Have you ever tried to teach someone a card game? Hearts, Spades, Crazy Eights, Whatever, it tends to be pretty straightforward. This is how your play your hand, play this card and you take a trick, once in a while you shoot the moon. Easy.
Unless that someone has never played a card game before. Then you have about a dozen conversations like this:
"...And then you take a trick"
"What's a trick?"
"...Face cards are all worth 10"
There's a whole vocabulary that is 2nd nature after you've played a few card games, but it's a big ol mess for someone who doesn't know the lingo.
This is the challenge of coaching novice debaters. Your students come to you with nothing. They don't know the rules, they don't know the lingo, they don't know the format, they really don't even understand the objective.
I mean teaching people stuff is always hard, but freshman debaters are jumping into an entirely new world. The high school basketball coach doesn't have to start by teaching kids to dribble.
And I'm no expert in pedagogy, but I'm aware that different people learn things in different ways. Unfortunately, you're pretty much stuck being an "auditory learner" at Rosemount Debate. This year I typed up some lecture outlines, but it's tough for the people who really would have rather read a book.
I am aware that there are textbooks for this type of thing, but that approach has a few problems. First of all, I'm an egomaniac so I'm sure I'd have a whole laundry list of problems with the book. Also, I can't make kids buy the book and pretty much none of them will. Also, the task of reading 4 or 5 different textbooks to try to pick my favorite seems daunting.
The freely available materials on the subject are also universally terrible. Ever read the "Policy Debate" category of wikipedia? Yeesh.
So I've decided to prepare a series of articles providing an introduction to policy debate, mostly to scratch my own itch, but perhaps other people will find them useful too. Wouldn't be the first time I've started on some kind of grand debate-related project and gave up, but I think that starting now will give me time to at least put something useful together before next season.
Right away I'm planning on writing "What is an Argument", "How a debate round works", and "The Stock Issues". Anybody have any good ideas for stuff I should cover?