The Future of the NDCA Tournament: A Letter from Chris Palmer

 

Dear debate coaches,

I have two announcements.  The first is the new leadership of the LD side of
the NDCA championship tournament; the second is a discussion about the LD topic
at said tournament.

1. LD tournament direction

The NDCA decided to appoint an LD tournament director, dividing the job of
running the NDCA championships.  Tim Mahoney did an excellent job of working
to understand and meet the needs of the LD side of the tournament, but as he
is the first to admit, he isn’t part of the LD community and thus can’t
anticipate needs and concerns; he can only react to feedback he is given.  So
that made his job harder.

Thus the NDCA decided to appoint yours truly to be the new LD tournament
director.  I’m usually inclined to be suitably modest and decorous on my own
behalf, but I think it probably would be unseemly for a new tournament
director to open with reasons why he’s a bad choice…

The fact is, I do bring quite a bit of tab and tournament experience to the
table; I’ve run dozens of tournaments and nearly everyone goes home happy from
them.  I hope I can bring that experience to bear and build on Tim’s work to
make the NDCA tournament into the top-flight culminating national debate event
in LD that it deserves to be.

2. Topic

As you know, the recent announcement of the January/February topic for LD has
generated some concern among educators.  The topic is:

Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a
deliberate response to repeated domestic violence.

A fair number of coaches, myself included, have deep concerns about the
suitability of this subject matter for minors in a competitive debate setting.
Many students and coaches are likely to have personal stories and experience
with domestic violence, and may not be able to fairly engage in switch-side
debate on this particular topic.  Domestic violence rates are high enough that
there is little chance large numbers of debaters aren’t affected by it; and
its unique emotional nature, according to experts on the matter, means that
victims should be able to choose when, and whether, they present their story.

Forcing those stories out for the sake of a debate round, therefore, can be
dangerous indeed, both for the students who may be affected by it, by judges
who are victims themselves, or coaches who are mandatory reporters of abuse
faced with deciding whether a too-real narrative aff constitutes reasonable
suspicion.

I would attempt to express the other side of the issue but I honestly cannot
do so effectively; however, I can refer you to the extensive discussion
happening on various LD-centric websites, such as http://www.nsdupdate.com and
http://www.summitdebate.com.

The NDCA has traditionally used the Jan/Feb topic despite being in April; for
various reasons the LD community views the Jan/Feb topic as the “national
circuit” topic.  However, dislike of this topic (by my subjective opinion,
anyway) seems largely rooted in the national circuit.

Right now I’m soliciting the LD community’s feedback about what action, if
any, the NDCA should take.   The NDCA could elect to stay with the promised
tradition and debate this topic.  It could also reasonably and defensibly
elect to use the upcoming March/April topic, which will be announced on
February 1st.  Or it could go an as yet unnamed third route.

I myself have been rather vocal on this topic and I realize in advance that I
may not be seen as a fair moderator of this discussion.  I’m happy to recieve
myself any feedback people have, but the point person on this discussion is
Greg Achten (gregachten@gmail.com), who is on the Board himself and can
address concerns directly to them.

Thank you,

Chris Palmer

 

  • Anonymous

    The only thing worse than a “change the topic” discussion is a debate on the merits of outing anonymous posters

  • Anonymous

    Dear Debate Community,
    I realized the errors in my ways and voluntarily submit myself to the VBI tips hotline for verbally violating Cbone. If you have any complaints about my conduct or want to file complaints about the recently released videos of me making love to chimps, dolphins, or other mammals large and small please send them to http://tips.victorybriefs.com/. That is all.

  • I say because NDCA is in april rather than actually in Jan/Feb, i’d give more credence to it using a different topic.  The Jan/Feb topic was a topic previously, which is why I’m most opposed to it.  I don’t think that the NFL should have ever even thought about a topic that had debuted just a few years before.  But now that January has progressed, I don’t think it would be proper to change the topic and the prep that many schools have begun.

    As for NDCA in April, it is your discretion.  I say stick with the Jan/Feb topic.  The comments about the personally touching issues hasn’t been too relevant yet (at least from my perspective) on the circuit, and with the scarcity of narratives, I doubt it will ever become too large of an issue.

