Kids Today…

Kids Today will be a new feature where I don my corduroy pants, cardigan and slippers, grab a Werthers original and complain about why debaters today are terrible and everything was better back in the day.

1. Don’t use structure- cases are just randomly thrown together without well thought out tags or an attempt to structure the hodgepodge into a coherent argument. Everything should have a structure. It is becoming increasing difficult to follow peoples speeches given the general trend towards less clarity and the total lack of structure. When I started debating everyone had subpoints, then I went to some out of state tournaments and the cool kids weren’t using subpoints. So I went up to my coach and said “???? and he responded like this, “some people don’t use substructure, and you can do that, but if you do you need to take extra steps to make sure everything is clear to the judge”. These extra steps include using transition words, pausing/breathing to emphasize when one argument ends and another begins, altering your speed/volume to emphasize a new argument (though I personally think this should be used sparingly at best). You can’t grab some cards with random tags, read them as fast as possible with no differentiation and call it a day. You either need to add structure or use the above techniques.

This is particularly pronounced in LD. People’s cases usually begin with a huge dump of short theory arguments and definitions with no structure. When each case begins this way, and since this is usually the part of the debate that becomes the most important (much to my chagrin) judging becomes basically random. At Valley and Greenhill I scouted about 12 LD debates, and in 10/12 the judge mentioned this in the post round.

Structure will help you win more debates, get better points, and there is no reason not to do it. Literally none.

2. Don’t make arguments without cards. In this day of the interwebs people are able to find evidence a lot easier. This is good, having evidence is good. However, the ability to make an argument without a card has started to atrophy. The main problem is people don’t explain enough. If you read a tag, and then a card, and the total amount of words is 50, to make the same argument as an analytic the number of words you should use is…. 50. You need to provide all the explanation yourself that would otherwise be provided by a card. You don’t make an analytic because it is shorter than reading a card, they should be the same length (an ideal card and an ideal analytic). A classic example of this is when people don’t get to a card, they just read the tag and the timer goes off so they say “that’s an analytic”. No it isn’t- analytic is shorthand for analytic ARGUMENT, you have not made an argument.

Not an argument: The plan is at the bottom of the docket

Approaching an argument: Normal means is the plan goes to the bottom of the docket, so it doesn’t trigger the link

Actually an argument (ignoring is BOD an argument for a second): Our interpretation of fiat is minimal means, the plan would be placed at the bottom of the docket. Obama wouldn’t spend capital pushing until after XYZ had already passed. This is proven by their internal link evidence that says his strategy is to dedicate all capital to XYZ because it’s his top priority.

Now you don’t necessarily need to do all the explaining for an argument in the 2AC(or initial speech). But by the end of the debate, if an argument is an analytic you need to have at some point done the amount of explanation you would have given if it was a carded argument.

3. Don’t throw hail Marrys- If you are going to lose because the 2NR turned the K into a floating pic… SAY SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I can’t count the number of debates someone says something in the post round like “yea, I didn’t want to make a new argument”… why? If you are going to lose, what is the risk? It’s totally try or die, which was probably the useless 4 minute overview you gave instead of introducing a new argument. So how do you make a new argument? Do the following

-make the strongest form of your argument. There can be a variety of reasons for this, I will highlight two. First, judges often do this thing where they take things that are hard to resolve and just decide to split the difference. The classic example is FW- when two teams each read different FW and make a lot of arguments, judges just go “eh, they get to weigh their aff” without either team making that as a FW argument. Similarly, when faced with new arguments a lot of judge go “I was uncomfortable giving you full weight, so I kind of gave you credit a little bit”. So if you go big, and they end up splitting the difference, the middle ground will be closer to what you want. This is how Republicans negotiate. Second, if the judge does give you your argument, you want it to be meaningful. If they morph their alternative don’t just say “give us leeway”- make it a voter.

-Justify new arguments. Make both general and specific justifications. Examples include: claiming the other team developed their argument more, which justifies new responses, that their initial presentation of the argument was unclear, that you are only making an obvious cross app, true not new etc. Spend some time on this and present many justifications. You can/should write blocks for this.

