Round 4: This House would not set the clock back an hour

I think every single person said, “I am not debating daylight savings time.” Fortunately, very few people actually did. Most people used metaphors like ” ‘set the clock back’ is a euphemism for civil war'” or “daylight savings is getting a short term benefit in exchange for a something down the road.”  Generally they were just interpretted to run people’s favorite plans. Interestingly, one person did run a plan about moving Spain’s clocks because they’re two hours out of sync from everyone else or something. Also, a New York Times article recently came out saying that daylight savings in the United States costs the country around $147 million in logistical expenses. Fun facts.

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Round 3: This House would make Facebook cool again.

We were all pretty bummed.  The resolution was fairly specific, but it just had the problem that no one really cared. Also, is Facebook not cool anymore? It seems like it’s still pretty popular to me. Anyways, pretty much all of the plans involved buying up another social network (Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit) or changing their advertising policy. They were good debates technically, but no on came out saying, “Wow, that was so fun!”

Round 2: This House believes that Parliamentary Debate judges must disclose their decision to debaters at the end of the round.

In a complete 180, for Round 2 we got the most specific resolution to ever come from the pen of Jon Logging. Everyone said their rounds were pretty close, probably because everyone knew the in’s and out’s of the resolution and could easily articulate a stance on it. A lot of teams ended up defending positions they didn’t actually agree with. Arguments revolved around the expected quality of oral vs written comments, the efficiency of the tournament, and which system creates more stress and anxiety among debaters (answer: both of them). I also may have admitted during round that I don’t read all of my ballots… Oops.

– Alex

Round 1: This House would raise the dead.

“Wow, I can’t believe how vague this resolution is!” said no one. The Vocal Viking started off in its typical fashion with a fairly cryptic resolution where the government could run just about anything. Topics included the ethic of the United States as a collective or as individuals, Guantanamo Bay, the structuring the of the European Union, and more. This was the first debate for Maddie (who is bravely going hybrid with someone from SCSU) and Caroline, and neither of them left the round crying, so we’ll call it a good first round. On that note, the teams today are:

Bayley and Raffi

David C (new to St. Olaf Debate!) and Maureen

David W (new to St. Olaf Debate!) and Rikaela

Caroline (new to St. Olaf Debate!) and Alex

Maddie (new to St. Olaf Debate!) and a hybrid with SCSU

 

– Alex

Return of St. Olaf Debate

After a restful summer, we’re back and debating! However, being captains is hard work, so Bayley, Raffi, and I haven’t had the chance to update the blog for the first two PLUM’s. Rather than do it after the fact, we’ll just leave you with the two results pages from Bethany Lutheran. Here they are (note that at the conclusion of the two tournaments we have both the top two speakers and lead in school sweepstakes!):

PLUM 17.1

PLUM 17.2

– Alex

A Reflection on PKD Nationals

Being a week out of the tournament, a little reflection is always a good thing. In terms of results, we exceeded any expectations we had going in. Kevin and I made it to finals, and received the distinction of Superior in prelims, meaning we were in the top 10% of seeding. Bayley and Raffi were award an Excellent distinction, meaning they were in the top 30% of seeding.

The tournament as an event was in itself was a unique experience. As a budding team, St. Olaf Debate has been trying to find exactly where we fit in terms of the larger forensics community. So, in typical forensics fashion, here’s three points of analysis on what we experienced at PKD, juxtaposed against last year’s NPDA nationals experience, and what it means for the team.

Tournament Logistics

Basically anyone who was at PKD will tell you the tournament this year was, shall we say, questionably run. Rounds of different styles of debate were run back to back with no transition time in between. Which just on face seems like a bad idea. At the end of each day, the tournament was somewhere shy of two hours behind schedule. We didn’t find out who made quarterfinals until nearly 1:00AM on Saturday. Compared to NPDA, PKD loses pretty handily on  this front.

Community

At NPDA Nationals last year, you could feel the elitism is the air. I understand that saying seems unnessarily exclusionary and hypocritical, but I digress. Most of the people at the tournament regularly traveled the national circuit, smaller schools were all but nonexistant, and in general we just never really felt welcome. PKD was pretty much the polar opposite. We actually knew several coaches there from Minnesota schools who were willing to be our surrogate coaches when we needed things, people at tab and registration seemed excited to have St. Olaf back at the tournament (apparently back in the school’s forensics heyday in the 90’s, St. Olaf regularly attended the tournament), and in some sort of intangible way everyone just seemed friendlier. We genuinely enjoyed our time there and referred to the week as “Spring Break, Part I”.

Debate Style

Really, this is the big one, and PKD wins by miles. We had to really work for every single  round because the  competition was tough, but we never felt like we lost the round because we got excluded due to stylistic concerns. At NPDA, the culture definitely centered around speaking as fast as you possibly can with no concern for clearness of delivery while making every impact as large in magnitude as possible (if you’re not talking about human extinction due to genocide, thermonuclear war, or global warming, then you’re doing it wrong there). It’s basically just circuit Policy debate without the cards.