  • I don’t think Steven was out of line, someone trolled and he exposed them. If you are going to troll at least be smart enough to cover your tracks. For instance when I was posting as Pwneill I made sure to post from public places where my IP couldn’t be tracked (back in the day the hutt was liable to expose trolling). The basement of the Blake School would be a plausible place for Phelan to post from, so people assumed it was him. It seems to me it would be a more productive use of time to instruct Mr. Bone to change his methods rather than lambasting Steven.

  • Anonymous

    I am not going to respond to Wade’s long post below, because I don’t think much productive will come of it. Instead, there are just a few final things I want to note and I think are important to feature prominently:

    1. I apologize for the decision to out Carlton’s IP. This should not reflect poorly on NSD Update. I alone made the impulsive decision in the moment that Carlton was trolling and chose to reveal his identity. I still think my assessment of his trolling was correct, but I will use much, much more caution in the future (read: not do this except in very extreme cases after consulting with the other moderators).

    2. I still stand by the truth that this outing was not because Carlton ‘called me out.’ I know this is non-falsifiable for Wade, because he is not in my head, but I guess that’s as good as it’ll get. I could not previously see IPs; now I can. The timing is coincidence.

    I hope we can now return to the substantive discussion of the NDCA’s policies and leave my poor choice behind.

    • Sophie Ruff

      I think it’d be a good idea to delete the post with the IP address, Carlton’s info should not be public knowledge.

      • Anonymous

        I agree; I have edited the comment to explain what was in my ill-conceived post, but have removed the specifics IPs and email addresses.

      • yea carlton might have been downloading ER. don’t let the record companies get him

    • Does this make Wade the new BOAT?

  • Anonymous

    CARLTON BONE

    At least be smart enough to use a proxy next time you troll.

    PlazaMexico
    Emailcherymenthol@gmail.comIP address174.48.105.118

    cherymentholEmailrofl_waffle@rocketmail.comIP address174.48.105.118

    • Anonymous

      Shit.

    • Anonymous

      BOAT!

    • i was under the impression that you couldn’t access people IP’s  also is it appropriate to be posting that?

    • Wade Houston

      Adler – are you serious? That was uncalled for. Does it make you mad that he called you flippant? That’s not exactly a big league insult, especially given that your response towards Dave was at least somewhat patronizing. 
      High schoolers have good reason to hide their identity when posting things online. You might not have liked that he called you out in his post, but he has more to fear than just you. It’s possible other judges would harbor biases against him if they were friends with you or if they found his tone disrespectful. Anonymous posting has a long history of helping members of the debate community express their feelings without fears of political repercussions. You may think you have embarrassed Carleton, but I think this reflects more poorly on you than it does anyone else. 

      • Anonymous

        Yes, Wade, I am serious; I otherwise would not have posted it. I agree that anonymous posting has value–that is why I have not outed previous anonymous posters who have substantively added to conversations or have discussed highly personal accounts. It was clear to me, though, that Carlton has been trolling through this account (a post asking people to direct hate mail to Moses Sloven; “Messrs”; etc.), and that is not the positive expressing of views without political repercussions you seek. If that reflects poorly on me for wanting this thread (and others) to be substantive, so be it.

        • Wade Houston

          You cite past trolling, but there’s no question that the tipping point for you outing him was when he said something to you. That’s pretty suspect – you haven’t posted anyone else’s IP addresses and called them out for trolling. Is it that you only care about trolling when it affects you personally? Feel free to respond at risk of sounding like even more of a tool. You might reply that this is the first instance of trolling on NSD Update, but you already claimed that he trolled in the past.

          That’s not to say that Carleton’s post was trolling. It was actually a decent point, just one to which a debater wouldn’t want their name attached. The post of yours that he criticized did not substantively contribute to this thread, and you yourself say that you want the thread to be substantive. Then again, hey, what would standards be if authority figures had to follow them also? 

          I never advocated a “positive expressing of views” as you allude. I just said that people should be able to express their feelings anonymously. Sometimes behavior warrants negativity and criticism. You may disagree that your post warranted either of those things, but if that’s the case, why don’t you just argue with Carleton instead of resorting to posting his IP address?

          On other trolling – I never saw the Moses Sloven thing, so I’ll take your word for it. It was strange that he used “Messrs,” but in context it was not offensive at all. His post said, “If you don’t feel compelled to address at least some of the issues raised by Messrs McGinnis, Liu, Imas, and Parker in a more substantive manner, one might go as far as to say that your ‘flippancy’ is ‘unneeded in this case.'” 

