I was looking at the St. Marks invitation on JOT and noticed that in honor of Ross Smith (RIP Ross) that the St. Marks tournament would be moving to the 100 speaker point system for its tournament in 2 weeks. In a podcast and probably in some other diatribes I’ve been known to go on I’ve discussed some of my concerns with the 100 speaker point system.
Let me make this clear I am strongly in support of a more expansive speaker point scale. I think there are differences between 28s, and 28.5s and the current system does not allow a judge to differentiate between the quality of those speeches. My fear with this scale is that in a 6 round tournament (which is the norm in hs) this system has the potential to “mess up” who clears and speaker awards in general. I feel like the community does need to do a couple of things to make this work (not just for this tournament but to transition away from the 30 point scale in general).
1st– Have judges add to their philosophies on the judge wiki what their speaker point scale will look like / translates to in the 100 speaker point world. This makes it a little more transparent, helps with filling out pref sheets, and could in general guide people who are undecided about what their scale should look like. I will explain what my system will look like and the rationale for it.
To me the 100 point system resembles a test. 100 speaker points means you’ve been perfect, you debated without flaws, completely error free. Below I will list how I will give speaker points and what they would translate to in the current system
69-below- 27 and below
My rational for this scale- My problem with the 30 point scale (and I feel like this is a problem for many) is that in reality debaters are given one of five speaker points, 27, 27.5, 28, 28.5, 29. Most points given do not go above 29 or below 27. This system provides little room to differentiate between the best speech I saw at a tournament and the worst. As you’ll notice with my scale (and how it would translate in our current system) the range gets larger as the speaker points go down. The difference to me between a 29.5 and 30 is quite negligible; both displayed either perfection or near perfection so their range should be smaller. But it is within what we call now 28.5, 28, and 27.5s that I want to have a larger range of points to choose from. The reasoning for this is that I want to be able to differentiate more between a solid 28 and a low 28, or a strong 28.5 and low 28. Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m not 100 percent (no pun intended) sure what the difference between an 88 and 87 is, it is something every judge will have to use their gut for but I feel like the goal of moving to this system was rooted in being able to expand the scale we currently use. I am not saying my scale is perfect and I hope to get additional input from people about it, but so far it seems ok to me.
Brian Delong posted how the average speaker point assigned at the Kentucky college tournament was an 87. That seems pretty high to me. In my scale that translates to the highest possible “28”. I’ve been out of college debate for a while but know the quality of that product hasn’t improved that much in 3 years. I feel like 100 scale was chosen because it’s how we grade stuff. If the 87 is the average speaker point assigned then the test we’ve given is too easy.
Dr. David glass posted on edebate sometime in the last year an idea that does have some merit for tournament directors. If you do plan on transitioning to the 100 point scale eventually, continue using the current 30 point scale but have judges also assign what they would have given under the 100 point scale, publish those results and give the community an idea of what the scale looks like. That way when we do decide to make a full transition in 1,2,5 years we have an idea of what these numbers mean to most people. The goal of this post is to get that ball rolling in HS so that speaker points are not a big shock at St. Marks or at future tournaments with the 100 point scale.
Things I hope don’t happen within this system:
1.) Judges choose 100,99,98,97,96 as their move away from the 30 point scale
2.) Judges just multiply their current system x 3.3 and translate their points
3.) Any other potential weird thing.
If you think about it like a test I think it should be all good. If you give out block 99s your test is way to easy
2nd– if tournaments do decide to move away (like St. Marks has) provide some guidance on the ballot, your own scale or range of what points should look like. The first time this was done at Wake Forest a couple years ago I don’t think that scale was too great. Tournament directors can / should do a breakdown like I did above and indicate on their ballots what at their tournament they feel an 80-87 means at their tournament. It means there is 1 scale all judges are asked to use and that lowers the chances of huge problems with points. I know the anti establishment rebels in you hate this idea, but ultimately you are guests at their tournaments and much like you are asked to respect other rules at their tournament this should be one of them. Doing this ensures (or attempts to) that nobody gets screwed by an outlier (someone giving 99s and 100s only or someone giving 60s and 70s only).
Speaker points have always been incredibly important for deciding seeds and teams clearing, it behooves the community and judges specifically to take some time and think about how they plan on assigning points in this system and to provide some transparency to the rest of the community about it. I welcome the new more expansive point system era, but hope we take the change seriously or risk total speaker point chaos.