Archive for Debate Camp

Consider Attending this Unique Camp: xylum debate institute

Posted in camp, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2012 by Scott Odekirk

Their Staff already looks awesome and it looks as if I may be participating as well. I will most likely have a podcast later about this but for now, everybody should be aware that they are taking applications. Here is the link.

xylum debate institute

Kritiking Space Exploration and Development

Posted in 2011-2012 High School Space Topic, camp, High School, topic with tags , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2011 by kevin kuswa


Dr. Kevin D. Kuswa*

(2011-2012) Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth’s mesosphere.

            As many of you know, a topic very similar to this one has been debated on the high school level in the past.  Full of debates about resource wars, the overpopulation crisis and possible solutions, mapping asteroids, the intent and existence of various clans of extra-terrestrials, and weapons snatched from the plots of science fiction novels, the clashes were evenly matched and quite interesting.  This year’s topic adds the idea of “development,” arguably the step taken after exploration and a more explicit gesture to the free market’s inevitable influence in space (privatization CP, anyone? Just collect cards that say the USFG crowds out investment in space to answer the permutation).  “Development of space” is conceivably dependent on exploration, such that the topic is divided between “first-stage discovery” and “second-stage use” where the objective is more sustained and regulated.  The unfortunate construction of “and/or” will probably hinder some of these rich sequencing debates, but they will also reinforce each other (exploration leads to more development and vice-versa) so that being well prepared on one means being well-prepared on both.  Another interesting series of questions concerns what activities related to space are NOT exploration or development, how do these endeavors (education about space, for example), trade off with one another or open ground for negative counterplans, and what aspect of space policy is most ripe for criticism?

            Of course, once again, the USFG is at the center of the universe, this time literally, as the topic projects outward to the Earth’s second atmospheric layer “and beyond.”  How often do you see the Earth take on a possessive in this sense and what arrogance to assume that the USFG should be the agent to explore and develop all external territory?  Copernicus would be proud.  “Dancing with the Stars” becomes governing them, and not like the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!  This essay is an attempt to begin the broad link debate for a number of Kritiking options on the Space Topic, a taste of the depth and clash necessary to compete successfully on the negative.  Backing up, though, before detailing a few arguments on each side, we must begin with an Overview.

I. Overview…

…Effect, (1)  because getting outside the Earth and gazing upon her wonder is the true route to planetary consciousness—perhaps the mental space beyond the “meso” or “middle” sphere?  The affirmative has to occur in the “Thermosphere” or beyond, with the Earth defined as the starting point—the center—and the USFG as the puppet master of that planet.  Even more interesting, whether you have a starting point on the Earth or outside the Earth, we know that the mesosphere itself is excluded—at least from topical affirmative action. To explicitly project beyond this layer is to invite debates about the layer itself, a response intrinsic to the wording of the topic.  And, in this case, a brief swipe at the literature points to a fascinating layer of change and transition—the place where the Earth’s environment converts into what we so rigorously classify as “outer space.”  Information on the upper atmosphere wiki provides a description:     

“More than 100 metric tons of meteoric debris enters the Earth’s atmosphere per day, most of it in the form of small meteoroid metal particles with sizes smaller than 1 mm, evaporating and forming atomic Metal Layers, which are observed mainly in the mesosphere, at a range between 80 and 105 km. The mesosphere is also the region where turbulent mixing of the lower and middle atmosphere ends and molecular diffusion becomes the dominant transport process. This leads to composition changes: whereas below the mesosphere composition is constant, above the mesosphere it changes drastically with altitude such that the heavier species are concentrated lower down while the light ones dominate at the higher altitudes.” (2)

The same source contends that this region is the location for the highest clouds on the planet made up of ice crystals (Noctilucent Clouds), and it is the “gateway that connects the Earth to space.”   Because of its properties, the mesosphere is critical to the study of global warming, space travel, energy use, and many other crucial questions, yet it is underexplored and often neglected because it is too close to study by spacecraft and too distant to study through remote sensing.

