What's the Point of the Masters?

Colm Flynn posted an open letter from the Koc World's Adjudication Team that cleared up a lot of the rumors flying around about what happened in the Master's final at world's this year. I just recently checked out some of the video from that round, and it got me thinking about the Masters. I think that the World debate community is missing a great opportunity with the Master's by not making it a more serious part of the WUDC competition.

I never have attended a Masters and probably never will. It's not taken seriously, and I think this is the root of why most of the problems happened and future problems will continue to happen. If something could be done to restructure the event around the concept of "Masters" (it's in the title so it can't be too hard) I think everyone could benefit.

The culture surrounding the Masters' Rounds is that of a "comedy night part 2" where both participants and audience expect the winner to dance much better on the line of offensive remarks than the other teams.

Another problem is the use of open motions, which further suggests the lack of seriousness to come in the debate. Although most open motions could be debated seriously (see the past few Cambridge tournaments) the environment and the cultural assumptions by the debating community make this difficult to realize.

I think there are several ways to reinvigorate the Masters and make sure that it has something more to contribute to the community than a few off-color jokes. I think on the whole it has an amazing potential to show debaters out there that all of their assumptions and biases about what sort of arguments can and can't win debates are not fact. It should demonstrate that anyone with well honed skill can make a strong case on either side of a motion. In short, I think a good Master's debate would be like a sophistic showcase.

Restructuring the event around the idea of showcasing the debate skills of those who are not enrolled at University seems like a great idea. It furthers the principle behind WUDC debating, that debates crafted for and understandable by a general audience are a valuable thing. Allowing observers and adjudicators to debate on general (not open) motions can demonstrate through practice how to prop or opp some of the more difficult situations that debaters find themselves in.

Either way, it would go far to reclaiming what I suppose the goal of the Master's debates was and also avoid some of the issues that were faced this year at worlds.