Monthly Archives: November 2010

Podcast Tonight

We are going to record a podcast tonight, so if you have questions post them in the comments.

The more detailed your questions are the more likely they are to get answered. Questions that are super generic like “why is condo good” are most likely to be dismissed. Questions about how to answer specific arguments related to the topic are more likely to get answered, as are questions that give some background info.

For example, someone recently emailed me a question about a K and included the 2 cards the neg won on and their 3 answers and asked why they were insufficient. That is a good question because it gives a lot of ground for discussion. Saying “we lost on security, y?” is much harder to discuss/answer.

Winning a Coin Flip

For when you need that added elim edge

If you’re looking for a way to randomize your choices in a given dilemma, put away that quarter. It’s useless. (Sorry, Two-Face.)

But if you’re trying to game the game, flip away. Researchers at the University of British Columbiaproved it can work.

After an argument about how to divide patients randomly into groups for a clinical trial (some wanted to use a coin toss, others argued that coin tosses could be manipulated), they tested their theories on a group of medical residents. When given some basic pointers and five minutes of practice, the subjects could intentionally show heads as much as 68 percent of the time. Here’s how they beat randomness.

Bad Arguments

An interesting real world discussion over a recent op ed recommending Obama announce he will not seek re-election in order to foster bipartisanship.

This was less of a problem in the bad old days, when powerful gatekeepers to the opinion industry weeded out the non-mainstream viewpoints. Of course, the best and the brightest of the mainstream had some galactically stupid ideas too. I’m not suggesting we return to that world — it’s neither possible nor desirable.

When it comes to policy debates I’m always on the side of John Stuart Mill — the best way to deal with stupid arguments is to counter them with better arguments in the public sphere. That said, there’s a serious cost to this philosophy in a world in which the stupid ideas can command the policy agenda. The opportunity cost to the inordinate amount of time that is spent swatting away these ideas is that less time is spent debating policies and ideas that have a real chance of being enacted. Furthermore, sometimes the dumbass idea just goes into hibernation among a few die-hard believers until a propitious moment arises for its zombie revival.

In the end, I think Mill still carries the day. Still, every once in a while, it sure would be nice not to have to waste the energy and the attention on stupid policy ideas.

Site Upgrades

We have made two recent upgrades to The 3NR that we hope will improve your user experience.

First, we have installed IntenseDebate, a feature-rich commenting system that includes comment threading, commenter profiles, reputation points, and robust connections to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. You can now log-in to The 3NR using an Intense Debate account, a WordPress.com account, Facebook, Twitter, or OpenID. Victory Briefs Daily has been using IntenseDebate for several weeks and the user experience is excellent. Even if you don’t make use of any of the new features, the IntenseDebate system should make for a more elegant commenting experience for all of our users.

Second, we have begun caching the site to increase its responsiveness and cut down on the time it takes to load pages. Our goal is to eliminate downtime and ensure that our content is always available when our users need it. If anyone notices any problems with the site during this transition, please let me know — bill@the3nr.com.

Thanks for your continued support.

Getting Better at Debate: Tips for Developing a Personal Debate Curriculum

Last month, The 3NR published the first in a series of articles intended to help answer the most difficult question that debate coaches are frequently asked: “How do I get better at debate?”. Many committed students are frustrated when their hard work does not produce winning records. At times, it can seem like banging one’s head against a wall: despite doing everything that is asked of you, your winning percentage just doesn’t seem to be improving.

A basic, overarching approach to debate training was outlined in the first article in this series. In particular, four guiding principles were advanced to assist students as they developed a personal debate curriculum:

  1. Improvement happens fastest with consistent daily effort.
  2. Reducing broad concepts into small, manageable tasks is essential.
  3. Integrative approaches are the most effective way to pursue meaningful improvements.
  4. The work done outside the classroom determines the value of the work done inside the classroom.

The best way to approach improvement, it was argued, is to develop a personal set of “courses” that are planned in advance and which supplement the training one receives from formal classes and practices. In this article, some of these specific courses will be introduced.

This “course catalog” is not meant to be comprehensive; one of the most difficult lessons that every debater needs to learn is that—unlike in other academic courses—it is impossible to “finish” or “master” the curriculum of policy debate. There is always more to learn and more to prepare. The goal, instead, is to help students construct a personal curriculum that best serves their needs and which offers a pathway to improvement outside the classroom.

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Asking better cx questions vs a K

Many people follow a script when debating any kind of K and ask the same cross x questions regardless of what the neg’s argument is. These questions often follow a general trend started at a camp or by a dominant team, and like fashion trends they can’t all be fleece vests- some are going to suck. So in an attempt to improve the quality of your cx’s I am going to go through some current popular lines of questioning criticizing them and then offer some alternatives (omg its just like a k inside of this post about k’s… braaaaaaaaaaaaaahm)

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