by Mike Lacy
If you haven’t already heard, debater flexibility is the wave of the future for debating on the neg. By debater flex I mean the ability to go for an array of diverse categories of arguments – disads, counterplans, kritiks, topicality, impact turns, link turning the case, etc. It’s a term I stole from Jarrod Atchison who talked about the importance of debater flex in his ballot from the final round of the 2008 NDT.
Casey Harrigan, head coach of the Georgia Debate Union, recently recorded a podcast with Bob Jordan of PFDebate.com covering recent controversy in Public Forum debate in high school over the merits of switch side debating. Check it out here.
Oscar Handlin proffered this challenge over a half a century ago: Our troubled planet can no longer afford the luxury of pursuits confined to an ivory tower. Scholarship has to prove its worth, not on its own terms, but by service to the nation and the world. As we experience what some have labeled the third academic revolution in American higher education, universities look to meet the increasing demands of political relevance and accountability (Bergstrom and Bullis, 1999, p. 25). Current domestic public policy concerns include: an inferior educational experience for children in kindergarten through twelfth grade, a degraded environment, rural and urban poverty, inadequate health care, and a compromised Social Security System.
The intercollegiate debate program is an ideal vehicle to provide an engaged form of scholarship. Service learning is an educational experience that affords students the opportunity to apply what is learned in formal academic environments in community settings.
Susan Herbst, chief academic officer for the University System of Georgia, recently wrote an Inside Higher Ed piece and made a strong argument for incorporating the principles of policy debate into a curriculum dedicated to improving the critical thinking skills of students.
While there are other approaches that have incorporated argumentation into the curriculum, those efforts can be further improved by teaching the principles of debate to students. Students who are exposed to debate, learn to identify components of a rational argument, methods of assessing evidence credibility, the importance of identifying both sides of a contested issue, and the capacity to listen critically to claims made on both sides of an issue.