[Ndca-l] Issues concerning the high school community
Wed Dec 18 09:34:23 EST 2013
It seems like some of the discussion is really more on decorum and
appropriate behavior (which can often be a loaded terminology, but I lack
the appropriate vocabulary to spell that out right now) than the realm of
the topic. Administrator support is very important, but if that were the
focus, I'm guessing many things would change from the length of tournaments
(no one loves kids missing as many school days as they do), to practices
that go on in everyday debate rounds.
As someone who daily has to explain debate to people who know little about,
my biggest question/concern from administrators, donors, and even
volunteers who see a "national" circuit debate round is the speed of
delivery. They overwhelmingly feel it is inappropriate for teaching
students advocacy skills.
Once we get past that, they'll ask about the swearing and the casual
attire. (Often, they assume it is simply because the UDL students can not
afford appropriate attire and so offer to donate clothing. It takes some
time to explain that debate does not have a dress code).
Third most common discussion - "why does everything end in nuclear war?" A
major funder of ours has seen a lot of debate and is a huge fan - but she
is totally perplexed by the way that debaters go "off topic" by ending in
nuclear war, talking about whatever politics DA, etc. Some of those
arguments are much easier to explain and get on board, but some less so.
I'll mock myself - I can't really imagine an administrator walking in and
being proud that I coached students to read E-Prime. Has anyone ever been
able to tell an outside person about time cube with a straight face?
I think Greg Hartney's post about why MPJ may not align with the goals of
high school debate is really astute. It seems like a lot of this question
that the college community is wrestling with something the high school
community is a lot closer to answering - what is the point of doing debate?
why the long weekends, the summers, the fundraisers, etc? What's the point
for everyone? Is it to teach advocacy skills, public policy, civic
awareness, etc. Not that the administration part is not a *huge* component
to that, but it seems like that is maybe the limiting factor to how to go
about those goals. Perhaps the high school community can take control of
these questions by agreeing on some vision of debate and working backward
my 2 cents and not that representative of thoughts/ideas of Dallas Urban
Debate, the Bush Center, or the Debate Institutes at Dartmouth.
On Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 8:46 PM, Stefan Bauschard <
stefan.bauschard at gmail.com> wrote:
> A few thoughts:
> (1) As far as anti-harrassment and behavior/conduct issues go, I think
> that (most) directors only need to look so far as their school's own
> Conduct policies. Ultimately, these control what our students can and
> cannot do (or be subjected to) in debates. The policies themselves are not
> really debatable (in terms of whether or not the debaters should be
> subjected to the policy) within rounds by students.
> I established a Conduct Policy for the Lakeland tournament (invitation
> here --
> https://www.facebook.com/groups/DEBATECOACHES/permalink/10151937771733183/)basedon our district's Conduct policy. The Conduct policy established by the
> district clearly (through explicit statement) apply to instances of student
> expression and also applies to to other students and coaches who choose to
> compete at the Lakeland tournament (when/if they are competing at the
> tournament). This is a *district policy* and it is applicable even
> regardless as to what I publish in my tournament invitation.
> I suspect that others have similar policies (and these policies are often
> articulation of state and federal laws...). I know that the NYCDOE Conduct
> Policy expresses similar ideas to those in the Lakeland district's policies.
> I think that speech & debate organizations could issues their own policies
> and directives, but ultimately what governs the behavior of our students is
> the policies and districts of their own schools. Schools may be members of
> these leagues and organizations, but they have in any way decided that that
> any directives issued by these organizations (would) trump any of their own
> school (district) policies.
> And, ultimately, I don't think I could enter students in an event in a
> tournament if I don't think the tournament director had similar
> expectations for conduct for all participants in the event that Lakeland
> students would participate in.
> I certainly understand why college coaches and tournament directors do not
> necessarily have these same expectations for college debate tournaments
> they host.
