Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Nebraska State party pooping telegram

Here is a photograph copy of the original telegram from Nebraska State Teachers College president Herbert Cushing informing Speech Association of America President Karl Wallace that Nebraska State's debate team planned to sit out the 1954 season if Wallace and the SAA held firm to the China topic. This telegram, along with a bevy of other letters and telegrams, are archived at the W.E.B. DuBois Library at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

1954 original ballot

Here is a copy of the voting results for 1954 topic selection, archived at the W.E.B. Dubois Library at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Back then, votes were tallied individually by the forensic fraternities (TKA, DSR, PRP PKD) then totaled with a point scheme. Click on the thumbnail to inspect the vote totals and you can see that the China topic bested the ag price supports topic for the top slot. Karl Wallace, then president of the Speech Association of America, defended the Speech Association of America's choice of the 1954 China topic by pointing to the democratic nature of this selection process. West Point pushed hard for Wallace and the other SAA officers to switch to the alternate #2 ag support topic.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


I have spent the day in a historical newspaper archive following the bruhaha in 1954. Here are some choice selections:

New York Times (1857-Current file); Oct 23, 1954; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2003)
pg. 10

The refusal of four Nebraska state-supported teachers colleges to allow students to debate recognition of the Communist China Government touched off widespread discussion among educators today.

The colleges at Kearney, Wayne, Peru and Chardon, agreed not to allow students to take part in an intercollegiate discussion of the question, E. Albin Larson, secretary of the State Normal Board said. The subjest was selected by the Speech Association of America, to shich the colleges belong.

Herbert L. Cushing, Kearney president, said that he was opposed to having debaters ‘spend half their time to argue the Communist side.’ Someone ‘is trying to indoctrinate a few thousand American college youths with dangerous philosophy,’ he added.

West Point and Annapolis Forbid Debates on Recognition of Peiping
By ELIE ABELSpecial to The New York Times.
New York Times (1857-Current file); Nov 16, 1954; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2003)
pg. 1

The United States Military Academy at West Point and the Naval Academy at Annapolis have forbidden participation by cadets or midshipmen in college debates on whether the United States should recognize Communist China.

Confirming the existence of an Academy ban on debates of the China question the Army said:

‘It is Department of the Army policy not to have U.S.M.A. cadets involved in a debate on such a controversial subject, on which in any event national policy has already been established.’

West Point’s most prominent living graduate, President Eisenhower, enunciated a different philosophy at his news conference last Wednesday, when he was asked to comment on the ‘anti-intellectual trend in our country which expresses itself in hostility to new ideas or different ideas or even traditional ideas.’

The President’s reply was that the United States system could stand on its own feet and would be upheld by the people in the face of an open and exhaustive discussion.

Although he would not tolerate anyone’s preaching the destruction of the United States form of government by violence, the President said, everyone should eb free to talk a philosophy of life, an economic, social or governmental doctrine.

When a people became so frightened of new ideas that it could not tolerate discussion of them, that people was confessing to a fear of itself, he asserted.

Television in Review
New York Times (1857-Current file); Nov 26, 1954; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2003)
pg. 39

Once again, 'See It Now' has performed a notable service in the cause of free speech and civil liberties. On Tuesday evening over the C.B.S. television network Edward R. Murrow reported on the controversy over whether colleges shoudl debate the question of recognizing Communist China. The program was illuminating and responsible reporting and an effective protest against the creeping plague of intellectual conformity and timidity. It said what needed to be said.

“An assistant Professor of Speech at Duke University made public a letter written by representative Edward J. Robeson Jr., a democrat of Virginia, who cautioned a Duke student against taking the affirmative side in the debate. The Representative wanted to know the student’s home address and the name of the faculty member who had responsibility for the Duke debating team.”

“Perhaps the most useful segment of “See It Now” was its pick-up of a debate between the teams of Princeton and Temple Universities. Two Princeton boys, assifned to argue the affirmative of whether to recognize China, were the winners. Then, the debate over, they explained they were personally against recognition. The Temple team explained it had argued both sides.

In their simple, direct definition of the meaning of debate, the college students delivered their own trenchant editorial in support of the democratic precept that to know one’s argument is right one must know an opponent’s viewpoint.”

“See It Now” closed with brief remarks by Tom Waddell, president of the Dartmouth Forensic Union, who reported that Dartmouth had declined Navy’s invitation to debate an alternate topic. Dartmouth did not believe, said Mr. Waddell, that cadets and midshipmen were second-class citizens without the same freedom of speech as civilian students. He suggested that the Navy debate, on either side, the right to debate.