PKD felt like everything we want Parli to be. First, we were allowed internet access during prep time. The purpose, however, ended up being more for fact-checking and clarifying, rather than some sort of evidence arms race or having to learn an entirely new idea on the spot. Second, all the resolutions were specific enough to make prep time meaningful while allowing both teams to be flexible in what they specifically ran. Even better, the distinction between facts cases, policy cases, and value cases were always very clear and ended up being debated well. Third, using theory was permissible. Most judges didn’t love the idea of arbitrary procedurals, but they understood the necessary role it played in debate. We had multiple judges vote on good, reasonable topicality. Best of all, the debate was just grounded in reality. People used link stories and impacts that you could actually say straight-faced outside of a round with a delivery style appropriate for a real public speaking event. If we had to make a comparison, each round felt like an outround at state. We have no reservations about making this St. Olaf’s regular national tournament.

In 2014, St. Olaf is PKD-bound.

True to our credo, we engaged the world through substantive debate, strengthened friendships, and yes, won some awesome trophies.

True to our credo, we engaged the world through substantive debate, strengthened friendships, and yes, won some awesome trophies.

PKD Finals, The prison-industrial complex is the American Apartheid

In much the same way that we were on the right side of the resolution in quarterfinals, we were definitely on the wrong side of one. A little background, the resolution more than anything was talking about the mandatory minimum laws put forth by the Reagan administration. Crack cocaine, which is more easily accessible to people of low socioeconomic status and in particular African-American communities, for some random (or not so random reason has a mandatory minimum prison sentence if on your possession waaaaaaay higher than regular cocaine. Most people speculate that’s because regular cocaine is very popular among white CEOs. Regardless of the intent of the law, it’s definitely had clearly disparate racial outcomes, with African-Americans being incarcerated far more than white people.

So being on Opp while debating against the top team from Morehouse College, a historically black institution, was not exactly the best way to start.

The first speaker went up and rattled off at least 20 statistics (the entire Morehouse team of probably ten kids and a coach prepped together), citing all of the things I mentioned in the background and the resultant implications, namely huge economic setbacks as well as disenfranchisement due to being unable to vote as a felon.

On our first speech we started off with two observations of the resolution. First, they had to prove that a prison-industrial complex even exists, with clear evidence of prison owners having a direct influence on lawmaking. Secondly, referencing the original usage of the word in South Africa, we said that any discrimination had to be intentional and explicit. We then made two off-case positions on how they fulfilled neither of those.

After that we went on-case. We didn’t really have a whole lot to say, other than that they didn’t prove a direct causal link between any of the laws and the result incarcerations. We also said that the reason why so many African-Americans were in prison was due to historical and socioeconomic factors. Specifically, we referenced how the GI Bill after WW2 excluded African-Americans from affordable housing, meaning blacks were not able to access the largest source of wealth a person ever owns, setting back generations of inherited wealth. We also said that black communities were less likely to have parents and leader figures that had gone to college, meaning there are fewer support networks for high school students which translates to African-American students being less likely to go to college or even pursue scholarships that they’re qualified for. However, this second part came across as “Blacks don’t value education,” and we got a lot of dirty looks and even “for shamed”. For the record, this is definitely a thing and not racist conjecture.

They came back and said that proving something explicit would be impossible, but the intent is clearly demonstrated in the crack versus cocaine laws, of course lobbying happens as prisons are a 1.3 billion dollar industry, the GI Bill isn’t important since we had integrated units in WW2, and we were just being offensive by saying the thing about college. They also extended across a lot of their statistics, because there wasn’t really a whole lot we could say in that regard.

Other than basically just reclarifying our positions and hammering the idea that they’re not demonstrating any causality between the laws, we also added that if prison owners really had influence with congressmen, they wouldn’t exert that influence along racial lines and would just jack up sentences on everyone to get as many people in prison as possible.

In the end, we ended up losing the round. We’re not really sure why or by how much as they didn’t announce the judging decision specifically in the awards ceremony or give us ballots from the final round. In all honesty, I as an individual believe we won the round on the flow. In the final speeches, they mostly just recited their statistics and said that they had clearly demonstrated the racist intent of the law and its negatives consequences. They said that in the face of all their statistics, the judges had to vote for them. They also flat out called Kevin and I personally ignorant and prejudiced, which struck me as a low blow, but I understand the value of ethos as a debater. In our final speech, we highlighted the three burdens they had to meet independently: to demonstrate a prison-industrial complex exists, that the law was explicit and intentional in its racism, and that there is a direct causal link between the laws and the outcome statistics they cite. I could see how they won the intentional point, but I think they essentially dropped the other two. The never had an answer to why prison owners would prefer to see racial discrimination rather than sentences jacked up on everyone, suggesting the absence of a prison-industrial complex. They also never had any sort of response to the actual content of our GI Bill argument, which framed all of their arguments as correlation rather than causation. However, we never had a good response as to why crack should have such an obscenely higher minimum sentence when compared to regular cocaine, and I could see how in the right context that could be interpreted as a demonstration of intention, a prison-industrial complex, and direct causation, though I don’t personally find the argument to be persuasive.

The reason we probably lost was in the rebuttals. We tried too hard to win everything on the flow rather than just isolating the burdens they never really addressed, and I think the most important issues were muddied by minutia and not conveyed clearly enough in the speech. Our opponents were absolutely fantastic speakers and really brought home the terrible things that happen in the status quo as evidence of deliberate and systemic discrimination while strongly appealing to the judges’ emotions. Debate is a communication event, and they were without a doubt the better communicators in the round.

Nevertheless, Kevin and I went out swinging. We had many people come up afterwards to tell us that the round was one of the best they had ever watched. It was certainly one of the best we’ve ever participated in. Kevin and I were ecstatic to have made it as far as we got, and we were so happy to make the nation’s debate community know (and maybe fear) St. Olaf College.