Thursday, February 25, 2010

Common Affirmative Argument No. #1: National Security

A big one this year is National Security. Which seems a bit odd, because this year didn't really scream "national security" to me. But it's one that comes up often, due it's interesting nature (most debaters are guys and guys like applications about blowing stuff up) and the conservative nature in the league (hard to make "National Security" sound bad doesn't it?).

This choice of an application or narrowing down the resolution to this seems odd for an affirmative because, like the education route, it seems to be strong negative ground. There are a few claims that commonly come up.

Allies are unreliable.

No doubt they will be able to find an emperical example from history (though I would always grill them on historical support, what book they got it from, what reputable historian has this interpretation of the event, is that the only interpretation of the event, etc...?), but nevertheless it really doesn't matter. For every example of where an ally proved unreliable, unhelpful or downright deceitful, it still doesn't mean that allies as a whole is a bad idea or that international cooperation is unhelpful. Ever notice that even if your opponent can prove over 100 examples of allies being all of the above, that countries still seek alliances? Hmmm. I wonder. Here are some common examples that come to mind;

  • Operation Cyclone.

    Op Cyclone was the codename for a CIA program to arm Afghan mujahadeen (or freedom fighters as they were termed in the Western press) against the Soviet Union from 1979-1989. Operation Cyclone was the longest and most expensive CIA covert program that has ever existed to date. In 1980 the program's cost was 20-30 million per year and eventually was 630 million by 1987.

    To give some background, the Communist Party in Afghanistan took over the country in 1978, led by Nur Mohammed Taraki. The Soviets felt they should intervene to ensure the survival of the People's Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, due to the fact that the Middle East was increasingly pro-Western and had friendlier relations with the West and America in particular (ex. closer ties between the US/Saudi Arabia, US backing of the Royalists in the Yemen Civil War, brokering a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel).

    Very soon after the Communist takeover, much of the country engaged in open revolt, known as the Afghan civil war. However the Soviets, very early on, invaded Afghanistan and installed Barbak Kamal, Afghan ambassador to Czechoslovakia, as President. According to current Defense Secretary Robert Gates, US support to the mujahadeen started roughly 6 months before Soviet involvement in an effort to lead the Soviets to intervene, to create a Vietnam style scenario for the Soviet military. Local mujahideen continued guerilla warfare throughout the country and the Soviets retaliated with brutal reprisals. Eventually the mujahideen created the Seven Party Mujahideen Alliance in 1985 to coordinate attacks on the Soviets better.

    US support consisted of not only financial aid (funneled through the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service) but also of hundreds of Stinger missiles, used to target Soviet helicopters, which were crucial to movement in the Afghan mountains. Eventually cooperation between the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia, numerous Persian Gulf states, the PRC, and Pakistan fully funded the rebels and led to larger and deadlier attacks on the Soviets and Afghan Communists. Eventually by February 1989, the Soviets began a pull out of Afghanistan and the DRA fell completely in 1992 with the fall of Kabul.

    Over the course of the war, over 620,000 Soviet military personell served in Afghanistan. Over 14,000 were killed, 53,000 wounded and 10,000 were left disabled. In addition over 14,000 vehicles were stolen or destroyed during the conflict. According to Anthony Arnold, retired CIA political analyst and author of three books on the Soviet involvement in Afghanistan (including "Fateful Pebble: Afghanistan's Role in the Fall of the Soviet Empire") argues that the USSR was held up by the military, KGB and the Party. However the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan ate away at the viability of all three of these institutions. It had a major pyschological impact on the civilian population as "afgantsy" returned home, disabled, disillusioned and addicted to narcotics. Furthermore the Soviet intervention represented what was wrong with the USSR, violence, suppression of dissent, a lack of honesty and cynicism. Arnold argues that Afghanistan was the pebble under the cane of the USSR. Once the cane fell, it led to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and the end of the Cold War.

    Aff Arguments:

    Relying on allies is a disaster. Soviet support for the Afghans led to involvement in a war that harmed their national security. Furthermore American support for the mujahideen led to the fundamentalist take over of Afghanistan and possibly the funding of the Taliban and even al Qaeda. Cooperation and lending a hand will result in the hand getting bitten off. Some may even go so far as to argue we directly funded the Taliban or Osama bin Laden himself.

