Kids Today

Kids today is a segment where blah blah blah lets do this.

1. Start speaking English. Seriously. I largely blame coaches/lab leaders for this. There are not enough people yelling clear or requiring their students be clear. Yes kids today don’t flow because they just look at the speech document- but guess why they do that? Because no one can understand what the other team is saying. I am starting to agree with all the people who hate fast debate because fast debate is starting to suck. And even when I say “clear” people totally ignore it. Here is what it means when a judge says “clear”:

I cannot understand what you are saying, therefore I cannot count any of the arguments you are making. Without arguments you will probably lose.

What kids hear:


“1% slower please”

“Can you enunciate  for like 5 seconds and then go back to mumbling?”

A judge saying clear needs to be responded to by slowing down, putting more effort into articulation, and by closely monitoring them with your EYES to see if they are getting things. Computer flowing kind of makes this harder. Back in the day when a judge couldn’t understand you they would put their pen down and just sit there. Now when a judge can’t understand you they open up facebook and say “LOL romney went for a K cause he was vague and didn’t explain things”. So it often looks like they are paying attention when they are not. I know this because when judging on panels I see other people do it. I know this because if after I have said clear (3 or more times) and you have made no effort to be clear I am playing starcraft. Here is how an interesting post round went

” you dropped X”

“No I didnt, I said 25 things to that”

” Was that after I said clear 3 times”


“I didnt flow any of that because I couldn’t understand you, that’s why I said clear… 3 times”

“Well… why didn’t you say it again”

One thing related to this, dont construct a speaking stand that results in your face being hidden behind the computer screen so you can’t see the judge and they can’t see you. Lower it. Or turn it slightlighty sideways. It is really stupid if you think “i can only read if my computer is in this exact position or in this font or blah blah”. I’m sorry, but that’s not how reading works. There is no medical or psychological condition that makes it so you can only read with the computer blocking your vision of the judge. You may need to play with the page layout or font size but you can get it so you can read without having the computer 3 inches from your face. How do I know this? Because when you aren’t speaking you are sitting down using your computer and THE SCREEN ISN’T 3 INCHES FROM YOUR FACE.


Now lets talk about coaches for a second. If kids are showing up at tournaments totally unintelligible than you are not doing your job. Its fine and dandy to talk about how kids should be clearer, but you see them speak frequently, If you aren’t correcting their bad habits who will? Now, I can already see the spam in my inbox upset about this. Yes, I know kids can be difficult. I had a student recently who day 1 the second he opened his mouth I said “don’t scream”. Every subsequent practice speech he gave I said “don’t scream”. Kept on screaming. Is that my fault? YES. It is my job to somehow convey not screaming. In this case I totally failed. Despite a not insubstantial amount of effort being put into it he is still a screamer. I have to accept some responsibility for that. Similarly, all you coaches out there who have students not speaking English have to admit some of the following

-I have not been hard enough on my students about being clear because I feel uncomfortable criticizing them

-I understand that my kids get a selective strategic advantage from being unclear and I’m ok with that

-I hate fast debate and want to tear it down from the inside

In closing, I am not talking about a little unclear. I am not talking about reading tags slow and cards fast. I am talking about fundamentally a complete lack of English

2. Need to think “how can i lose” instead of “omg I’m so gonna win”. This mainly relates to theory. I have seen about 10 debate so far this year where team A was just crushing on substance and the only chance they had to lose was on theory, but instead of spending a lot of time on theory they blew it off and spent needless time on substance bragging/being repetitive. When you are “ahead” immediately turn your thoughts to “if I was the other team, how would I snatch victory from the jaws of defeat?”. This isn’t just about theory but that is the prime example. Others include

-when the neg has no good disad links reading a generic add on like hegemony they can turn

-when the CP clearly solves 100% of case doing something stupid like kicking it to go for a bad disad the other team undercovered that wasn’t a net benefit

-going for T on “principle”

Debate strategic decisions need to be made “big picture”- you can’t just get in a bubble and focus on what you are ahead on. The other team is still going to try to win so you need to think about HOW they are going to do that and then stop them. So even if you think the 1AR on condo was crappy and only 25 seconds, if that is the only place you can lose spend 2 minutes there.

3. Highlighting. You need to highlight enough of a card to actually make an argument. 1 good card >X bad ones if X is ANY NUMBER EVER. If the neg goes for “cap is the root cause of war” reading 1 good card on this at some point in the debate is a necessity. If you can’t fit it all in the 2AC, read more of it in the 1AR. You need to be reading the warrants. 3 cards highlighted so scantily that there is no warrant doesn’t help anymore than 1 such card, but the time you spent on the other 2 could be spent reading the warrants from the first. If a card is less than 50 words, and its an important issue, you have a problem. Sure that “obama spending PC on X” card is pretty short, that is a statement of fact not a warranted argument. Cards that are actually making an argument need explanation, and explanation means length. Kids today have access to more evidence than they could ever need. A huge part of being successful as a debater now is managing it all. It sucks to go through 30 files to find the best 1 card, but thats what you have to do. Once you do it, its done. You never have to do it again. Maybe on your team you can divide such labor saving yourself time, but someone has to do it. The real tragedy is AFTER you have done all that work BLOWING it by highlighting down the best card to the point where it says nothing.