Montana bound

I no longer prep like I used to.

Perhaps it is a sign of maturing as a teacher. Perhaps it is a sign of becoming comfortable with the role. More darkly - perhaps it is a sign of being over it, of losing feeling for it.

I'm thousands of feet in the air above the middle if the US writing notes for a weekend of debating workshops I am conducting in Billings at Rocky Mountain college.

I'm certainly excited about the rhetorical situation. At no other time in debate history have students and programs been able to choose and switch back and forth between formats. At other times the splits and changes came with forced allegiances. But not at this moment in debating history.

Many factors are involved in the appearance of that possibility. I won't detail them here. Only one concerns me, and it is a consequence. Debating, in a multiformat world, is as close to the rhetorical field as it has ever been.

We are finally, in explicit debating practice, allowed - no, forced as teachers - to consider format as such, as a structure, as something chosen and applied, as something to prepare for sans debate. We must teach it oppositionally, as a Roman would learn the distinction between the court and the senate. And hopefully understand chat at the circus maximus as its own distinct demanding form as well.

In short, debating has acquired historicity, if we are wise enough to use it. The elements are here already! See them come rolling off the tounges of those who defend "real debate" versus the strange new interloper of WUDC! All we should hear is the lapping of the currents of a river of history that seemed always to have stopped flowing at a perfect format years before we arrived. Debate was form. Form was not discussed in a way we can now, and must, take it up.

We as debate teachers, have more to do and more to do it with than ever before. And it's not saddled with specifics, but with dynamics. Interplay and difference rule where once there was no way to discuss form as option.

That's why I am comfortable. That's why I am not producing copious notes to help me teach a transition to a new format. And that's why I can't help but smile as I jot down ideas for my sessions.

I've not lost interest, I'm just finding a familiar flavor surprisingly new again as debate ferments with rhetoric. I hope it turns out to be a good vintage.