A while back I combined 2 concepts in my mind
1. Judge philosophies are for the most part totally useless. Most of them read exactly the same “i’ll vote for anything if you explain it well etc”. Even the few that break from this mold are usually a series of opinions followed by “however, these are just my defaults, I will ignore them based on arguments in a debate”.
2. There doesn’t seem to be a better way to get the crucial information you need as a debater out of a judges head. Asking questions before the debate usually yields more of the same- a bland, flavorless mush of information not helpful for you to adapt.
There had to be a better way. So I decided to come up with a hypothetical that would serve as a debate rorschach test. I tried to create a scenario that would be as balanced as possible so that people could then project onto it their views of debate.
Some issues I wanted to address included (among others)
-what constitutes an argument
-what emphasis is placed on evidence quality
-how big a part of the activity is research
-how do judges interpret/reward spin
-many judges tell debaters to call out bad/stupid arguments, will they put their money where their mouth is?
These are issues I think judges often aren’t entirely honest about in their JP’s.
I will use Bill as an example here. I use Bill not because I thought his comments were uniquely interesting, but because due to his writing on here and his comments on the podcasts there is a larger body of his work to draw on.
In his JP Bill says-
I have voted negative when the 2NR has gone for positions that I think are stupid—even once for Heidegger—but this is usually because the affirmative messed something up, not because the negative really “won”. On the other hand, I have often voted affirmative despite believing that the negative debated very well and demonstrated superior technical skills when they have gone for a stupid argument/strategy. If you rely on spin control and technical superiority to overcome the odious quality of your stale and generic 1NC strategies, I am a really bad judge for you.
Yet his posts about the hypothetical indicate he would vote neg and endorse the technical spin in a K debate.
He later writes-
2. I really don’t get the Heidegger argument. At all. You know how some judges are extremely frustrating because they won’t vote on a particular argument or genre of argument and you don’t find that out until after you’ve gone for it and lost? It’s like that, except I’m warning you ahead of time. I’ve actually voted negative once this year when the 2NR went for Heidegger: the 1AR spent about 15 seconds on it (the 1NR had taken it for five minutes) and I still almost voted aff on “calculative thought is inevitable and good beep beep beep”. I used to think the reason I couldn’t wrap my head around the Heidegger argument was because I just hadn’t seen someone competent extend it, but I’m still waiting and I’m not very optimistic. Unless you think you’ll be the first person to successfully convince me that identifying problems and solving them causes extinction (or *gasp* something worse!), you are encouraged to go for another position.
Bill no doubt has read more K literature, and more about Heidegger specifically, then the average high schooler trying to write a 2AC block to it. And yet here he indicates that it is possible he just can’t “wrap his head around it”, but believes a student debating in front of him should understand it.
I was honestly shocked when I read that Bill would vote neg because I think we have been on a few panels where a debate broke down very similar to the hypothetical (though obviously not this extreme) and Bill voted aff and I voted neg.
Similarly, if I was asked to wager how Herndon would vote based on judging with him and this from his JP:
I ultimately think that I am a pretty fair judge that falls somewhere in the middle in terms of K debates. I’d probably PREFER a politics throw down. However, I enjoy a discussion of postcolonialism and ontology as much as the next person. I think you should read whatever you want. Being good on an argument I dislike is better than being bad on an argument I like. Both sides should focus on the role of the ballot, how the impacts interact with one another, and why the world of the alt/aff is better in comparison. I will vote for the K and do so regularly – although i will often make jokes about being openly hostile towards it. If you give me a piece of Zizek or Baudrillard evidence you can expect me to scoff at it as I read it. If you aren’t explaining the K I will vote against you if it makes no sense. I think the neg has to work very hard for me to completely ignore the advantages to the aff. I default to comparing the philosophical and political implications to the aff.
I would have bet on him going neg. This is not to insult/denigrate the judging skills of either Herndon or Batterman. I will save the insults/denigration for Roy.
Roy starts out
As I’ve gotten older (maybe grumpier too) more things seem to frustrate me with the debates I judge. I’m not sure if some of the debating has transitioned (note that means become worse) or I’ve become a pickier critic. I feel like this may become more of a blog post then judge philosophy but I promise it’s a good read one way or another.
Roy, your promise was broken.
He later says:
2.) Key argument emphasis- The other speeches seldom slow down and emphasize key arguments, most of it is a random array of blitzing through arguments. I can count the number of times my kids and others have walked out of rooms saying we just got screwed XYZ judge just didn’t understand our argument. Are you really naïve / cocky / dumb enough to think that they didn’t get it? If you win the debate I promise I’ll vote for you, but if you don’t do the work to win the debate I won’t gift it to you.
