Category Archives: Skill Development

Summer Lecture Flashback: Learning By Watching

Over the course of the summer I recorded several lectures that have been posted to Debate Vision. While some readers might have already seen them, it can’t hurt to share them again here on The 3NR. On the heels of the film study lecture, this one discusses strategies for learning by watching others debate — it is embedded below the fold.

Continue reading

Learning From Hip-Hop: Lessons for Debaters from How To Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC

“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can—there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.” — Sarah Caldwell

If one looks closely enough, there are lessons to be learned about debate almost everywhere. The book Moneyball—Michael Lewis’s look at the exploitation of market inefficiencies in Major League Baseball—for example, can help us consider ways to exploit market inefficiencies in debate. While management strategies in professional baseball would seem at first glance to have little to do with high school debate, important lessons can nonetheless be learned—if only we take the time to dig a bit deeper.

In the same way that Moneyball inspired reflection about market inefficiencies in debate, Paul Edwards’ How to Rap: The Art and Science of the Hip-Hop MC provides the astute observer with a wealth of lessons for high school debaters. How to Rap is a comprehensive guide to hip-hop MCing that includes lengthy discussions of content, flow, writing, and delivery. Based on interviews with more than 100 MCs, Edwards’ book “marks a cultural coming-of-age for hip-hop — the first comprehensive poetics of this new literary form.”

While the entire book is fascinating, the section about delivery is particularly useful for high school debate. This article refashions Edwards’ advice to prospective MCs and applies it to debate. Five areas of advice are outlined: Breath Control, Taking Care of Your Voice, Enunciation, Vocal Style, and Presence/Swagger.

Continue reading

Summer Lecture Flashback: Film Study

Over the course of the summer I recorded several lectures that have been posted to Debate Vision. While some readers might have already seen them, it can’t hurt to share them again here on The 3NR. This lecture discusses the use of film study in debate — it is embedded below the fold. A written adaptation of this lecture will appear in the September Rostrum.

Continue reading

Good Debating Is Good Writing: 16 Common Inefficiencies

Debate is a speaking activity, certainly, but it is also a writing activity. Good constructive speeches rely in large part on well-written prepared materials, but rebuttals are where the real writing occurs. To deliver a powerful rebuttal, students must verbalize their arguments clearly and persuasively—but do so extemporaneously, without a script. Good speaking, like good writing, must be clear, concise, and well organized: the content needs to be allowed to shine through.

As part of this summer’s Hoya Spartan Scholars program, students were given an opportunity to transcribe and edit their rebuttal speeches. The transcription process is tedious—it takes a lot of time and concentration to accurately and completely transcribe a debate speech—but the payout is substantial. By transforming a spoken speech into a written text, students can more rigorously assess the content of their speeches and dramatically improve their efficiency and language choices. And by doing so, the connection between good speaking and good writing becomes obvious.

In the course of editing students’ transcriptions, one thing became abundantly clear: debaters do not communicate efficiently. Most rebuttals overflow with filler language, distracting sentence structures, and imprecise word choices. This undermines persuasiveness, of course, but it also directly sacrifices content by wasting precious speech time. The goal of a debater should be to effectively communicate as many important arguments as possible to the judge within the time constraints. Doing so requires not just speed but efficiency. And while gains in speaking speed are certainly valuable, improvements in efficiency can be much more dramatic.

A list of 16 common efficiency problems is provided below the fold. Did we miss one? Share it in the comments.

Continue reading

How Not to Ask for Help

This is a pretty funny exchange between a debater trying to find author quals and an author pretty reasonably responding to their rudeness.

 

It reminded me of this classic when a debater emailed a think tank leader to ask if they had published a good card just to affect the outcome of a debate tournament. The responses from Friedman are pretty hilarious, and imo pretty dead on.

 

Main topic authors are often bombarded with emails from debaters/coaches. Most often they are emailed questions that could be answered with 5 seconds of googling, and often the emails are in the form of a demand, not a polite request. I have emailed many authors and so I offer some general tips for what you should do

 

1. Be polite.

2. Don’t say you are a debater- they don’t care. Also if you say you are a debater and then be a moron you are tainting the rep of every debater who follows you.

3. Write an intelligent email. Emailing someone and saying “you give realism cites plz? kthanxbai” is not likely to get a good response because who wants to respond to a moron. Use proper English/spelling/punctuation (in other words do as I say not as I do)

4. Explain why you are emailing them specifically-i.e. “I am emailing you after reading your article about platypus extinction in the International Journal of Platypai…”

5. Their time is valuable. If you can form questions that have short, direct, easy answers to give they are more likely to respond. If you ask an IR prof  to teach their class to you through email, they are less likely to respond.

 

How to improve at debate camp

 

This is an article I began writing for the first edition of the last word but was weeded out in the editing process. Several people who read this disagreed with a lot of the advice, so bear in mind this is just my opinion- if your lab leaders disagree with something/tell you to do something a different way you should listen to them.

 

Continue reading

Do you want to be top speaker at the toc? part 1

A few have emailed/posted questions about prep for the toc. Loyal 3nr readers know most every question about how to win the TOC was answered step by step in my pulitzer prize winning series (here, here, here, ). One thing that was not addressed in great detail there was how to become the top speaker at the TOC and so this series will address this.

Continue reading

Some Notes on Impacts

I’m somewhat baffled by many of the debates I see lately (as well as with the decisions of other judges when I listen to them) with the strange focus on terminal impacts, both in what percentage of time is spent debating them, and then even after a lot of time is spent arguing defense to them with how large of a “risk” judges assign them. Especially with people who I have had conversations with about how to debate or adjudicate impacts who when they are then in a debate seem to disregard/not employ the views they had previously expressed.

So below the break are some thoughts on what is going wrong in these debates and in the deciding of said debates.

Continue reading