In a new series I will be asking the question “is X or Y legit?”

I will refrain from inserting my opinion in the original post, and depending on how the discussion goes may interject later on.

Legit 1

Bill Batterman posted a ballot earlier in the year about a debate he judged on T social worker. In said ballot he outlined all the key definitions for why SS must be a SW, and included quotes from the articles. A key point here is that many of the more recent definitions all quoted/referenced an earlier definition, so in essence batterman did the same thing that the authors of some of the definitions did.

The relevant part of his decision:

Bill Batterman is the Director of Debate at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 2009 Wisconsin Debate Coaches’ Association Coach of the Year, Bill is an instructor at the Georgetown Debate Seminar and the Spartan Debate Institute at Michigan State University. https://www.the3nr.com/2009/09/12/ballot-greenhill-round-robin-round-5-%E2%80%94-kinkaid-bk-aff-vs-westminster-at/ 9-12-09

The negative’s interpretation is that “social services” are defined by the interaction between professional social workers and their clients. Several pieces of evidence are offered to support this interpretation: The 1NC Van Wormer 2006 evidence cites “Elizabeth Wickenden’s discussion of the definition of personal social services” and explains that “social services … are a mixture of concrete in-kind benefits and services relying on the helpful effects of professional interaction with the client. … [A] benefit is considered to be a [personal—unhighlighted] social service when professional interaction is critical to effective use of the service. … This [definition is somewhat cyclical as it] defines social services as things that social workers do. [The definition presents us with several problems. Some immediate questions are: Is it personal social services if it doesn’t involve social workers? What is the position of the profession in such services? Are personal social services analogous to medical services, which probably would not be recognized as medical services if they were not offered under the auspices of medical professionals? Wickenden seems to imply that] social services need to be ‘directed, supervised or performed by social workers.’” The 1NC Hahn 2007 evidence quotes several authors and summarizes their definitions of “social services.” “Kahn (1979) defined “social services” in the United States as [‘those services rendered to individuals and families under societal auspices,] excluding the major independent fields of service (that is, excluding health, education, housing, and income maintenance).’ … [In practical terms, those] services would include day care, foster care, institutional facilities, [information and referral services,] counseling, [sheltered workshops,] homemaking services, vocational training and rehabilitation.” It then quotes Smith (2002) who “believed that social services are the activities encompassing an expanding array of programs developed to improve the lives of families and individuals.” The evidence highlights the next sentence about Smith’s definition: “These services include programs designed to address domestic violence, rape, AIDS, poverty, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, and the needs of disabled persons.” The 2NC reads a piece of evidence from the House Ways and Means Green Book—a publication that “provides program descriptions and historical data” for federal programs. In this case, the evidence is explaining that Title XX Social Services Block Grant Program funds “cannot be used for [the following: most] medical care except family planning; [rehabilitation] and [certain detoxification services; purchase of land, construction, or major capital improvements; most room and board except emergency short-term services;] educational services generally provided by public schools; [most social services provided in, and by employees of, hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons; cash payments for subsistence; child day care services that do not meet State and local standards; and wages to individuals as a social service except wages of welfare recipients employed in child day care.]” The 2NC also reads a piece of evidence (Burke 2004) citing the definition of “social service” in the CARE Act of 2003: “[Defines social services as helping people in need, reducing poverty, improving outcomes of low-income children, revitalizing low-income communities, and services empowering low-income people to become self-sufficient.] The term “social services” does not include programs delivering educational assistance under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or the Higher Education Act.” Just for clarification purposes, I assume, the 2NC also read a piece of evidence from the U.S. Department of Education establishing that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act includes No Child Left Behind—this didn’t become relevant to the debate. The 2NC read evidence from Elizabeth Wickenden (in a 1976 journal article) that further developed the initial 1NC interpretation that quoted her. This was one of the most important pieces of evidence read by either side because it provided a comparative argument about the overarching way in which social services should be defined—based on the goals or objectives of the policy or based on the mechanism of the policy. Wickenden argues that “[Both the old public assistance titles and the newer Title XX undertake what is now called “definition by objective”: in other words,] social services are to be defined by what they seek to achieve. [Where the old law talked about “strengthening family life,” Title XX lists five objectives: economic self-support, self-sufficiency, protective care for children or adults who need it, prevention of institutionalization through community services, and provision of services to help people in institutions. But] definition by objective alone opens the field wide for functions which fall clearly into other categories. For example, the goal of self-support is directly served by education, job placement, medical or rehabilitative service, job creation (by tax policy or otherwise), farm policy, military policy, and, in fact, virtually all other public policies. While social services can be directed to this common goal, the goal cannot define them. Something more is needed.] Moreover, Title XX clearly opens the way to many differing interpretations of what is to fall within these objectives by prohibiting federal challenge of any expenditure “on the grounds that it is not an expenditure for the provision of a service” within the meaning of the act.3”