    Negative Response:

    What we have here is 1) the success of cooperation and 2) failure occurring when cooperation is never tried. First of all, cooperation between Afghan rebels, Pakistanis, Persian Gulf States and the West led to the fall of the Soviet Union and an end to the occupation of Afghanistan. If your opponents value human rights, freedom or general welfare or national security, there are major implications to the defeat of the Soviets and the fall of the USSR. But secondly, a failure to continue to cooperate with the Afghans led to a takeover of the Taliban in the 1990s. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Union, the US halted it's cooperation with the Afghans and did not undertake any nation building in Afghanistan as advised by CIA officer Gust Avrakotos. Afghanistan's dilapidated state made it prime for a fundamentalist take over. The Heritage Foundation in 1989 warned that the US must remain committed to Afghanistan after the USSR left. Lastly however, allegations of US support for the Taliban are overstated. The main support went to Ahmad Shah Massoud, who after the war became a leader in the Northern Alliance, an organization that opposed the Taliban and al Qaeda, a Nobel Prize Nominee and was assassinated by Al Qaeda nine days before 9-11. As far as the CIA funding bin Laden or foreign jihadists,

    "It was, however, a cardinal rule of Pakistan's policy that no Americans ever become involved with the distribution of funds or arms once they arrived in the country. No Americans ever trained or had direct contact with the mujahideen, and no American official ever went inside Afghanistan."-- Pakistani Brigadier Mohammad Yousaf, former head of the ISI

    "Contemporaneous accounts of the war do not even mention [the Afghan Arabs]. Many were not serious about the war. ... Very few were involved in actual fighting. For most of the war, they were scattered among the Afghan groups associated with the four Afghan fundamentalist parties. No U.S. official ever came in contact with the foreign volunteers. They simply traveled in different circles and never crossed U.S. radar screens. They had their own sources of money and their own contacts with the Pakistanis, official Saudis, and other Muslim supporters, and they made their own deals with the various Afghan resistance leaders."-- Marc Sageman, former CIA officer

  • Sunnis in Iraq. As a part of the surge strategy, the US military in Iraq began allying itself with various Sunni tribal organizations in western Iraq as an attempt to bring peace and withdrawal. Part of the surge's success was good timing. The conflict in Iraq was the equivalent of a bubbling pot with the lid kept on during the Ba'ath years. However as Saddam fell, the army disintegrated and there was a lack of official surrender or transition, the lid was lifted. Kurds controlled their own region with their own independent militia and government. The Shi'ites in the south started receiving support from Iranian proxies and started trying to control the government, military and police and the Sunnis began fighting the new government as they were loyal to Ba'ath party and opposed a take over by the Shi'ites whom they view as "Persian". Al Qaeda, a Sunni organization, soon involved itself with the Sunni tribes in the west of Iraq. But by 2007 they have overstayed their welcome. They infringed on the tribal soveriegnty and became a law to themselves, killing and enforcing a strict shari'a law that most Iraqis did not subscribe to.

    Soon a "Sons of Iraq" movement began as Sunni tribes began to fight against Al Qaeda to regain tribal soveriengty. US counter-insurgency experts argued now was the time to commit resources to gaining their trust and flipping them against the insurgency. Against all odds, it seems to have worked. In late 2007, the Heritage Foundation reported,

    "Indeed, the US military reported over the weekend a 55 percent drop in attacks over the last nine months, falling to the lowest level since the summer of 2005. Iraqi civilian casualties are down 60 percent since June and are down 75 percent in Baghdad. The Iraq tribal operation makes both strategic and tactical sense: The locals - not US forces - do most of the fighting; the tribes have better on-the-street intelligence, knowing the language and culture, which facilitates picking out the bad guys."
    Cooperation between the central Iraqi government, which is Shi'ite dominated, the Coalition Forces and the Sons of Iraq movement has lead to a sharp decrease in violence and an increase in government legitimacy and reconciliation. However the issue has become now how to peacefully integrate Sons of Iraq fighters into civil society. Many have criticized how slow the Shi'ite government has been in integrating Sunnis into government and also some SoI fighters have rejoined the insurgency. However conditions in Iraq going into 2010 have improved dramatically since 2007.

    "Iraq has made very significant advances on the security front, with the help of the United States (November has seen the lowest number of killings in Iraq since the beginning of the war)."-- Seattle Times Dec. 2009.

    "In Iraq, 2009 was the year of transitions, and they turned out to be relatively smooth. Despite catastrophic attacks in August, October and December and an ongoing level of violence that still makes it a very troubled place, Iraq has done reasonably well in statistical terms. Violence has not increased even as U.S. forces have generally reduced their role. Another 10,000 "Sons of Iraq" have been hired into permanent jobs by the government, reducing the odds of a Sunni backlash against the Shiite-led government, and the economy has survived the decline in global oil prices. Iraqi elections are now scheduled for March, so 2010 needs to be another year of smooth transitions, especially as U.S. forces are scheduled to decline to 50,000 by summer's end. Though much could still go wrong, Iraq is holding together."-- Brookings Institute

    Aff Arguments: The arguments on the affirmative are stronger on this one than on Op Cyclone. According to Ramzy Mardini, an Iraq expert at The Jamestown Foundation, "the rise of the Awakening councils may risk reigniting the Jaysh al-Mahdi". In addition the affirmative can argue the similiar story Operation Cyclone. Extending the hand is a mistake. Getting in bed with various, unsavory allies (regrettably a necessity in war) is a mistake.

