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I wish that I had been thinking about the ways in which I was learning new ideas, refining my skillset, and preparing for my next big leap. This first, small, and gentle shift in desiring-in-debate matters to me now in reflection because it would have shown me that debating for understanding instead of fake marble can fundamentally make you a better debater.
Many of us have had to debate by ourselves for one reason or another: a team member does not show up for a practice debate; a partner gets sick at a tournament; an odd number of students in a camp lab, etc. However, because policy debate is an activity which privileges four person debate, we rarely provide instruction on how to succeed, debate effectively, and continue participation in the learning aspect of the activity when you are on your own debating against a two-person partnership, i.e. ‘debating maverick.’
This final post in the series will take on a more difficult and controversial aspect in the event of author communication: In-round utility. I do want to preface this post with an important reminder that I am not attempting to produce a set of judgments on the in/validity of using email correspondence from an author as evidence; rather, it is my endeavor to set out the terms for that conversation and some of the essential questions, consequences, and concerns that are before this community as we head into another year of debate. These posts represent my thoughts after a long reflection on the many instances of author communication I have had in the past and the many instances of debate knowledge production I have learned about in my researching for this series.
In this post, I will detail a practical guide that can serve as a starting point for you to develop your own system and approach to communicating with authors. Again, I want to reiterate that this post should not be read as an authoritative set of standards on how to proceed with authors—every case is different and requires the use of good, empathetic judgement—but lacking authority does not mean a conversation cannot begin. Lastly, this post will touch on some other ways to get in contact with authors and/or their proxies besides email.
An especially underwritten aspect about the policy debate community is its connection to the wider realm of ideas that makes our argumentation possible weekend-in and weekend-out: Scholarly literature; scientific research; music, art, and creative writing; and investigative journalism. The arguments that we read and write do not come from some electronic portal where we can grab the world and reproduce it. I am writing this blog post because I think that an important part of the research process when we commit to argument development can be contacting the experts, scholars, thought leaders, activists, etc. relevant to our research when we need further insight, have thoughtful questions, and/or want to start a genuine discussion with someone who has devoted a portion of their life to an idea that may only be relevant for us for a few hours on a weekend in some far-off place.