to evaluating. In other words, framework controls the rubric for what it means to win. When it comes to debating white supremacists, the stakes can feel exceptionally high if “losing” means more people walk away believing in the elevated humanity of whiteness. Reworking a debate to be about something else—like the ethics of even allowing white supremacists to advocate for their position when it is not cogent enough to meet even a basic burden of proof—sets the bar higher and changes how people are approaching the question as they evaluate the arguments. Lesson 2: Know Your Opponents Argument Better Than They Do If there’s one thing that sets policy debate apart from every other activity, it’s the depth of research. From deep, two-sided research emerges “round vision,” or the ability to predict an opponent’s available strategic options in their last speech before the debate even begins. Those new to debate will often get caught up in the logical minutia of something that can be easily conceded in favor of ten new, late-breaking examples that can’t all be adequately examined. A deep understanding of what your opponent believes is the single best predictor of how persuasively you can preempt their positions. For example, many on the right have begun to cite a recent academic “hoax” wherein people spent a year attempting (and mostly failing) to publish outrageous fake articles in feminist studies journals. There are a host of reasons why this hoax is not a sufficient indictment of entire academic departments, but anyone that invested in delegitimizing research that undermines power will quickly turn to hyperbolic examples about professors or graduate students that spoke too candidly about whiteness, or masculinity, or colonialism on Twitter. It’s far more powerful to indict evidence in the broader context of your opponent’s worldview—especially if you can explain their arguments and ridiculous examples before they do. Lesson 3: Truth and Tech Matter Differently Hillary Clinton may have won the flow in every presidential debate against Donald Trump, but a disproportionately powerful minority of people saw her as a loser. As she prattled off policy details and encouraged people to seek out live fact-checking websites, Trump accused her of starting ISIS and paraded in women who had accused her husband of sexual misconduct. The audience, with no idea how to compare those two things, defaulted to whoever and whatever they trusted before the debates began. Knowing your opposition’s content is important, but so is knowing their form. A bombastic persuasion style must be met with something equally invested in emotional connection while also seeking the upper hand in credibility. A highly technical, civility-minded opponent requires a more controlled style that tackles precision with more accessible, but still truthful, explanations. Advocates find ourselves faced with every kind of interlocuter, and nothing teaches you to adapt your explanations to the setting quite like approaching the same topic 50 different ways with different opponents and audiences each time. Lesson 4: Research, Test, Clash As Wisconsin’s own Assistant Director Jordan Foley always reminds me, “You can’t beat the game in one night.” Debate is an iterative process of persuasion that can’t be reduced to even the most impressively and thoroughly researched files. Creating a persuasive message requires taking research and testing it by clashing against those who hold other perspectives. Things that seem obviously persuasive in your own head or friend group may have no resonance whatsoever with those outside of it. There’s no better way to figure out what is convincing than to try to convince people, failing, and reworking your arguments until you break through. Clash also provides the opportunity to attack weak arguments—I truly cannot overstate the impact of the phrase “Can you point to a line in the study that says that?” in front an audience who has never seen their intellectual icons pushed to prove they are characterizing evidence fairly. Debate will take you to places you never imagined, and to some you’ve surely been eyeing since you began your educational lives. No matter where you wind up, debate will have taught you a core set of lessons about how to persuade people, and what they can (and can’t) be persuaded of in any given context. By the end of your career, you will have spent years training yourself in a particular style of argumentation. You will take what you've learned out of the often-cruel world of competitive debate and into a much crueler world that you will find yourself desperate to change. Along the way, persuasion will be a critical part of asking for help, building a base, and making real forward movement. Growing into an advocate is a lifelong process of honing and sharpening and adjusting our tactics. As debaters, we have something necessary (but not sufficient) to spur change—good or bad. With those skills in mind, where will debate take you? CV is the Director of Debate at the University of Wisconsin--Madison and a doctoral candidate in the department of Communication Arts. They study institutional use of genetic data and human taxonomies in political discourse.