    Neg Response: However the negative is still much stronger. Cooperation with the SoI movement did work and the only reason we are in a position to argue about the future stability of Iraq is thanks to the cooperation. In addition the only reason why it may fail in the future is due to a lack of cooperation between the government and the SoI. In fact increased competition between Sunnis and Shia would destroy this current trend of stability. This is a slam dunk negative example that can be turned if used on the affirmative.

  • Soviet-Western Alliance. From the beginning, Western and American relations with the new USSR were chilled. After the Communist takeover, the US extended it's embargo to include Russia. US Secretary of State Robert Lansing hoped a tsarist style dictatorship would emerge, along the lines of General L. G. Kornilov. In addition the US hoped to support the White and Black Russians against the Red Russians during the Russian Civil War. The US didn't extend full diplomatic recognition of the USSR until 1933. After the end of the Nazi-Soviet non-agression pact of 1939, with the Nazi invasion of the USSR, immediately the situation became much more cordial, though still cautious. Under the Lend-Lease Act, the US sent enormous quantities of war materiel to the Soviet Union, which was crucial in turning back the German advance. Eventually the combination of Russian brute force and US support turned the tide by 1942, leading to an Allied coupe d'grace in 1944. By the end of the war, the Cold War had started as the common enemy had disappeared. We entered the Cold War, a system of competition between the US and it's allies and the USSR and it's allies until the collapse of the USSR in 1989-1991.

    Aff Arguments: We collaborated with one of the greatest mass murdering regimes of all time.

    "From 1932–33, Stalin and henchmen, Lazar Kaganovitch and Vyacheslav Molotov, conducted a merciless campaign to crush resistance by Ukrainian farmers to communism and collectivization. They isolated Ukraine, then cut off all food supplies and seeds. Six to nine million Ukrainians died from the ensuing man-made famine and mass shootings of "anti-State elements" by secret police execution squads. Cannibalism became common. Large numbers of Ukrainians were also murdered during the Great Terror of 1936-38 in which an estimated 2 million Soviet citizens were shot and the same number died in Stalin’s concentration camps.

    In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the Soviet penal system reached its zenith: 5.4 million people were prisoners in the gulag. Some 300,000 more Ukrainians were sent to concentration camps under the supervision of Commissar Nikita Khrushchev, and 21,259 were killed in Soviet "pacification" campaigns and against independence fighters. Other Ukrainian nationalist leaders were assassinated in Western Europe by special Soviet hit teams.

    During the same period, Moscow unleashed terror on the tiny Baltic states. From March to May, 1949, 95,000 Lithuanians, 27,000 of them children, were sent to concentration camps. In total, 120,000 Lithuanians, 50,000 Latvians and 30,000 Estonians went to the gulag where the death rate was 51% per annum.

    Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill cared to admit they had allied themselves with a greater criminal than Hitler to wage their "Crusade for Freedom," nor that the price of this compact with the devil was giving Eastern Europe to the Soviets. In the end, the Allies destroyed a lesser threat, Germany, and in doing so, created a greater one, the nuclear-armed Soviet Union.
    "-- Eric Margolis

    That is the essence of an affirmative argument, not only did we make a pact with the devil, but also created a greater evil.

    Negative Response:

    Firstly, an alliance was crucial to ending the Nazi Empire. Also from Eric Margolis,

    "The Soviets destroyed 75–80% of all German divisions – 4 million soldiers – and most of the Luftwaffe. Russia lost at least 14 million soldiers and a similar number of civilians. The Red Army destroyed 507 Axis divisions. On the Western Front after D-Day, the Allies destroyed 176 badly under-strength German divisions. When the Allies landed in Normandy, they met battered German forces with no air cover, crippled by lack of fuel and supplies, unable to move in daytime."

    A world war against the Nazis with just the UK and the US would have resulted in disaster.

    Secondly, we have to understand the size of the Nazi threat. While we have a concrete idea of the threat of the Soviets during the Cold War, we have to understand that due to the way history worked out, there is no telling how threatening the Nazis could've been. Geographically we faced a threat that stretched from the northern tip of Norway to the southern border of Algeria, from the city of Brest, France to 15 miles away from the gates of Moscow. Militarily in a matter of 6 years, 18.2 million men served in the Wehrmacht. That's more than half the population of California. Through the rearmament program, the Reich had become the foremost military power in the world, creating new and powerful weapons like the first assault rifle and the omst advanced tank on the market, not to mention new mobile tactics (blitzkrieg) that revolutionized warfare.. Politically, the Nazis were more imperialistic than the Communists. While the USSR definitely acted in an imperialistic manner and wanted to bring Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia into it's sphere, the Nazis outright sought to create a "Greater Germany". Economically, Nazi Germany was a power-house, which had reversed it's declining real income by nearly 16% in 1933 and kept it stable until the fall of Germany. With a system, though very state directed, that had more market incentives than the USSR it's unclear as to whether it would've faced the near inevitable economic collapse that the Soviet Union did. Strategically, the Reich had advantages the USSR could never have. The USSR was almost completely landlocked with little/no warm water ports. George Friedman, CEO of Strategic Forecasting, explains in his book "The Next 100 Years" that naval access determines power and access to international trade. The USSR's loss was near inevitable due to the lack of naval access. The Nazi Reich had control and access to the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic.