            This issue may end up being more of a PIC debate (strike the phrase “beyond the mesosphere” and defend textual competition), but the mesosphere is definitely a good place to start thinking about the crazed anthropocentrism of what the topic implies in the first place.  More broadly, begin with an assessment of what you will be up against—what most affirmatives will try to claim against you.  Regardless of our treatment of the mesosphere and below/within, this topic is all about the new frontier and claiming it for a group of nation-states, the colonization of the unknown, a classic strategy of human and Western imperialism, capitalism, racism, the patriarchy, and other ideologies premised on power, progress, and advancement through exploitation and ownership.  If the aff does not find itself caught up in calculative thinking as a means of understanding and managing everything that is outside the planet’s atmosphere, often parallel to sailing out across the ocean to ‘discover’ new worlds, built on the promise of unimaginable wealth and beauty, it is probably not topical.  Older criticisms of development and structural adjustment (Escobar, E. San Juan) often turn to horror stories involving space exploitation as a metaphor for the ways in which industrial capital would commodify the “Other” based on race and class, as well as “difference” in general—a natural Us-Them dichotomy, exploiting entire regions of the universe under the flag of “Explore and Develop.”  Now it is no longer a metaphor, and simple assumptions like “nation-states will get along when faced with new challenges,” “humans make good decisions about energy use and weapons development,” and “now is the time to devote our capital and resources to speculation beyond the planet,” will confound affirmatives with a very high burden of proof all season, giving the topical case a lot to overcome when forced to defend the topic.

II. The Link.

When you hear exploration, you should conflate “exploitation.”  When you hear development, you should conflate “envelopment.”  Resolved: Expand the Exploitation and Erasure of Space.  No.  That is not a statement that should be supported and any affirmative contributing to such a shattering and apocalyptic project should be rejected. 

            The traditional affirmative case will claim some combination of advantages about US leadership in space, the scientific advances possible in space, the economic bounty we can access in space, and a few other “keys to survival” that can only be obtained by exploring and developing beyond the mesosphere.  The affirmative will try to assert that space exploration is not only beneficial to humankind, but also imperative to the survival of our species. A more specific policy will likely contend that NASA does not receive necessary funding to maximize its full potential and an increased budget would enhance efforts to discover new advances in medical, environmental, and other fields, as well as potentially encountering new life forms.  Finally, in solvency, the aff will state that the United States can ensure cooperation with other nations and use space exploration as a tool for global diplomacy.   Let us go through some of these arguments in detail:

1. Funding and support. 

The substantial increase in exploration and development has to be justified through the political process and this is the first step for understanding the full reaches of the link arguments.  Congress approves between $15 and $20 billion in funds for NASA each year and the spending compromise in April is no exception.   The funds are always hotly contested (indeed, more chopping is bound to occur to the $18 billion allocated for 2011), making for a nexus of link arguments about prioritization, taxation, and general debates about federal spending.

“The U.S. Congress included $18.45 billion for NASA in hard-fought spending compromise lawmakers passed April 14 to fund the federal government for the last five months of the 2011 budget year…  Most of the NASA savings were achieved by funding Space Operations — an account that includes the international space station and soon-to-be-retired space shuttle — at about $600 million below the 2010 level and denying increases the White House sought for Aeronautics and Education. There’s also no funding specified for Space Technology, a roughly $300 million account NASA hopes to boost to $1 billion next year. NASA’s Exploration Systems and Science Mission Directorates were the big winners, with both divisions singled out for significant boosts. The NASA Science Mission Directorate — that part of the agency that funds planetary probes, space telescopes and environmental satellites — will receive $4.945 billion for the remainder of 2011, or about $448 million above the 2010 level. H.R. 1473 also frees NASA to formally cancel the Constellation program under which it has been developing the Ares family of rockets and an Orion spacecraft optimized for manned lunar missions.” (3)

The specified dollar amounts matter, and the line between increasing and maintaining is fairly clear.  This may not strike readers as a primary link argument for most critiques, but such a dismissal would be costly for those aspiring to kritik the resolution throughout the year because you cannot “race to the middle” and succeed.  You must master the specifics, know the political context that the affirmative is mired in, and be ready to debate the ways these bureaucracies operate (or claim to operate).  “State bad,” friends, is insufficient. 

