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  1. 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.
  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. View full article
  3. Any predictions?
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. The latest in neocon hegemony
  7. So, if you haven't listened to the latest episode of the debatercast you totally should. It's a really fascinating interview and Jeffrey Lewis is just the best. But I've been thinking about a part of the interview a lot since then. In the discussion Jeffrey Lewis is broadly negative towards politics disads and then discusses the winners win Norm Ornstein card, and mentions that Ornstein no longer believes that argument to be true. If that's correct, is it okay to keep reading the Ornstein card? My original thought was "of course" and that what the debater is defending is the argument (claim-warrant-impact) in the card and not the author. BUT that begs the question as to why read the card then? If the argument in it is good on its own merits the structure of the card is unnecessary _except_ if the debater is trying to add extra weight to the argument by using the authority of an expert's opinion. If that's true, and it's also known that the author now no longer believes in that argument, then reading for card from that author seems disingenuous at best and outright dishonest at worst. I think this would be an interesting discussion, and I'm curious what the rest of the community thinks about this.
  8. 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.
  9. Soooooo I went over an RFD I had and it recommended I run an Academy DA for starters I do not know what that is nor where I can find it cause it wasn't on open evidence, Can you help a sister out ;-;
  10. 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
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Thought y'all might be interested in a list of the most experienced judges in HS and College in the era of Tabroom. For College: Jackie Poapst - 477 Rounds Me - 470 Rounds Armands Revelins - 467 Daniel Stout - 466 Kurt Fifelski - 458 Benjamin Hagwood - 425 Lindsey Shook - 417 Becca Steiner - 414 Shae Bunas - 409 Joe Leeson-Schatz - 391 Honorable mention that 11th, 12th, and 13th are one round separated from each other. With Will Baker at 371, Matthew Moore at 370, and Andy Montee at 369. This is out of a data pull of 416 judges. The average number of rounds judged for judges at most tournaments over the past year is 121, and the Median is around 90. For High School: Valerie McIntosh - 389 Kevin Hirn - 321 David Heidt - 307 Brad Meloche - 291 Brock Hanson - 282 Scott Wheeler - 282 Wayne Tang - 266 Kevin McCaffrey - 264 Sam Haley-Hill - 248 Eric Forslund - 247 Honorable Mention to Mark A. Hernandez Sr. in 11th with 241. This is out of a pull of 646 judges who attended a wide selection of recent tournaments. This is only HS Policy, and excludes camp rounds. The mean average number of rounds judged by judges is 61. The Median is 40.
  14. dar298

    Anthro K

    Version 1.0.0

    14 downloads

    Constructed by David Rooney- contact me with any questions/concerns dar298@cornell.edu I guarantee you this is the best anthro core file you can find. It is a 215 page starter pack that contains every thing you would need for this argument- with links including Baudrillard, Hardt and Negri, Climate change, Disease, war impacts, growth, trade/food insecurity, I-law, public health, immigration specific arguments and much more. This file is not your typical one card link and one alt section- it usually goes 2-6 cards deep on any given area of debate to get deeper and more specific debating on a literature base many are unfamiliar with. For example, the link section to anti-cap affs has 9 cards (!!) and the links to Reform/law good has 8. These cards are not your usual anthro 3 sentence out of context link cards, they are specific and really long because I'm a hack for this K so the 18 page Derrida alt is just proof of the depth and versatility of this scholarship. It also includes Perm blocks, blocks to common arguments (ie. AT: Asteroids, AT: collapsing divide bad, AT: human focus good, AT: Reform/law good, AT: Anthro inev etc etc) and decked out blocks to specific cards that people read against this K (they all read the same 2AC cards!) and 4 separate alts with perm blocks specific to the types of affs you would read this against. Note: This argument is not intended to read against affs about identity in a shallow, reductive and racist way. Anthro has a long history of being weaponized against debaters who discuss identity to avoid engaging in real discussions. That’s messed up and erases all of what this argument/way of thought can and should be. These cards are meant to be read largely against policy affs, which is why the only K links are to nonsense high theory stuff. If I find people doing this with this file I will take it down and yell at you.

    $12.00

  15. dar298

    Anthro K

    Anthro K View File Constructed by David Rooney- contact me with any questions/concerns dar298@cornell.edu I guarantee you this is the best anthro core file you can find. It is a 215 page starter pack that contains every thing you would need for this argument- with links including Baudrillard, Hardt and Negri, Climate change, Disease, war impacts, growth, trade/food insecurity, I-law, public health, immigration specific arguments and much more. This file is not your typical one card link and one alt section- it usually goes 2-6 cards deep on any given area of debate to get deeper and more specific debating on a literature base many are unfamiliar with. For example, the link section to anti-cap affs has 9 cards (!!) and the links to Reform/law good has 8. These cards are not your usual anthro 3 sentence out of context link cards, they are specific and really long because I'm a hack for this K so the 18 page Derrida alt is just proof of the depth and versatility of this scholarship. It also includes Perm blocks, blocks to common arguments (ie. AT: Asteroids, AT: collapsing divide bad, AT: human focus good, AT: Reform/law good, AT: Anthro inev etc etc) and decked out blocks to specific cards that people read against this K (they all read the same 2AC cards!) and 4 separate alts with perm blocks specific to the types of affs you would read this against. Note: This argument is not intended to read against affs about identity in a shallow, reductive and racist way. Anthro has a long history of being weaponized against debaters who discuss identity to avoid engaging in real discussions. That’s messed up and erases all of what this argument/way of thought can and should be. These cards are meant to be read largely against policy affs, which is why the only K links are to nonsense high theory stuff. If I find people doing this with this file I will take it down and yell at you. Submitter dar298 Submitted 10/15/2018 Category Critiques  
  16. 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. View full article
  17. I heard the Europe topic was bad. I also heard PF has had really bad topics like NBA dresscode and the ground zero replacement topic
  18. 2AR extends theory - is there ever an instance where you could see yourself voting aff on theory? Can/should a full-blown theory 2AR result in an aff ballot? The general consensus is that condo is the only reason to reject the neg, are there others? Discuss.
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