          • Anonymous

            I have responded to trolling in the past by notifying Honda, who was at the time solely in-charge of those instances. I could refer the posts to him but not see the IPs themselves. That has since changed, which is why I acted in this case and not in others–it is not about his ‘calling me out.’

            I disagree about whether Carlton’s post was wholly substantive or a sincere belief that he just didn’t want a name attached to. You make lots of accusations about my being a tool and my just not following rules because I’m an authority; I will not respond to your ad hominems. This conversation should redirect to the substantive posts by people like Kristen and Dave, which it seems we each value.

          • Wade Houston

            Your point about seeing IP addresses is a smoke screen. You allege that Carleton made a previous post (Moses Sloven hate mail) that was trolling. If you feel so strongly about trolling, why did you not crack down then?

            My claim that you are an authority and that you violated your own standards is not an ad hom attack. Simply put: you are the moderator, you declared posts should be substantive, and your response to Dave was not substantive. Not only that, you made an additional irrelevant post that was like, “lol screenshots have been taken.” 

            For all its misgivings, this format that shifts posts farther to the right at least lets us bicker without distracting from the main discussion. For that reason, I do not mind hijacking your posting of Carleton’s IP address to point out exactly how ridiculous this situation is. 

            It would make sense to accept your apology if your reaction was just to condemn the post as trolling. As I already mentioned, you could have even responded to it! Instead, your overreaction in some ways resembled past censorship efforts in online debate discussions. 

            What makes NSD Update great is that it’s an alternative to past censorship. You revealing Carleton’s identity reminds me of VBD’s attempts to stifle anonymous posting. Sometimes there are sensitive discussions online, and I don’t want others to fear their identities will be compromised as well. If they do, then your behavior has had the same effect as censorship. Either way you look at it, posting IP addresses sets a bad precedent. 

          • why are you in the business of making sure discussions are “substantive” in the first place? why not just delete posts that are obviously too obscene to be on the website (like hate speech)?  am i the only person that enjoys an occasional incendiary troller? maybe i’m alone here (doubtful), but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed many posts in the past that weren’t really “constructive” or whatever, but we’re hilarious and made my experience reading debate discussions immensely more enjoyable. having a forum policeman that makes sure everyone’s being all “constructive” or whatever sounds pretty lame and boring to me.

            moreover, why should you be outing people at all? if your sole interest is to make sure the thread is “substantive” it seems like just deleting the posts you deem as “not substantive” is an adequate solution. besides guarding the sanctity of ‘substantive’ discussion, are you also responsible for doling out punishments to people?

        • and yet you only choose to out him when he makes a legitimate, non-trolling comment criticizing you? sorry that doesn’t come off as you wanting the thread to be substantive, it comes off as you getting mad that someone called you out

          edit: wade already made this point more eloquently

  • Hi, I’ve never posted here before, but Ari asked me if I’d be interested in re-posting a note I wrote on Facebook when the topic was initially introduced and topic nullification seemed like it was going to be a large discussion.

    The Domestic Violence debate topic, and why it should not be changed.
    by Kristen Ray on Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    Aside from the theoretical issues that i’ve been irritated about–
    people wanting the targeted killing topic for TOC as opposed to a couple
    months later, when it will surely come; people feeling like they should
    get to override the voices of an entire country of coaches who voted,
    and so on– I will tell you why this topic should be debated.
     
    A/T the mere existence of the topic and its subject matter stops debaters from engaging with it. 
    @Mischa
    Glitterr linked a well articulated post about a debater and his
    teammate refusing to compete because of the effect it will have on
    people who are the victims of domestic violence. Here it is:
    http://www.azuen.net/2011/12/02/the-silent/
     
    I have a
    couple of problems with it though. It assumes everyone who’s been in a
    domestic violence situation (directly or peripherally) would rather be
    quiet about it than scream it at the top of their lungs. For many
    people, this is a topic where, even if they never “tell their story,”
    they will get to talk about something that is more meaningful for them
    than anything else they will talk about their entire high school
    careers. For every person who feels they need the cover of silence (who
    wants to grieve of deal with their experiences their own way), there are
    people who are overjoyed that the silence is being broken, and that
    their experiences are being addressed instead of pushed under the
    carpet, the way they have been their entire school career.
     