2.  Technology and Space. 

            The affirmative is certain to contend that the discovery of new technology and resources depends on further space exploration.   1ACs will cite people like Mark Whittington, a self-published author and space advocate, in order to sell the concept of “spin-offs” (4).  In short, space exploration, worth over $50 billion in jobs and contracts a year, stimulates the economy, creates spin-off technologies, and inspires thousands of school-children to “reach for the stars.”  According to this argument, even though the concept of “spin-offs” has tended to be oversold, these advances do exist and they have brought benefits to society on a scale that justifies the expenditures devoted to space. Further advances are possible, yielding more products, perhaps everything from water recycling technology to new sources of energy. Space technology developed by NASA has proven useful for private space commerce and this trend could continue in the future. 

            The assumptions that these advances are always there for the taking and that humans should consider space as a vast array of resources to be harnessed and deployed for human purposes is a difficult one to defend from any standpoint or ethics concerned with anthropocentric thinking.  The “environment” as an ecological practice and a sense of Oneness cannot be separated from space itself, no matter how abstract or distant that space is.  Human conquest is a form of imperial control and domination, regardless of the new forms of fuel that are added to the fire.  Almost equally compelling against the “space bounty” affirmatives is a position centered on capitalism and an ethics of fighting a system of economic accumulation.  Resisting capitalist-statism, the jurist-priest and the magician-emperor for D&G, requiring rejecting a Master-Servant binary with the USFG as the agent of exploration and development while the construction of space is empty itself, a “New World” being defined as unknown and beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, yet somehow inert, waiting to be managed and allocated, void of independent agency, and constructed—in total—as a resource.  Del McWhorter and Gail Stenstad provide plenty of ammunition against a calculative approach to Being seen in the management of resources in the 2009 edition (Toronto Press) of Heidegger and the Earth.  Thinking through technology is also a quick route to the subjectification of the self to the smooth operation of objects, what Baudrillard would call The Perfect Crime.    

3. Leadership and Space. 

            From here you can take your pick of scenarios, and affirmatives will, always holding back an add-on or two and ready to ratchet up the escalation ladder in terms of planetary annihilation and beyond.  The “” website is a collection of justifications for space exploration generated by a “group of young professionals with a passion for space exploration” and includes health, education, security, energy, economy, leadership, and the environment.  Among these sections, Go Boldly (5) connects space exploration and NASA’s role to the development of vaccines from microbiological research performed on the International Space Station (ISS), to advances in baby formula necessary for neural and visual development, to medical improvements in kidney dialysis and a number of other life-saving procedures, to energy efficiency improvements in construction material, to new means of harnessing energy through fuel cells and other solar power.  The possibilities are virtually infinite given the significant leaps in knowledge we have already made through space exploration.

            Making a link out of these types of arguments is essential because letting this type of assertion slide is the recipe for a 2AC and 2AR that claims to “solve the problems under-riding the kritik of technology” by eliminating poverty, providing infinite (or free—see Tesla Coil) energy for the planet, or otherwise making resource constraints less of a problem for humanity.  This blind faith in future technology should also be characterized as a link, but the negative would be well-advised to poke holes in the “space tech solves” argument in as many ways as possible.  Debating the progress and living standard improvements of technology in general will be a good starting point for the debate about future advances coming out of more space exploration and development, but ultimately this is a question of framing.  Not same vague “framework-fiat garble,” but a rhetorical framing of all of the benefits brought about by space innovations operating alongside the continued poverty, warfare, disease, and resource limitations on earth, not to mention structures of racism, sexism, and a number of other identity binaries that result in the enslavement and oppression of vast number of people across the planet.  Space innovations have solved, what, exactly?  For whom?  The affirmative will want to say space is different and the negative will need to interrogate that claim aggressively. 

