Monthly Archives: October 2011

Infrastructure and Immigration Final 2012-2013 Topic Candidates

The National Federation of High Schools has announced the final two topic candidates for the 2012-2013 season. Based on voting by states and national organizations, the candidates are infrastructure and immigration:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States.

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its legal protection of economic migrants in the United States.


Last of the Flo-hicans: on the death of tabula rasa judging-part 3- about the offense/defense paradigm

I started this post a long time ago but the draft got deleted and I never really came back to it. Recently, however, I have been annoyed again by the chatter about how stupid the offense defense paradigm is. So, I am going to attempt to part explain/part defend the theoretical usefulness of seeing things “offense/defense”.


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Evan McCarty's Senior Speaker Address

Each year at the Heart of Texas Invitational at the St. Mark’s School of Texas, a senior debater is selected to deliver a speech at the Sunday morning breakfast. Quarterfinalist teams, Sophomore Hoe Down competitors, and their coaches are invited to attend. This year’s speaker—joining an impressive list of previous honorees—was Evan McCarty from Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Alabama. The text of his speech—about the importance of friendship in debate—is available below the fold.

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Decision Fatigue and Debate

John Tierney, a science columnist at the New York Times, wrote an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine about the concept of “decision fatigue”. In it, he explains that the mental work required to make decisions is substantially more taxing on our brains than we typically think and that the associated “decision fatigue” leads us to make bad decisions.

Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts, usually in either of two very different ways. One shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. (Sure, tweet that photo! What could go wrong?) The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice. Ducking a decision often creates bigger problems in the long run, but for the moment, it eases the mental strain. You start to resist any change, any potentially risky move — like releasing a prisoner who might commit a crime. So the fatigued judge on a parole board takes the easy way out, and the prisoner keeps doing time.

The concept of decision fatigue has several applications to competitive academic debate.

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Senior Speaker, Acolyte Honored at Heart of Texas

Each year at the Heart of Texas Invitational at the St. Mark’s School of Texas, two special awards are given to deserving students and coaches: the Senior Speaker Award and the Acolyte Award. This year’s recipients were Evan McCarty of Mountain Brook High School and Jon Voss of Glenbrook South High School, respectively. A list of the past recipients of these awards is available below the fold.

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Tips For Competing As A Small School

The October issue of Rostrum—the National Forensic League’s monthly magazine—features an excellent article written by Josh Brown of Homewood-Flossmoor High School about competing in policy debate as a “small school” (pdf). It echoes much of the advice provided by Dr. David Cheshier in a 2002 Rostrum article, “How Very Small Debate Programs Can Achieve National Success” (pdf). Both articles are worthwhile reading regardless of the size of one’s program.

TOC Bid List

So far this season, 55 bids to the Tournament of Champions have been earned by policy teams at qualifying tournaments. Rohan Sadagopal of Edina High School and the University of Minnesota is curating a comprehensive record of this year’s bids using a publicly-accessible Google Doc. To make it easier to remember, you can access the document via Bids that have been officially certified are posted on the TOC website.