    Thirdly, this argument of how much worse the USSR was, in terms of nuclear power and human rights abuses, is a false comparison. It's comparing an entity which had a 72 year run, which had more time to develop and murder, to an entity with (at most) a 12 year existence. Of course the USSR, in hindsight, is going to appear the more dangerous power. Furthermore, concerning the "nuclear USSR" argument, the German nuclear program had started in mid 1939. One of the main reasons the USSR was able to follow the US as a nuclear power is because it basically stole elements of the German nuclear program under Colonel General A. P. Zavenyagin when the Red Army occupied parts of Germany. A book by Rainer Karlsch, Hitlers Bombe, published in 2005,  the Nazi nuclear program, while nowhere near as funded or adequate compared to the Manhattan Project, was much farther along in development than previously thought. There is no reason to believe that had America refused to dirty our hands and fight alongside the USSR, that the Nazis would've been far more successful and would've created a nuclear weapon.
Strong countries like the US can "go it alone".
So what? Even if true, why would you want to? Secondly, unilateralism is not competition, while it may be non-cooperation. But thirdly, unilateralism is hardly a success.

Firstly it creates a perception of arrogance which weakens the acting state's ability to muster up support in the future. Even if one can unilterally now, it may weaken relations which will be needed for a time when it cannot.

Secondly, multilateralism defrays the cost acting, which increases humanitarian intervention in necessary cases (ex. natural disasters and military interventions). For instance over 33 billion was initially earmarked to the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) in April 2003. Thankfully thanks to some amount of lip service to multilateralism, the US only had to pay 18.5 billion of it. Many hands make light work.

Thirdly, the record of multilateralism is far better than the record of unilateralism. The allegations that multilateral coalitions are too "bogged down" simply defies the record. Desert Storm was an operation that involved nearly 1 million military personell from over 32 nations and thousands of vehicles. Yet within a matter of hours, Saddam's Ba'athist military machine was humiliated, defeated and systematically destroyed in combat and expelled from Kuwait. Let's look to D-Day. It was the largest amphibious assault in human history, involving 1.4 million soldiers from 12 countries and thousands of vehicles. Yet it was arguably also one of the most successful, breaching Hitler's vaunted Atlantic Wall. General Rommel, hero of the Afrika Korps, remarked that he knew that war was lost after June 6th, 1944.


It's pretty clear that national security is the territory of the negative. Or at least the common arguments and examples coming out of the affirmative regarding national security are just patently false. Or least need to be argued better.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Common Affirmative Argument No. #1: Education

A common affirmative argument that is coming out is the idea that education has been crippled by cooperation and would be aided greatly by an increase in competition. Primarily the argument here is that public schools (funded by the government and thus somehow tied to cooperation) are failing and that an increase in competition through vouchers would increase the efficacy of public schools. We'll examine this one at a time.

Public schools are marked by cooperation.

Public schools, which are funded by taxes or other government revenue, are hardly the only kind of education system that structurally relies on cooperation. Private military academies (Virginia Military Institute for instance) rely heavily on structural cooperation. Catholic schools are obviously structurally built in a cooperative manner. Private schools demand cooperation between teachers and faculty. I know of no school that is organized structurally by competition.

Public schools are terrible.

Not exactly. American students are famous for being less educated, especially on a public level. But in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, American students do quite well. In 8th and 4th grade math we have traditionally scored above the international average. Also on the university level, University of Michigan, a public university, is ranked 19th in the World's Best Universities by US News & World Report. In addition America ranks 2nd, according to the OECD, in a list of the world's best educated adult populations.

American education is worse comparably because it is government funded.

Hardly. Among the top 20 universities in the world, 4 are public universities (U of Edinburgh, U of Michigan, ETH Zurich, and the Australian National University). In addition all the countries that score consistently above the US in the OCED average, fund the majority of their education through public funds.

A cooperative learning style harms education.

This too seems false. First of all, life requires interdependence among strangers and friends. So an education that stresses these things accurately prepares you for life. Secondly, the empirical evidence denies this.

"Dr. Theodore Panitz was a popular educator whose courses filled with eager students, but he had a problem. When the time came to test the students' understanding of mathematical concepts, they struggled. His own investigation led Panitz to the discovery that his teaching method was building up his own powers of problem solving -- not his students'. What was the answer to this baffling problem? Cooperative learning!"

