Category Archives: Instruction & Commentary

Resources For Learning The Politics DA

For better or worse, Biden’s presidency is likely to revitalize the agenda politics DA, a type of generic negative disadvantage that emerged during the 1970s and became ubiquitous at the dawn of the electronic research age in the mid-1990s.

The “golden age” of the politics DA lasted from the late 1990s to the early 2010s, but it fell out of favor during the latter half of the Obama administration and was rarely a staple of negative strategies during the Trump administration. While it is unlikely to return its previous level of ubiquity, the politics DA seems poised for a post-Trump renaissance.

The current cohort of high school and college debaters is too young to have experienced the politics DA’s “golden age” first hand. That’s also true for many judges, a reflection of just how long it’s been since the politics DA was the dominant negative strategy in high school debate.

As a new generation of debaters begins to learn the politics DA for the first time, there are many resources from earlier eras that can help them get up to speed. In this post, I’ll provide some historical context for the politics DA and share some recommended resources.

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The Very Old History of Abolition as a Negative Strategy In Debate

One of the most common negative positions on this year’s criminal justice reform topic is the abolition kritik, an argument that rejects the legitimacy of the carceral state writ large. In these debates, the negative does not defend the status quo; they defend more radical change than the plan proposed by the affirmative.

This form of negation can be confusing. Most beginning debaters are taught that an important difference between the affirmative and negative is their relationship to the status quo: the affirmative rejects it by proposing a change in policy, and the negative either defends it or proposes a different (but competitive) policy change.

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New Video Series: Debating the Case in the 2AC

I added a new five-part video series to my YouTube channel about debating the case in the 2AC. The videos cover strategy, signposting, argumentation, efficiency, and how to practice. Students of all experience levels should find them useful, but some of the content might initially be too advanced for beginning and intermediate debaters. The total runtime for all five videos is approximately one hour.

I’ll embed the playlist below the fold.

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Debate in the Age of Deepfakes: Revisiting the Presumption of Credibility for Published Evidence

Adam Rawnsley broke a story today at The Daily Beast that should prompt serious reflection by debaters and debate coaches. It highlights a disturbing trend in the information ecosystems we depend on for the evidence that shapes our debates. In light of these revelations, it’s important for debate teachers and coaches to individually and collectively revisit our norms about what constitutes “credible evidence.”

So, what’s going on? Titled “Right-Wing Media Outlets Duped by a Middle East Propaganda Campaign,” Rawnsley’s article reveals a sophisticated conspiracy by an unknown actor that included “a network of at least 19 fake personas that has spent the past year placing more than 90 opinion pieces in 46 different publications. The articles heaped praise on the United Arab Emirates and advocated for a tougher approach to Qatar, Turkey, Iran and its proxy groups in Iraq and Lebanon.”

The type of articles that this network publishes are exactly what debaters are often looking for: relatively short, direct, strongly-worded works of political advocacy from apparently-qualified expert commentators. The authors seem real: they have photos, Twitter accounts, and bios, and most have been published in legitimate (sometimes even well-respected) news sources. If you were to come across one of these articles while doing debate research, you would have no qualms about cutting it. I know, because I unwittingly cut at least one article from this network. I’m sure others have, too.

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New Videos About The Criminal Justice Reform Topic

I’ve recently posted three new videos that will be helpful for students preparing to debate the 2020-2021 criminal justice reform topic:

The third video (“Lesson Plans…”) includes four “plug-and-play” lesson plans to help you organize small group discussions about criminal justice reform-related documentary films: The Thin Blue Line, The Central Park Five, 13th, and The Prison in Twelve Landscapes.

These three videos and the accompanying lesson plan documents are embedded below.

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New Videos: Speaking Practice For Debaters Series

Over the last few days, I’ve published several more videos in my Speaking Practice For Debaters series. All of the videos in the series have been compiled into a YouTube playlist.

I suggest starting with “An Introduction To (Fast) Debate Speaking (And How To Practice It)” before moving on to the videos about specific drills: The Two Color Highlighting Drill, The Auctioneering Drill, The Dynamic Highlighting Drill, and The Blackalicious Drill.

The playlist also includes “How Eric Arceneaux Can Help Debaters Improve Their Speaking Deliveries” and two versions of my “The Art of Speaking Efficiently” lecture (from 2014 and 2013).

Additional videos will continue to be added to this playlist; if you want to be notified when new videos are posted, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

New Videos To Help You Train To Improve Your Debate Speaking

I’m working on a series of videos that attempt to help debaters train to improve their speaking deliveries. In addition to the previously-mentioned “How Eric Arceneaux Can Help Debaters Improve Their Speaking Deliveries,” I recently published “An Introduction To (Fast) Debate Speaking (And How To Practice It)” and “The Two Color Highlighting Drill (Speaking Practice For Debaters).” My goal is to produce several more videos that explain additional types of speaking exercises; look for them on my YouTube channel over the next few weeks.

For your convenience, the “Introduction To (Fast) Debate Speaking…” and “The Two Color Highlighting Drill…” videos are also embedded below.

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Video: How Eric Arceneaux Can Help Debaters Improve Their Speaking Deliveries

I published a new video that explains why and how Eric Arceneaux’s voice training videos can help debaters improve their speaking deliveries. Arceneaux is a popular vocal coach whose training videos indie rock luminary Stephen Malkmus recently credited with improving his singing.

The video references and describes a curated playlist of the Eric Arceneaux videos I recommend for debaters along with a list of six general tips for making the most of Arceneaux’s training videos.

The video is also embedded below the fold.

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New Instructional Videos About Summer Debate Institutes

I’ve published three new instructional videos about summer debate institutes on my YouTube channel:

  1. What’s A Summer Debate Institute And Why Should I Attend One?” — an explanation of the history and purpose of summer debate institutes, how they typically are structured, and why students might want to attend them. The intended audience for this video is students, parents, and coaches who are interested in summer debate institutes; it is not intended for students that have already attended a debate institute.
  2. How To Prepare For An Online Summer Debate Institute” — an overview of the similarities and differences between in-person and online debate institutes, seven suggestions for how to successfully prepare for an online summer debate institute, and six suggestions for what to do “at” your online debate institute after it begins. The intended audience for this video is anyone who will be attending an online debate institute this summer.
  3. Avoiding Eyewash At Summer Debate Institutes” — a short explanation of the concept of eyewash and how it can be applied to debate including a list of the five most common forms of eyewash I see from debaters during summer debate camps. The intended audience for this video is students who will be attending debate institutes this summer; instructors might also find it helpful.

The videos are also embedded below the fold.

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An Updated Speaker Point Scale Based On 2015-2016 Results

Since it was changed from half-points to tenth-points (a process that began in the 2010-2011 season before becoming standardized in 2011-2012), the speaker point scale in high school policy debate has dramatically evolved. It is helpful to systematically review point distributions to ensure that students, coaches, and especially judges are aware of the actually-existing scale. To figure out what speaker points mean in today’s scale, I analyzed points from several major national tournaments held during the 2015-2016 school year: Greenhill, St. Mark’s, Michigan, Glenbrooks, Blake, MBA, and Emory. I confirmed that the results of this survey accurately reflected the speaker point scale at the recently-concluded NDCA National Championships. Below the fold, I will provide a summary of the results as well as a descriptive speaker point scale that judges might consider using to align their points with the evolving norms.

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