Intervention is bad, non intervention is good. Let’s get to it
“What is intervention?”
Intervention is when a judge inserts themselves into a debate either to ignore an argument, make a cross application of an argument that was not made in the debate, or to add an explanation/warrant to an argument that was not in the debate. Classic examples of intervention I see now with some frequency
-I didn’t vote on XYZ theory argument- I just rejected the argument even though the other team did not say that
-Even though the aff did not explain how their “social services increasing now” evidence applied to every disad, they did read it in the 1AC so I applied it to your disad for them
-Neither team clearly won the k framework debate, so I decided to make up my own BS interpretation of who gets what arguments and decide the debate that way
-X team read a piece of evidence earlier in the debate, and even though they never reference or explain Y warrant in the piece of evidence it’s a card, so I voted for them instead of for your well reasoned analytic
“Isn’t judge intervention inevitable?”
No, actually it isn’t. Judges can actually choose to resolve the debate based on the arguments presented there within. Usually when people say this what they are saying is “sometimes debates are bad and hard to resolve” which is true. However, usually the level of intervention is not equal to the requirement. Take an example outlined above- aff drops sever perm is a VI. No intervention is required here- you can just vote neg. Now some think “but the neg didn’t really explain why it was a reason to reject the team”- which is a fine point, and one that should have been raised by the affirmative. In the absence of such an argument you can 100% make a decision with zero intervention, the problem is some people don’t like this. So they justify it in their minds by saying “well they didn’t’ give a warrant, so to vote for them I would have to intervene on their behalf and insert a warrant for why I should reject the team”. This is prima facia false- you do not have to insert for them a warrant to answer an argument the affirmative did not make. You have now intervened twice- once to make an answer for the aff, and second to create an answer to the answer for the neg.
Another instance where people say intervention is inevitable is when no impact analysis is given. It is true that absent impact analysis sometimes decisions are hard but there is a difference between interpretation and intervention. Interpretation is when you look at the totality of arguments presented by both sides and try and figure out which side has won based on a calculation of risks. So in a debate where the economy is not compared vs terrorism and both sides have read “x –> extinction” you would decide like this: neither side made an impact argument that was different from the other- both are extinction, so we move on to a different criteria- probability. Now the critics of intervention will says “you just intervened to say probability is important so ha!”. That is stupid. Both teams in a substance debate know that you as a judge are going to decide which team has won a more likely impact- this is interpretation. Sure if you said “well I decided economic decline was more probable because of XYZ that wasn’t in the debate” that is intervention. If you say econ decline is more probable because the team arguing that side won more of the arguments than that is interpretation.
I could go on and on about this and will be happy to if people have questions in the comments, but right now I have more rant to get to so we will stop there. Let’s move on to some of the offensive justifications for intervention
“intervention is more educational”
This belief is usually tied to “XYZ argument is stupid, so I intervene against it”. I am tempted to just say “ if its dumb, the other team should be able to refute it”. The obvious logical weight of this argument seems undeniable, and yet here we are, so I guess I will have to say more. Debate is a unique activity in a few regards, but for my purposes the part that is unique is that the coaches are also the judges. No other activity is like that- sports have 3rd party referees for obvious reasons, but in debate that is not how things are done. If football coach A acting as a referee in a game between two other schools called more penalties on the team running the west coast offense because they didn’t agree with that strategy would probably cause an uproar. In debate when coaches impose their views onto other coaches students its apparently ok. For shame. I have basically 3 points about this
1. No matter how smart you think you are, I guarantee you are actually substantially less smart than that. To assume that you know a better way of debate than the debaters and should therefore decide the debate for yourself is a pernicious form of academic colonialism. What you are doing when you decide to intervene is a calculated political act- you are choosing to set aside the arguments made within the debate and instead decide based upon a criteria decided by you before the debate takes place. It is my contention that no goal- whether it be the promotion of education, diversity, or tolerance- can justify such a move. This move in and of itself compromises the competitive integrity of the game. Which brings me to point 2
2. You are more than welcome to consider yourself as primarily an “educator”. Many coaches are also teachers and so that role fits. However when you get to a tournament you are no longer an educator, you are an adjudicator. A tournament by definition is a competitive realm. The students you are judging came there under the impression that they would be able to compete, not be preached at. Judge intervention violates this fundamental social contract of debate as an activity. You have no contract or obligation to “educate” the students of another school, and furthermore, have no right to attempt to instill your beliefs on them.
3. Intervention is both an unnecessary and insufficient method for achieving your goal- whether it be education or something else. Let’s look at the sever perm example again-the purpose of intervention here is to discourage an argument the judge considers silly and uneducational. What are the effects of intervention here- they are to signal to the team that this argument will not serve a competitive purpose. This is an ineffective signal however since it does not show that the argument has no utility, but only that it did not work in this instance for this judge. Furthermore, the signal sent to the opposing team is that they can avoid clash and refutation and rely on the judge to sort things out and they are therefore told that strategically they can ignore their opponents arguments to gain time answering other arguments. A vastly superior alternative would be to explain in the post round why this is a bad argument and how to defeat it.