By coincidence, President Eisenhower had said at his Tuesday press conference that he would have allowed Annapolis and West Point to participate in the debate on recognizing Red China. “See It Now” reported this development but not so emphatically as it should have.

Even so, the larger lesson taught by “See It Now” remained. To try to avoid controversy is only to invite more of it and the right of free debate must be kept inviolate. Mr. Murrow suggested with a smile it might be fun to see on a television a debate between the ultimate winners in a national collegiate debating contest and a couple of Congressmen. It would indeed”

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Debate Open Source Archive thread

Hi, everyone.

While the Open Source piece is further off than the Homeland Security piece, I wanted to get a thread started so that we can continue to brainstorm. I will let you all know once I hear more details about the piece. Here are the notes that I have from our last DAWG meeting (feel free to add to this list):

  • Background research on the open source movement
  • Academic fair use/copyright issues (legality/workability)-- possibly contact Ted Fritz, General Counsel at Pitt
  • Debate history-- can we trace the evolution to the card?
  • DOSA as a precursor to genuine debate collaboration/trial run for the DAWG model of co-authorship
  • Effect of the DRG on international debate (changed types of arguments run in Japan)
  • Structural considerations-- what questions do we need to answer before the debate community signs off on this project? Is it really going to benefit smaller programs like it purports to do? Or will it simply benefit those teams that have the people-power to keep up with it?
  • Which contributions will be valued?
  • What will be the effects on debate pedagogy? Will it deprive the activity of its research benefits for students? Are there advantages to making the activity less research-driven?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages to "opening our tubs to the rest of the world"?
  • Gordon's Amish example
The tentative consensus seemed to be that it would be best for this piece to be a panoramic view of the open source debate, in which we push lines of questions that both proponents and skeptics will need to be able to answer.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

DAWG publishing rampage!

John Rief's paper, "Talking at Cross Purposes: Violating Higher-Order Conditions with Oppositional Arguments," became the first Schenley Park DAWG research product to be presented in public. The auspicious occasion for the roll-out was the June 2006 International Society for the Study of Argumentation (ISSA) conference in Amsterdam. John's paper was subsequently reviewed and selected to be published in the ISSA conference proceedings, scheduled to go to print in 2007. Gordon Mitchell's paper, "Team B Intelligence Coups," appeared in Vol. 92 No. 2 of the Quarterly Journal of Speech. The Schenley Park DAWG got its first print shout-out here (see above image - note that the smart dog could not sneak past the censors and make it into the official print version). Two more DAWG papers were rolled out at the 2006 National Communication Association national convention in San Antonio, TX this past November 2006: Matt Brigham's "Switch-Sides Debate as a Cultural Technology of American Empire: On the Possibilities of Subversion" and John Rief's "Interrogating Switch-Side Debate as a Cultural Technology: The Implications of the Reflexive Turn." Who let the DAWG out? We did!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Homeland Security thread

For those working on the Homeland Security piece, let's use this post as an open thread as we put together the article. I'd like to begin by working out two tentative thesis statements for the piece: first, an esoteric thesis that states what we'd like the readers to "read between the lines," and second, an exoteric thesis that states what the article, when read literally and unironically, should say. This terminology is itself ironic, as it was developed by Leo Strauss, the godfather of neoconservatism.

My own belief is that we should:

1) make it abundantly obvious the piece is meant to be read ironically (rather than trying to pull a Sokal-esque "hoax"), and
2) direct the bulk of the venom toward the "terrorist" debate coaches who enable and encourage the "extremism" of discourse in policy debate.

Here's a first stab at an "esoteric" thesis: As academics continually confront the right wing "liberalism enables terrorism" meme, the events surrounding the 1954 debate topic might be instructive in demonstrating the importance of free and vigorous inquiry in both debate and academia. Whatcha think?


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Technological determinism

The recent Edebate exchange between Jackie Massey and Gary Larson regarding the Greene & Hicks article got me thinking about the way the article is deployed in coversations like this (and will likely be deployed in many future contest rounds). I went back and tracked Greene & Hicks's use of the word "technology" - a key term in their analysis, since they (following Day) describe debate as a "cultural technology." The term "technology" appears 11 times in the main body of the article. At first, Greene & Hicks dip their toes in gingerly, couching the term in qualifiers and suggesting that debate is a technology "capable of generating a commitment to free speech" (102). Here, the adjective "capable" leaves causal wiggle room - as a technology, debate need not necessarily do this; it could do other things. Then they move to the claim that debate is a "technology of citizen formation" that is "invested with an ethical substance" (110) - note the more restrictive and deterministic rendering created by "invested." Finally, the adjective "intrinsic" appears later to ratchet up the level of determinism: "Debating both sides, then, is necessitated by the ethical obligations intrinsic to the technology of democratic debate" (111).

