Kids Today Part Deux

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. Flow. I don’t really care to get into a discussion of why people don’t flow anymore, there are many hypothesai about it; nor will I tell you that you should flow. I instead will make 2 points about dealing with the world of no flows


Subpoint A. Efficiency, like speed, is a tool that can be misused/abused. For example, “subpoints”. When I was a junior in highschool it was hip in college debate to say “Subpoint A, B, C” etc when listing things in speeches. A few of us who were at the NDT that year then migrated that practice to national circuit highschool debate. I don’t mean this is where the idea of subpointing was created, it had certainly been done before. What I mean is that EVERYTHING was subpointed. It was a tactic used way too much. In the years after my graduating class moved on to teach at institutes it started being taught that this was silly and inefficient- which is true. However, somehow this movement got a little carried away and basically all verbal structuring mid speech other than “next” became off limits. The extreme focus on efficiency had people teaching that every single word not necessary to make an argument should be eliminated. The problem is that many things that aren’t needed to MAKE an argument are necessary to order arguments for the judge/opponent. These words may be “needless” in the sense that if a perfect debate machine were following along it would not need things like signposting, but as flowing skills move away from perfect toward say, Roys, these little breaks become more and more necessary.


The combination of no signposting and no flowing is that no one has any idea what is going on. This is a problem larger than the issues of paperless debate- I am sometimes sympathetic to debaters who don’t have a good flow because as a judge I also don’t have a good flow. I don’t know when one argument started and another stopped. This often isn’t an issue of clarity per se- as we usually think of clarity as can you understand the words coming out of someones mouth. But it is a problem of comprehension. Its compounded when someone moves between many 2AC arguments quickly in a later speech- often I get lost trying to find the argument they are answering (most often because they are not answering things in order, but also often because they use a different tag/label then the ones I have attached to arguments that weren’t numbered by the 2AC) and then I am constantly trying to “catch” up which detracts from my ability to understand/follow the speech as it is being given.


Where am I going with this? It is in your competitive interest as a debater when the other people in the round aren’t flowing/signposting to forget about efficiency and bust out some old bad habits such as “they say”. Now again, they say is a tool in the tool box- I am not saying you should use this all the time. But if you are giving a 2AR in a messy debate, and you recognize that, and you sacrifice efficiency in order to clean things up for the judge your points will skyrocket. Now you may be thinking “but, if I become inefficient how will I cover?”. In a messy debate things are rarely decided by drops, unless there is a drop that is super clear and is a voting issue, and you should be able to handle those in time. The way messy debates are won is by a person CLEANING IT UP.


Subpoint B: Pay attention for your partner. Make sure they don’t drop things, answer arguments in the speech doc that weren’t read etc. In general, lack of good flows makes it MORE important to have a backup person paying attention than less. There are lots of times after debates where it is clear one partner did a good job flowing and the other didn’t. The problem is when the person flowing isn’t giving the important speech. It has been dogma for a long time that each side only has 1 captain. Well if that captain is asleep at the helm you need to speak up. Every time I see someone in a postround be like “oh yea, I knew we were dropping conditionality but I didn’t say anything” I consider assigning them zero speaker points. Your partner isn’t flowing- they are a moron, granted. But when they drop something at least they can plead ignorance, what is your defense of not chiming in?



2. Plan. Before giving a speech, you need to think about what you are attempting to accomplish in that speech, how much time accomplishing those things will take, and then form some kind of plan. You need to actually think in terms of time and how to allocate it. I think most people know this at some level because they talk about “time skew” when reading their conditionality blocks. However, I can’t remember the last time I asked someone a question about their planned time allocation and they could answer it with some explanation of their plan- its just not something that seems to be done anymore. It needs to be done. The more complex a debate becomes the more important it is to plan your speech time. When there are 2 off and 5 case arguments you can waste some time and recover. When there are 8 off and 15 case arguments, each second counts. If you spend 20 extra seconds on T that is the difference between getting to politics with 15 seconds and 45 seconds which is huge.


