Allan Louden


It remains a surprise I have been involved with competitive debate for five decades, a sobering self- reflection. Viewed more charitably, participating in history imparts a certain authority, a wisdom reserved to longevity, even as one’s memory reconstructs. This essay purports to provide a history of the National Debate Tournament for roughly the last 50 years. Doing justice to the historical sweep would be a book-length project, this summary much more modest. The essay is inevitably selective, recounted from a particular point of view. History never allows more. It has been my experience that there are enduring prospects for organizations across time, especially those defined by competition. A historic lens dis-closes how the NDT has changed and what that may suggest for the future. This short history recounts the changes in debate through the lens of three core trends: structure, technology, and doctrine. The aim is to contextualize the NDT’s history as a series of recurrent downsides and opportunities, often inherent in organization’s purpose and function.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.