> (2) Some of the potential issues that college debate is experiencing that
> (could) spill-over to high school debate are largely confined to "policy"
> debate. It seems that they could manifest themselves in L-D since at least
> circuit versions of that event have copied many of the practices of policy
> debate. In contrast, for example, I haven't seen any of these issues
> manifest themselves in Public Forum debate and that event seems to be the
> biggest and fastest growing debate event in the US, and probably even the
> world. *Five hundred and fifty PF teams* registered for the Harvard
> tournament in *5 days* and another 200 are on the wait list. It's the
> biggest growth event (and also has the most competitors) in the NYC UDL. By
> the end of the year, we expect that 5,000 kids will have debated in at
> least one Public Forum tournament in China (and that is just in the league
> I'm working with -- there is another PF League in China). 250 PF teams
> debated in the Dominican Republic this fall. Hundreds are debating PF in
> And I also suspect that many of these potential problems have not
> manifested themselves in local policy debate circuits. There are probably
> at least a few thousand policy debaters in these leagues (Between NFL
> points, JOT, NAUDL, and tabroom data we could get some good #so on this).
> Anyhow, I think it is important to emphasize that these are primarily
> *national circuit* "policy" (and maybe L-D) issues.
> (3) I have a lot of opinions on MPJ :). My bottom line is that I think it
> is far superior to tab room ranked & placed judging. Most people in the
> more specialized event of policy find random judging pretty unsatisfying.
> I think we should try to aid in efforts to make sure that all judges have
> the opportunity to develop as judges, but figuring out how to do that is
> practically quite difficult.
> (4) I think the HS CDT is a worthwhile endeavor. I was on the college on
> for a couple of years and I think it is very valuable. At the same time, I
> think it is important to remember that "best practices" are not shared by
> everyone and that it is ok for tournaments to have their own practices
> (within reason).
> On Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 8:24 PM, Claire McKinney <olddirtyclaire at gmail.com
> > wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> Aaron Timmons? email provides an opening in the high school forum that I
>> feel more comfortable speaking in than in the college forum. As a long-term
>> assistant coach with indirect employment with a school, my perspective may
>> be a bit different. I have felt uncomfortable talking in the college
>> forums, partially because I am no longer involved in the collegiate brand
>> of the activity. Here are my thoughts. I?ll address Aaron?s thoughts first,
>> then add one of my own.
>> Regarding the first thought, while I agree that there are forms of
>> argumentation that I agree are inappropriate, this question requires a
>> larger question, which is what is the role of judges who take themselves to
>> strive to be neutral arbiters to intervene in drawing this line? What is
>> the role of tournament directors? Judges like myself whose livelihoods are
>> not tied to programs, or ?guns for hire? who don?t even have consistent
>> institutional affiliation and thus may be unconcerned about the survival of
>> a particular program may take the laissez faire ethos of debate as a given
>> and thus refuse to sanction things they may find personally offensive. Is
>> this a question for tournament directors instead? I think this is an
>> interesting question regarding regulating content.
>> On the second question of respect, this is also something which may have
>> increased meaning in our current moment, but I find to be of more endemic
>> concern. That is, I often feel that the hyper-competitive environment that
>> I sometimes experience and contribute to, where the value of winning
>> remains unquestioned and of paramount good, means that often, we don?t show
>> the respect we ought to towards all competitors. While I think this is less
>> a problem in many of the settings of high school debate, the over-emphasis
>> on the meaning of winning and forgetting the value of losing for students
>> sometimes leads to attitudinal and pedagogical practices that are less than
>> beneficial for students. Understanding that students mirror how we talk
>> about one another and treat other competitors and the question of wins and
>> losses may invite some needed self-reflection for all of us.
>> On the third point, regarding camps, I may be speaking out of turn, but
>> there *are* camps that already do this that many of the elite programs
>> rarely if ever send their students to. I have been a teacher at the
>> University of Texas? camp for over a decade, and our curriculum has been
>> committed to both intense policy training and critical education to engage
>> with alternative practices for that entire time. This is not a plea to send
>> your students to the UTNIF (I have no real ties to UT?s debate program that
>> are not social and my tenure with high school debate will probably
>> significantly diminish as soon as I complete my PhD). I would venture to
>> say that many regional camps across the country have similar dedications
>> that go unnoticed, because camp decisions are rarely made on evaluating the
>> contemporary curriculum of a camp, and more driven by the elite nature of
>> the staff, path-dependency based on where students have gone before, past
>> negative reputations of certain institutions, and the social network of
>> students that make a particular camp the hot camp of the summer. We all
>> know that camps advertising success of camp attendees is less about the
>> camp curriculum and more about who is able to draw what natural talent from
>> which highly resourced programs. If you want to espouse a dedication to
>> diverse camp pedagogy, it may be time to spend a couple hours investigating
>> regional camps and encouraging students to attend those.