"Looking back, based upon the research I have since read, I am not surprised," stated Panitz. "I was doing all the critical thinking by writing and explaining the concepts, strengthening my own brain synapses -- not the students'!"

"The realization that his teaching technique reinforced his own knowledge but did not build his students' understanding caused Panitz to seek another method. At that time, he also began a doctoral program in education at Boston University. The program introduced Panitz to the benefits of cooperative learning."

"The underlying premise for cooperative learning is founded in constructivist epistemology," Panitz explained. "Knowledge is discovered by students and transformed into concepts students can relate to. It is then reconstructed and expanded through new learning experiences. Learning consists of active participation by the student versus passive acceptance of information presented by an expert lecturer. Learning comes about through transactions among students and between faculty and students, in a social setting, as they construct a knowledge base."

"The key to cooperative learning, not surprisingly, is cooperation. According to Panitz, " Cooperation is a structure of interaction designed to facilitate the accomplishment of a specific end product or goal achieved through people working together in groups. Cooperative learning is defined by a set of processes that help people interact in order to accomplish a specific goal or develop an end product that is usually content specific."
Education World. Cirriculum Article by Cara Bafile in 11/03/2000.

More competition between private and public schools would improve America's public schools.

False. Firstly, increased competition between schools will cause administrators to withold information that would improve the academic standing of their competitors for fear of losing their competitive edge. Secondly, increased competition is unlikely to result in better public schools. While no doubt those children going to private schools will receive a better education, according to Lisa Barrow of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Cecilia Rouse of the National Bureau of Economic Research and Princeton University, they will not incentivize public schools to do better.

"The authors review the existing literature on the impact of school vouchers on student achievement. They conclude that expectations about the ability of vouchers to drastically improve student achievement, at least as measured by test scores, should be tempered by the results of the studies to date. Also, there is very little evidence about the potential for public schools to respond to increased competitive pressure generated by vouchers."
Social Science Research Network.  Economic Perspectives, Vol. 32, No. 3, 2008. "School Vouchers: Recent Findings and Unanswered Questions" by Barrow and Rouse.


1. The unique link between cooperation and public schools is tenuous. Private schools of all kinds require structural cooperation.

2. American education is now the nightmare it is portrayed to be.

3. American education is not outpaced by other countries on the basis we have public funds for education.

4. A cooperative learning style increases the learning ability.

5. Increased competition between private and public schools through vouchers will not improve either.

Common LD Arguments: New Series

This is going to be the first of a few briefs. Like every LD year, even one so broad, it seems people stay within a fairly narrow confine of examples and groups of examples. Here's a little history lesson:

  • Civil Rights: Hitler, Japanese internment camps, the PATRIOT Act
  • Journalism: Hitler, Deep Throat, Jayson Blair
  • Democracy: Hitler, Hamas, Iraq
  • Isolationism: Hitler (a trend much?), Iraq, Diego Garcia
  • Idealism: Hitler (again!), Communism, slavery, metaphysics
So things become a bit repetitive in LD. So this year, even though things have become far broader, some themes have still been created. So we'll start with the affirmative.

1. Education (Vouchers specifically)
2. National Security.
3. Gandhi
4. The American Revolution
5. The Economy
6. International Relations
7. Communes (a.k.a "hippies")
8. Communism (everyone's favorite)

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More on Ethnic Conflict

This is an issue that really needs good research. As I said before, race and ethnic issues are not commonly brought about in many NCFCA debates and the NCFCA could profit from good discussions of race in this resolution.

Competition Between Ethnic Elites Causes Civil War

Dan Alamariu argues in his essay from the International Studies Association, argues that civil wars in both Angola and Bosnia were largely caused by competition, instead of cooperation, between local ethnic elites.

The causes of civil war in both Angola and Bosnia can therefore be explained in terms of adaptive strategies by opportunistic ruling elite factions to maintain themselves in power.

Edit: Though it should be said that this source may not be the best. The title caught my eye, but the article does seem to talk mainly about the evils of ethnic elitism as opposed to competition.

Competition, Cooperation and Race

An interesting take for this year is going to be sociology. Particularly when it comes to the issue of ethnicity/race. I think it would be a great and educational way to take this year's resolution, since the NCFCA resolutions rarely discuss the issue of race and ethnicity (minus the diversity v. unity resolution way back in the day).

Competition Produces Harmful Ethnic Relations

The Troubles in Northern Ireland, a conflict that killed over 3,000 people the majority of whom were civilians, is produced largley because of a complete lack of cooperation and because of political and economic competition between the nationalist Catholic minority and unionist Protestant majority.

"Economic grievances compounded religious and political competition..."-- Belfast's Unholy War: The Troubles by  Alan F. Parkinson, The English Historical Review.

