Archive for debate

A Conversation with James Mollison of Loyolla Marymount

Posted in College, Critical Issues in Debate, Podcasts, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by Scott Odekirk

This edition of Critical Issues in Debate features one of the most prolific K debaters of the last decade. During this past season James Mollison, along with his partner Jack Ewing, earned the 3rd overall ranking at the end of the year, won tournaments, beat all the best, and blew minds. Scott Odekirk, the host, had a chance to work closely with LMU EM throughout the season so this conversation touches on LMU’s unique preparation process, their approach toward nationals, their entry of the DSRB Interview into the Semis of the NDT, and the general motivations of James when it comes to elite level debate competition. This conversation lightly touches on some mature subjects and uses adult language. This is one of the best interviews in the history of deb(k)ate’s interview project.

Play with audio player below or download this podcast by clicking this link:  mollison may 2012

James and Scott will be working together at the Xylum Debate Institute this summer. XDI is a unique debate camp focused on alternative and non traditional pedagogy with an eye toward using the K to defeat the very best. XDI is now accepting applications for their first ever session during the second week in August. Apply today and mention this podcast on your application!

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

Podcast: Dr Hester’s Relfection on the 2012 College Debate Season

Posted in 2011-2012 College Democracy Topic, College, Critical Issues in Debate, elimination round, Know Your History, Podcasts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2012 by Scott Odekirk

In our triumphant return to podcasting, Critical Issues in Debate welcomes back a long time contributor, Dr. Michael Hester. Dr Hester is the Director of West Georgia Debate and also a dean in the Honors College at West Georgia. Dr Hester is also a member of the Edebate Allstars. This conversation covers the 2012 NDT, the DSRB interview, the Loyolla v Georgetown semifinal round, preparing during the off-season, and more. Thanks Dr Hester for giving the website more great insights!

you can also download the postcast by clicking this link: hester 2012 reflection

This podcast is also available on itunes, just search “puttingthekindebate”

The Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley Interview

Posted in 2012 deb(k)ate Oral History Project, College, elimination round, Know Your History, Manifestoes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2012 by Scott Odekirk


Interview with Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley conducted by Scott Odekirk on 2/13/2012 at the University of Texas debate tournament. Shanara is the first black woman director of debate in the country, a professor of communications at Pitt, and a general goddess of knowledge.

Minor edits were done to this article on 4/8/2012 and can be noted by brackets []

Odekirk: ok, really 4 general questions… the first one is just, why do you think the same debaters win all the time?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: I think there are a number of reasons, there are some structural reasons of course – resources are critically important in our community, number of coaches, how much time you have to devote to debate outside of the tournament space I think is a really important one, so it makes me sort of think about Iggy and Ben, when they are not at a debate tournament, life is about feeding their families and getting through college. You know what I mean. There is no like I get home from a debate tournament, and I spend every day until the next debate tournament sitting in the debate office, doing debate work and being able to produce all of this research. It’s like when you get home, it’s like does my sister have my food to eat tomorrow? Do we have like the things we are gonna need for the next month, there is just soo much that has to be done, and you don’t have time to just sit and work all the time. So I think there are resource disparities, yes, you know, Northwestern may have more money than somebody else, you know like a smaller team. But there is even internal resource disparity in terms of who has to work to go to school, who doesn’t have to work to go to school and has time to just invest in nothing but debate. So I think those are some of the issues.

Odekirk: What do you think about how debate chooses the ideal debater?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: That’s where I was going next. Right? This is part of what I talk about in the dissertation and what sort of formed the idea for the dissertation, was coming back to the circuit after 3 years. And, I came back after Liz and Tanya had finished, so I did not get to see their run. I didn’t get to see any of their show. I didn’t even know it was happening.

Odekirk: I remember sitting in those rounds, and just GOD!