    One
    of the very worst things about abuse is the silence attached to it.
    Because the silence is imposed from the outside; because it is something
    to be ashamed of. The dynamics of abuse are so complicated. Those
    abused feel ashamed, or ashamed for their abuser, or angry, or angry
    that they aren’t feeling how they think they should be feeling. There is
    no way to generalize what happens to a person in a situation where they
    have experienced abuse. But silence about abuse as a social problem is
    not ever the answer. Individual people need time to heal however they
    can. NOT talking about it in the open as a society, as a social problem,
    makes it, de facto, the problem of the individual. How can that weight
    be lived with?
     
    The most direct answer is that it can’t be.
    I am an advocate for queer teenagers and for mental health. It’s not
    just personal for me, it’s what I’m making my career. I say those two
    things together because one of the other topics that was for so long
    mired in silence was queerness. In many places it still is. The
    loneliness and the shame that people feel as silenced outsiders, with no
    one to talk to or about themselves, even in the abstract, is one of the
    worst things that can happen to a person. There’s a reason that gay
    teen suicide rates are so heartbreakingly high. Maybe it’s the same
    reason that we don’t even have well known statistics for teens who’ve
    been in abusive households and the rates of suicide and all of its
    trappings.

    I will be as forthright as I can, as someone who is an
    advocate for people with depression, anxiety, and any other genetic or
    environmental mental health problem. Someone very close to me
    experienced terrible abuse as a child, and ended up taking h** own life.
     
    There
    is no one helped by pretending this topic doesn’t exist, in society or
    in debate. I want it to “get better” for the children, teens, and adults
    of all genders and sexual orientations who’ve suffered abuse. I would
    advocate just as strongly for a resolution that involved anti-bullying
    laws, for example.  And silence, and especially the act of SILENCING, by
    topic nullification here, will do more harm than good. Please, please,
    do not make the assumption that because some people feel uncomfortable
    with the topic, that it is not a topic worth debating. Both because
    there are as many people who want to or need to engage with this
    information and because this happens on most every topic, it’s just that
    we are not as concerned about making people who’ve had family members
    executed (capital punishment topic), or people who may have had family
    issues surrounding immigration, or any number of others.
     
    It’s
    just that with this one, people who haven’t experienced abuse at home
    feel uncomfortable talking about it. The same way that white people
    often feel uncomfortable talking about race if there is someone in the
    room with more color in their skin, and talking about gayness when they
    are straight but have queer people in their audience. It seems to me
    that the people who are calling for a different topic are often going to
    be the ones who haven’t experienced the abuse, and are uncomfortable
    with the thought of talking about it in front of someone who they don’t
    know, who might or might not have had abusive experiences.
     
     

    As for people being forced to take positions they are not comfortable with:
     
    How
    could this possibly be a problem if there is this much discussion going
    on outside of the topic, with tremendously creative people, who on any
    other topic would already have an amazing strategy in place. And maybe
    it’s HUGELY IMPORTANT to have a topic that brings our insensitivity to
    casually discussing violence (“body count”, “war porn”) as debaters to
    the forefront of the discussion! Why isn’t that a discussion to have in
    round? There is an ENORMOUS body of literature on this topic, so that
    can’t be the problem, and it is ridiculous to assume that negating can
    only mean “taking the opposite position” when every round treats
    negating totally differently. What has changed about that here?
     
     
    I
    want to say that before you call for a different topic, please consider
    how your own experiences are influencing that decision, and that either
    way you come down on it with regard to yourself, that there are many
    people for whom this could be a transformative topic of discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Dave, I am curious what you would tell one of your debaters if you found out they had witnessed extensive domestic violence as a child and thus didn’t feel comfortable debating. Would you tell them to “just debate the topic” and that “the sun will rise in the morning”?

    I don’t necessarily agree with all of Chris’s suggestions, but having some knowledge of the Lexington team’s makeup (and presumably the makeup of other teams), I think Chris is at least well-intentioned in wanting to avoid trauma for students. Your flippancy is disrespectful to those students and unneeded in general.

    • Anonymous

      Mr. Adler, 

      I don’t see how Dave was being “flippant”; he was making a very serious, valuable comment on the inadvisability of topic nullification. Your tone seems much more “flippant” than Dave’s, and no where in reading his post did I see Dave coming off as disrespectful. I find your comment, on the other hand, edging on inappropriate–an ad hominem stab at Mr. McGinnis and his role as an educator. I don’t understand why you feel like it is your place to make what amounts to an accusation that Dave does not care about his students’ feelings. 

