Category Archives: Instruction & Commentary

How To Never Clip Cards: A Guide For Debaters

Evidence misrepresentation has become a major issue in high school and college policy debate over the last few seasons. “Card clipping” — the act of misrepresenting the text of evidence that a debater orally presents during a speech — is a particularly pernicious form of academic dishonesty that has drawn the attention of state and national governing organizations. With new guidelines in the process of being implemented, it will be important for students to understand how to protect themselves from accusations of evidence misrepresentation. To that end, this article seeks to provide students with straightforward, actionable advice about how to avoid clipping cards.

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Common Mistakes

After judging and scouting at a few tournaments this year I would like to address a set of common mistakes people have been making that relate both to strategy conception and preparation.

1. Stimulus bad- this is a good argument assuming the aff is a stimulus. Evidence about a “stimulus” is talking about things like Obama’s 700 billion package, not building a single road. A stimulus is generally where people decide “we need to spend a ton of money…. we will figure out on what at a later date”. They allocate the funds, and then people lower down the government food chain make important decisions about what projects get funded and how much etc. This is where arguments like “data cooking” come in- this argument assumes someone is tasked to select between competing projects and will be influenced by manufactured statistics into picking the wrong one. When the aff does something specific , spends little money etc these arguments fundamentally don’t link. Similarly, links like “crowd out” are linear to a point, but the impact has a threshold. When the aff is smaller than multiple recent government spending projects it is extremely difficult to prove your linear link crosses any meaningful impact threshold due to the plan.

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Decision Fatigue and Debate

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.

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Tips For Competing As A Small School

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.

Judge Philosophy Guidelines

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.

Updated 9-14

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Opening tournament prep

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)

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Summer Lecture Flashback: Debating Existential Risk

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.

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