Now, you don’t need to write out a map of all the time in your speech every time. But you can quickly do the following


A. Time your blocks so you can estimate how long things will take you

B. Look at the 1NC and think about what they are likely to chose to extend, and then figure out how much of your time you should spend on those issues

C. Then allocate your remaining time to other issues

So this process would work like this


We are debating Z, they always go for politics and privatize, but those are only 2 of the 7 off in the 1NC. I want to spend 3 minutes of 2AC time on those 2 issues, 45 seconds of which will be theory and an add on we can go for even if they kick the cp. That leaves 5 minutes to deal with 5 off and whatever was put on the case.

Now you are giving your speech- where do you place these 3 minutes? You could put them at the top to make sure you get all 3 minutes on these issues, or you can put them at the bottom to stop the other team from getting 5 minutes of free prep. A lot of factors go into this decision- are you disciplined enough to get there with 3 minutes if you put them on the bottom, does the other team have a lot of blocks so it doesn’t matter if they are on the bottom, do they have the ability to go for the other things in the 1NC and are thus likely to pay attention to it all regardless of what order things are in?


Doing this is cumbersome at first, but once you practice it it becomes 2nd nature, which brings me to


3. Crawl before you can walk. There are certain debate fundamentals. Before you can move onto advanced techniques you need to understand the fundamentals. Before you can give a 2NC on a 1 off K, you should be able to give a 2NC on a K where the 2AC only gave 5 arguments because there were many off. You should be able to give a B+ 1AR before you stop flowing the block etc. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. So here are some fundamentals you can practice to lay the ground work for skill development. These are things you should prepare to debate, have practice debates on, and do at tournaments.

A. Impact turn hegemony both ways- this is the best way to get good at debate fast. Hegemony is an issue where you don’t need to do any research- you can find all the top notch cards you need by mining camp files, so you can’t blame lack of evidence for your missteps. Its an issue that has been in debate forever, so you can predict what the other team is going to say and be ready for it. A hegemony impact is read in like 90 percent of debates, so preparing this well is one of the best ways to get ready to lay the smack down. What does it take to get ready for this? About 10 hours.

-6 hours- reading camp files, finding the best 40-50 pieces of evidence for a 6-10 card frontline, extensions, 4-5 add on impacts, and answers to common responses the other team will make

-1 hour assembling everything

-2 hours highlighting everything really well

-1 hour writing extension blocks

So at 2 hours a day you can do this in a week after school. At the end you should have a 40-50 page file that is totally ready to go for one side of the debate. Rinse and repeat.

One thing that is important here is that the PROCESS of going through all this will teach you a ton about how to find good cards, how to prioritize arguments, and perhaps most importantly you will know a lot more about the issues involved in the hegemony debate itself.

You could go father and produce a million page hegemony file, but most of the time those 50 pages are going to be way more than you need.

Now, debate that 30 or 40 times over the course of the year and you will see huge improvements. Impact turning things means there is guaranteed clash- neither side can run from the important issues. Forcing yourself to have tough debates like this will make your skill improve far more than going to a tournament with a process cp and shady aff. In fact, people who don’t already have this kind of skill set will never go far with a process CP because once they hit a good team who is prepared/engages their arguments beyond a superficial level they don’t have the skillset to respond and fold like a beach style chair.


Issues like hegemony that you can turn are growth, trade, and warming though they come up less often.


B. Rework other peoples blocks. It doesn’t matter where you get them from or if they are even for an issue you will debate. Get a hold of someone elses blocks and critique them/redo them. You will quickly see what inefficiencies and stupidities are at work. Sometimes just looking at your own work becomes useless- if you knew what the problems where you wouldn’t have made the mistakes in the first place so you aren’t likely to fix them no matter how many times you redo something. Exchanging them with someone else gets you a fresh perspective on your own work, but the part that really makes you learn is correcting someone else. Until you go through hundreds of pages of someone elses work you often won’t realize how annoying things like no structure/lack of organization are. It also gets you to start thinking like a judge which will help you package and prepare your own arguments.