      I am not suggesting that you are trying to stir up trouble, but if you want people to agree with you, perhaps you should consider changing your tact. If you don’t feel compelled to address at least some of the issues raised by Messrs McGinnis, Liu, Imas, and Parker in a more substantive manner, one might go as far as to say that your “flippancy” is “unneeded in this case.” 

      I want to voice support for the claim that we should respect the decision that Chris and the NDCA make, but I also hope that Chris considers the valuable input that Mr. Imas and Mr. Liu have provided.

      -PM

      • Anonymous

        Carlton (or is it PlazaMexico?),

        Thanks for the feedback.

        • Anonymous

          What are you talking about? I have given up my days of online posting. Just ask Jeff.

        • Anonymous

          What are you talking about? I gave up my posting days a while ago, for fear of making such a fatal typo.

          • Anonymous

            See new post.

      • Dave McGinnis

        I don’t mean to be flippant, but when you say “changing your tact,” you should instead say, “changing your tack.”

        “Changing one’s tack” is a metaphor that comes to us from sailing. To tack is to change the direction of the boat. Thus changing one’s tack means trying another direction or alternative.

        The incorrect use of “tact” in this context is common because (A) people often suggest that one change their tack when they find that they are being tactless. Tact, in this case, means “sensitivity in dealing with controversial issues.” Also (B) people may believe (incorrectly) that “tact” is an abbreviation of “tactic,” and to “change tactics” would mean something similar to “change tack.” 

        All the same, I have too much respect for both English and sailing to allow this to go by without comment.

        • Anonymous

          Fixed.

    • Dave McGinnis

      I would do a couple of things. First, I would sit down with the student and, if appropriate, the parent, to discuss approaches to the topic that would not offend or trouble the student. My debaters do not typically write or run cases based on personal experience, so I don’t think that a personal experience, even a traumatic one, has to be a barrier to discussing an important social and/or political issue. There are underlying philosophical, legal, and political questions that bear discussion that would not require a student to literally tell their own story as a part of debating the question. 

      Second, if, given a reasoned discussion of the issue, the student still felt uncomfortable debating the topic, I would suggest alternative approaches: A student could opt to compete in Public Forum for a semester, for example. Or they could opt to run non-topical advocacies. 

      Finally, if a student came to me about this topic or any topic and told me they were uncomfortable debating it, I would absolutely respect their view, but it would never occur to me that their discomfort justified overriding the expressed preference of the majority of coaches across the country. That kind of discomfort would be a very good reason to advocate against the topic prior to or during the voting process, but once the process has taken place, it’s wrong for any student, coach, or group thereof to try to enforce their view on the rest of the debate community. 

      This is an important topic and should be debated. I understand the perspective of those who find the topic troubling, but there’s a reasonable argument to be made that enforcing public silence on this issue only enforces the notion that being a victim of domestic violence is shameful in some way. Rather than avoid the question we need to open the doors of discourse and shed light on it. 

      This doesn’t mean that actual victims of violence are forced to tell their own story, nor does it mean that anyone is forced to advocate “domestic violence good.” There are plenty of palatable negative positions; there are plenty of ways to address the topic without disclosing one’s personal experiences. 

      • Anonymous

        I appreciate the substantive response; it sounds like you would have some reasonable options for a course of action. I just wish those alternatives had come up in the first post rather than the dismissive ending quoted above–it seems like you’ve really given the issue some thought.

      • online bitching

        Honestly, the scenario of sitting down and chatting with an abused student seems highly idealistic. 
        First, due to the emotions attached to trauma (shame, guilt, fear, etc.) students are unlikely to come forward and speak to a coach, especially if the student is either an underclassman (he/she may not know the coach as well as an older debater) or is the opposite gender of the coach. It might understandably seem easier to just make excuses to not attend tournaments or quit altogether.
         Second, in many states teachers who hear about abuse are legally obligated to report it to the police. If students know this and have not already reported their abuse, they are unlikely to talk to a teacher. If they are unaware of these laws (and many are), such a conversation would have the unintended consequence of forcing an investigation they aren’t ready for.  Third, even if your students don’t run personal cases, others will run narratives or use graphic evidence. Hearing about abuse that is similar to their own may be triggering for students. Even being forced to hear that an abuser’s right to live ‘out-weighs’ their suffering can be too hard. Even if they aren’t literally telling their own story, the emotional burden seems huge.Also, I think the argument that the outcry should have happened before the topic was chosen is maybe true for coaches, but not for victims. Victims often don’t want to identify as being a victim or dwell on their past abuse. Due to pressure to  ‘move on’ or ‘get over it,’ students and judges alike might hope, at first glance, that they can handle the emotional stress of the topic. In abstract, having a voice to discuss abuse and raise awareness seems great. In reality, even discussing the issues on a macro-level brings up past hardship. Even if victims did recognize their discomfort with the topic early on, they might not speak up due to fears that their team/coach/the community would realize they were speaking from personal experience. That risk, whether real or imagined, could have been strong enough to prevent them from speaking up. 