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: I know! And, I’m so sad I missed it! You know what I mean? But, I was through with debate at that point, I wanted to be a scholar, I had no intention of ever being back in this community what so ever. Ever! Had no intention of coming back, this is a hostile environment. I wanted to be a scholar, people here didn’t treat me like they respected me or wanted me to be here at all, whereas people in the academy did.  And, I had no interest in coming back to this community, and people started to approach me and ask me questions about ‘what do you think about what Louisville is doing?’ and I was like well what? ‘well they said people like you are Uncle Toms, and black folks can’t speak fast’ – all of these white people. No black people were talking to me about it. Cause I had a bunch of white friends in debate. So, all these white people were like coming at me: ‘Shanara, I don’t like it, I’m sure you aren’t gonna like it’ they were just indignant. And, so, I was like: “what then? why all these white people indignant?” That was my reaction. My reaction was not “they can’t say that about black debaters” my reaction was like “why are all these white people tripping?” So I came to a tournament, and watched a little bit of the after Liz and Tanya Louisville show, and Deven was really young at this point, but at Towson. And I started looking at it, and went back and looked at some of the Loiusville footage, and I was like, ‘oh its very obvious of whats happening here. Black people are talking about race, white people are uncomfortable. And what was very interesting to me, is that the liberal white people were the most uncomfortable. These are people that I considered allies, right? And for them to be having this reaction to these students, I was like ‘something is going on here.’ And so, as I looked at the situation what I began to realize was how, in terms of whiteness, and masculinity, and class privilege functions in debate, is that we have an ideal. Right, an ideal debater that has to do with speed, and ability to argue, and very fast and efficient line-by-line debating. But, it’s more than that. Because all of those technologies that we identify as success in our community are attached to certain bodies. Right? So if our history of success looks like white men with money, right? Then the very ideal of what successful debate looks like is white men with money. And, that became a real issue for me. And it was heartbreaking for me in a lot of ways, because when I was a debater there wasn’t enough black people in debate for there to be like, for your entire identity to be about being black. Right, so you came in to debate, you were successful, and your blackness had nothing to do with it.

Odekirk: Did you find your voice in debate?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: I found my voice in debate. And temporarily lost my soul. Found my voice. I started debating as a freshman in high school in the pilot program that later became the urban debate league. And we were 1 of 2 black high schools that debated on the Georgia high school circuit. And so going to tournaments where there were no other black people, and then the bus full of black people that we had just brought from our 2 black high schools in Atlanta going to South GA, and being first and second novice speaker, and first, second, third, fourth and fifth novice teams. Right? And top varsity speaker, and we were the only black folks there. We were just spanking that ass all through the GA high school circuit. Right? So that gave me this voice, I was really shy before then, if you had met me then it would astound you that I am the person I am now. I was shy. I was overweight young black woman from a black high school, with a working class black family. You know, but, I had a lot of support. My family were ex-civil rights activists. I mean, my grandparent’s house was bombed by the KKK when my mother was 2 years old because they were active activists in Tennessee. I grew up with this aesthetic of ‘you are supposed to do something for black people, to push us forward.’ So I always knew I was supposed to do something special. And debate became that avenue for me to do something special. It gave me my voice. But when the urban debate league hit my junior year of college, like the summer before my junior year of college. That changed the debate community in a lot of ways. Rather than just being a good debater where people would take me under their wing, I was an Emory debater so I had a lot of resources. I had the ability to be good. People recognize talent. Will Repko. I used to run up to Will Repko and hug him every time we arrived at a debate tournament, because he was that supportive of my career. Literally, hug Will Repko. Now we don’t even speak to each other, because the urban debate league changed the debate environment. When it got to the point where I was no longer just a really smart cool good debater, and I was ‘oh, she is our black debater’ because I became a poster child for the program. So by the time I was a senior, and at CEDA nationals my senior year, and Melissa wanted me and Steven Bailey debate together and the whole tournament was a buzz with the potential possibility that an all black team was about to win CEDA nationals, that became the context in which I had to compete. And when that happened it confused me, because I no longer knew if I was Shanara the real person, right? The person who had all these experiences, the person that did well at debate, and like these people I was really accepted. Or, was I the image? Is this Shanara the poster child for the Urban [Debate League]…right? Who are you voting? If you are gonna be voting for me, am as I smart as I thought I was? Or as you are telling me who I am? Total psychic split. Total psychic split. There was me, and then there was her. The image.  It got so bad for me, that by the time I finished my last year of debating, or got close to that least year, my last year of competition I did not go to class, any class, that whole semester. In order to be psychologically prepared to go to debate tournaments, I had to just, not do school. At all. And so, I was on the verge of failing out at Emory. I had to take a year-long psychological withdrawal. Which didn’t mean I really needed counseling, I just needed an excuse to get out of school without them failing all of my classes and screwing my GPA. And, so I had to take that year off. And during that year off, I spent starting my treatise on what was problematic about the Urban Debate League. That’s when I wrote and I coached for Emory. Now, I’m writing this, and I’m talking to Melissa Wade about what I’m writing. And, Melissa has known me since I was 13 years old, this woman took me under her wing when I was 14, and I stayed under that wing straight through. And, so I’m telling Melissa I’m starting to recognize that this community has caused me to have this psychic split, and that split made me start to think about what the Urban Debate League really meant, and what diversity initiatives really meant in our community. And, I started writing about it. And, Melissa’s reaction was ‘oh no. No, you are just freaking out, you are just a kid, nothing that you say is a legitimate criticism of what’s happening here.’ Which started my break with Melissa, and that started my break with the UDL. So, I stopped getting the phone calls that said “Shanara I need you go fly to Baltimore and meet with the teachers and administrators and talk about the program. All of that stopped. I was very quickly removed.