>> I want to say a couple of additional things, one about the issue of MPJ
>> and one more general statement not directly responsive to Aaron?s email.
>> They are both related to how our thinking often distorts how we act,
>> sometimes in unproductive ways.
>> On the issue of MPJ, while the idea of a permanent underclass has some
>> traction in college, I think in high school, the issue is a little
>> different, if no less salient. The high school community is, on the face of
>> it, more transitory than that of college; except for a laudatory and
>> amazing few who are long standing paragons of the community, many people
>> cycle in and out of the high school coaching and judging community. We are
>> much more regionally divided than college; more talented students go their
>> entire career traveling within a 300 mile radius, as do their coaches and
>> judges. Thus, when such judges or coaches without reputation appear on
>> preference sheets, the amount of known unknowns is much higher in high
>> school than college. This also means that we see more judges we do not know
>> in high school than most students in college. I personally think this
>> inevitable uncertainty is a good thing, because too much expertism and
>> narrowness seems to be part of what is at issue at the college level. Of
>> course, at the TOC, the college circuit descends on high school and many of
>> us know what it means not to fulfill a commitment because a second year out
>> is deemed better for students.
>> What I do want to say is that we are all guilty of making poor decisions
>> in preferring judges because we either act out of prejudice or out of
>> distorted senses of the danger of certain judges because of past
>> experiences. We certainly inflate negative experiences in our mind (social
>> science tells us as much), and we also don?t allow for judges? learning.
>> When I was first judging high school a decade ago, I was a very poor judge
>> because of inexperience, especially with policy arguments. But a decade on,
>> I sometimes feel that I don?t judge certain teams because of some fear that
>> I make those same decisions now. I admit I may be a poor example (perhaps I
>> am a terrible judge and lack self-awareness), but when judges make what we
>> believe to be poor decisions because they did not have access to elite
>> success (often the case for many low-income, non-white, and non-male
>> debaters), we perhaps should be willing to be more circumspect when two
>> years down the line, they may have changed. Willing to risk a win one feels
>> one deserves in order to expand diversity in one?s judge preferences might
>> be worth it. Wins aren't that important; allowing for personal growth might
>> be more important. So the next time you see a non-privileged name on the
>> preference sheet (whether it be regionally or identity-based
>> non-privileged), ask yourself if placing a racial minority, a woman, or
>> someone from a non-elite school below the 4 mark is a practice you want to
>> engage in. It?s very easy to say that THIS woman, or THIS racial minority
>> or THIS unknown school is particularly unpreferred, but all those
>> particulars add up.
>> Finally, I want to say a word more on pedagogy. I am concerned with the
>> calcification that I see not only in college but also in high school in
>> condemning certain teams or schools for making certain types of arguments
>> in and out of debate rounds. I am heartened by the openness I have seen in
>> high school with regards to allowing students to discover who they are
>> through debate. We all make mistakes and say things we regret, but allowing
>> that students (and coaches) are human who are engaged in self-forming
>> experimentation will allow us to be cordial and see one another as
>> genuinely engaging in these discussions in good faith. Being able to admit
>> when one is wrong or why one is sticking to his or her convictions while
>> genuinely trusting one?s interlocutors and respecting different ways of
>> intervening in discussion is so incredibly valuable. I do hope that in the
>> course of the conversation, we remember that the reason debate works is
>> because we trust and genuinely love one another and that all our
>> disagreements are from a space of respect, not denigration.
>> Thanks again, Aaron, for beginning the conversation. And sorry for the
>> length of my email.
>> Claire McKinney
>> Ndca-l mailing list
>> Ndca-l at lists.debatecoaches.org
> Stefan Bauschard
> Debate Coach, Harvard Debate
> Debate Coach, Lakeland Schools
> International Programs Consultant, National Forensic League (US)
> Consultant, National Forensic League of Korea (ROK)
> Consultant, Dipont Education Management (China)
> (C) 781-775-0433
> (F) 617-588-0283
> Ndca-l mailing list
> Ndca-l at lists.debatecoaches.org
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