"In fact, you could argue that the biggest contributor to the peace process in recent years has been the opportunity for both communities to earn a decent living. After all, that's what many such struggles come down to in the end, a competition for resources."-- Niall McKay, PBS Frontline

Cooperation Helps Stop Ethnic Conflict

Bulgaria has long been plagued by ethnic violence and tensions. So when USAID and Partner Bulgaria Foundation come up with a strategy for solving these issues, they depended largely on cooperation between these different groups, as opposed to harmful competition.
Partner Bulgaria Foundation with support and assistance from USAID designed and implemented a comprehensive program to build sustainable structures to promote inter-ethnic and inter-sectoral cooperation in multi-ethnic locations, facilitate ethnic conciliation, and increase the effectiveness of minority groups and those working with them to improve practical and ideological conditions within multi-ethnic communities.

The majority of the participants in the Program adopted the ideas and practices of cooperation and partnership. Successful partner relationships with municipal authorities have provided a catylst to change the prior attitude where government and insitutions were not accessible – this is a prerequisite for renewed self-confidence with the micro projects teams.

Dupnitsa Mayor Parvan Dangov remarks, “Mediation is a good practice. We’ve had good results with Partners Bulgaria Foundation: They recognized a problem and showed how it can be resolved. We want to continue our cooperation.”

Saturday, August 29, 2009

California leave NCFCA, creates Stoa

For those of who you are in NCFCA (the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association, the Christian homeschool alternative to the National Forensics League), many of you are aware of the recent developments with the NCFCA and their Region 2 (California).

The relationship between Region 2 and the national leadership of NCFCA (known as the Board of Directors or just "the Board") has been frayed over the last few years. This is the result of many things, such as but not limited to,

1. California is the biggest region with the most competitors and the most successful competitors at that. This results in a degree of competitive ill will. (As one competitor from a southern state once said to me at a Nationals a few years ago, "I don't like California." It's natural in any competitive league (ever been to a Giants/Dodgers game?).

2. California has probably the highest degree of exposure to college debate (the vast majority of the community colleges competing at Phi Rho Pi College Nationals are from California) which effects our debating style (more aggressive, more competitive, faster, more evidence-based for LD), which is drastically different from the rest of the nation, which tends to be slower, less aggressive, less evidence-based, more speaking based.

3. California most notably has a difference of opinion of how regions should be run. California for the longest time operated under our own system where the winners (at sometimes the runner ups, depending on how many tournaments we had) would be qualified to go to Nationals. You either had to win a tournament or be second place to qualify (this was in LD, in Team and IEs you usually had to be among the top finalists, due to the larger amount of slots). The Regionals system is where you have a number of tournaments throughout the year and anyone who breaks at those tournaments goes to a Regionals Tournament (like a mini-Nationals). Those who place at the top of that tournament go to Nationals. To us it seemed redundant and our system worked for us. Why fix it if it isn't broken? Well the Board felt that we should follow their system, which led to much butting of heads between our leadership and the Board.

4. Historically there have been controversies of sorts (which are common in debate leagues, what a shock right?) that many Californians felt strongly about and voiced their opinions about. The first that I remember happened at the Texas Nationals (where also we were discouraged from wearing shirts that said, "Region 2" despite the numerous other Regional shirts). The Board mandated that everyone must pay $12 for the meal that theyprovide. No big. However those who would not purchase the meal would not be able to see breaks (the meal is where the first round of breaks are announced). This was not relayed to families. Hundreds of family members and competitors (who would not enter without their family) were locked out of the announcements (including the family of of one of the Team Policy champions that Nationals). Then at Alabama, in the weeks leading up to Nationals an online protest was started (led by many alumni and National competitors, myself included) and discussed. Many in Region 2 felt the Board was ossified and that students and alumni didn't have enough voice. In hindsight our goals were a bit vague (though justified I feel) and it was mainly an outpouring of frusturation with the Board. It never materialized at Nationals, but did cause some feelings of ill will. Then at Alabama, breaks were announced at a Shriners Temple. Now I suggest you visit their site and make your mind up about it (some felt it was irreligious and others, such as myself, felt no real qualms about it), but it did cause many concerns with many families. Then at this last nationals, the Board decided to have nationals at Bob Jones University (see this site's post about it). The school's controversial legacy and policies (discrimination, legalism, anti-Catholicism) made many people feel very uncomfortable about it and again an online protest started (this time much more specific), led by many well respected alumni, coaches, parents, national competitors (and former national competitors and champions) and students. The Board's response was not well received (also on this site).

This is not to say that Region 2 is always right and the Board always wrong. Or that the Board harbors some sort of malicious intent towards Region 2. However the response from the Board in all instances was either very dismissive or a bit insulting (such as threatening to disqualify members of the last protest). Perhaps if they had tried a less bellicose form of persuasion (to borrow a line from Gods and Generals) maybe tensions would have been diffused by now. Maybe not.