Odekirk: This whole network, like you said is a crucial part of your identity, so I know you’ve said to me a lot of times you feel like an outsider. Do you think that, debate can solve that kind of a problem, or is it intrinsic to debate?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: I don’t think its intrinsic to debate at all, cause if I did I wouldn’t be here. I love debate. I believe in it. I believe in us as a community, that we can deal with these issues. What is heartbreaking is the refusal to do so. Not that we can’t. But, the refusal to do so. By people who I thought of as allies in this fight to do something in terms of meaningful participation in terms of people of color in this community. When it became clear to me that Melissa and I were not on the same side, it broke my heart. It wasn’t just Melissa, it was Will Repko and David Heidt. Right, David Heidt was my personal coach for my junior year at Emory. He stopped traveling with the NDT side of the top teams. He would go where they went, but everywhere we went he went. That was Melissa’s agreement. D. Heidt your personal coach. David Heidt does not even speak to me. D. Heidt doesn’t talk to me. So it is just astounding that the debate community was only willing to accept me when I was saying what they wanted to hear. The moment I started being critical of that experience they were like ‘oh, well you’re just a crazy.’ When I was standing up telling funders for these multimillion dollar grants programs were looking into and attaching to their debate programs, right when I was standing up and saying ‘yes, this program works, I am an excellent example of exactly what this program is designed to do.’ But then, later I got to the point where, remember when one of Edde Warner’s posts back in early 2000 where he was like ‘UDL’s are plantations?’

Odekirk: I definitely remember that.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: people freaked out about that! And I was right there with him. Because I understood that the UDL was a segregated space, and you don’t produce greatness through segregation. Separate is not ever equal. So, my UDL experience was getting to go to camp for free at Emory and Melissa occasionally sending some of the Emory coaches to come coach us at our high school. There were no separate debate tournaments. We started debating [white] people immediately. So, my rate of growth was quick. So by the time I was a senior, I was ready to go to anybody’s college. Good grades, good SAT scores. Got into Emory early decision, got into 22 other schools. I had over a ½ a million dollars in scholarship offers my senior year of high school. So all of that lead to Emory and the resources at Emory, and being who I was and being able to be competitive. I fundamentally realized I was in complete and distinct opposition compared to what the UDL students were experiencing when they entered into debate. And I had a problem with that. I didn’t have a problem with the program. I had a problem with the segregation. Segregation is never going to be equal and it didn’t make sense to me, and that was part of the problem, how are you going to talk about how we formed the program, and rather then people listening to one of the oldest of us that have come through this process and here me saying “no don’t end the program, but lets think about what we are doing, and for the response from the people who were in positions of power to be “Oh no! now you are out.” And, so I was out. Now that didn’t mean that there weren’t individual Urban Debate Leagues that I formed relationships with that were like “you were right about that” I had conversation with them and I continued to work with them, I worked for Seattle, I worked for the NY Urban Debate Leagues, and I worked for Baltimore. By that time they were developed enough that they weren’t under Melissa’s thumb or under NAUDL’s thumb enough that they wouldn’t refuse to hire me.