        I know that the topic will not be nullified for the majority of tournaments. I’m not advocating for topic nullification or changing the TOC/NDCA topic. I just think that the issue of even just choosing whether or not to debate the topic, from a victim’s perspective, is much more complicated than Dave made it seem.

        • Dave McGinnis

          I didn’t mean to make the issue seem simplistic. Steven’s question was, what would I do if a student came to me with this issue? And, more than once in my career, I’ve had conversations like the one I describe. That said, you’re certainly correct that some students wouldn’t bring the issue up at all. 

  • Chris, with all due respect, I’m not sure how any metric of popular opinion, even on the circuit, could indicate that people want the topic to change. Despite being a fairly high profile issue on the circuit for the past month, the debateaction protest has only garnered 13 coach signatures (12 currently coaching) representing 9 schools. By any estimate, that is a tiny percentage of national circuit coaches. For every post there has been in support of topic nullification, I have had at least 2 conversations with debaters or coaches about how they think changing the topic is a bad idea. Not a lot of them post because a) there is no indication the topic will change b) they don’t want to make anyone angry by posting online and c) they have better things to do with their time. I think changing the NDCA topic because of “national circuit support” would be fairly misguided, especially given Ari’s post about some other tournaments i.e. TOC, taking the decision as an indicator of national circuit opinion when it’s really just the opinion of a couple of vocal high-profile coaches who happen to be on the circuit and involved in NDCA.

  • Dave McGinnis

    1) I think it’s a mistake to assume that “most debaters” or “the community in general” support topic nullification. This is because (A) a minority post on the boards at all, so it’s a mistake to believe that what goes on on discussion boards reflects community beliefs in any way, and (B) the boards are not a random sample of views, because those who are upset with the status quo have a greater incentive to post. Those of us (like myself) who are content to debate the topic have no particularly strong reason to get on the boards and vent.

    Reference to online “polls” is unreliable for the same reasons. Statistics gathered using unreliable metrics are not “sort of good,” they are bad, and should not be used as evidence.

    2) The procedure is more important than the product. Identifying a single topic to be prepared and debated at dozens or hundreds of tournaments is a tremendous feat of organization. We take the topic identification process for granted, but the very fact that we *have* such a process is kind of amazing. By its nature our community views everything as being “up for debate.” If it were not for the fact that we have a presumptively legitimate system in place for identifying topics that people are then largely willing to accept and debate, the very idea of national debate would crash and burn.

    This is not an argument for preserving the current topic selection system in its present form. I have no problem with tweaking the system or even making radical changes. But I think this has to be done systematically. 

    My concern is that the topic selection process is only as secure as our collective faith in it. The vast majority of tournaments use the NFL topic by default; people don’t typically have to “wonder” which topic will be used. If we set a precedent for “topic nullification” or what have you, we weaken that foundation. I do not want to find myself in a world where tournaments select their LD topics individually based on the preferences of the tab staff or tournament directors.

    If you don’t think this would be a problem, let me offer some perspective: At some point in the last fourteen years, a handful of tournaments around the country decided to start “jumping the gun” on topics. For example, the Iowa Caucus tournament, which occurs at the end of October, started using the Nov/Dec topic, and Blake, in late December, started using Jan/Feb. For years, you saw teams showing up to these tournaments prepped to debate the “wrong” topic. 

    3) I am frankly offended by the notion that a single tournament director (especially at the level of the NDCA) could elect to change the topic.

    No one complained about this topic when they saw it on the list, though there was every opportunity for months and months to go on the “boards” and rant about the inadvisability of debating it.

    Coaches from across the country voted that this topic was their preference. 

    That system of voting may be imperfect, but it is a vastly better system for measuring the aggregate preferences of coaches nationally than a review of posts on a debate board, or the views of a single tournament director. 