-Get indignant. This is where you need some persuasion. Use guilt, bravado, and humor to sway the judge to your side. This needs to be practiced. If you have never gotten indignant about an argument and you for the first time attempt it in the finals of a tournament you are probably going to lose. Righteous indignation is a muscle- it needs to be exercised. It’s an important tool to have in your arsenal because its the best way to comeback from a seemingly insurmountable deficit.

-Pre-empt. Pre-empt what the judge is going to say in the post round as to why they didn’t vote for you. When faced with a new argument many judges will make arguments for the other team or point out glaring logical deficiencies. Pre-empt these by answering them in your speech.



If you had the 2NC saying the alternative was now a floating pic in plain language, and you wrote it down on your flow, then stop listening to this speech and write negative on the ballot. But that’s not what happened- the neg made some ambiguous statements that could conceivably be interpreted as the alternative is a floating pic in the right light. This shouldn’t be counted as a dropped argument- it was not until the 2NR that the alternative was clearly explained as a floating pic, and we should get new answers to this argument development.


There are 2 reasons you should allow new arguments:

First, they did not clearly communicate they had a floating pic. This should be obvious- they didn’t have a text that said that, they didn’t clearly identify what they were and were not agreeing with from our 1AC representations, and they didn’t use the language floating pic- that is the nail in the coffin- the fact that they chose to wait until after we “dropped ” it to characterize their alternative proves this is premeditated murder.The standard should be- was it as clear in the 2NC as it was after the 2nr- even if it was partially clear after the 2nc, if it was substantially more clear after the 2nr then you have to think the reason that was the case was strategic obfuscation.


Now, you may say “well the neg did say XYZ, which to me means floating pic”, but that is a terrible standard to use because its so subjective. You may tell your lab kids you think a certain phrase means floating pic, they would then have an enormously unfair advantage over anyone not in your lab because they could use the synonym to sandbag a shift in the alternative. Different phrases have meaning based on the judge and their debate background- it is totally unreasonable to assume we should be looking for theoretical monsters under the bed every time the neg says something that could be construed as a floating pic.

Second, their model will produce terrible debates. Essentially by voting neg you are incentivizing the neg making a lot of murky claims that can be interpreted one way or the other in the 2NR. If we don’t dedicate time there we are screwed, if we do invest time the neg has plausible deniability to say they didn’t make a floating pic so none of our theory arguments are relevant. It becomes a win win situation for the neg, which compounds the already almost insurmountable time advantage of the block. These kind of debates won’t be educational, and won’t have meaningful clash. The floating PIC is already a garbage concept, now we are saying you don’t even have to clearly explain your garbage cheating argument? It’s enough to hint at it? What if the 2NC looks up and winks at the judge but we can’t see his face- is that now a floating pic in the 2nr? The fundamental premise of debate is its a communicative activity- the more important an argument it is the more clearly it should be communicated. What more important argument could there be then whether or not the neg gets to advocate the whole plan?

Now, here is why making a floating pic in the 2NR should lose them the debate

First, conditionality- they said in crossx they only get 1 cp and 1 K- but the new floating pic is both a new CP and a shift in the K alt- we didn’t extend conditionality bad because they made an interpretation of what was legitimate for the negative to do, they have now violated it. They automatically lose on theory- they have arguments that theoretically could justify 3 options instead of 2, but they made the claim that 2 was the limit of what was acceptable. They made this arbitrary and self serving interp for strategic reasons, they are stuck with the baggage it necessitates

Second, PICS are illegit- K alternative can include parts of the plan/representations, but they can’t do the whole plan minus certain representations- this allows them to unfairly rig the game of impact comparison by artificially inflating the worth of bad disads. Its also infinitely regressive- they can agree with us down to a relatively minor point- given they get to engage in planned preparation in advance and get the block, we will be in rough shape trying to win offense as to why that minimal sliver of our advocacy is good. This also makes theory arguments even more important- they are the only way we can win. Theory has to be a voting issue in this instance- otherwise the neg wins the strat skew lottery- they get to make a 5 word 2NC argument, spend 20 seconds on it in the 2NR and either we lose for not answering or we dedicate a ton of time answering it at no cost to them. This one argument affects our entire strategy vs the K- it makes it so only totally external impact turns are winnable arguments. Reject argument not team is a strategy to reduce unnecessary theory debates and encourage substantive clash- but the horse is out the barn on that one when they try and moot all our offense by coopting the plan.