Category Archives: Community

Breaking Down The Final Two 2022-2023 Topic Choices: Why I Am Not Voting For The NATO Emerging Technologies Topic

With the 2022-2023 high school policy debate topic selection process nearing completion, I explained my concerns about the multilateral climate regimes topic. This time, I will share my thoughts about the other option on the final ballot: the NATO emerging technologies topic. Is it the better choice? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. I’ll return to this answer at the end of the post, but first I’ll share my analysis of the NATO topic.

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Breaking Down The Final Two 2022-2023 Topic Choices: My Concerns About The Multilateral Climate Change Regimes Topic

The final round of voting for the 2022-2023 national high school policy debate topic is nearly complete. The two resolutions on the ballot are:

1. Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its support of multilateral greenhouse gas emission reduction regimes.

2. Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its security cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in one or more of the following areas: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity.

Which one is better? I’ve had a difficult time deciding. Both have serious problems. In this post, I will explain my concerns about the climate change topic. In a subsequent post, I will do the same for the NATO topic. If you haven’t voted yet, I hope you will find these posts helpful as you deliberate over your final choice.

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If You Want A Glimpse At The Issues Of Tomorrow, Listen To A High School Debate Today: Revisiting Two 2018 Debates About Vaccine Mandates

One of my favorite things about being a long-time debate coach is the exposure it has given me to a wide range of public policy controversies. Jim Fleissner delivered a speech about this at the Barkley Forum Coaches Luncheon in 1995 that that I really like; I republished it here in 2010.

One of Fleissner’s points is that “an often neglected facet of [debate coaches’] teaching” is “the substantial body of knowledge acquired by your students.” As part of that argument, he makes this observation:

How many times have you heard a news report about some startling new development, only to realize that you heard about it years ago in debate? For example, the first time I encountered the notion that there were forces that might cause the collapse of the Soviet Union resulting in dangerous regional instability was in a high school debate over a decade ago. Silly academic dream-world arguments? I say if you want a glimpse at the issues of 2005, listen to a high school debate today.

For me, watching the ongoing fights over COVID-19 vaccine mandates has been the latest example of this feeling that debate anticipated the news. This can sometimes be unsettling or confounding, but it can also be inspirational and rewarding. In a sense, it can confirm that what we’re learning matters and that our research is successfully grappling with difficult controversies. I’ve been thinking a lot about two rounds in particular, and I thought others might find this reflection interesting.

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A Hard Job That Keeps Getting Harder: The Reasons Why Debate Coaches Quit Are The Same Today As They Were In 1965

Debate coaching is a difficult job that has become even more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last March, coaches were forced to scramble to salvage the rest of the debate season after schools and large parts of the economy were shut down. They figured out how to teach and coach and judge online, taught students to compete online, and struggled to sustain their debate programs amidst often severe budget cuts.

Now debate coaches have been forced to figure out what to do next. Some are back in in-person classrooms with inconsistent (or non-existent) masking and social distancing policies. Others are still teaching and coaching online. Some are bouncing back and forth between the two. When will in-person tournaments return? Some already have, but no one in a position of public health authority is making that decision. Coaches are mostly on their own to decide what is safe and how to continue coaching debate during an ongoing pandemic. And all of this responsibility has been added on top of their “regular” jobs as teachers or professionals in other fields.

It’s overwhelming. Anecdotally, many coaches have decided to give up on debate either temporarily or for good. Others have significantly scaled back their involvement. Coaching shortages were already a pervasive problem before the pandemic. Now, the outlook for the debate coaching profession seems grim. How many coaches will quit before the pandemic is finally “over”? How many debate programs will permanently end because they were unable to recruit and retain a committed coach?

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The (Unnoticed?) Standardization of High School Policy Debate Resolutions

One thing I like to do when researching a new debate topic is to review the list of old resolutions to see if and when similar issues were debated before. This can often provide useful ideas for arguments to explore, but it also offers an interesting historical perspective on the evolution of debate topics over time.

When investigating previous analogues to this year’s water resources topic — the 2003-2004 ocean policy topic, the 1985-1986 water quality topic, and the 1970-1971 pollution topic are the closest — it struck me how standardized topics have recently become. Until relatively recently, topics tended to vary in word choice and format from year to year. Even after the U.S. federal government became the standard agent of action in the 1960s, there was still significant year-to-year variation in mechanisms/verbs. These, too, started to standardize in the 1990s and 2000s, but since 2010 there has been yet another noticeable increase in topic standardization.

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Thoughts on the Proposed Resolutions for 2015-2016

The National Federation of High Schools has released descriptive paragraphs of the proposed resolutions for the 2015-2016 season in order “to promote extensive discussion by coaches and students over the next six weeks.” Below the fold, I offer my initial thoughts about the slate of potential topics. Keep in mind that it is still early in the process and these opinions are subject to evolution and change based on further research and discussion. If you have an opinion about one or more of the proposed topics, share it in the comments. 

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Evan McCarty's Senior Speaker Address

Each year at the Heart of Texas Invitational at the St. Mark’s School of Texas, a senior debater is selected to deliver a speech at the Sunday morning breakfast. Quarterfinalist teams, Sophomore Hoe Down competitors, and their coaches are invited to attend. This year’s speaker—joining an impressive list of previous honorees—was Evan McCarty from Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Alabama. The text of his speech—about the importance of friendship in debate—is available below the fold.

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New Blog, Forum Offers Travel Tips and Resources for Debate Coaches

“Wisdom gained from 30 years of schlepping nerdy kids from coast to coast” is the subtitle of Lexy Green’s new blog, Debate Travel Tips. Only a few weeks old, the site has already become an invaluable resource for debate coaches seeking to save money on travel expenses—which is redundant, I guess, since that goal is shared by pretty much every debate coach in America. So far, articles have touched on hotel loyalty programs, printing, early hotel booking, and a few other topics that should be of interest to coaches. In addition to the blog, Lexy—the Director of Forensics at College Prep in Oakland, California—has set up a Debate Travel Forum for coaches to use to share tips, arrange room and ride shares, and discuss travel-related issues.

2011 Disclosure Award

There hasn’t been the lead in discussion of the disclosure award this year that there was last year, which to me is ironic because I believe the graduating class last year did a much more thorough job of updating their wikis than several schools this year. Part of that may be that I found this year’s wiki to be more cluttered/disorganized than last years which was more bare bones imo.

So this year for the disclosure award I will be throwing in a twist. This year the award will go to a team who shows not only that they were committed to disclosure by putting up their arguments but also to the team who best comes up with a way to organize their wiki to make it easy to use.

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