The question of whether “social services” should be defined based on the mechanism used or the intended outcome seems like a very important one. At least for me, this is a much more interesting and meaningful question than “does X interpretation of social services preserve neg ground / aff flexibility” — those arguments are always self-serving and criminally underdeveloped.

So the question: is it legit to read this card in a T interpretation? Is it more or less legitimate to just “read” Battermans words as your own argument (in essence paraphrasing)?

16 thoughts on “Legit?

  1. Asclepius


    First, I don't see why this would be illegit.

    Second, I assume the reason he provided those comments was to teach the debaters and not simply intellectually masturbate. I have trouble believing that he only wanted to benefit those debaters, however, since he posted the ballot online. As such, the argument is made for others to make.

    Now, I feel like debaters should paraphrase this argument (turn it into their own words/block) and not simply "card" batterman – but I do believe that using his argument, and even quotes from his argument, is legit.

  2. Josh Gonzalez

    I suppose that it is legit, but it's not very good evidence – it would be, after all, out of context.

    I do not use the phrase "out of context" in mounting an ethical challenge to the debaters involved, but instead in its literal sense. The evidence assumes a particular debate round and a particular time that bears similarity to the one at hand, but not enough for it to be particularly applicable to a particular round of debate. It's interesting, but irrelevant, absent a move by the author to argue for broader applicability of the conclusions reached in this particular debate.

    Two objections to what I've said come to mind:

    1. "But it's not different than every other card we read, none of which assume a policy debate round."

    True, none of the other evidence assumes a policy debate round, but that is precisely why the above evidence is special – it DOES assume a policy debate round, a different round from the one at hand. There are plenty of reasons why other cards could be abstracted to apply to any given round of debate, but the Batterman evidence need not go through a process of abstraction: in its ownmost specificity, it is decidedly NOT about any other round. Other cards may lack similarity, but the Batterman evidence REFUTES similarity.

    2. "It has an intent to define."

    Yes, but it has an intent to define that is necessarily limited to the debate that Bill saw. While I'm not a close friend of Bill's, I hear he's a pretty good judge who does his best to call 'em like he sees 'em. This Batterman-the-judge evidence reaches a conclusion that is limited by what happened in the debate he watched, unlike a theoretical piece of Batterman-the-policy-wonk-at-a-think-tank evidence, which would draw upon the most comprehensive set of research possible.

    A baseball analogy – if I had only watched the last week of the baseball season, then was asked to render a judgment on the question of "are the Rays any good?", I would probably say "no," since they were just swept by the Red Sox. However, if you have followed the entire baseball season, you would say "absolutely, in fact, they might be the best team in baseball." The Batterman evidence is built on even less than a week, it's built on a few innings. (For National League types, think Phillies – they just got crazy beat up by the Mets).

    NOW – one final caveat. The reason I wouldn't read this evidence is not because it's "illegit." I think it's as legit as anything else on the internet. I just think it isn't very good (no offense to Bill, it's the context, not the author). Given a different context, I think that evidence written by qualified debaters or former debaters is, on balance, great for the activity. I don't mean Skarb/Marbury sort of stuff (obviously ridiculous), I'm thinking of actual research and writing that has open authorship, obvious and open intent (the Carroll-Klinger consult raise/re-raise leaves me feeling a bit uncomfortable), good underlying research and reasoning, and ideally, falls under some variation of the gold standard of peer review.

  3. Robert

    Would it be equally legit to quote Bauschard's article on next year's resolution for topicality?

