Its debatable…Speak Up!

October 7, 2007

CEDA 40 – A Research Initiative

Filed under: Academics,Debate,Research — bk2nocal @ 5:14 pm

This post went out on edebate in early September, but I missed posting it here on the blog.  Gordon Stables, 2nd VP for CEDA as of this year, is rallying our members for research on our activity.  In the interest of maintaining his message, I am simply pasting it below.  It is my intent to provide in this space research ideas for such efforts.  I have posted a couple of old published articles that I think would be interesting to revisit via research and I’m sure there are a ton more of those.  The activity has also gone through dramatic changes in the past decade, so there is ripe material for new and different examinations.  Gordon provides some great categories for people to consider.  I encourage you all, students and coaches alike, to consider getting involved in proposing and completing some research.  I was lucky enough to have this type of encouragement from Pat Gehrke (Grad Asst coach at Chico when I was competing, now faculty member at U. of South Carolina) when I was an undergraduate and it helped me to get onto panels as an undergraduate and even get an article published in a forensics journal as an undergraduate.  This is great material for those graduate school applications and great practice for professional presentations in the future.  Here begins Gordon’s email:

If past practice is any indication, once the topic is announced the discussion will focus on more immediate questions and analysis. Before we, as a group, make that adjustment let me introduce a significant research and analysis process to our membership. In just a few years (2011) CEDA will celebrate its 40th anniversary. One of the primary tasks of the 2nd VP is to coordinate research conducted at the CEDA Nationals tournament and through the organization’s efforts. It is my belief that my beginning an organized campaign now we will have a process that will allow the organization to have acted on those ideas before it turns 40. That project is something called CEDA-40.

I am not a fan of totalizing historical comparisons about debate, but it is hard to dispute we do precious little to analyze our own activity in any organized form and then share those insights with the larger community. Throughout the history of organized intercollegiate debate a variety of written forms existed to let the community learn and share from each other. Some were formal, refereed journals and some took the form of articles in handbooks. I suspect among many of us learned not only from the people we interacted with, but also by reading the work of some very talented people. In order to have a truly proud celebration of CEDA we need to take the time to apply our impressive analytical and research skills inward, even if just for a short time.

I do not romanticize the idea that we can, or should, encourage our diverse community to narrow their efforts into a single rigid professional discipline. The fact that we all have different professional relationships to debate does not, however, mean we cannot take time to examine the activity we care do deeply about and then share those conclusions. When I first became involved in the topic process I was amazed how much research and analysis our community produces each year. Last year on the court topic, for example, dozens of folks contributed hundreds upon hundreds of pages of research analysis. Ever had that moment where you google a debate subject and find a wording or controversy paper? I think it is time for the community to google our practices, institutions, and goals and have the same success. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, alum, professor, professional coach, volunteer, attorney, parent or just an interested party – we need to rebuild our collective community knowledge base.

For easy reading here are some questions and answers about this initiative.

What is CEDA 40?
A collection of community research and opinion organized into a strategic planning document. The document will:
1. Conceptualize important challenges and opportunities confronting the CEDA community
2. Begin to develop reforms designed to promote the organization’s goals in time for the organization’s 40th anniversary (in 2011)
In other words, it is a collection of original perspectives and research by the CEDA community. This document is an organized means of allowing the community to learn to the experiences, perspectives and research by other community members.

What kind of topics should people research and analyze?
This is the question to be determined by you as members of our community. Instead of relying on informal conversation, momentary chats on edebate or other informal forms, this process gives people the opportunity to take a more orderly and well-developed assessment. Some of the possible areas for analysis include:

· The Organizations that make up the community (CEDA, NDT, ADA, AFA, etc.)

The procedures, practices, leadership structure, schedules, etc.
· Our Competitive Practices

Tournaments, Judging, Argumentative Practices
· Membership (The CEDA Community)

Schools, Coaches, Debaters – Who are these populations? How are they changing?
What form should these efforts take?
· Summaries of current practices

Once upon a time vicious battles raged over debate theory in journals and other sites. There are occasional posts, but we could certainly use some contemporary means of assessing the desirability of argumentative trends.
· Statistical analysis (metrics or surveys)

How much debate is there in a given season? Do we know much bigger or smaller a region is in the last decade? Do shorter topic wordings produce greater novice retention? Are there positive or negative trends in nature of gender participation? We see lots of opinions, but much less in the way of orderly analysis. We have the wonderful tool of debateresults to allow folks to build these research questions from several years worth of data. There are, of course, earlier records that may provide interesting points of comparisons.
· Case studies

There are plenty of occasions where conventional wisdom is produced by the most basic of information. We have amazing folks in the community who have started programs, re-started programs, helped them expand, and yes, seen programs wither and die. What happened? What makes the difference? I know there are about 1,000,000,000 edebate posts on the subject but what about a 5 page detailed explanation about how the successes or failure took place by a debater or coach involved in that effort?
· Reaction (editorial) essays

Perhaps you would like the opportunity to write a lengthy defense of the organizations goals, missions, or trends. Perhaps you have experiences with teaching, recruitment or recruitment that you would like to share. Maybe you just want to rant. Here is your chance.
· Reform proposals

When I witnessed the discussion of NDT redistricting a few years ago one I was unprepared to appreciate how much of our planning is directed at short-term efforts. By necessity we are all worried about the next topic, the next season, the next tournament, the next class, the next meeting, the next paycheck, time with our family, sleep, etc. There are plenty of items that can and should be debated for reform in the near-term, but there are also some fundamental questions that cannot (and shouldn’t be) done at the last minute. Do you think we should fundamentally revisit some form of how we organize, compete or teach? We need the type of developed proposals that can serve as the foundation for important efforts.

Submitted materials will be organized and included in an edited volume that thematically organizes the materials. It will be produced as a free, publicly available e-book. Thanks to the cooperation of incoming CEDA journal editor Al Louden, outstanding submissions will be considered for inclusion in a future issue of Contemporary Argumentation and Debate: The Journal of the Cross Examination Debate Association.
The deadline for submissions in December 15, 2008. This gives everyone almost 18 months to develop, plan and produce research. This also allows individuals, or groups, to conduct research at the 2007 CEDA Nationals tournament. This will allow a number of 2009 events to be influence by this research product. It will be available in time to influence the development of the 2009 NCA Panels, the 2009 Summer Argument in Alta (which is bi-annual) as well as the business meetings of both CEDA and the NDT.

This is a call for everyone involved with the CEDA community to find the time between now and December of 2008 to stop, reflect and add to the body of knowledge that makes up our activity. Maybe you like summarizing and explaining current practices. Great. Maybe you want to analyze the demographics of a specific tournament or region. Awesome. Maybe you have some ideas abut how to restructure our organizational or regional processes. Wonderful.

Tomorrow the topic will be out and the next set of urgencies will fill all of our lives. I am not asking anyone to write a report this weekend. I am asking that everyone stop and assess if you can add to the body of knowledge that our community relies upon. I will regularly post and encourage participation, but please consider taking part. This is your community and it needs a small fraction of the research and analytical skills that we possess.

Thanks for reading.

Gordon Stables, Ph.D.
Director of Debate and Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication
University of Southern California
Office: 213 740 2759 Fax: 213 740 3913


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