  19. The Hard Truths of Work-Life Balance in Debate My Two Families I grew up in a dysfunctional family characterized by mental illness, alcoholism, and abuse. I know, this is supposed to be about work-life balance in debate. Bear with me. It is. When you grow up in that sort of environment, it doesn’t seem unusual to you. The way you’re raised is just the way you’re raised. Everything that happens seems perfectly normal — natural, even. It’s not until you start venturing out of your house and talking to other people that you begin to realize that what happens where you live isn’t what happens everywhere. Debate was my second home. I started my high school’s debate team as a first year student, and I stayed in debate as a competitor and then a coach for 34 years. I could fill an article three times this size with everything debate taught me. It introduced me to the academic field of communication, which is now my career, and much more importantly it introduced me to my wife. Debate gave me good friends all across the country and all over the world, as well as the priceless opportunity to work with countless talented students. For all of its many benefits, however, debate was sadly similar to my biological family. Like the vast majority of those in my profession, I accepted the normalcy of debate’s coaching culture. The neverending work that occupies your every waking hour and eats away at your personal life. The research that promises precious additional chances at victory if you cut just one more card, then another, and then another. The arguments that always seem better when you write them, the practice speeches and coaching sessions, the planning and budgeting, the advocacy on behalf of the program. And that’s not to mention the tournament travel, with its string of 20-hour days, bad food, caffeine, stress, endless driving, and judging. While you’re inside that culture, this is all a matter of pride. Debate coaches make workaholics look like slackers because we know how important the activity is. We know how important the students are. We sacrifice for them, for the education we value so much, for the school, for our communities and our people. Most of us are never going to get the resources we need, that our students need, so we fill in the gaps because somebody has to or the kids suffer. Our students are worth the pain and the exhaustion and the long hours. They are worth everything. That is a beautiful story. I used to tell that story all the time. Allow me to tell you a different one. Hard Truths The story of debate coaches and our hard-working, sacrificial heroism is a lot like the stories we tell inside abusive families. They sound fantastic right up until you tell them to anyone who isn’t from an abusive family. Like that time a neighbor’s dog bit my face when I was six and my dad spent half an hour trying to kill the dog instead of driving me to the hospital? Everyone in my family loved to hear that story. My dad was such a character. But when I told it to my new friends in college they all just stared and looked worried instead of laughing. And slowly it occurred to me that the story wasn’t funny or entertaining at all. My friends were right to react the way they did. Debate coaches do amazing work, and our jobs are incredibly important. But if we’re going to be honest, we need to do some mental gymnastics, step outside the bubble of our own community for just a minute, and accept a few hard truths about what we’ve been doing, how we’ve been doing it, and the cost we’ve all been paying. Truth: Sacrificing Ourselves Teaches Our Students Bad Lessons When I became the Director of Debate at Georgia State University, I went to my college coach and mentor for advice. Melissa Wade told me a lot of things that day, but one of the things she said was that kids learn a lot more from our example than they do from anything we say to them. At the time I didn’t fully understand what she meant, but over the years I started to realize the deep wisdom of her words. I was sitting at a national tournament, and they were giving out a prestigious coaching award to a famous coach. His former debaters gave a string of speeches extolling his virtues as a coach, and many of them told stories of the sheer number of times the coach had forgotten to pick up his own child from daycare or school because he was doing something for the debaters. Everyone laughed and applauded. Our debaters learn vastly more from what we do and how we act than they learn from what we say or the arguments we write for them. The deep lessons they take from us are the lessons they learn from our example regarding how to live life, how to treat people, what to prioritize, and so on. And when we deprioritize ourselves for debate, we are teaching our students to devalue themselves as well. When we ignore our families and our partners to focus on debate, we are teaching our students how they should treat their own families and partners. If we want to be good educators, if we want to teach our students good lessons, then we have to learn to model the kind of behavior we want them to value. If we want them to learn to be happy, healthy individuals, then we have to value ourselves enough to show them how to be happy and healthy. Truth: We Value Winning Too Much This may be the hardest truth for us to accept, but here it is: winning doesn’t help your debaters that much. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in competition, and winning does some really important things. Most notably, it can serve as a reward for students who work hard, and it can help students understand when they’re doing things well. Too often, however, we treat winning not as an educational tool but as the be-all and end-all of debate. Melissa Wade used to call it “the death drive to the trophy,” and I thought that was hyperbole until I started coaching teams that were regularly in the running to win tournaments. Winning is important for motivation and learning, but there’s a diminishing marginal return in terms of value to the student — yet debate culture acts as though the opposite is true. We tend to focus most of our attention and our efforts on the teams that win the most, when it’s the other teams who really need us. We should be focusing less on winning and more on helping our students become better debaters and better people. We should be focusing on making our debate teams happy, healthy, and supportive environments where the students who come to us — often very smart but just as often very troubled and hurt — can find a safe place to grow. I was out to dinner once at a big national tournament with my group of noisy, silly, laughing students, when I looked across the restaurant and realized that a team from a much more successful school was at the same restaurant. They all sat in grim quiet at their table, no one smiling or talking to each other. The coaches looked angry and disappointed. That team won a lot more debates than we did that weekend. In fact, I think they won the tournament. But I left feeling a lot more successful. Truth: We Are Promoting Our Own Toxicity The sorts of expectations that have grown up around coaching — that we allow to continue to exist — promote a culture that endangers students, coaches, and the activity itself. There are intense pressures on everyone who coaches to stop doing the things that give them balance and perspective, and which allow them to make good decisions. And when we value people who set aside personal happiness and healthy partnerships in pursuit of debate success, we too often end up hiring people who derive all their pleasure from within debate. The dangers of putting deeply unsatisfied, unbalanced adults who