Open and Closed Competitive Environments

Should debate cases and flows be shared with others?

My publishing company and ministry train debaters throughout the United States in three different leagues. There are two methodologies out there: OPEN and CLOSED. The former is definitely better than the latter.

Once you run a case in a round, consider the whole world knows about it.

Open environments consider their cases totally public once they read it into their first tournament. Closed environments consider it an ethical violation to have their case shared, discussed or even known beyond that first round. I’ve been involved in both environments, and I’ve found the open culture to be much more mature, educational and fun.

  1. Mature. We tell our debaters, “Don’t expect your case to stay secret.” Once it’s run at a tournament, assume the whole world knows about it. Trying to chase down anyone knowing about it is like chasing the wind. It will only frustrate debaters, taking away from good, wholesome work that they could be spending on making their cases stronger.
  2. Educational. Closed environment folks tend to be solely focused on the competitive element of the activity rather than the educational opportunities missed by trying to stay secretive. In an open environment, everyone is briefing against each other and you are constantly preparing for the briefing of others. The more teams tearing your case apart, the better. The more secretive the culture, the less anyone learns. It is no surprise to see open environment produce better debates and stronger debaters, which I have seen in my experience.
  3. Fun. Look, I realize that it feels invasive when your case gets discovered, briefed, and becomes a target. But this is the game we play. When everyone realizes this and accepts it, the environment becomes extremely fun! Closed environments inevitably resort to shaming, excluding, crying foul, etc. for having their cases briefed.

When I am able to choose the environment from which to coach, judge, administer and debate, I always choose the open environment.

Question: Does your debate community promote an OPEN environment?

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