Odekirk: What do you think, if you had an idea, if you had one wish of what you could do with scholarship in debate rounds that could come to terms with these kind of like structural, the creation of scapegoats, the ostracization of structures, the symbolization of power, the reinforcement of power through different structural things. What can we do with our scholarship, or is there anything, maybe there’s not. What can we do in terms of our debating, to come to terms with this [ed]?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Well, step one is do some [ed] research. If your answers to Wilderson’s afro-pessimism argument is a Wilderson indict from somebodies book review, and that’s all you got to say to Wilderson you’re an [ed] idiot. You’re an idiot. You are an idiot. And so I’m astounded looking at debate coaches who I know who do nothing but cut cards who are refusing to do research! What the!? Where are we? I thought we were good at debate. I thought we are in debate. I thought we did research, I thought that’s what sort of defined our community. So you’re telling me you can’t go find the afro-optimists who answer the afro-pessimists? It astounds me. I don’t get it. So I think step one is; shut up about complaining about framework and do some [ed] research. There is black literature being produced every moment of every day. There is a whole area of the library, sections of the stacks, with relevant information that might be useful for you. Go read some African American history, go find the little out about Africa and Chattel Slavery and the slave trade. It is so simple to me that I don’t understand why the debate community is refusing to do research.

Odekirk: Yeah, fair.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: So how about we just start there? Step 1: do some research.

Odekirk: Yeah.

Dr. Reid-Binkley: Now here is the fear. If that was the only answer, the debate community would do research, but it would be just to cut cards and nothing really would change. So it can’t stop at research, but that is literally step one: go do some reading. That would really help you have a language and a vocabulary for talking when you are engaging these teams that will produce very good debates.  So when people say that they don’t think that what performance/movement teams are doing is intellectual, it’s because they have already decided that they are anti-intellectual. Whereas they are very much so intellectuals, as a matter of fact they are few of the debaters in our community producing scholarship rather than regurgitating it. Our very frame of reference on how to engage in debate is about the regurgitation of information, rather than the production of it. That is where I think we have gone wrong, which is also why we are not having good – we are not able to advertise to our administrations in a way that makes debate something that administrations really really want to support and fully fund. And the reason is because we made it such this isolated solipsistic game that people who are really interested in knowledge production don’t necessarily see their relationship to it. We are losing tenure stream jobs for debate directors in our community. The reason is because our community is becoming more and more disconnected from the academy. What we can do in terms of how we produce scholarship for debate, in debate rounds, is that we need to change our focus from the regurgitation of information that is already produced in the academy to an engagement with it so that we are producing new knowledge. So rather than saying the only way you can have a plan for what to do different with democracy assistance is to find what the USFG has already defined it as, and get authors who, you have to find a solvency advocate for whatever change you are going to make. So somebody has already produced that idea and gotten it into print. Stupid! Stupid. We are so smart, this community of people, I have never been around smarter people than the people in the debate community. That’s why I find it exciting. Because I’m really smart, so I enjoy talking to other smart people. And, we are just not making use of the intelligence, the intellectual power that is at a debate tournament, especially when you get to the top of the game, it is amazingly powerful. I have met graduate students and professors that are nowhere near as smart as some of our undergraduates their senior year at the height of their ability to compete. Just have not.

Odekirk: Amen.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Given that this is the case, why are we not producing knew knowledge? Rather than coming at a plan as I have to have a solvency advocate who has already defined this, and I have to define this in the context of exactly how the USFG has previously defined it. I think we should be producing new arguments about what democracy assistance should look like and be like through the USFG. So rather than having a solvency advocate you would have evidentiary support to change parts of your argument. Just like writing an academic paper. If all academic papers were was regurgitation of someone else’s argument, it would never get published. The whole point of academic scholarship is for you to identify what’s being said in the field or around a particular issue and what’s missing from that, and then you do something to demonstrate why that thing that’s missing in that scholarship should be there, and you make an argument about how we need to expand our understanding of this situation. Does that make sense to you? So it doesn’t make sense that the ways we in which we engage in policy making is to simply chain it out to what something else someone has already thought of. When we have all this intellectual power, we should be producing new policy. That would be the change. That would change our very way of thinking about what the game is that we are playing, and what its potential connection is to both the academy but also politics. And that would create the space for teams who want to talk about anti-blackness or teams that want to talk about the defining nature of gender and how we engage in policy. It would allow all these different things because our very frame of reference for understanding what the game is that we are engaging in would change, it would open up fields of literature, it would make sense that people are saying we need a three tier methodology where we look at organic intellectuals we look at other scholars and we look at our personal experience, guess what, that’s how you write a [ed] academic paper now.

Odekirk: Strong.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: How about you just get with the program?

