John Tierney, a science columnist at the New York Times, wrote an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine about the concept of “decision fatigue”. In it, he explains that the mental work required to make decisions is substantially more taxing on our brains than we typically think and that the associated “decision fatigue” leads us to make bad decisions.
Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time.
The concept of decision fatigue has several applications to competitive academic debate.
Kids Today will be a new feature where I don my corduroy pants, cardigan and slippers, grab a Werthers original and complain about why debaters today are terrible and everything was better back in the day.
The October issue of Rostrum—the National Forensic League’s monthly magazine—features an excellent article written by Josh Brown of Homewood-Flossmoor High School about competing in policy debate as a “small school” (pdf). It echoes much of the advice provided by Dr. David Cheshier in a 2002 Rostrum article, “How Very Small Debate Programs Can Achieve National Success” (pdf). Both articles are worthwhile reading regardless of the size of one’s program.
As the season begins, there are many people who will begin judging for the first time. There are also many people who realize they are terrible judges and want to improve. As such, people will be writing and posting new judge philosophies. I wanted to try and put together a guide for people approaching this task to help guide them through the process. These insights are gleaned from my years in debate looking at judge philosophies and from many revisions to my own philosophy and the effects I saw it have on debates I judged.
I will update this post a few times before Greenhill, but a few people asked me about it so I wanted to get the bare bones out there.
I wrote an article about film study that was published in the September issue of Rostrum, the National Forensic League’s monthly magazine. Based on a lecture I gave this summer at Georgetown, the article is reprinted below the fold.
There are many factors that go into how you should prep for the beginning of the year: the size of your squad, how much time you have, what tournament you are going to etc. For the purpose of this series I will assume the following:
1. Your squad has 2-4 people (coaches or debaters) who can reliably be counted on to produce useful debate work
2. You will be making your debut at Greenhill or a similar large TOC tournament
3. You have a decent chance of making it to the doubles (4-2 record or better)
Over the course of the summer I recorded several lectures that have been posted to Debate Vision. While some readers might have already seen them, it can’t hurt to share them again here on The 3NR. This lecture introduces students to the concept of existential risk and provides tips for effectively debating it — it is embedded below the fold.
To make it easier to use the speaking drills referenced in the hip-hop article, I have compiled a document with all of the materials formatted and organized for ease of use. This freely available resource includes all of the hip-hop and other songs as well as a few additional materials that are helpful when doing speaking drills. Enjoy!
Over the course of the summer I recorded several lectures that have been posted to Debate Vision. While some readers might have already seen them, it can’t hurt to share them again here on The 3NR. On the heels of the film study lecture, this one discusses strategies for learning by watching others debate — it is embedded below the fold.
“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can—there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.” — Sarah Caldwell
If one looks closely enough, there are lessons to be learned about debate almost everywhere. The book Moneyball—Michael Lewis’s look at the exploitation of market inefficiencies in Major League Baseball—for example, can help us consider ways to exploit market inefficiencies in debate. While management strategies in professional baseball would seem at first glance to have little to do with high school debate, important lessons can nonetheless be learned—if only we take the time to dig a bit deeper.
In the same way that Moneyball inspired reflection about market inefficiencies in debate, Paul Edwards’ How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC provides the astute observer with a wealth of lessons for high school debaters. How to Rap is a comprehensive guide to hip-hop MCing that includes lengthy discussions of content, flow, writing, and delivery. Based on interviews with more than 100 MCs, Edwards’ book “marks a cultural coming-of-age for hip-hop — the first comprehensive poetics of this new literary form.”
While the entire book is fascinating, the section about delivery is particularly useful for high school debate. This article refashions Edwards’ advice to prospective MCs and applies it to debate. Five areas of advice are outlined: Breath Control, Taking Care of Your Voice, Enunciation, Vocal Style, and Presence/Swagger.