            Many “space cooperation possible” arguments will cite David Livingston, a regular space podcaster as the host of the Space Show ( in addition to serving as an adjunct in the Space Studies Department at the University of North Dakota.  Livingston argues that a sizable portion of our space technology and experience in outer space was developed when the US and the then-USSR were forging treaties to cooperate in space exploration, to prohibit weapons in space, to rescue each other’s astronauts/cosmonauts if necessary, and to treat celestial bodies in a way that prevented territorial ownership while allowing room for resource development for all humanity. These nations worked together to prevent conflict in space and the efforts have a proven and unparalleled track record. Today, Livingston notes, the International Space Station features multiple countries working together under a model agreement that works. This has always been the case in space exploration. No other discipline, activity, venture, or multinational effort has a track record equal to “manned (sic.) space development.”  The aff will want to argue that even though there may be challenges ahead for our space behavior, so far we are doing fine in space, certainly much better with each other than we are doing back here on Earth. (6)  The bottom line is that the furthest the aff. will be able to go on the “space is different” track is through a loose statement of current endeavors like the I.S.S. and a total dismissal of existing planetary conflict.

            Livingston, Whittington, and many other space exploration advocates will emphasize the cooperation and harmony that has dominated most of our current efforts in space. (7)  The negative needs to debate these claims head on and has a vast arsenal from which to select arguments.  Research on the nation-state, diplomacy, international relations, and realism is abundant and has been debated for decades.  The trick is to find the sources that make those same types of criticisms in the context of space policy (8) and the “spirit of cooperation” that apparently prevails in space.  With specific evidence, it should not be hard to apply a Foucauldian criticism of the capture of “peace” (politics is war by other means), or a criticism of “Security” in international relations using Dillon, Dalby, Ole Weaver, and many others.  Throughout the debate, the link needs to stress the fact that the affirmative represents a substantial increase in investment in space by the USFG at a time when the US cannot cover its mammoth debt and is cutting billions of dollars from an already super-strained budget.  Empirical examples do not take into account the unilateral nature of the topic and the current financial condition of the United States.  

4. Survival of the Species / Extinction Rhetoric

The Decision:  To Be(ar) or not to Be:

            The negative needs to make a choice, at least in the block, as to whether the debate should be about ideology and the logical extension of the way we think OR if the debate should be about the rhetorical choices we make to defend various forms of competing advocacies in the round.  Ideology-effect or Rhetorical-effect?  Materiality and the constitutive effects of rhetoric matter in both, but the first asks questions about the world as a whole and the second asks questions about the debate’s depictions of the world in the context of an external set of subjectivities and movements.  This choice might not seem to matter in that both options are not transfixed on fiat, but it actually could be quite significant.   This is a round-framing distinction primarily based on the treatment of debate’s relationship to rhetoric—the rhetoric of the sources being used and the literal speech created by the debaters in the round.  The ideology position tends to argue that the method deployed by the affirmative is complicit and indicative of a path that will itself end in extinction.  Some critiques of capitalism argue that a system of wage exploitation will bring us to extinction, some critiques of white privilege argue that structures of racism will bring us to extinction, some critiques of technology argue that our own military advances will bring us to extinction, and some critiques of anthropocentrism argue that humans will find a way to destroy the planet by extracting its resources and overpopulating the land.

            So, if this is the type of criticism (essentially an ideological criticism) that is in play in the debate round, it is difficult to do much with the “rhetorics of survival/extinction.”  Both sides are making claims about the end of life as we know it or the value of preserving life in the first place.  The words and descriptions we use in the debate are central to the detection and elaboration of various ideologies, but the word choice and the representations emanating from the discourse uttered in the debate are not the starting points of the criticism.  Most ideological criticisms posit a distinct “root cause” or general path of inevitable doom within which the affirmative operates.