But now the tensions have resulted in an open split. For now every California club, along with our regional staff, has left NCFCA (though some will continue to affiliate with NCFCA to go to Opens outside of California) to create a new Christian homeschool forensics league, Stoa (yeah I know I don't like the name much either). The current staff for this new organization are, Lars Jorgensen, Jeff Schubert, Scott York and Marie Stout. As the head coach of Channel Islands we are not affiliated with Stoa exclusively and do not now of any club that is not.

This is Mr. Jorgensen's letter to the Region:

Letter to California Affiliates

Dear Friends,

Since 2004 I have enjoyed being your regional coordinator. Brita and Danielle entered debate in 1998 (there were no IE’s then). At the same time we bought a new minivan. Eleven years and 275,000 miles later our youngest has graduated and our role will be less visible. Life keeps moving.

For the past couple of years Scott York has been assisting me, and last year we expanded the leadership to include Jeff Schubert, Marie Stout, and Elise Pope. Although I will stay involved for one more year to assist this team during the transition my role will be in conference calls, meetings, and writing letters rather than handing out trophies and helping organize the season. I am excited about these leaders and the new ideas they bring.

Over the past several years the NCFCA has moved toward creating more uniformity in tournaments across the nation. The regional model is part of that move, as is the concept that each qualifying tournament should be run by national staff. California has been moving in the opposite direction by delegating more responsibility down to the tournament directors so that more leaders can be trained.

The key issue is a difference in governance philosophy. It is an old debate (a strong central government versus states’ rights). Is it more important to have uniform tournaments across the country in the interest of fairness, or is it more important to build leadership depth to be able to handle an expanding league? This philosophical difference has led to significant frustration for many on both sides of the question. We were unable to find resolution in time for the 2009-2010 season. Many have asked that we break off to form a new league. It may come to that, but such a split is liable to be permanent. It is much more difficult to merge two organizations than to avoid a split. Since we have not exhausted all possibilities for resolving our differences, we decided the most prudent course would be to take a one-year sabbatical. California will do this in the 2009-2010 season by running all tournaments under the newly formed 501(c)3 organization, known as “Stoa.” This would make it easier to re-enter NCFCA if a mutually acceptable agreement can be reached, and it would also allow a transition time for us if such resolution cannot be found. For me, the priority is to keep California together.

Most students do not compete outside of the state and it is important to keep a ‘critical mass’ as this leads to better competition, which in turn offers better education for our students. So, my plea is to stick together during this sabbatical from NCFCA and stick together when deciding whether to re-enter NCFCA or start a new league. The tournaments will be very familiar to you all. Some families may opt to affiliate with the NCFCA in addition to joining Stoa since this would enable them to compete at national open tournaments. I should emphasize it is fine to participate in the opens; this is not a boycott. We’ll see where the Lord leads next year.

While we may disagree with NCFCA leadership on governance issues it is important to remember that we are all working toward the same goals. Let us be thankful for the time and effort they invest in the league and be careful in our conversation.

“Let your speech at all times be gracious, pleasant and winsome, seasoned as it were with salt, … “ Colossians 4:6


Lars Jorgensen

Monday, May 11, 2009

NCFCA Response to BJU Protest

As many of you know, several NCFCA affiliates (competitors, alumni, coaches, parents and staff) have been protesting (in writing and by joining a facebook group) the decision by the NCFCA Board to choose Bob Jones University as the location for our 2009 National Championship.

(If you wish to find the many reasons why BJU is an unacceptable location for our organization, please look to previous posts)

The response from the NCFCA has been incredibly disheartening. While Mr. Larimer's response was an expected non-response, the recent action taken by the Regional leadership of Region 8 was nothing less than extremely disappointing. This is the email in full sent to all regional coordinators and their own region.

From: Lisa Kays [] Sent: Friday, May 08, 2009 3:52 PMTo:; Darleen Rossi; Lars Jorgensen ;;;;;; region9@ncfca.orgSubject: Region 8 Update

Fellow region coordinators,

You may already be aware that the National Championship will be held in my region in Greenville , SC. I have been the primary person working with BJU to provide a location.. As you have all experienced, securing a facility for this large a tournament has its challenges.

That was why I was so discouraged to find out that some of our Christian communicators were protesting ANY facility that opens it doors to us. This is the letter my Regional Leadership Team sent to our region concerning the protest and encouraging them to consider how they speak about people and places that allow us to hold tournaments in their facilities.

My region is busily preparing for all your students arrival, hoping to make this a great National Championship.. Hope to see you soon!

Lisa Kays


Region 8,

As you all know our region has the pleasure and responsibility of helping host the NCFCA National Championship this year in SC. I am grateful for your hard work and attitude in wanting this to be our best representation of Region 8 as we serve to get community judges, staff hospitality and communications and do the many small jobs that make a tournament of any size run smoothly. Many of you who will not be attending the National Championship as competitors have asked how you may serve our region and the league during this time. I am blessed to be a part of such a wonderful region.It has come to my attention that there has been a little controversy over the choice of holding Nationals at Bob Jones University . Because our organization does not own a facility, we rely on other organizations to provide facilities to host all of our tournaments.

