Thursday, February 11, 2010

Episode 14 - Topic selection + the Modest Novice

The three visually-challenged mice take on NFL topic selection, followed by a description of the modest novice topic, complete with recipes and serving suggestions. You can get it here, or you can get it on iTunes. I gather you can also get it on eBay but you'll have to pay shipping and handling charges.


  1. I was listening to this podcast, and had an idea for an LD topic strike me out of nowhere. Would you mind posting the email ID of the person I should send it to?


  2. There's a link on the NFL site under current topics.

  3. Darn. I participated in the policy wording process this summer, I would have liked to join the discussion.

  4. I'm listening to this episode as I'm commenting.

    On Bietz's timeline - policy has a year to complete their papers. There's also financial incentives that the NFHS provides if the papers are submitted on time.

    The other thing that is interesting about the policy process is that the entire time is spent discussing the wording - not the desirability of the topic.

    Policy seems to work well deciding the "wording" - because everyone that shows up to the policy process works to develop the wording of the topics so that any of the topics could be the one that is debated. (The stakes are higher because there is only one resolution).

    Here's a novel idea: why do we have four topics? It seems to me that we only need two topics. Very few people debate the November-December topic. If people do do debate it, then it's by and large for the big tournaments on the topic.

    The same holds true for the March-April topic. Only NFL districts and state tournaments use the topic. Wouldn't it make more sense to only have two topics?

  5. err. Three. One first semester topic. One second semester topic. One nationals topic.

  6. i like the idea of changing topics every two months. it keeps things fresh.

  7. I agree with Bietz. I also think like that the differences among policy/LD/PF topic lengths allows each debate event a different degree of depth and breadth with regards to different topics of study.

  8. I'm not sure that changing topics once a semester and once for nationals, would not keep things fresh. By and large, only a small subset of the country debates the Nov/Dec or the March/April - and the time spent on these topics compared to the Sept/Oct or the Jan/Feb is pretty short. In terms of utility, we get the most out of the Sept/Oct and Jan/Feb topics.

    I guess seen through the lens where we want to work more and harder on the topic selection process, it becomes MUCH easier to accomplish that if you don't have the replicate the work 5 times a year. Part of the rationale I heard through policy individuals when they talk about LD topics - is that there are five topics and so the stakes to "get the topic right" are not as high as they are in policy debate where there is only one topic. I think reducing the number of topics debate is more likely to increase the stakes and make the work of wording the topics in way that all of them have acceptable wording.

    Based on my experience with the policy process, I would recommend the following:

    1) Ensure that all proposed topics are worded such that each of them could be debated without any wording problems. This means that the consideration of worthy topics is divorced from the wording of such topics.
    2) Worthy topics should have papers justifying why the topic is worth debating. Those topics should have potential wordings. Once we've determined the worthy topics, then an event can take place with the authors and the papers to fashion the suggested resolutions into fully worded topics.
    3) Do the work of the Topic Selection/Wording outside of Nationals. Policy has theirs on separate weekend in August, a full year before the topic gets debated. LD should adopt a similar process.
    4) Consider including representation beyond the NFL. This may seem shocking, but there are number of smart people in LD land that work for speech and debate organization. Including them in the process about wording is going to be more helpful.
    5) Consider reducing the number of topics, in order to make the wording selection easier. Policy works through 8 to 10 proposed resolutions in order to create a ballot that has 5 potential resolutions. By having 5 resolutions, LD is considering 300+ potential ideas. Less resolutions will focus the discussion about what are the most important topics/highly debatable topics.