  4. miles

    @ robert
    no it's different, b/c i don't think stefan quotes experts in the field ..

  5. Rodrigo

    Im not really commenting on the post but using this comment to suggest something to the blog, im already in summer vacation and my debate season has been over and im waiting till camp comes around, what should a debater do before attending camp, what sort of prep or reading? any suggestions? I hope they actually read this.

  6. aschirmer

    I judged a debate where this was read and i determined in the end that it was legit. Woodward PP read this at the NDCA vs Westminster TA. Though the "legitimacy" of the evidence wasn't really in question, i did have to internally decide whether or not it should be allowed.

    Woodward said that Westminster's aff did not use a social worker, and instead of reading a few pieces of evidence which defines a social worker, read Bill's decision where he cites authors to define their point.

    Now on principle i think the evidence is legit- there have been many a card found somewhere online, where someone not so qualified (not that you arn't bill..) cites published qualified sources. I think that those pieces of evidence are fine to use in a debate.

    I also determined that the evidence was contextual- In the context of the social services poverty topic bill was analyzing what the evidence says about a social service using social workers. In the original debate where this was read- (i'm assuming) it was whether or not education used a social worker (based on Kinkaid's education aff). In my debate the issue was whether or not the income security/unemployment benefits/Westminster's plan- used a social worker. Using it to define social worker, and limit out what is and what is not considered one, i felt, was most certainly with in the context of this topic and debate round. I also think that because the evidence does define the "types of things" which can and the "types of things which cannot" be a social service, it becomes applicable to other debates. I also do not think that the evidence was very specific to the CONTEXT of the Westminster Kinkaid debate, which made it very easily applicable to others on the topic.

    I will disagree with gonzo when he says that the batterman evidence is limited to the debate that occurred exclusively. I judged prob over 25 debates this year where the issue came down to social worker T, and his analysis of the evidence (though applicable to that round) could have been applied to ANY NUMBER of those debate rounds in an adequate way. Nothing in that evidence screams "specific to education, or Kinkaid or Westminster."

    All of this is prob the reason why Woodward PP decided to read it in this debate. The way that Westminster framed their arguments when they debated Kinkaid was persuasive, the card cited all of the major authors and did a detailed analysis of their definition, and presented an argument which coincided with what Pesce and max were trying to prove vs Ellis and Daniel.

    I ultimately concluded the evidence was in because it presented a common argument on the topic T- social services must use a social worker, it included most of the commonly read pieces of evidence on that question and finally that it wasn't specific to any previous debate to the point where it wasn't absolutely relevant in mine.

    Did i vote neg? Well no… pesce had issues in the CX with his limits arguments, but at the end of the day i thought the card was legit in front of me.

  7. Anon

    Talk about the consult CP, what generic DAs will be used as net benefits to it, how to answer these DAs. Talk about nuances of hegemony that you'd like to hear discussed more, talk about your thoughts on what cases will be common. Talk about CMR, I don't really understand why it's so important to military success. Is there any aff that could link turn midterms DAs?

    It would be great if you would do some of those things

  8. Robert

    <blockquote cite="#commentbody-9643">
    Anon :
    Is there any aff that could link turn midterms DAs?

    Midterms link turns aren't too uncommon – the most popular is probably econ/jobs (mostly with the poverty topic), saying plan saves the economy or creates jobs, and thats key to dems getting elected.
    Also, saying plan is a win for Obama and that Obama is key to midterms is pretty popular and probably the easiest strategy.
    Westminster ran 'Latinos love our plan' (one of their immicare teams) and then 'latinos key to midterms' which was a good strategy, but will probably not be done next year, at least with Latinos, but could be done with things like 'independents like withdrawal' and 'independents key to midterms.'

  9. Interested User

    I think their will also be public supports withdraw evidence.

    I posted this in a different thread but i figured that it could probably do justice in this thread as well:


    Because I didn’t know where else to put this comment / suggestion, I figured it would be somewhat relevant here.

    What should someone being doing before camp to maximize the camp experience / education ?

    Obviously doing speed drills and researching the topic, but is their anything more to those? Or just generally good tips to make sure that you get the most out of camp from once you get their till the day you leave? "

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