have lost the support they need to make healthy decisions together with large populations of vulnerable young people should be obvious. We are already a community with a long history of failing to protect our students and report bad behavior by coaches. We simply cannot make debate a hostile place to people who want to have happy families and rich lives outside the activity if we want debate to be safe, healthy, and sustainable. We need to incentivize and reward reasonable work boundaries for coaches, and we need to value life modeling as much or more than competitive success when we hire people. Truth: Personal Sacrifice Can’t Overcome Systemic Inequality In college I debated at Emory, a well-resourced program with a storied history. As a graduate student, I coached at Wake Forest University and the University of Georgia, two more schools with proud histories and strong resources. But my high school program was small and funded by the students, and the college program I directed for 15 years had the smallest budget in the district for most of the time I was there, and those experiences are what structures my understanding of debate. As a director, many of my students came from poor backgrounds and schools with little debate experience. I loved coaching those students, and I wouldn’t have traded them for any other debaters, but I often lamented my inability to give them what students from richer programs had. I know what it’s like to be the only coach on one side of an elimination round when the other team has six. When you care for your students, it feels like you’re always letting them down no matter how hard you work. I now understand two things, though. The first is that it’s impossible for one coach to do the work of six, unless those six are incredibly lazy — and they never are. Better funded programs will always have the edge because they are better funded. That doesn’t mean poorer programs always lose. Being forced to be scrappy can make you really creative. But it does mean that coaches who try to balance resource inequity by destroying their own lives are living a lie. The second thing I now understand is that the most important work I did for my students didn’t involve destroying my life. It was showing up, and it was showing them that it was possible to work hard but also value themselves and their loved ones. What Is to be Done? I love debate, and I am immensely proud of the time I spent coaching. I want debate coaches everywhere and at all levels to succeed, I want students to have great experiences as debaters, and I want the activity to grow and flourish. For all that to happen, though, coaches in general need to start doing things differently when it comes to work-life balance. To be fair, some coaches are already doing things very differently, and I hope they spread the word. For those who are still stuck in the old mindset, however, I have a few suggestions. First – and this will be the hardest thing for most of you — accept your own limitations and have some humility about your own importance. You are not good to anyone if you destroy your own life and become a terrible, unhappy, desperate version of yourself. You deserve happiness. And your students are shockingly capable without your constant attention. The ones who aren’t won’t benefit from that attention anyway. Second, be intentional about drawing some boundaries around your personal life, and then enforce those boundaries. There should be days where you don’t stay late, or days when you leave early. There are weekends when you should not work on debate at all. You should announce those boundaries so your students know what to expect, and you should explain that you are taking time off to have a life, to spend time with your partner or your family or just your dog. Let them see you leave to do things for yourself and your loved ones. Third, take seriously the idea that you need a life outside of debate. That means hobbies that aren’t debate-related, taking the time to build relationships outside the activity if you don’t already have them, and doing some non-debate work (even if it doesn’t immediate contribute to your current career). Fourth, understand that you don’t have to be a debate coach forever. There’s this notion in debate that you’re not a real coach unless you’re a lifer, but debate coaches come in all shapes, sizes, and career durations. If you don’t want to be a coach forever, cultivate your post-debate career with the same intensity you’d give to tournament preparation. Honestly, you should do that even if you do think you’re going to be a coach forever. Things change. Fifth, value winning less and learning and character building more. Teach your more experienced debaters to coach your less experienced ones, and make that as much of an expectation as research or argument construction. Give your time to the students who need help, not just the ones who are most likely to win, and teach everyone self-reliance. If you’re someone who makes hiring decisions, hire people whose careers demonstrate a concern for students more than a concern for tournament success. Vet applicants extensively for how they treat students and whether they might have a history of abuse or improper behavior. Finally, if you’re one of those lucky coaches whose program is well-funded, share the wealth. Work to lower expectations for coaches in general, help out new and underfunded programs (there are many creative ways to do this that don’t involve money), and assist folks who need help advocating for more resources. Teach your own parent organization to value your work as a force for good in the community. Too often, well-funded programs help create the work-life balance problems I’m talking about. If we’re going to change things, we’re going to need some leadership from you too. It’s easy to dismiss all this when you’re in the middle of things, when you’re going crazy prepping for the next tournament or rushing to the next practice debate. By all means, do what you need to do. One of the great things debate teaches us is to work really hard when we need to. The problem is that we’ve created a culture in which anything less than maximum effort all the time is seen as unacceptable. We owe ourselves and most especially our students a better culture than that. Dr. Joe Bellon is a Senior Lecturer in Communication at Georgia State University. He served as the Director of Debate at GSU from 2001 to 2015, during which time he set school records for participation, national rankings, national tournament success, and number of teams qualified for the National Debate Tournament. He is the primary author of The Policy Debate Manual, which has introduced tens of thousands of novice debaters to the activity.
  20. Decent read. Something to put in the face of administrators or parents who "don't get it." https://gradadmissions.mit.edu/blog/policy-debate-vs-research
  21. Okay so I am a little troll and wanna start a nice little discussion that isn't gonna cause any fighting... ? Which states breeds the best debaters (College) go at it ?
  22. All the debates I have fell in love with have those fresh memes and I swear to god that I passed by a room running to my third round and mid 1AC I hear someone say Yeet and I look inside and they dabbed xD. Have any of yall done memes in debate rounds if so plz share that story
  23. ZidaoW

    Ontology Debate

    If you are going for T-USFG vs a afropess aff, how much of the ontology debate do you need to win/does winning truthtesting shield you from that case offense? On a more general note, what is the best way to attack the ontology portion of Ks like afropess?
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