Odekirk: Its so obvious, but I’ve never seen it. You are so right, but I’m having a major ‘a-ha moment’ right now, to be honest. You are so [ed] right. Its also so been there my whole life, but I have literally never thought that, and.. duh.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Yeah, that’s how I feel about it, like duh! Know what I mean? Then we have a much better argument to make to our administrations about the significance of our programs, we can start connecting debate tournament final rounds to what’s going on in public policy research institutions. What we produce could literally provide an entrance for our arguments to actually affect public policy because of the intellectual power our community holds. Why are we not making use of the things that would get our programs support? It doesn’t make sense to me. That’s why debate is collapsing to this very small small small society. Once that collapse between the NDT and CEDA happened, have you watched the community shrink over time? It just has gotten smaller. And it will continue to get smaller, because we will continue to disconnect ourselves from the academy. But why are we not in conversations on a consistent basis with our authors? Duh!? This is why whats happening in black debate. Is more fascinating than what is happening anywhere else. I’m really interested in Spurlock interviewing Spanos about debate. Im interested in the fact that Damiyr & Miguel, members of the Towson squad, me and some other black debate people got invited by Dylan Rodriguez to appear at the American Studies Conference to talk about what’s happening in debate and activism and scholarship around blackness in issues like prison, etc. I’m interested in that, because these scholars are like ‘woah, yall are talking about this stuff here?’ and they are like watching video links of the students debating, and like they’re on our Resistance homepage. I have created a Facebook Resistance page that’s private that all of the movement and its coalition members are on. So, I get requests, I put you on if you are a coalition member, Wilderson is on there, Dylan Rodriguez is on there, Sexton is on there, you know what I mean? And, we just…that’s what debate should look like. Academics should be participating, they shouldn’t control it, but you should be able to come talk to us in our theories about the topic. How about that? You don’t need to write evidence for you about the Arab Spring for me to describe to you why my work on African American culture and hip hop are relevant to thinking about what’s going on in the Arab Spring. I simply am teaching you to chain my theory through another example. That’s how you write an academic paper. You take somebody else’s theory, and you don’t just map it exactly on to what it is that you are working on. You have to figure out what the relationship is between the two. That’s the kind of stuff we could produce as a community, every year, on topics. We just are not taking advantage of that. And, in that process, because of how we have defined debate, it is exclusionary. We do have these ideal debaters who look like white males, white straight men with money and class, and those white men who don’t fit that, are few and far between. They often get up there, but they still is sort of like a little weird, because you don’t perform white masculinity middle to upper class in an appropriate manner, so they are cool with you, but you’re still freaky. We make those kinds of judgments because we are just so insulated. Our thinking is so small. Smaller than it what we should and could be. And, that’s my debate future. That’s my vision of what it could look like, my dream that lets me walk around at tournaments and be okay with the fact that supposedly I’m despised by the elites, higher-ups in the community, and people that used to be my friends, and that would speak to me on a regular basis and that I would run up to and hug, avoid my eyes in the hallway. Or that I’m not qualified to write about debate, but neither is Spanos because he was an outsider, but I’m not qualified to write about it because I’m an insider. But, Casey Harrigan, and Jarrod Atchison, and Pannetta are…there is no question of their qualifications. I’m sorry, I thought I got a PhD from the number one program in rhetoric in the country. I’m sorry, I thought that was the case. I thought I was a national award winning scholar, for my writing, published writing. I thought that was the case, and that would make me somehow qualified to talk about debate a little bit… but, clearly not. But, once your black. Once you say your black, then your biased.

Odekirk: you’re biased.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: You’re biased

Odekirk: Subjective

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Yup, your subjective, your opinion doesn’t matter.

Odekirk: not objective.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: right, despite the fact that you are an award winning author and a scholar and you actually get published writing. Your opinion doesn’t matter.

Odekirk: OK, I just want to say thanks, obviously we couldn’t do this without talking to you. And, uh, you know, through out the course of these guys (LMU) run, and I’m just going to speak for myself, I just would like to talk to you more about all this [ed]. And uh… if something comes up, we may need to consult you.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: You both should feel free to use me as a resource. I am a resource. The good thing the debate community has done in ostracizing me is to let me be available to coach the kids. I be with Towson, I be with West Georgia, I be chatting with Louisville, you know what I’m sayin’, I be down with Emporia. So it has let me be free to watch the movement teams. There is a synergistic relationship, I am the only coach that moves between those teams easily. Amongst on all their coaching staffs.