            Thus, in this first realm, the Ideology-Effect, the negative critique will have to confront the affirmative’s argument about extinction—that the planet is doomed and the colonization of space is crucial to the continued long-term survival of the species and many other aspects of life on Earth.  There are no shortage of extinction arguments that might compel a vigorous space program and generate an imperative to find ways to sustain life off the planet.  Asteroids, evil or robotic extra-terrestrials, the use of weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, etc.), sun shifts, massive plagues, a loss of presidential political capital, global starvation, or of course global warming are just the tip of the extinction iceberg, all of which could justify a rapid exodus off the rock we call home.

            To Bear down on this affirmative argument, encapsulated wonderfully in the literature advocating the colonization of Mars, means indicting the extinction scenarios offered by the affirmative and using the push into space as proof of the actual world-ending consequences of the ideology being critiqued.  In other words, fight fire with gravity.  The affirmative will come at the extinction question from any number of places.  Professor of Physics at Arizona State University as well as the Director of the “Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science,” Paul Davies supports the colonization of Mars because such a colony would act as a “lifeboat in the event of a global catastrophe.”  He contends:

“A worldwide project to create a second home for humankind elsewhere in the solar system would be the greatest adventure our species has embarked upon since walking out of Africa 100,000 years ago, and provide a unifying influence unparalleled in history.” (9)

Not only would a Mars colony act as a safety-valve, humans could mine its asteroid belt for minerals.  The ability to survive on Mars may be changing as it begins to warm, according to Science News. (10).  Again, from an ideological perspective, these are the kinds of arguments that will need to be positioned as the harbingers of extinction, not the solutions.  As the market begins to colonize planets other than Earth, the logics of capitalism and labor exploitation, for example, will force the simultaneous weaponization of space.  Conflicts among nations will provoke further militarization, making an accidental launch or the escalation of hostilities even more likely than if we were to stay rooted on the planet.  As space exploration frees us from certain constraints, it will also make it easier and more thinkable to enact species-threatening changes. 

            If the negative is not going to criticize the rhetoric of the “doomsayers/space saviors” and make a series of threat construction arguments, another path than can help minimize the aff’s contention that space is the only escape—separation or death—try or die, is the argument that colonization is inevitable.  Whether the US substantially increases its efforts or not, privatization is coming and is being fueled by the government as we speak. (11)  Do not let the affirmative get away with the outlandish claim that space exploration and development will halt without the plan. 

            We will end the link section with a note about the second of the two options (To Bear or Not to Be)—the “Rhetorical Effect” kritik.  The argument begins with the speech choices made by the affirmative and the effects of their particular advocacy based on their discourse and their representations.  Yes, the ideological-effect and the rhetorical-effect overlap and bleed into one another constantly, but there is value in isolating the affirmative’s speech-act as distinct from the ways the external world can be imagined or constructed.  To say that the Earth is facing total annihilation, then, is more about the effects of making such a claim in the debate than it is an impact to be compared against the impacts that might result from thinking within the constraints laid out by the plan.  The identities, subjectivities, and physical locations (bodies, places, and territories) are meaningful and cannot be dismissed—the rhetoric generated by the debaters is the primary route to those considerations and must be evaluated through the lens of how debate relates to change discursively.  This is an appropriate bridge to the second half of the negative’s task: make the link count.

