I tend to be skeptical of the "good old days" mentality. (As well as the whole "NCFCA will change the world mantra" but that's another topic). I've been around NCFCA/stoa more or less a decade, and I've known folks who first started well before that. There have been some issues around with some people for a long time; and there are still plenty of folks doing this for the right reasons.
That being said, I share most of the concerns he's talking about. I've seen the things he's talking about happen to varying degrees over the years - sometimes really bad cases - and they've always turned me off.
I think part of the reason it can seem like the old days are better is just the starry-eyed perception we all had about it when we first started. Then you mature, eventually you graduate, the whole thing has lost it's magic for you, and you see it all with more skeptical eyes. Perhaps it's not that the situation has gotten that much worse, just that our judgement has matured to notice and emphasize the bad things?
I know that the NCFCA has grown tremendously and gotten a lot harder emphasis on rules/regularity. Compared to a time when things were smaller, more informal, less prestigious (and ok I suppose more often unfair), I guess it's possible we have an environment slightly more conducive to these kinds of temptations for students.
Anyway perhaps we'd be better off talking about how to contribute to a more positive culture. I think alumni - especially coaches but also somewhat judges - can contribute to this a lot. Totally random things that come to mind: calling people out when they debate more like a conservative talk show than an analytical thinker. Calling them out when they give a memorized impromptu, apologetics, or extemp speech with that 30 second section at the end to try and tie it into the topic. (OK a story - there was this one tournament where they did all the extemp on Wednesday afternoon. I got stuck timing three rounds in a row in the same room. There were a lot of students who repeated in the same room. Most of them clearly gave the exact same speech each time. Surely their coaches were aware of this? How could they think they were actually teaching them how to be knowledgeable and analytical about current events? And then I've heard students "brag" about their tear-jerker apol conversion stories that they would pull out every single speech to get a bunch of firsts...)
An organization's culture is made up of millions of small actions and mindsets that combine to create certain norms. Coaches have an opportunity to train students to think and behave certain ways about the event. Judges have an opportunity to notice people pulling less than helpful stunts trying to win, and dock them for it. If people are doing wrong things just to win, they might stop if they started losing for it.
And of course, any students out there have the highest opportunity, to remember competition is fun and a motivator, not the end goal. To stay within ethical limits. To respect opponents, and cultivate and value friendships. And to have a real love for the value of logical analysis and edifying communication - that cultivates meaningful thinking in the audience, the competitor, and the speaker. And a real disgust for rhetorical methods meant to shortcut thinking, and sometimes even manipulate.
The whole situation just is what it is - which I think factually is a mixture of the more pessimistic and the more optimistic accounts. You can't really change it as a whole, but we can as individuals do things the right way, and give and receive a lot of value through the forum NCFCA provides.
Region IV AlumnusCog Debate
"But I declare that Carthage must be destroyed."
Cato the Elder