Odekirk: Feel free to move on to this [ed].

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Of course, if that’s cool with you, I love what you do.



Friends and Debate

Posted in Know Your History, Manifestoes, tactics with tags , , , , , , on July 26, 2010 by kevin kuswa

Toni is totally on target (in addition to being awesome)!

Friendships, people!  That’s a huge (and maybe the longest lasting) part of debate and cannot be overestimated.  Sure, everyone is getting ready for workshop tournaments, the college topic is now out, and the usual preseason excitement is in the air, but competition does not and cannot occur in a void.  Fight the drones of information accumulation and depersonalized indexing with some good belly laughs, a few stories, a break or two, and maybe just some mutual eye-contact of understanding that says: “yup, we’re in the bizarre experience together and we very well might be supporting each other and traversing this planet with each other for the long haul.”

In short, don’t get caught up in the stress and pressure, though, without stopping to thank your partner, your coaches, and all the friends that make debate a part of your life and the lives of others.


You all know this—that’s why you’re on this web site and working with others to improve—and you may have even caught “the bug.”  You are reading messages about “putting the K in Debate” because you love debate (or you like it a whole heck of lot).  Part of that energy and emotion is because of the friends you make and the people you reach and, once again, that cannot be overestimated.  It matters far more than the win/loss and can often be forgotten if not nurtured and cultivated.

Think about your friends in debate for a moment and give a little thanks to those nearby…if you do that every so often, things should go well.  Appreciation is contagious.

Let Them Eat Cake

Posted in Random with tags , , , on July 17, 2010 by Toni N.

When reflecting on concept of substantive debate, I could not help consider the way a personal politics changes the substance of the debate. If you will follow me on my analogy for but a moment, I think I can make myself clear(er). A human being is like this delicious cake. People see the icing of our cake first. Some cakes don’t have any icing, but most of them do. The icing is often what attracts us to the cake. We are also often attracted to a cake by the type of cake we think we will be getting. If the icing is all terrible looking, then rarely are people excited to try the cake. If the icing is delicious, but the cake is all terrible then we are also unlikely to return for the cake. When the cake is all holey and tore up, we can try to fill in the wholes with icing, but icing isn’t cake and it doesn’t seem to have the same effect as full delicious cake.

What does cake have to do with anything?

The substance of our personhood is like the cake. It’s what makes up most of the delicious treat. The substance (your cake) is what makes you a unique special snowflake (if there is such a thing). Most of us are constantly worried about our cake. Am I a good person? Do I know enough for this debate? Am I making the right decisions in life? What should I do with my life? Am I compassionate? Am I intelligent? Can I love and am I loved? These are cake questions. No one can make you given them your cake. That’s powerful. Cake is totally up to you to distribute to the world. We only trust people with our cake when we think they will treat our cake well.

The icing is what we show people. It’s very much our outside layer. We shape and attempt to manage the appearance/image of the cake without showing our cake by covering it in icing. Some people consider icing a show, a fabrication, but icing isn’t fake. Some people think the version we show people, if it’s difference from the substance, is false. Icing comes from the same place that cake does – it’s a collection of social interactions, disciplines of our community, language, etc. Icing might be our outer most layer, but it’s not insignificant. The icing is us; it’s just the us we are willing to share with the public.

Hopefully, you are now on the same analogy page with me. Back to personal politics, when a debater offers up part of their personhood in a debate they are offering their cake. Everybody in debate shows their icing. Every time we talk, we offer the world some icing. Icing is a normal debate. The substance of a debate changes when you give out your cake. You may not really know anyone in the round so handing someone you don’t really know access to your cake is a profoundly dangerous exercise. They may not be kind to your cake and well in the end there’s nothing more core to us than our cake. Debaters have a hard time reacting to being offered cake in round because it is so rare. Judges in a round about personal politics might like your cake and might hate your cake. To be a successful debater, we must attend to both our icing and our cake. We cannot make up for a lack of substance in our person with more appearance of substance. The only way to fix a hole in your cake is to work on it. Don’t freak out though – EVERYONE HAS HOLES IN THEIR CAKE.

In this particular debate junkies opinion, attend to your cake and be careful with the cake of others. Once you harm someone’s cake, they won’t be likely to offer it again. It is a risky and dangerous move to offer others your cake so when someone does it’s not an attack on you, but rather a hope that you will appreciate the slice.

