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People are starting to ask for substantive critiques of CEDA debate as
it exists now. This is a very positive step. I am willing to put out
some reservations I have about the activity as it exists now. Before I
do, however, let me emphasize that all of this is in the nature of a true
critique. While I am (in this message) concentrating on areas I feel need
improvement, that should in no way be interpreted to mean that I don't find
many very positive things also. I find a lot of what the people
supporting NEDA saying very intriguing. I think they need to be a bit
less rigid, but I think they may reflect a growing dissatisfaction with
CEDA as it exists now. I would like to hear some of the originators
speak themselves, so we can get THEIR viewpoint. But back to CEDA.
On Tue, 26 Apr
1994 NSLEM0876@NSULA.EDU wrote:
> Evidence comparison and evidence quality are skyrocketing! Gone are the days
> of 12 word cards with arbitrary and unfounded claims. To read those cards
> at a National circuit tournament would only get you a quick loss.
Generally, I feel that this is true. However, we need to be on our
guard with the advent of the emphasis on lexis/nexis evidence. It is
very current, but there are times when the currency is outweighing
soundness. "I have evidence from four minutes ago!" "Oh yeah? Well, I
update you by two minutes!" I see a lot of the electronic material being
very good for elements of fact - did such and such occur? It needs to be
examined a little more closely for issues of value and policy. While
there are certainly qualified sources available, you may also be quoting
a letter to the editor in Keokuk, Iowa.
> Only national circuit squads allow for almost any argument to be run, be it
> a critique, whole res, or whatever goo you like! Just because we debate
> it better doesn't mean we are evil.
ONLY national circuit teams do this? Gee, I wonder what all that
stuff the rest of us have been hearing is? No one ever said you were
"evil" for being a national circuit team. However, attitudes like this
don't go far in trying to heal whatever division is being felt.
> Finally, the only real complaint people can have is we speak to rapidly!
I have no problem with whatever rate of delivery anyone happens to prefer.
My problem occurs when people automatically assume one style (whatever
style that may be) is inherently better than others. Advocating one
style over others doesn't help the diversity of this activity. Different
styles are a strength, not a weakness. I think the fact that alternative
organizations are even being considered should serve as a major wake up
call to all of the people who claim everything is fine. The same thing
happened in NDT. The "true believers" in that style kept telling
themselves that they're right and there's no cause for alarm. Then, they
suffer major declines in members. We need to recognize where we are. If
significant portions of the members are disgruntled enough to explore
options, we need to have some truly substantive meetings to deal with it,
or be willing to accept the consequences.
I think a problem I have, which I haven't really seen addressed, is
the quality of argument itself. I see a lot of people arguing that
debate now provides more depth and quality than ever before. But no one
has really explained how in terms of the quality of the arguments
themselves. Think about some of the arguments we seriously advocate.
Event X will cause these six nuclear wars. Event X will cause the
destruction of life on earth. Event X will cause an ice age. Since we
are supposed to be so great at argumentation, let's examine how we reach
some of these conclusions. Basically, these cases (or disads, or
whatever) are chains of causality. We lead the judge through the steps
until we reach the desired disastrous effect. But if you examine the
links between the steps, often blatent fallacies of equivocation are
occurring. We rarely know if the various authors used between steps are
talking about the EXACT same usage in the link term. And it should be
exact for the link to work.
A second problem I have with many of our arguments is the mechanistic
nature of their dealings with human behavior. According to the various
scenarios, humans will walk into nuclear war much as lemmings walk off a
cliff (if they actually did that). Human behavior is NOT mechanistic. If
one step in the disad doesn't go EXACTLY right, you won't have a nuclear
I think all of this can be admitted by watching your average "good"
round. If you REALLY believed that these arguments were SOUND, would you
calmly sit in the back of the room? NO! You would run home and get ready
for a nuclear war. Remember, Lexis tells us that the brink is in a week!
