Hi Ken, Others,
This is sent on behalf of the CA team at USU this year - however, the
reasoning is mine and has not been agreed by the other four, who may
have their own reasons for preferring the definition we have adopted.
Our definition of novice is those in their first year of University debating.
My reasoning goes as follows. Consider what the purpose of the Novice
division is. I believe that there is a value to recognising new
members of our community who are performing well. It highlights the
influx of new talent, it motivates those who are new to a strange
activity, it gives them some experience of outround debating, it
provides some competitive success and incentives to keep going and
When considering whether to use "first year of BP debating" or "first
year of University debating", I thought about which of these would
advance the above goals more effectively.
We felt that the inclusion of people who were in their first year of
BP debating, but had experience in other formats, would weaken those
goals. The skills learned in other formats are definitely transferable
- argument development, strategy, general public speaking and so on.
It gives a significant advantage to those transferring across; enough
of an advantage, I would suspect, that to break in the 'Novice'
category as a first year speaker would be a big challenge. This is
particularly the case given the state of US debating, where many new
schools are coming over to the format.
I don't wish to name individuals, but the US circuit is littered with
extremely capable speakers who have transferred from one format to the
other. Vermont will have a Senior competing who has 3 years of Policy
experience, and 1 year of BP experience, who would qualify for the
novice division under the "first year of BP debating" suggestion. She
is clearly at a significant competitive advantage over Vermont's
first-year novices who have just 1 year of competitive BP experience.
If this is institutionalised across a circuit that has a lot of
transfers, I think it significantly limits all but the very best first
year novices from having even a chance to make the novice break and to
get a novice speaker award. Then we lose their access to the benefits
I recognise this concern applies to people coming from schools
debating as well. However, I believe it to be less significant. The
advantage of coming to BP from schools is less significant, as Schools
debating tends to be of a lower standard than collegiate debate. Even
in the UK, where Schools debate is more prevalent (and even in BP
format), the advantage of being a schools debater tends to be quickly
eroded over the first year of University debating. Furthermore,
currently the US has a higher presence of format crossovers than it
does former schools debaters. Should the ratio shift, this policy may
be worth revisiting, but I believe at present it is appropriate.
Even if we do consider this to be a major concern, and the prior
experience of School debating being relevant, I'd rather exclude
former schools debaters to have a pure novice division than allow
experienced crossovers - many of whom will break open at this year's
USU - to have a chance to pick up novice placings and awards should
they slip up.
We ultimately thought it was preferable to provide the benefits of the
Novice division more to those who are new to the activity, instead of
more to those who are new to the format. While it's regrettable that
there is a tradeoff, there's only a set number of outround places and
speaker awards available for novice divisions.
I hope that answers most of the concerns. I'd be very happy to answer
any questions that people may have, and definitely think it's a good
area of discussion for a meeting.
Quoting "Newby, Kenneth" <[log in to unmask]>:
> Hello all,
> As we prepare for USUs, I wanted to raise an issue for discussion -
> the proper definition of a novice. I recently learned that our
> current definition is anyone in their first year of collegiate
> debate competition, which on its face sounds reasonable, but in
> practice strikes me as an inherently unfair definition. Why, for
> example, is someone with four years of high school debate experience
> who is in their first year of college considered more novice than
> say someone in their first year of BP who only had one year prior
> experience in college and no high school experience? This is even
> worse for the future when you consider World Schools debate is
> gaining popularity at the high school level. In the future, I could
> imagine a national (or even World champion) in World Schools debate,
> which is similar to BP, qualifying as a "novice" while a sophomore
> who attended a few tournaments in a completely different format
> during freshman year who decided to try BP instead is disqualified
> from consideration as a "novice". In essence, you could have been a
> a national champion in various forms of debate while someone just
> learning how to debate in the BP format doesn't qualify for novice.
> I believe the proper way to bring parity to this definition is for
> it be either: (i) anyone in their first year of BP debate (if we
> believe prior debate experience in any format should not be
> considered relevant), or (ii) anyone in their first year of debate
> including high school experience (if we believe prior experience in
> any format is relevant). In my opinion, either definition would be
> better than the current one as it makes a definitive choice rather
> than blurring the lines of importance of prior debate experience.
> Personally, even though I believe high school experience matters, I
> support the first suggestion because I believe it will help expand
> BP by encouraging students who participate in other formats to try
> it out and still have a chance for Novice breaks despite the fact
> that they will still face varsity/open level competition. I would,
> however, be ok with the alternative of saying that a true novice is
> someone who just discovered debate in college.
> I think this definition matters and carries significance beyond this
> tournament because what we do at Nationals should set the standard
> for how tournaments operate during the school year. After all, I
> believe this is the same reason why we operate USUs consistent with
> the same standards for Worlds. I could probably write more on this
> subject, but I think this is sufficient for everyone to get my
> point. So, what's your opinion? Am I alone here? To the extent
> there is disagreement, I think this issue would make a good
> discussion topic at USUs this week. I look forward to seeing
> everyone there.
> Prof. Kenneth A. Newby, Esq.
> Director, Morehouse College Forensics Program
> English Department
> Morehouse College
> 830 Westview Dr.
> Atlanta, GA 30314
> 404.736.3728 Office
> 860.983.8633 Cell