A Classic Debate: The 2002 CEDA Nationals Championship Round

Posted in A Classic Debate, Battles, elimination round, Final Round, Know Your History, Ks on the Aff, tactics, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2010 by Scott Odekirk

Thanks to professor snider (tuna) for producing this video in 2002 and posting it in such an easy and accessible way on his site. 

This debate features Michigan State CM (Austin Carson and Calum Matheson) on the negative vs. Fort Hays RR (Jason Regnier and Joe Ramsey) on the affirmative… 



 This debate was enormous for me. I was a sophomore and my two favorite teams to watch in outrounds were facing each other in the final debate of the season (CEDA came after the NDT that year).

On display were two very different teams with different styles, but I was drawn to both because of the qualities they shared. Both teams, Fort Hays Regnier/Ramsey and Michigan State Matheson/Carson, were fiercely competitive and that inspired me. Both were innovative and creative. The fort has been rightfully recognized and respected for the mind-blowing challenges they have made to conventional debate ways of thinking, but Calum also was a uniquely creative, prolific speaker, who was comfortable in any situation. Calum’s rhetorical skills alone pushed the envelope of what could be achieved in debates by wordsmithery alone. That year, on the “increase federal control throughout indian country” topic, MSU CM and FHSU RR had taken interesting approaches. At the Northwestern Tournament Calum made a run through the outrounds with a fascinating, almost genealogical, criticism about colonization and the pine ridge reservation that to this day I still think about (because it soundly beat me in a prelim that weekend). Calum was flexible enough to win every kind of debate and he initiated all kinds of strategies. The fort had really come into their own by the 2002 CEDA National Tournament as one of the most thought-provoking teams on the national circuit. Their whole way of being was different, it swerved. They ran their team by consensus (inspired by bill, the coach) and they debated differently, without the usual regard for the flow. On this night each team would display rhetorical grace and power, both would fight passionately for the win and in the end the fort would win the 2002 CEDA National Championship on a 5-4 decision. But there was something more than a debate present for many of us watching in the room. This was a major cultural experience (like many outrounds are in this little community) that challenged many of us to perceive debates differently. Though debates like this had been happening, even between these two teams before, this was an opportunity to really see it on stage and as the culmination of an entire season. The room was packed and the debate amazed the audience. None of us really knew who would win, we all had our opinions of course, and some were even angry, but none of us could predict what the outcome would be. This must undoubtedly be called A Classic Debate…

there is a lot to be learned from the affirmative in this debate…

Fort Hays is doing a lot of sound fundamental work on the question of what impacts matter the most in the 1ac. The whole “what we do here matters” set of arguments presented in the 1ac are a great example of how to make all K style impacts come 1st. A lot of what one sees here in the first speech are some of the best basic “critiquing assumptions is good” args I have seen in a debate in a long time. The description of debate becoming an apology for a bad joke is also a great example of how to use logic and linguistic characterization to provide evidence for an argument (ie. what we do here matters) without cards. The aff can be divided into 4 main parts: 1) what we do here matters, 2) regimented western assumptions in debate participate in real colonizing violence, 3) this can be countered by taking our assumptions into account and challenging them as a way to be more inclusive of other cultures, 4) the affirmative accomplishes this by challenging the very notion of what it means to affirm the topic.

The 2ac is a very good speech. It is important to recognize that though some teams might abandon the flow this does not mean they give up on techne. The tech for an “off-the-flow” team just shifts to different concerns. Time prioritization is still a major technical issue and in the case of Regnier’s 2ac here, the time management is impeccable. Regnier knows that the question of whether or not there is a compelling reason to affirm this resolution is the center of the debate so he spends 80% of his time there. I think the 2ac does a good job of establishing that their relationship to the resolution that deals with our whole manner of percieving who we are in relation to it as western/rational percieving and political beings locked in a system of colonization.

The 1ar is actually a quite effective speech after a very moving and rhetorically big block. I actually thing this is the most technical of all the speeches even though it drops a lot of stuff. Here Joe is doing a lot of work comparing different pieces of evidence and drawing out particular lines. This is actually one of the few times either side focuses on evidence comparison in the debate. I think this speech is good mix of reinforcing meta concepts from the 2ac and handling particular details brought up by the block. I think the 2ar is strong but it is largely positioned for success by the previous 3 aff speeches.

