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Okoboji JA (Jack Ave)

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Micropol - Rounds 1, 4, 5, and 7

Much like Jalon or Jess, I believe debate is broken.

Now, the preamble.

Our activity isn’t perfect and there are flaws exposed in daily conversation. Every debater competing today have attended some sort of camp or extra coaching session outside of their school. This forms a cocoon around this tournament and the circuit that prevent others from permeating it’s shell. Thus, I propose we rehabilitate the debate community to help prevent elitism from destroying our home.

Act 1: The Narrative

First, resource disparities.
Jessica Xu is a lone wolf debater from New Jersey who feels first hand the harms of the fascist system as she comments on the At Large list on NSD Update.

I think this post further goes to show how small school debaters (or NO school debaters, like myself) have limited access to success in the activity. Ella, Jack, and I were able to make it to a whopping 4 octos/quarters [large] bid tournaments. Everyone else, who was at least representing schools or from big schools, competed in at least five or upwards of five octos/quarters bid tournaments. Some of these at large candidates have been to up to 10 octos/quarters bids tournaments. That's more than twice as many as some of us.

Am I (am not) saying that big school debaters don't work hard and don't deserve their success? No. But they have more access to success because they have the resources to go to more tournaments.
Am I saying that had Ella, Jack, and I been able to make it to more tournaments, we would have come out on top? No, I'm not. I'm saying that we didn't even get the chance to do so because we couldn't go to most of these major tournaments.
Am I saying that we should have gotten the at large bids over the big school debaters just because we're disadvantaged? No, of course not, but maybe the committee should have taken our disadvantages into more consideration, seeing as to how 4 out of 5 at larges chosen are from big programs.

She continues her story, explaining her struggles that she needed to overcome to even be slightly competitive.

I get zero support from my school, and when I say zero, I freaking mean zero. I am not allowed to use my school name in my code. Per my school district's policy, no student is allowed to use the school's name unless a teacher from the school accompanies them on the trip. I've had to register as an independent entry for tournaments. TOC rules say independent entries aren't allowed so my parents and I begged them to send a teacher chaperone with me to tournaments. They said they couldn't put out the resources to send a teacher all over the Northeast with me. My parents and I had to beg my school administration for permission to even apply for the at large. In my case, not only did my school not help me with debate, but they even limited my ability to debate.
All my debate expenses came from out-of-pocket. I had to hire my own coach, register myself for tournaments, find hired judges (because I refuse to subject my parents to judging), book hotel rooms, and book train or bus tickets by myself. I've had to rely on very generous people like Jon Cruz and Chetan Hertzig to house me or let me ride in their buses to tournaments.
I have no teammates to help scout or prep or walk over. My coach lives a few thousand miles away. At tournaments, I am mostly alone. The kind of positions I've been running are especially not conducive to not having support at tournaments. I am not made of steel. It has been rough.
I am not trying to throw myself a pity party here, I just want others to see into the debate experience of small school debaters. I've always thought that personal anecdotes are the best for conveying this kind of information.
But I am still one of the fortunate ones. I was able to afford to hire a coach, to go to summer camps, and to pay all these tournament/hired judging/lodging/travel expenses.

I'm not the only one who has gone through this. Aside from Ella, Jack, and I, there are many small school debaters who don't get a fighting chance because they don't have the resources this activity requires of you to be successful. At the very least, small school debaters are disadvantaged in the amount of tournaments they can show up to. This problem is typically unique to small school or lone wolf debaters.
No, it's not the big schools' faults that we have to go through this. No, we shouldn't hate them because they have resources and we don't.

I am not advocating that we vote down big schools and hack for debaters from small programs, rather spread this message through debate and discussion.

There have been successful small school debaters in the past, but that doesn’t eliminate the problem.

Jess writes again

Yes, there have been many successful small school debaters in the past. My lab leaders this summer were both extremely successful lone wolf debaters and I admire both of them greatly. They were able to overcome the disadvantages of being a small school debater and still come out on top. They've inspired me and other small school debaters. However, the existence of successful lone wolf debaters cannot negate the fact that lone wolf debaters have limited access to success in the activity. Some have gotten past their disadvantages, most have not.

And my occupancy of this room doesn’t negate the fact either. I am here because of out of pocket resources while working over 6 part time jobs to cover costs. I am one of few. The exception doesn’t prove the rule.

Moreover, as Jess explained, success in the activity is based upon money and resources. Debaters who can travel more, hired better, and attend more camp historically do successful compared to those who aren’t fortunate enough to have a traveling team or the funds to be competitive. This creates exclusion in the debate community for students who don’t go to schools with big programs.

Second, rural destruction.

Debate in rural areas, such as northwest Iowa, is dying. La Mars high school in Iowa produced some of the best debaters in the nation, including Iowa City’s coach Melanie Johnson, who coached TOC and NFL back to back policy champions and Drew Francy and Michael Mapes, who were both ranked first at NDT. This strong program died out because of the high demand for travel to be competitive along with the change in the activity to be extremely camp oriented. Our elitist mindset excludes schools like La Mars from competing because of location. This is geographical discrimination at its core.

Programs who aren’t in metropolitan or suburban areas are feeling the horrible effects of this. According the West Iowa NFL District chair, we have lost over 10 rural programs in the last decade.

I felt this personally when my coach was threatened by our school’s administration, saying that if we don’t qualify students to nationals or do well at state, our funding will be cut even more.

We need to stop looking through a rose colored glass. The destruction of rural programs is the greatest harm to the activity because it prevents students from ever experiencing debate, thus eliminating any possible education from happening. By endorsing the current system, we allow ourselves to be swallowed up in empty talks. It’s not fair if players can’t even start the game. Action must be taken.