    Just debate the topic. The sun will rise in the morning.

    • It appears you may be reading far more into my original post than is there.  It’s kind of bad form to put phrases in quotes that are not actual quotes.  The words “most debaters” and “the community in general” don’t appear in my post, because I have no belief that I understand either.  The actual language I use is “a fair number of coaches” who “seem largely rooted in the national circuit”.  That’s, I believe, a reasonable characterization.The question is, how large is that number?  I don’t truly know.  There’s those vocally for; there’s those vocally against; and those who are silently both.  There may be people who refuse to debate Jan/Feb and none who refuse to debate Mar/Apr; that’s a argument to use Mar/Apr even if the refuseniks are a minority.  Or it may be vice-versa, also a question.  I put it out on the NDCA listserv and we didn’t get any replies, so I’m trying for a larger pool now.    I’m trying to solicit feedback here from coaches considering attending the NDCA; I’m not running an AC that has to be rebutted line by line or trying to argue the merits of the topic or the selection process, simply the merits of using a Jan/Feb topic that some feel excluded by, for a tournament in April.I also never said it was my call alone to make this change.  I wouldn’t want to make it even if it was delegated to me to do so.  My role as tournament director is one of implementing the policies set by the NDCA Board; I am not on the Board myself.  Additionally, I have already been vocal on this issue, but I am trying as best as I am able to separate my personal beliefs from administering to the questions raised by this topic and the implications for the tournaments that use it, including both Lexington and the NDCA.   

      • Anonymous

        Chris, I think your posts conflate the issue of “is the Jan/Feb topic appropriate/good” and “what should the NDCA do with regards to the topic given that every tournament has chosen to already debate Jan/Feb?” It seems to me that the ship of topic nullification has already sailed, but you are still clinging to that agenda by imposing a different topic for the NDCA and hopefully the TOC. None of your posts have addressed the question of the preferability for the NDCA as a tournament, for being fair toward debaters who have already invested hundreds of hours researching the topic and planning their tournament schedule, or for the educational value of continued research on a topic. You have merely reiterated your point from your blog about the personal nature of the topic, which is a fair point, but again is just an argument in support of topic nullification, not a reason why one tournament director gets to impose his beliefs for a tournament that affects an entire community (I don’t think it will really change the TOC’s topic choice, but certainly affects people who were planning on attending NDCA for practice for TOC–some debaters I have already talked to have said ‘I will not attend NDCA if they choose Mar/Apr).

        Arguably, none may refuse to debate March/April. But at the same time, most choose not to anyways because of the significant time investment to prepare for a new topic right before the TOC for a tournament which really carries no stakes (in the mind of most). We may all hate the topic for various reasons, but that’s not a reason why specific tournaments should “change tack” now.

  • Anonymous

    I am grateful to Larry and Daniel for a defense of the Jan/Feb
    resolution that is free of the hysterical tone, intellectual sputter, and ad
    hominem vituperation that have marked some of the extraordinarily widespread
    response to previous threads over topic nullification—qualities that merely
    confirm my hunch that this resolution has touched a nerve that lies very deep
    indeed. That said, Larry and Daniel have vigorously defended the topic against
    two criticisms that I did not make—which, in fact, I went out of my way not to
    make. Specifically, I never took a stance, in my post or in this thread,
    regarding the desirability of switching to March/April; instead, I merely
    asserted that the NDCA’s decision might embolden other tournament directors to
    act similarly.

     

    This is a real concern for two reasons:

    1. The policy community holds the NDCA in higher esteem than the LD
    community. Debateaction.org and Chris will have a much stronger case for
    changing the topic if the NDCA decides to switch. Presumably, Chris, as the
    director of this year’s NDCA Championship and the coach of a prominent
    Lincoln-Douglas squad, represents the community’s preferences. Further, the TOC
    Advisory Committee is an unreliable bulwark, as witnessed in last year’s
    debacle over the at-large application process. If I were the director of the
    TOC, I wouldn’t put much weight in the TOC Advisory Committee—and I’m on it.

    2. Larry and Daniel, we agree: The TOC is an important tournament, and
    coaches/debaters decide what tournaments to attend based on the assumption that
    the TOC will use Jan/Feb. If the TOC had decided, at the beginning of the year,
    to use March/April, we would see at least one major national tournament use
    that resolution.

