Policy Debate Articles in the Rostrum

The last three issues of the Rostrum—the National Forensic League’s monthly magazine—have included several articles of note for the high school policy debate community. Links and excerpts from these articles are below the fold.

Negative Bias on the Military Presence Topic: Why It’s Still Hard to be Aff” by Jon Voss

Debate teaches debaters to decide. The switch-sides model in particular is perhaps the most pedagogically-sound strategy available to America’s high school students. Unfortunately, the current trend toward negative leniency threatens the integrity and educational benefits that debaters and coaches have worked for decades to preserve. For the most part, the solution to the crisis in competitive equity identified herein lies with the debaters—affirmative teams must strive to press the negative’s internal link chains, fight the war against negative terrorism, and pay special attention to negative arguments that are slayers when conceded. Judging, too, will play a vital role in the transition. While it would obviously be inappropriate for judges to actively intervene against negative teams, they should heighten their skepticism of negative internal-link chains and resist delivering oral critiques that include phrases like “there’s only a risk…” In the short-term, I imagine affirmative teams will have to work harder than what should be necessary to restore competitive equity—but that seems like a small price to pay for the long- term sustainability of the activity.

Growing Pains: Coaching and Being a Second Year Policy Debater” by Christina Tallungan

Second year debaters usually have the post-novice year glow. They are usually the students who stayed in debate because, during their first year, they won trophies and received significant encouragement from their coaches and peers. Then they start losing many debates because they are competing against students who are two to three years older than they are. Coaches and student mentors can help smooth this transition.

Setting Up Paperless Debate” by Michael Greenstein and Casey Harrigan

Positive development or not, it seems that the trend toward paperless debating is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. A large number of college and high school Policy programs have made a complete conversion to paperless. While the merits of electronic debating have been discussed elsewhere, those discussions have focused on the student’s perspective: how to build files, assemble speeches, etc. This article is an attempt to provide coaches with an overview of the set-up required for paperless, with tips for those who choose to convert, and with information about the available technology options in order to make decisions that are in the best interests of their team.

Coaching a Paperless Team” by Jenny Heidt

Last July, we decided to convert the Westminster squad to paperless debating. I had read about it and talked to some college colleagues who had made the switch and was convinced that it was workable and worthwhile, but I was a little nervous. Would the students be at a competitive disadvantage? Would switching to paperless require more technical expertise than I have (which is almost none)? Would judges and competitors be comfortable with the switch? After a year, I am happy to report that the transition has been great. We discovered some problems along the way but, overall, I am really glad that we made the switch. In this article, I want to discuss some of the benefits and drawbacks of paperless debate.

Regionalizing the Tournament of Champions” by Brian Manuel

Regional debate is the backbone of our activity. In light of budget constraints and the current economic crisis, many teams have been told by their respective school that they can’t travel the exorbitant schedules they are used to doing. However, even though teams are traveling nationally much less, the organizations we value continue to keep their focus on nationalizing debate rather than regionalizing it. There are some schools that, because of their drive for TOC success, will never compete in regional tournaments. To overcome this competitive mentality and refocus discussions by our governing organizations, I propose the following system that aims to promote and reward regional debate. This system is a beginning, not an end, and is focused on generating discussion over regional debate practices.

1 thought on “Policy Debate Articles in the Rostrum

  1. ANON

    As a debater at a school that focuses largely on regional tournaments I found Brian's article to be extremely interesting and to be a good idea. Teams should not be excluded from the TOC just because they do not have the budget to travel across the country multiple times throughout the year. The current system also gives an unfair advantage to teams within the Midwest because local schools are closer to the majority of TOC bid tournaments, and so are more likely to come. This system also isolates regional circuits from the more competitive, better quality debaters that often pass up local tournaments for at shot at the TOC.

    However, I think the best option would be a combination of the status quo and Brian's proposal. The number of bid round tournaments open to any area should be drastically reduced in favor of bids distributed based on region, but we should still maintain a few "open" bids which could be won by any team in the nation. This would allow us to continue the intensely competitive aspects of large tournaments, while also invigorating our regional circuits. Furthermore, by invigorating our regional tournaments new competitors would arise who would increase the competitiveness of large tournaments. This clearly seems to be the best option.

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