Oct 19, 2009

changes in Student Congress, Public Forum debate rules

Bill Nicolay, director of forensics at Snohomish High School, sends along word of NFL rule changes to Student Congress and Public Forum debate. The highlights, which I've edited only for formatting:
Public Forum
  • Final focus goes from one to two minutes
  • Ballots will be redesigned
  • No reading of evidence in Crossfire (this seems to mean that competitors should be discouraged from asking for cites during crossfire)
  • Will now be called “Congressional Debate” rather than Student Congress
  • Preferential ranking by judges becomes the preferred method of advancing students to either a super congress (if used) or straight to nationals (if no super congress).  However, ranking by judges could be used to produce a slate of candidates for student vote [via preferential ballot], should a district choose to do so.  Base and board vote are gone.
  • Standardized ballots for congress ranking will be provided to all districts
  • Both the authorship/sponsorship and first negation speeches will be followed by two-minute questioning periods.  I’m assuming all other speeches remain at one minute (not addressed).
  • Committee meetings may not be scored
  • This may be a big one, depending on current district procedure: A total of two three-hour sessions of debate is required to legitimize the congress, so congress moves from five to six hours (plus time for setting up), meaning that it may no longer be doable in a single day along with speech, since it all events have to end by 10:00 p.m.  There is language which says that “if a district offers a super session, it has the flexibility to have additional smaller preliminary chambers before advancing students to the super session.  I believe the key term here, “smaller,” refers to chamber size and not time, because...
  • Congress sessions are limited to 18-20 students, and for each student beyond 20 we have to add ten minutes to the session.
  • Presiding officers may be selected or an adult may serve.  No provision or language was given regarding scores received by presiding officers.
  • All nationals legislation will now be vetted by Nationals Office Staff and may be approved, rejected, or improved and resubmitted.  Each district can submit two items of legislation.
  • Affiliate chapters can now enter as many entries as charter chapters (based on the manual table).
I like the added minute in PuFo--that "final focus" has always been a waste of fevered breath. In Congressional Debate, I have mixed feelings about extending question time for the first speech in negation, if only because question time tends to turn into Thinly Disguised Speeches.

Mr. Nicolay also noted that a committee is exploring the use of laptops in LD (I'm not yet convinced) and in extemp (which needs to happen yesterday--otherwise, how many forests of magazine trees must die?).


Anonymous said...

Do we know if these rules will only be implemented at NFL tournaments or state run tournaments as well?

Jim Anderson said...

It depends on your state, I guess. I know that in Washington state, for example, these rules "filter down" to nearly all the tournaments offered, including the state tournament.

Matt said...

Still no general ruling on laptops for L-D?

I know my laptop is indispensable in round; it really helps with flowing and keeping track of thoughts. It lets me develop arguments faster and then make sure I hit all of them by going down my Excel flow. When I try flowing on paper, I draw arrows to connect ideas, and then I get lost.

At the end of the round, I open up Notepad and write out my voting issues in huge letters so I can see them easily but not have to hold it directly in front of me.

I'm pretty good at analyticals... but not when I have to come up with them on the spot. I like to write them down first, but I'm too slow with a pencil or pen to get my thoughts down in two minutes. It's even worse when a paper flow has arrows all over it - then things get massively confusing, especially when trying to compare two values of "Justice", or working with complex, multi-point arguments.

I know that, because of the no-laptop rule, my ability to debate coherently at Nationals dropped considerably.

I'm really curious to know why you don't like the use of laptops in L-D.

Jim Anderson said...

Matt, I love my laptop, and I suppose that many people would share your experience with laptop-based success. (And most of the disadvantages of laptops, on second thought, are nonunique. Sure, they can crash during a round. But a typed out Neg case can get lost in a shuffle of papers. Now where did I put my... I know I saw it in here....)

But laptops also offer some incredible cheating potential. For instance, all my students prepare their cases on Google Docs, which allows a remote reader to edit on the fly--during prep time, imagine having a second person add their own thoughts to your digital flow, in real time. On most laptops, wireless connectivity is built in, and in the time it would take a judge to get up and check to see if the wireless is running, a debater could very easily turn it off as if nothing had happened. Once the round starts, what judge is going to walk over and check?

It's one more thing to have to deal with as a judge, that doesn't yet have to be dealt with. But I'm sure it'll be a moot point in a couple years, when laptops are not only allowed, but normal.