3.) Even if statements. While you obviously always think your opponents arguments suck, I don’t necessarily always agree. Why don’t you tell me about how even if they win xyz crappy argument that you should still win because of ABC? This is why coaches want their kids to judge debates more. The perspective you gain from the back of the room helps you know how to sell your argument. Your goal is not just to be right, but to easily convince me of it. Decisions take much longer because this is missing from so many debates
5.) Evidence comparison anyone? It seems like since 2002 anything with a tag, cite, url and some text is considered evidence. Notice how “quals” is missing from that. Aside from the fact that evidence is usually so bad, its qualifications are often worse. Teams do not invest sufficient time into beating up people’s evidence. Where is it from? Who wrote it? Is that person qualified? When is it from? Does it have a warrant? Does It even say what its tagged? I am convinced a 2ar could beat up most politics disads by just indicting the evidence, mocking it for quality, and extending the aff. I will not do the work here for you. I will not read another team’s evidence and say because it was bad I won’t vote on it unless YOU TELL ME TO DO THIS. Maybe judges are to blame for accepting too much, but the relative non interventionist in me finds it reasonable that teams should have to point out their evidence is bad. While this might encourage people to cut bad “cards”, they will get their act together when they lose on bad evidence.
Obvi he votes neg…
I will stop for a moment here to discuss how I would vote. From 2001 until probably 2007 I would of voted neg without even thinking about it. 2007- now probably voted neg after some thought, perhaps a great deal of it. Now I am less sure.
You can obviously debate how well I constructed a hypothetical that is actually balanced, but I think if you read back through the comments knowing what I was trying to accomplish you can quickly see that everyone who comments (including me in my devils advocate posts) is injecting a LOT into the debate, and especially after their views are challenged they double down on their initial impressions and cast them as absolutes.
This is particularly evident in the “toulmin model” posts that just keep repeating the aff has not made “an argument”. This seems clearly false. They may not have “made an argument” about the substance of the K (though that is also debatable), they have clearly made an argument about how the judge should resolve competing claims when 1 is “spin” and 1 is “evidence”.
In this particular instance, one thing I tell kids all the time and that I have heard several of the posters in the thread tell students is that it is bad to just repeat your arguments and not clash with what the other team is saying. That is what the neg is doing here, repeating their ABC in each speech. The aff has already made their response to ABC, and read a piece of evidence on it. The aff then moved on to arguing about why you should prefer that piece of evidence over analytics from a debater. At the end of many debates judges are left to decide for themselves whether or not to prefer a piece of evidence or an argument from a debater. Several people I talked too about this all responded “yes” that it would be better for the neg to re-read or paraphrase parts of the evidence then it would be to give this 1AR. That seems totally insane, and to me is what is wrong with many debates. Teams who don’t understand their arguments “fake it” and then win, never being forced to actually go back and learn what they are talking about.
I think the obvious part that throws people off here is the aff admission that they don’t know what is going on/understand the arguments in the round. If that part of the 1AR had been removed, and the aff had just said “the block spin is garbage, prefer our card, it answers all their warrants” and then paraphrased parts of the card, I think many more people would have voted aff. And IMO that demonstrates how silly their “tolmin model” point is, it can be manipulated to feign understanding so easily that it serves no purpose.
The neg here has given “claim, warrant, evidence”, but based on all the cards in the debate (which is their evidence) and the aff’s card, it is wrong. They have misinterpreted their evidence. The aff is pointing this out, but can’t really explain why. How often does this happen in debates about the economy, climate science, or international relations theory? Based on the responses in this thread one would guess never. Based on my experience, quite frequently.
The last thing I will comment on for now is the people who have told me something like “if we just look at cards, why not just mail them in and skip the speaking”. This seems facially ridiculous. The aff has not said ‘evidence should always trump talking’. They have made a specific argument about the content of this debate, the team they are debating, and this particular argument. The neg FAILED to talk their way out of it- they didn’t respond to it in any way. If you really read this hypothetical and the conclusion you came to was voting aff means the death of speaking and the rise of the cult of evidence I am a little amazed. This, to me, seems like the weakest challenge of them all- if we place so much emphasis on speech should the neg not be required to SAY that the aff’s argument is ridiculous as you think it to be? Apparently not.
The reduction of the hypothetical to “spin vs evidence” is fatally flawed- both sides are using spin and evidence, just in different places.