I decided to write this because I noticed a consistent theme in many of my conversations and thoughts this weekend at the Kentucky tournament. I want to go ahead and dismiss some of the excuses before I continue any further. Yes, there are examples of women who have achieved success in recent history and who are successful today. My point is not that there aren’t any; it is rather that there are too few. I guess the best way to describe my feelings on this issue is confusion. I don’t understand why this issue has to keep coming up. I know the solutions aren’t perfect, but we’ve at least sketched out some reasonable steps that everyone should be taking to improve the situation (make debate a less hostile environment and work to build and preserve self-esteem and confidence). I guess I have a two part question. Is it that these methods are no longer as effective, or have we just stopped doing them enough?
The more I coach debate and talk to others in the activity, the more I come face-to-face with a disconcerting reality. You, me and everyone else who coaches debate is about to be hit by a bus.
By “A bus” I mean any one of the long list of eventualities that could suddenly force you out of the activity. Between new jobs, grad school, law school, funding cuts, and even the actual miniature human beings that are in the care and protection of some of us, our lives as debate coaches is short. Even for the lucky ones of us who are able to make debate part of our “day job,” our activity is subject to forces far out of our control.
In some ways we as a community are victims of our own success. As we give students the tools to advance in debate, we also open up access to far-off schools, high-power careers, and the kind of fulfilling life that is incompatible with coaching debate. Of course this is a natural process, the very reason that we are willing to do so much for the activity in the first place. It’s a good problem to have.
Unfortunately, it means we are sowing the seeds of our own destruction. we can’t ignore this reality, and absent some major changes to the public education system we can’t make it go away.
The conclusion that I’m becoming convinced of is that we need to embrace it. We need to embrace the bus that is careening toward us and do everything we can to help the activity before it hits us. I’m not entirely sure what this means yet, but there are already a few things that I’ve started to see differently about debate.
I don’t really have anything to add… Ryan nailed it. Read the whole article.
First, let me clarify cause it seems as if this being taken to an extreme. At no point did I say do not read new affs. I advanced a nuanced difference between one shot affs with lower quality evidence versus the merits of breaking a strong new aff. If you are confused about the difference well… figure it out.
Secondly, I think Scott and Rajesh’s posts both deal with the purely competitive aspect of debate and less with the merits of having good debate, this leads to….
Lastly- the fact that some teams do not have good strategies does not mean that others do not. I feel like some people read pretty good strategies on various affs and discussions post the toc revealed others had decent strats vs affirmatives they did not debate.
Debate as an Aesthetic (Yes K people I’m familiar with a big word too)
Debate is a competitive activity, but so is playing Chess, Checkers, Uno, Apples to Apples and Monopoly. The reason people choose debate is because it is something that is both fun to do and has a competitive outlet. Would people debate if there were no winners or losers and no awards? Probably alot less… I cannot deny that the competition is what keeps manyof us intrigued and involved in this activity. BUT the reason you see people coaching and involved in this activity for so long is because there is something special about this activity that differentiates it from other competitive things. The reason I discussed at 2 different points the debate between Bellarmine and Westminster in the finals is because that is what good debate should be. Its not just about protecting your house, its about having great debates not just in the biggest rounds of the year but every debate should have some greatness in it.
The slippery slope is this if we focus too much and solely on the competitive (breaking unsustainable affs or disads we know are truly false) without regard for the implications this has to the activity what will become of the activity? If debate becomes a race to the ridiculous with bad evidence being produced by the aff and neg we lose what is great about this activity.
I’ve been in debate for around 11 years now and have seen drastic changes in this activity, some good others not so good. This activity has seen people poop in a bag, pie someone in the face, a coach drop his pants, a transition away from the norms of contemporary debate for whatever reason they chose and the advancement of more critical arguments instead of just policy arguments, and finally…. the Internet.
We are at as critical juncture for this activity, the ability to access anything on the internet has meant that we can literally get a hold of anything on the internet good, bad , stupid, fake, credible, or no qualifications at all. Within the framework of competitive success or maybe even external to it ask yourself this when you cut cards and produce files. Am I doing something that betters this activity? It used to be that the worst thing one would cut is an Op-ed and cite it as a newspaper that has drastically changed. It is now our burden to protect this activity.
Balancing the educati0n vs competitive aspects of this activity is something we all struggle with. I’m not sure there is an answer or perfect balance but it is something we need to think about when we decide what arguments to produce or read. What you do has trickle down effects onto others. Much of this one shot aff stuff started in college and trickled down to high school.
Some of you all will say BS Roy you are one of the most competitive people I know. That is probably true. I am not lecturing as someone who is high and mighty superior to you all (while its possible that is true in some instances) but my time as a coach has led me to changing how I approach debate related issues.
To those who believe Scott is gonna bash this post, he cannot he has already conceded. Scott: i dont think ive ever heard u say u yelled at ur kids for not learning, lots of yelling over losingme: well they arent learning not to loseScott: ahahahahah touche ok that comeback was pretty good, i concede