Our organization depends on the willingness of other organizations--both Christian and secular--to be able to provide this educational opportunity for our affiliates.Our criteria for choosing a facility include the number of rooms available, local support staff, and availability for a full week in early June.

We also require that the hosting facility, whether a secular or Christian university, does not impose their philosophy on our tournament or restrict the way we run our event. At each of the facilities we use, however, we do ask our affiliate families to respect some of our hosts' polices. Many leads for locations that met these criteria have fallen through over the past few months. When we approached Bob Jones University with the possibility of providing a facility for the NCFCA National Championship, they were gracious and accommodating, and they quickly worked with us through the long process of sorting out the details for such a large event. We must remember that facilities are built by organizations, and even Christian organizations have policies that other Christians will disagree with.

This does not mean, however, that it is right to disrespect the organization that is making our event possible. Nationals is an event that places huge demands on the facility that hosts it. Whether we agree with all of their policies or not, Bob Jones University and its staff are willing and excited to share their campus with us, sacrificing both time and money to provide this opportunity for our affiliates. As Christians, and as communicators, we are charged with respecting authority and setting an example in loving one another. As Bob Jones University is willing to bear the cost of hosting our event, we expect all affiliates to communicate respectfully with and about them. We are not asking you to endorse them as a university or to agree with all of their policies, but we are asking you to do three things:

1. Speak respectfully about the university as our hosts, just as you would at a secular university that offered classes you may find offensive. As we are merely hosting our event at their facility, please note their general regulations will not apply to you during the tournament. Every host facility has a few policies they would like us to respect, however, and we should do so.

2. Set an example of how loving Christian communicators speak about and with people they disagree with.

3. If you still have concerns about this facility, please contact us directly. We are always open to concerns from the affiliates and will do our very best to make sure that we act in a way that our affiliates find acceptable. I would ask our region for the following action points:·

If you are a part of any kind of protest group, for any reason, please remove your name from the group.·

Please let me know if you were part of a group. You are not in trouble! But I need to be able to say that I knew about it and you removed yourself from the protest. ·

Pray for Nationals, the Board of Directors, and all the volunteers as we build up to Nationals. If you still do not feel comfortable attending an event held at this university, please contact us immediately so that we can roll down your Championship slot to the next competitor. I am not aware of anyone in our region that has participated in any protest, but if someone has and chooses not to remove their name, I will recommend to the Board of Directors that your National slot be revoked.

Once again, we are always open to input from our affiliates. But we cannot approve public communication that disrespects those who have been gracious enough to host our organization.

Thank you for your prayers and support,

Lisa Kays

Regional Leadership Team

Charlotte Baker

Noelle Gebel

Renee McLean

Sue Nelson

Lisa Kays

Firstly I would like to note, no other region has taken this action. If you are a member of this protest or are considering joining this protest, please understand that if you are not a member of Region 8, this does not and will not effect you. No other regional leadership has taken such action, despite Region 8 tacitly encouraging them to.

Furthermore I am incredibly saddened to see this. This is nothing less than strong arm tactics against a very legitimate and very respectful protest. The arguments that this email poses (not being respectful, protesting "ANY" site) are just simply untrue.

I would like to note that regrettably this strong arming has resulted in some transient success for Region 8. Here are some messages we've received,


I have decided that the nat protest group is not really something I need to be part of. Ultimately, not forgiving BJU is demonstrating the same legalistic behavior that we are accusing them of committing. (Never mind however that one cannot "forgive" an institution and one while must be loving, one does not need to be accepting of sin and legalism) Anyways this is my decision.

I left awhile ago, but my name is still on the list of people who suppor[t] the movement. Could you remove that? Sorry, my coach is terrified that since the other regions are furious with you guys, some people will punish me on the ballot for a protest that im not even part of lol.

Feel free to disscuss with me anytime.


Well as it is my parents and my coach have expressed concern about my participation in this group, it has caused me to look more closely at why I had joined the group and after some more research I would like to be removed from the list


I would encourage you to write to Region 8 leadership and to the NCFCA board, for a few reasons,

To Region 8 Leadership,

1. There are many errors in their emails. This movement is not disrespectful and is not protesting any site.

2. We would ask that there are no moves on the part of Region 8 Leadership to encourage other Regions to take similiar action.

3. To please reconsider disqualifying protesters.

To NCFCA Board,

1. Please consider this protest when reviewing future sites for Nationals.

2. Please do not disqualify anyone over a protest, regardless of what any Regional Director says.

Other Regional Directors:

1. Please do not take actions against their competitors for their convictions.

Emails:, Mrs. Lisa Kays, Region 8 Coordinator.

Regional Emails:

NCFCA Board:

For References:

(Protest Group Email)