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Re: Against change: Language and Limits
Kenneth Broda-Bahm wrote:
> Like any language act, resolutional terms are deterministic. They do not
> force meaning. They do not allow me to _guarantee_ the ground that my
> novices will experience. Pat & Meany are right: Language cannot be
> reified as a fence, no matter how many circles we draw on the chalkboard
> in topicality lectures. Limiting terms are at best, a rough guide.
> My argument however is that a rough guide is exactly what we are looking
> for. And a directional action term provides a better rough guide than
> does an explicit omni-directional term like "change."
> Pat notes,
> >the bottom line is that increase and decrease do not restrict a topic
> >any more or less than change does. Case in point: Oceans
> >on this topic which included the verb phrase increase development, we
> >saw such cases as stop fishing, install turtle-proof nets, [etc.]
> Right. 'Increase' needs to modify something and that term needs to have
> some identifiable meaning. On the oceans topic the community quickly
> decided that 'development' should mean 'make more useful or beneficial,
> improve' and the topic was functionally reduced to "Resolved that we
> should go snag ourselves some advantages in the ocean!" The
> directionality promised by 'Increase' was quickly quashed by
> 'development.' "Development" is at such a high level of abstraction that
> it didn't carry _a lot_ of meaning to say "Development Bad" as a story.
> Despite this, as I recall it for all its lexical ambiguity "development
> bad" did serve as first link for many a novice shell, and as a result was
> a confidence-builder for the possibility of negative argument. It sounds
> like Pat knows something about the importance of confidence builders for
> early debaters (nice work).
> I believe that a clearer expectation could be created if the term was
> something other than 'development.' Terms like 'human rights' 'security
> assistance' 'trade' are all flexible moves in the language game, but they
> sound more predictable to me.
> We don't need a guarantee. We just need a peg on which to hang that
> all-important feeling of preparedness. 'Change' is a bad peg.
While my mind is fairly far from this discussion at the moment, i feel
somewhat obliged to qualify in some way my early defense of the use of
"change" in the topic. While i have little experience with teaching
college novices, i've taught my share of novices and inexperienced high
school debaters - not just at summer institutes - but during competitive
seasons as well.
First, i would note that my suggestion was not merely to include
"change" but "change its" and i might amend further towards "change its
existing" as a phrase and the possessive additive does much in my mind
to fuel the notions of predictability. While one does not necessarily
know what the plan action will be, one does know where the plan action
will be from. It allows someone to gain predictability for debates by
having a background of informational reading which is stable. This
seems very useful for the beginning novices.
Second, i think it is obvious from previous posts that when an alternate
term is used to attempt to place a limit it encourages (i don't recall
Professor Jewell's and Balthrop's specific terminology) but i will call
it "playing fast and loose with intention". The idea of a term like
"increase" providing predictability is discounted in several examples.
Now the novice who goes into the negative round with an expectation of
being able to talk about why an increase is bad and ends up having
his/her disadvantage linked turned by the entire 1AC (whether they
recognize it or not at the beginning) ends up being a fairly humiliating
experience for them. It seems that attempting to focus ground for the
novice debater on subjects "linked" to the action words that have been
mentioned to this point is unlikely and may have its share of
Third, it seems the direction in teaching a resolution to novices or
inexperienced debaters would be better focused not on the specifics of
the action terminology but the "about" of the resolutional phrase and
topic area. by learning about Southeast Asia, knowing the informational
background that so many of us "leap past" in jumping for traditional
forms of generic arguments, the novices will be well prepared to ask
serious cross-examination questions, make serious indictments of the
affirmatives reasoning specific to the Southeast Asia area in
particular. It also seems not too far afield to encourage novices to
develop a political disadvantage of sorts for each nation in the
region. This would be grounded in the same educational approach.
Individuals could use their expertise concerning an affirmative country
area to develop political disadvantages for that country and so on. The
success of US political disadvantages over recent years demonstrates
that the amount of "link" which might be the missing element is fairly
loosely evaluated. Part of the teaching process would be the not simple
task of teaching the notion of telling a link story with analysis and
narrative when the evidence is not present. I've found that young high
school students are actually fairly good at this, because they are not
yet polluted by the Cy Smith "here's our cards, where's yours" view of
Fourth, the tournament directors could - en masse - decide to focus the
novice divisions discussions even further. I seem to recall this was
the trend on the Pacific Rim resolution when the novice debates were
narrowed to discussions concerning China only. I will leave it to those
more versed on the specifics of Southeast Asia to suggest what narrowing
would best assist in the encouraging the novice process.
Finally, my experience is that teaching novices often requires a
comforting ear and reassuring voice as much as a deck of "development
bad" cards. the terror of surviving the first few negative debates is
something that many survive. all of us have experienced our first
debates at some point in our careers. i still recall some of my first
novice tournament. interestingly, it was a debate-mother traveling with
us that helped us more than anything, not someone with extensive debate
Finally, number two, i'm not particularly concerned because my
involvement is minimal. i think that those who push for an increase or
decrease X subject will recognize that X is often inverted to where the
original hope of the framing is lost. with "change its existing" at
least one knows the bag of tapeworms we're jumping into fairly clearly.
perhaps a superior form can be located and i look forward to the
collective imagination of the community. i think that dallas made a
good point in suggesting that perhaps we should look beyond the
traditional terminological tropes of resolution crafting in creating
what may turn into yet another monster for novices to the wisest ancient
greying coach (whoever that is - one never knows with hair dye:)) ... i
think josh hoe's comments about looking more and more into specialized
terminology is useful. the caveat here is the specialized terminology
need be consistent throughout the crafting of the phrase or the effort
will undoubtedly implode and then explode if not at Cedar Falls and
South Carolina etc. then very soon after.
p.s. my heart goes out to those with the responsibility of actually
crafting these babies.
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