As an aside, their deterministic claim regarding the intrinsic quality of the cultural technology of debate rests on assumptions about the psychology of debaters - something very difficult to prove with only textual analysis of a few commentators from the 1950s (i.e. Day, Murphy, et al.).

More centrally, it may be possible to fashion a critique of Greene & Hicks on the grounds that their analysis enacts a form of technological determinism, i.e. the notion that technologically speaking, there are intrinsic ethical commitments invested in the activity of switch-side debate (namely, belief in American exceptionalism). As a counter-example, one might point out that in the 1954 "debate over debate," this strong principle of technological determinism was not found in the psychology or practices of debaters who viewed a commitment to switch-side debate less as a foundation for American exceptionalism and more as a bulwark against McCarthyism. Another, perhaps even more powerful example is Malcolm X, who embraced switch-side debate as a tool to counter American exceptionalism.

A charitable read of Greene & Hicks emphasizes the narrow scope of their study (ONLY focusing on 1954, not extrapolating beyond), thus taking some wind out of the sails of the technological determinism critique. But notice how this retrenchment move is not available to the Masseys of the debate world who cite Greene & Hicks as proving that IN ALL CASES (even in today's milieu) debate as a cultural technology reinforces American exceptionalism. This is technological determinism in full flower, and we could fashion a compelling kritik argument suitable for use in contest rounds that would isolate this move made by opponents, and make rejection of the claim a voting issue.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

RPN on tourney-audience balance

Digging out from under unreturned spring term library books, I came across a hidden gem - Robert P. Newman, "The Tournament in a Balanced Debate Program," in James H. McBath, ed., Essays in Forensics (Hannibal, MO: Standard Printing Company, 1970): 101-104.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Updated May/June schedule

* Friday, May 5 - Gordon's paper on Team B intelligence
* Friday, May 19 - John's paper on higher-order conditions
* Friday, June 2 - Paper TBA (Steve or Damien/Carly) and Co-authorship committee report
* Friday, June 9 - Paper TBA (Steve or Damien/Carly) and DAWG Blawg committee report

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Co-authorship committee

Academic debate is a collaborative mode of knowledge production, while prevailing academic norms steer scholars to labor in solitary isolation. The DAWG believes this disconnect may be one factor accounting for the difficulties spelled out at Sedalia and Quail Roost. A systematic, synergistic and rigorous approach to co-authorship may help bridge this disconnect. This committee's charge is to draft guidelines for co-authorship that will make explicit expectations and responsibilities for DAWG co-authors.

Here is a good first stop for extant guidelines, including citations on the 1991 JAMA article (state of the art in medicine) and the "Vancouver Group." The authorship form at the JAMA website has a good checklist that should spark some creativity.

DAWG unleashed!

The Schenley Park Debate Authors Working Group convened its first meeting yesterday, Friday, March 17, 2006. It was a crisp late fall day with resplendent sunshine when charter DAWG members Matt, Kelly, Steve, Gordon, Cate, Damien, John, and Carly trekked up the hill past the Schenley Park Visitors Plaza, CMU and Phipps Conservatory, to settle in at the Schenley Park Visitors Center for a noon meeting. Iced tea was the beverage of choice - evidence of the Pittsburgh group's wishful thinking that spring is just around the corner.

Gordon opened with some reflections on how the DAWG mission relates to the 1975 Sedalia Conference, and how the future might unfold:

* 2008: Eight DAWG papers in print (one for each of the charter members)
* 2010: Second-generation DAWGs up and running outside Pittsburgh
* 2015: DAWG mode of knowledge production recognized as a partial answer to issues raised at Quail Roost

After an illuminating discussion of Matt's paper, "Looking Back, Looking Forward" (perhaps we could elaborate on these in a new post), we decided on a schedule for upcoming meetings:

* First Friday in May - John Rief's paper to be discussed
* Third Friday in May - Paper TBA (Steve or Damien/Carly)
* First Friday in June - Paper TBA (Steve or Damien/Carly)

Also, several committees were formed:

* Taxonomy committee (Matt, Kelly, Cate)
* Co-author guidelines committee (Carly, John)
* Logo, Motto & Manifesto committee (Gordon, Damien, Kelly)
* Blawg committee (Matt, Steve)