     

    So, in the end, my point is that people should care about Chris’s
    decision, because it might, resultantly, alter the topic selection process of a
    tournament they really care about, e.g. TOC.

  • Anonymous

    Regardless of whether the topic is suitable/good/acceptable, I think one consequence that will result from using the March/April topic is that there will be less high quality competition at NDCA and that less people will attend NDCA. No disrespect intended, but at least from my perspective when I debated, most seemed to view NDCA as a preparation tournament for TOC–there was similar quality competition, but not as high of stakes. The use of the Jan/Feb topic is obviously critical to serve that purpose for most debaters, and I think the tournament takes a step backward  by choosing to debate the March/April topic that no one really takes the time to prep except to write a few lay cases for states/nat quals.

    • Anonymous

      This discussion cannot be divorced from a conversation over what topic the TOC should use, because the NDCA’s decision will reverberate and effect other tournaments, too. I’m not saying other major tournaments will de facto choose to switch topics as a result, but the decision will certainly carry some weight about our topic preferences as a community.

      • Anonymous

        I think the notion that the TOC should even possibly reconsider what topic will be debated is wrongheaded at this point. All of the current Jan/Feb tournaments have already chosen to debate Jan/Feb (Emory, Harvard, Berkeley, Blake, CPS, MBA etc.). People plan to go to more tournaments on Jan/Feb with the expectation that TOC debates the Jan/Feb topic. There are NO major tournaments which debate the March/April topic–people have to essentially prep blind. For the TOC to change the topic now certainly blindsides the debate community given a 25+ year tradition of debating Jan/Feb and given that every major tournament has chosen to debate this topic. If the TOC wanted to debate a different topic other than Jan/Feb, I think that should have been announced either at the start of the year, or before the Jan/Feb topic came out, not ex post facto.

        • the 70-80 odd top circuit debaters in the country couldn’t adapt from a topic they’ve only known about for a month given 3-4 months notice?  srsly?

          • Anonymous

            My argument is not only that debates will be worse and topic change by the TOC would be unfair to debaters, but that this is not a smart move for the NDCA because NDCA is primarily used as  extra preparation for the TOC, and debaters will be less likely to attend if they have to debate March-April.  Even if Ari is correct, and the TOC changes its topic based on the NDCA selection, which I find very unlikely, using a different topic for one, maybe two, tournaments before TOC will result in worse debates, force debaters to do more prep, and completely re-work strategies.

            The point is not that top debaters will be unable to “adapt”–the point is that first debates on a topic are always worse than late debates on the topic. The issue is not how much time in advance we know the topic, but how many opportunities debaters have to debate the topic because we have to prep blind if we don’t have tournaments to see what other people are running. The reason debates at TOC are very advanced is because debaters have debated 4-5 tournaments on that topic, so not only do arguments improve, but *strategies* change and improve to combat common tactics. It’s the main reason why strategies usually change drastically at a mid-point on the topic–around Valley on Sept/Oct, at GBN on Nov/Dec, and at Emory on Jan/Feb.

            In addition, teams (or at least for Jeff and I as debaters) specifically
            planned more tournaments on Jan/Feb as prep for TOC– that goes completely to waste now if TOC changes its topic at this stage in the process. Most big-time tournaments have already chosen to use domestic violence, and if we choose to change the topic for just the NDCA and TOC, debates at the TOC will not be good.

          • I agree with Larry both about NDCA losing its ability to garner competition and TOC changing its topic. Last year, debaters flew to NDCA from as far as California to debate – I highly doubt it would have the majority of the same schools attend if it weren’t in preparation for TOC because that is the tournament that the majority of the circuit views as most important.

            I think TOC changing its topic would also be a bad move. The great thing about the Jan/Feb topic in my mind is that it allows you to explore literature in so much depth that debates, by the end, become infinitely better than they were at the beginning of the topic. Sure, people would be able to prep for a new topic if they announced it now, but the debates would not only be worse in quality but people would learn less from the topic. I learned significantly more on the Jan/Feb topic the past 2 years because I knew that I would likely compete at TOC using it. Throughout that 6 month period, my teammates and I found tons of new literature that was very interesting and not utilized in previous rounds. Were it not for TOC using the same topic, I likely would have a) gone to fewer tournaments on Jan/Feb and b) not done as much research on the Jan/Feb topic because I’d have known that TOC uses a different topic and that was what I cared most about in debate.