The bottom line is, if even .01% of our arguments were actually true,
there would have been thousands of nuclear wars by now. All of these
things add up to the fact that a lot of our impact scenarios are really
nothing but Slippery Slope fallacies. Obviously, there have been no
Another problem I am seeing with CEDA is that there are times when the
organization of a round is more important than the soundness of the
argument. If you have a tabula rasa judge (which you can't, but a lot of
people pretend to), you can lose because you drop counterstandard number
12, not because the rationale of your position is incorrect. I believe
that a lot of the responsibility for this is because of the predominance
of the tabula rasa paradigm. It is time we recognize that it is a
physical impossibility to be tabula rasa. We can say that we are putting
aside our bias as much as we want, but we still can't. Our biases exist
subconsciously, and as hard as you try, you can't just turn them off for
two hours at a time. This is why you see judging philosophies that say,
"I'm tabula rasa, but I don't like x, y, and z." At least these people
are trying to alert you to some of their admitted biases.
> This activity is for students, not coaches. As a coach t is now my job
> to serve the students as a community, not impose my arbitrary ideals about
> what I THINK DEBATE should be!
I know that this is an unpopular position, but I think that making the
blanket statement that debate is for debaters and no one else is a bit
exclusionary. I strongly believe that debate is primarily for debaters,
but it is for other people too. Education and the enjoyment of this
activity shouldn't be limited to one group. There are different levels of
debate, but that doesn't mean other groups have to forfeit their
opinions. Debaters benefit, obviously. But coaches, tab rooms, drivers,
researchers, graduate students and more learn and benefit every weekend
also. Why shouldn't these other groups have input also. You also say you
want people to be specific about what they don't like about CEDA, but
would you exclude the people who have been around the longest to see the
changes because they aren't debaters? All ideals are arbitrary, what
makes the competitor's more valid than others'?
I think another area of concern is whether or not we actually live up
to what we claim. We make a big show of diversity and the like, but do we
really support it. CEDA is making significant strides toward racial and
gender diversity, and that it great! But that's not the type of diversity
I am referring to. I mean the diversity of being able to accept other
people's opinions, styles, and arguments. I have written CEDA-L on a
topics: Rate, Disclosure, and Mutual Preferences at nationals among other
things. Now I certainly don't have any illusions about all of the people
on the net reading my opinions and falling immediately under their sway.
What I am saying is that the replies have been very educational for me.
The vituperation of the replies is amazing. I often take the minority
view on an issue. I like to be in that position. You will either defend
your position unsuccessfully, or you will sway me to your side. But I
rarely believe something just because it is common belief. But I have
received many personal attacks, misinterpretations, and insulting
personal e-mail just for advocating positions a lot of you don't agree
with. Many responses consist of little more than "because that's the way
debaters want it." Talk about blanket statements. I haven't seen any
surveys out on what debaters want. I have spoken with debaters who don't
agree with that assessment. Just as you want me to explain my positions,
I ask the same.
I think CEDA needs to turn to a bit more common sense, or abduction
(Pierce's) if you prefer. In the 18th century, Bishop Berkely had the
Theory of Nonexistence of Matter, which said that all things in the
universe exist solely in the mind as ideas. When asked how he would
refute this theory, the English critic Samuel Johnson kicked a large
stone and replied "I refute it thus!" Sometimes I think we need to kick a
few more rocks. Many (certainly not all) of our positions could
potentially be refuted in this manner.
In closing, I want to apologize for the length of this posting. Again.
please don't take this as a blanket indictment of our activity. There are
many things I love about this activity also. But, specifics were
requested, so I tried to comply but still kept it as brief as possible.
Again, I don't expect you all to fall into line with my views, but they
are only that - my views. I don't know if these are the type of things
the NEDA people had in mind or not. I can only see that there are
significant numbers of our people who, for whatever reason, are looking
for alternatives. In terms of suggestions about improvement, my main one
would be to accept alternative viewpoints and styles more. On a more
substantive level, I think it may be a good idea to try and hold a
nationwide meeting (possibly SCA?) among all to discuss these issues. I
am not speaking of a one or two hour meeting, we need days of no escape.
Again, sorry for the length.
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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