There is much to be learned from the negative in this debate…

When I talked to Calum on a recent podcast he told me that the strategy they went with was constructed during the middle of the 1ac, which they had never before encountered. Right away in this debate MSU CM demonstrates their flexibility and creativity. I didn’t really think there were many winners on the case debate in the 1nc but the discussion is successfully shifted by the negative to the question of federal control by the end of the debate. One of the strengths of the 1nc that gets carried into the 2nc but not into the 2nr is the emphasis on the failure of multicultural inclusion. I liked the negative interpretation of spanos throughout the debate and I think it should have gone further to indict the instances in which the affirmative, particularly in the 2ac and the 2ar, asserts the value synthesizing and including other cultures without really defending it. Instead the negative emphasizes the question of the acceptability of the resolution far more greatly than the problems with a benevolent inclusion move as a western way of relating to others. “Deloria says synthesis is good,” to me is not a warrant for a multicultural ethic. It makes sense to me that the negative, in the 1nc and the 2nc, used the spanos evidence, some characterizations of all of us as colonizer agents, and Deloria’s own arguments about the ” dangers of western ways of knowing” push against the forts claims to reckon with and include “all other cultures.” The negative strategy comes to full fruition in the 2nc in two main thrusts: 1) the acceptability of federal control, and 2) the risks associated with coming to know the oppressed other from this round’s privileged position. The question raised by the negative is: will the affirmative project, through its association with federal control and the west’s academic impulse to know the other, be rearticulated to serve the interests of colonization?

The 2nc was one of the best speeches I have ever seen…

This was an amazing display of what can be done with words. Just go back and watch it again. The final 15 seconds of the speech are the best close to a debate speech I have ever seen. Here Calum certainly focuses on the evils of federal control but he also pays attention to the inclusion/visibility problem. Our very perception of the oppressed other is the problem since we see with the eyes of the colonizer. This is great and I especially like how he ties together these two themes by describing the BIA officer with good intentions. By the end of the 2nc cx I think the panel has to be with Michigan State like 8-1 or 7-2. That. Speech. Was. Awesome.

So what happened?

By the end of the debate the 1ar successfully complicates the spanos issues and Calum gives a much more technical 2nr almost entirely on the need to totally refuse federal control. Michigan State frames the judge’s decision as a choice about desirability of federal control, good or bad, up or down. FHSU, now with an untested value multiculturalism, argues that a prior question to our own decision-making about the resolution is deciding whether or not our choice about the meaning of the resolution matters at all. The aff wins by the end of the debate that to truly relate well to other cultures we must drop our ethico-political view-point in favor of cultural perspectives in resistance to the west. This they say applies too to the question of federal control. The affirmative even begins to identify some positive uses of federal control (which seems a little strange) by the end of the debate. I think the negative focuses the debate too acutely on what fort hays affirms (federal control) and less on how they affirm it. A vote for FHSU by the end of the debate means simply to be open to the resolution, their reason for this becomes quite simply that what we think about it is secondary to what those of the indigenous oppressed might decide. They win offense against the negative because Michigan State’s insistence that we all decide on federal control as a definitive statement reconstitutes the western rational decision maker once again.  In the end, it is more important to fundamentally alter our ways of being and perceiving by challenging our own habituated notions of things like “affirm” “what the resolution is” than to decide on the meaning federal control, because those prior questions determine how we relate to the other (according to deloria). I do think that the negative should have made a PIC move more explicit. In other words, they should have said very clearly that “we endorse all of the affirmative except for the part about federal control,” they try to say this but I don’t think it is drawn out as a voting option at the end of the debate. I also think that if the negative had dug in on the dangers of multicultural inclusion more in the 2nr, as in the 2nc, then i also think a lot of this offense goes away. I don’t think that the fort is right, per se, but that they got on top of the issues more at the end of the debate.

Though I would have voted Neg then, Now I Vote Aff… 

It is important to close study debates. It is necessary for preparing complex strategic instincts in rounds. Watching great debaters, over and over, helps us habituate good patterns, but it is also important to be inspired by watching debates. The viewer ought to be inspired to create something that can also be viewed in such a way. All great and classic debates (and debaters) should humble us to pay attention to repeatable patterns and forms but they should also inspire innovation and creativity. I hope this debate resonates with you, in any way.

If you are in the mood for another debate, watch this one, hung up on this my sophomore year too…