As I said on NSD Update, this position is a plea for future debaters who are like me. This is a plea for debaters like Maisie Baldwin, who suffered major travel restrictions from her state of Missouri. This is a plea for debaters like Jessica, who don't have a supportive school. This is a plea for the future of debate.

Act 2: the criticism

Performances like this one aren’t the norm of debate and many stand behind unwritten rules against this position to secure standing and create a dystopia.

Jess pointed these flaws out and now it’s my turn. A user on NSD update named Wolfgang writes,

None of you who defend her position seem to have learned from history. Amanda Liverzani failed, Avi Arfin failed, Jalon Alexander failed, and now Jessica too will fail.

And there’s more,

We as a community need to stop having these sorts of discussions in response to these sorts of positions”…“what you are doing is not helping debate”…”you are a fool.

I have been personally disincentived to run this case because there isn’t a high success rate but if there is a possibility of change, I must act. This is try or die.

LD Outsider writes
(LD Outsider - http://nsdupdate.com/2013/nsd-live-update-columbia/

Yup, the micropol movements lately haven't been 'successful' at changing the whole community, but if what you say is true, this is more the result of existing bigotry-and the community's entitled attitude that the victims of such bigotry should only respond in a way that can be kept quiet or not be too angry.

The community is addicted to the system that excludes so many. By denying the illness, they create a vicious cycle, preventing change from ever occurring.

Act 3: The last stand.

We are starting to believe that signing a petition or an open letter and forgetting about it will solve the problem, but that’s not enough. We need to bring this to full attention by exposing the problem in debates.

I agree with the anonymous article writer of “Debaters Against Sexism,”. Her message is just as important as this one.[1]

We are tired of online discussions about gender disparities in debate dying out without resulting in any concrete changes. We are tired of sexism [and] becoming the talk of the day, and then fading away as people settle back into their normal routines of cutting cards and trying to win tournaments. We are tired of waiting for someone else to do something, so we are taking a stand now.”]

The ballot is the endorsement of a message. The judge doesn’t have power over the criminal justice system and can’t change policies, but they can endorse and spread a message to create real change. Voting for me is an act of resistance against the status quo, stating non-compliance. Send a strong message to debaters, coaches, judges, and camp directors. My performance allows a reconceptualization of the norm when action has become impossible; my solvency is eternally recurring

The notion of performativity as both identity- or world-creating and as demonstration, is crucial for understanding contemporary political action. Performative resistance does not eliminate power and it is not effected in the name of some subjugated agency, but rather its purpose is disruption and recreation. It is a reoccurring disruption that ensures an endless reconstitution of power. Disciplinary technologies effect the internalization of norms - a removal from view of the mechanisms that create us as subjects, making our identities self-evident. Resistance brings those norms back into an arena of contestation. By its very existence resistance ensures resistibility, which is the very thing internalized norms are designed to suppress. In other words, resistance is not undertaken as a protest against the subjugation of a reified ideal subject, but rather resistance, as the action of thoroughly constructed subjects, reveals the contingency of both subjectivity and subjection. While Chaloupka suggests that the role of the protestor is "tellingly different" from that of the citizen, I disagree. Often only the act of resistance provides any meaningful sense of "citizenship" in this privatized contemporary world. As Dana Villa points out, resistance "can be seen as a successor concept to Arendt's notion of political action: where the space for action is usurped, where action in the strict sense is no longer possible, resistance becomes the primary vehicle of spontaneity and agonistic subjectivity."70
Performative resistance recognizes disciplinary power, enables action in the face of that power, enables innovation in deliberation, and thus allows us to see the world of political action differently. Consequently, it is possible, and more meaningful, to conceptualize contemporary participation as a performative rather than a representative action. The failure to reconceptualize political participation as resistance furthers an illusion of democratic control that obscures the techniques of disciplinary power and their role in global strategies of domination, fundamentally missing the real, although much more humble opportunities for citizens to "take part" in their own "governance." Accepting the idea of participation as resistance has two broad implications that fundamentally transform the participation debate. First, it widens the parameters of participation to include a host of new actors, activities, and locations for political action. A performative concept redirects our attention away from the normal apparatus of government and economy, and therefore allows us to see a much broader range of political actions. Second, it requires that we look anew at traditional participatory activities and evaluate their performative potential.

We must give others a voice. By endorsing and voting for the critique, we open ourselves up and allow for discussion to solve other problems such as lone wolfs and racism.


If the humanities has a future as cultural criticism, and cultural criticism has a task at the present moment, it is no doubt to return us to the human where we do not expect to find it, in its frailty and at the limits of its capacity to make sense. We would have to interrogate the emergence and vanishing of the human at the limits of what we can know, what we can hear, what we can see, what we can sense. This might prompt us, affectively, to [We must] reinvigorate the intellectual projects of critique, of questioning, [and] of [come] to understand the difficulties and demands of cultural translation and dissent, and to create a sense of the[a] public [where] oppositional voices are not feared, degraded or dismissed, but valued for the instigation to a sensate democracy they occasionally perform.

The debate round is essential for my message. I must debate in as many rounds as possible because otherwise it’s too easy to ignore me. Debaters can easily ignore blog posts about this problem, but they can’t ignore my case in the round, and they can’t ignore an L on the ballot.

[1] Anonymous article writer - http://nsdupdate.com/2013/debaters-against-sexism-taking-a-stand/
[2]Performing Politics: Foucault, Habermas, and Postmodern Participation
Author(s): Jessica J. Kulynych
Source: Polity, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Winter, 1997), pp. 315-346
Published by: Palgrave Macmillan Journals
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3235221 .
[3] Butler, Judith. Precarious Life. Pg. 151. 2006