Category Archives: Judging

Last of the Flo-hicans: the death of tabula rasa judging-Part 2- about the cult of evidence

I don’t know that analytics have ever been particularly prominent in the time that I’ve been involved in debate, but they have definitely moved from the endangered species act to extinct. One of the reasons for this is that many judges don’t seem to be giving weight to reasonable analytics- like say sever perms are a vi…

Just kidding. But this is related to Part 1 about judge intervention because I believe that many judges are inserting themselves into the debate and making the argument “evidence trumps analytics” when that argument is not made by the team on the side of the card. The most common instances I see of this are things like:

-generic K link card vs specific K no link analytic, same with alt solvency

-generic CP solvency card (like states) vs specific analytic no solvency arg

-disad internal link card vs internal link press

So, the thesis of this post is: if you are a tabula rasa judge (which you should be) you should not give particular weight to an argument simply because it is carded in the absence of an argument made by the team that you do so.

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The Case For Judges Providing Written Comments On Their Ballots

Contention One: Inherency

In the status quo, the vast majority of high school policy debate judges (at least those at “national circuit” tournaments) do not provide written comments on their ballots. A very small subset of judges—approximately ten percent based on an unscientific assessment of the publicly-posted ballots from the St. Mark’s and Blake tournaments—provide any written content at all. Of that subset, an even smaller group of judges provides “substantial” written commentary (defined as more than a short, one or two sentence reason for decision). Some tournaments have responded to this norm by eliminating ballots entirely—The Glenbrooks, for example, only provides small judge cards that are not copied or scanned for the competitors.

Thus The Plan:

High school policy debate judges should provide written comments on their ballots. This commentary should supplement—not replace—post-round oral disclosure and discussion of the debate.

Contention Two: The Advantage

The plan is superior to the status quo for all three relevant constituencies: debaters, coaches, and judges.

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The Use of a 2NC CP to Respond to a Straight Turned DA: A Hypothetical

Consider the following hypothetical:

1AC: Increase food stamps, solves hunger.

1NC: Politics (plan is unpopular and prevents a climate bill from passing—that causes runaway warming), Military Recruitment DA (reducing poverty weakens the recruiting base, tanking hegemony), Case Defense.

2AC: Straight Turns Politics (climate bill will not pass in the status quo, plan is crucial to passage), Answers Military Recruitment DA, Answers Case Defense.

2NC: New Counterplan: Pass Climate Bill. Extends Military Recruitment DA.

1NR: Extends Case Defense / Military Recruitment DA Outweighs The Case.

Three questions:

  1. Is the 2NC counterplan—to pass the Climate Bill—legitimate? If yes, why? If not, why not?

  2. Is it legitimate for the 1AR to impact turn the Climate Bill (by arguing that the Climate Bill is bad)? If yes, why? If not, why not?

  3. If the 1AR impact turns the Climate Bill, is it legitimate for the 2NR to:

    • extend the 2AC’s “non-unique” and “link turn” arguments (proving that the plan would uniquely cause the Climate Bill to pass)? If yes, why? If not, why not?

    • extend the 1NC impact (Climate Bill solves warming) and weigh it against the 1AR’s impact turn? If yes, why? If not, why not? And is it legitimate for the 2NR to read more evidence to support this argument?

Judging Methodologies: How Do Judges Reach Their Decisions?

Paul Strait of the University of Southern California recently authored an interesting post on the CEDA forum about the time it takes judges to make their decisions. As discussed in a previous column, this is a hot topic in the college community because the average length of decisions at that level is forcing tournaments to consider reductions in the number of preliminary rounds offered in order to prevent marathon tournament schedules. Paul’s contention is that we need to foreground consideration of judging methodologies in order to determine what contributes to lengthy decisions and what effect this has on the quality of decisions.

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Some Judge Philosophy Updates

I have decided to try and use speaker points as an incentive to encourage practices I think are good for debate. I think the way most people use points is to punish people who do things they don’t like. However, a cursory reading of any psychology literature will reveal that punishment is a terrible way to change behavior- only rewarding the desired behavior really works….

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Conditionality Gone Wild: A Judging Hypothetical

In the quarterfinals of this past weekend’s New Trier Season Opener, a negative team extended two counterplans with contradictory net-benefits in the 2NR and justified doing so because the affirmative “conceded the thesis of conditionality.” Having already discussed this hypothetical with several debaters and judges, it is clear that it is both interesting and confounding. Read the blow-by-blow below the fold and chime in with your thoughts.

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The 100 speaker point system

I was looking at the St. Marks invitation on JOT and noticed that in honor of Ross Smith (RIP Ross) that the St. Marks tournament would be moving to the 100 speaker point system for its tournament in 2 weeks.    In a podcast and probably in some other diatribes I’ve been known to go on I’ve discussed some of my concerns with the 100 speaker point system.

Let me make this clear I am strongly in support of a more expansive speaker point scale. I think there are differences between 28s, and 28.5s and the current system does not allow a judge to differentiate between the quality of those speeches. My fear with this scale is that in a 6 round tournament (which is the norm in hs) this system has the potential to “mess up” who clears and speaker awards in general.    I feel like the community does need to do a couple of things to make this work (not just for this tournament but to transition away from the 30 point scale in general).

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My Problems with T persons in Poverty

1. It serves no limiting function- the exact same cases are topical- its only the scope of them (how many people they effect) that changes. It seems (based on my limited knowledge) that this would require most cases to effect less people than the authors discussing them intended. Forcing the affirmative to change the scope of their cases so that they no longer reflect the real world discussion should not be done absent a compelling fairness concern for the negative.

2. No Neg ground loss- no disad hinges on affecting only 100% of poverty line vs 135%- if anything the opposite is true- the broader the scope of the plan the more likely there will be a unique link to negative topic generic disads like spending/tradeoff etc. Critiques of poverty do not hinge on strict definitions or the plan affecting only 100% exactly.

3. Not predictable- the majority of existing federal programs do not meet this strict interpretation- Stefan does an excellent job demonstrating this so I will not rehash but I think this is the most crucial point. The strength of the negatives argument relies on the idea that their definition comes from the government and is therefore imbued with a higher level of predictability/credibility. That the gov itself does not strictly follow it directly refutes this claim. More importantly a distinction must be drawn between the predictability provided by a definition and the predictability of the definition itself. In this case the negatives definition is itself highly predictable, however the affirmative cases it would allow are not very predictable given that there are few examples that meet and that for the majority of cases in order to meet they would have to radically alter the plan from that advocated by their authors.

4. On this topic affirmative ground must outweigh negative ground- there is a serious shortage of quality affirmatives, the aff must be given leeway to find viable cases. While on other topics it may have been a good idea to help the neg out by throwing some more T vicotires their way to balance the scales this is definately not one of them.  If the debate truly comes down to “our definition is from the government- most predictable/precise” vs “our definition sets a much broader limit- but is the only hope for a viable affiramtive case” then the aff should win every debate.