III.  Concluding:  Not Pigs…In….Space!, but Pigs in Zen.

            The link is not enough alone and a few additional steps will need to be take to seal the deal and move from the application to the ballot itself.  The negative should win the debate because the USFG is not in a position to expand space exploration given the magnitude of the more immediate concerns at home and on the planet.  If the “Earth First!” mantra can become more than a minor blip on the social movement radar, the ethics behind any dismissal of our local surroundings may make space exploration a difficult endeavor to expand.  Maybe Whitey should not be on the moon until more humans can pay the rent.  At the very least, we have series of ethical questions to ask before a massive reorientation toward outer space is undertaken. (12)   A good place to concentrate is the space weapons debate, how these weapons are being controlled, the consequences of arms control and misperception, and the internal links between exploration and militarization.  DeBlois, for example, argues that some advances may need to be given up by the US in order to obtain assurances from other nations and to assure that US efforts are not seen as overly ambitious or aggressive. (13)  If exploration and development are a prelude to warfare and space and space war would be catastrophic, than the plan is probably worth rejecting and will not solve as expected.

            The major thread of this essay has been to seek out specificity in the link debate and to use those links as platforms for the remainder of the position.  If it is important to look at space exploration from a philosophical approach, the game is on!

Erin Daly, ASU, and Frodeman, Chair of the North Texas Philosophy Dept, ’08.

“Revolutions in philosophic understanding and cultural worldviews inevitably accompany revolutions in science. As we expand our exploration of the heavens, we will also reflect on the broader human implications of advances in space. Moreover, our appreciation of human impact on Earth systems will expand as we come to see the Earth within the context of the solar system. Most fundamentally, we need to anticipate and wrestle with the epistemological, metaphysical, and theological dimensions of space exploration, including the possibility of extraterrestrial life and the development of the space environment, as it pertains to our common understanding of the universe and of ourselves. Such reflection should be performed by philosophers, metaphysicians, and theologians in regular conversation with the scientists who investigate space and the policy makers that direct the space program. The exploration of the universe is no experimental science, contained and controlled in a laboratory, but takes place in a vast and dynamic network of interconnected, interdependent realities. If (environmental) philosophy is to be a significant source of insight, philosophers will need to have a much broader range of effective strategies for interdisciplinary collaborations, framing their reflections with the goal of achieving policy-relevant results. If it is necessary for science and policy-makers to heed the advice of philosophers, it is equally necessary for philosophers to speak in concrete terms about real-world problems. A philosophic questioning about the relatedness of humans and the universe, in collaboration with a pragmatic, interdisciplinary approach to environmental problems, is the most responsible means of developing both the science and policy for the exploration of the final frontier.” (14)

* by Dr. Kevin Kuswa with assistance from a group of students in Debate 201 (R. Rueda, M. Collins, C. Shrader, M. Stern).  April, 2011

Critical Issues in Debate: A Conversation with Dr. Michael Hester

Posted in Critical Issues in Debate, Podcasts, topic with tags , , , on April 15, 2011 by Scott Odekirk

Mike Hester is the director of the University of West Georgia debate team and is one of the most successful coaches in the country. Our conversation covers the 2011-2012 High School Policy Debate Topic, our upcoming lab we will be leading this summer at the GDI, the outrounds at the 2011 NDT, Hester’s pro debate rounds as a member of the Edebate AllStars, and the beauty of the activity.

download for portable media devices with this link dr mike hester and scott odekirk on ciid 4-15-2011

you can see the NDT semi final round that we discuss here

you can check out the NDT final round we discuss here 

you can see Hester using conspiracy theory in a pro debate here

you can register for the Hester/Odekirk lab here make sure to indicate in your lab request that you heard about the lab on this podcast

Critical Issues in Debate: a conversation with NDT Champion Eric Lanning

Posted in Critical Issues in Debate, Podcasts with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2010 by Scott Odekirk

Scott Odekirk and Eric Lanning, the 2010 National Debate Tournament champion, discuss debate, politics, life, language, and disability. This is an interesting discussion revealing the multifaceted nature of Eric and his vibrant care for the community. Download the podcast below for mobile devices and other media players.

critical issues in debate eric lanning

thanks to eric for a great conversation

Check out this awesome wiki!!!

Posted in camp, lectures, topic, Video with tags , , , , , on June 17, 2010 by Scott Odekirk

great work from Emory Debate (as always) on the high school topic lecture by one of the greatest coaches in the country, David Heidt.