The End of Worlds, Part 2

A formally instituted external organization run by an executive director and a staff for WUDC could do a lot more than just allow council to be the visionaries and take the organization in new and exciting directions. It could also allow council to discuss deeply rules, regulations, and norms of competition.

But what else could a formal organization do for WUDC competition?

Provide Qualification Standards for the WUDC tournament

There should be some debate about whether Worlds is best as an open competition where anyone from the world can show up and compete, or if it is meant to be the capstone of the year, an event everyone agrees to attend in order to see who the best debate team is for that year. There are of course a number of combinations – it’s not an either/or – but for the purposes of this writing I’ll defend a very limited model of what this might look like.

Worlds is at maximum capacity with about 400 teams. Perhaps reducing the size of the tournament to a more manageable 200 teams would make the competition a bit more manageable. It would certainly open up the possibility of finding more potential hosts. These 200 teams would be selected by distributing the slots as bids to international debate organizations – the ones that Council already recognizes as the national representative body for that country. If there’s not an organization, this would be great motive for forming one. Alternatively, the slots could be distributed to the teams that break at competitions that are determined to be the most competitive in the world – Council could easily create a list of tournaments that regularly have correlation between teams that do well there and at Worlds.

It doesn’t have to be 200 teams either. Perhaps a more limited number are chosen that way, and other teams that want a chance to compete – and prove their competitiveness – through an application process. Some of the more unsavory elements of Worlds, such as the moments of drunken anarchy and teams not taking later rounds seriously or abandoning the tournament entirely – would be eliminated.

Institutionalize the run-up to Worlds

As the reason for WUDC to exist in any form, the annual tournament planning could punt a lot of responsibilities to debate clubs and organizations earlier in the year. With an office and a dedicated staff, things like ESL/EFL certification and judge ranking. There could even be a judge certification process done online that involved more than just taking a test, but participating in seminars and trainings throughout the year in order to keep up certification.

The motive for all of this normalization is because a formal organization of WUDC would encourage people to comply if they wanted to attend the tournament. Currently, quick fingers and an on-time payment are all that are required to attend – a low bar for a competition that ought to advertise itself as the premiere debating event in the world.

Normalizing Competitions

WUDC could set the norms for speech length, motion wordings, information/context slide length and content, POI number and length, extensions, counter-proposals – all that. It would be motivated because of the desire to prepare for WUDC, to have a strong application, or to break at the tournaments considered by the membership to be the most competitive. Events that do not normalize due to special considerations would be well attended as special events – variations on the new normal.

There would be other normalization considerations as well that are far more important: Tiebreakers, what a good CA does, what good tabbing looks like, verification of proof of eligibility, motion writing, and judging norms all become things that, by virtue of a limited and clear qualification system for WUDC, become things that can be better controlled.

There are some side benefits too. WUDC norms on the publicity of debates could be established: When and where should competitors expect to be recorded, livestreamed, broadcast? Could there be particular debates that are of interest to WUDC for promoting the annual tournament? Perhaps some could be used for training materials, accessible to the debate clubs that pay the annual membership fee. Perhaps they could be given to everyone who qualifies for the competition. They could be archived, added to a history of WUDC that could be examined by those interested in finding hard evidence of how an argument style came to life, went viral, and infected the entire community. Oral histories from all the winners of the WUDC, finalists, and significant chairs and judges could be recorded and made available. Such a collection could only be possible and fairly accessed through such an organization, one that has the influence of the most desirable annual debate event under its control.

All of this though is contingent on the idea that the Worlds is meant to find the best debate team of the year in BP. Other goals and objectives disrupt this narrative quite a bit – and for good reason. There’s no reason to support a diversity of debating styles or approaches if the point of Worlds is to see who is best at debating under the restrictions of the BP format. Normalizing that format, and limiting the qualifications for teams to participate seem like a great way to improve things. But whether we want the improved thing is also debatable.