Category Archives: Research/Links

Avoiding Straw Men

Most people learn by the end of their first day of camp not to cut straw man cards in the vein of “some people say”. But I have often commented in post rounds that debaters do themselves a disservice by purposefully underrepresenting (or misunderstanding) their opponents arguments in the round/when responding to them. This article and an older journal piece it links to do a good job of explaining why this tactic is a bad one for you to employ in your debates.

Discussion: Alternatives to Dropbox?

Lifehacker has a lengthy post today about Dropbox and its alternatives. Dropbox seems to be the default service that debate teams have used for file sharing but the quality of the alternatives is increasing and Dropbox has had a series of recent mishaps. Have you tried any of the alternatives? Is Dropbox still the best fit for debate teams? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Topic Lecture from NASA

Here is a lecture from the Emory debate camp given by Susan Kroskey. Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Emory University Graduate and former member of the Debate Team and  Russell R. Romanella. Associate Director for Engineering and Technical Operations at NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC).


There are some great T discussions someone will no doubt transcribe and read, so be warned.

A good Hitler Pants card

The classic analytic answer to many K impacts has now become the “Hitler wore pants” arg, and as persuasive as clothing analogies can be here is a pretty good card that says something similar but in a (arguably…) more intelligent way


As a history teacher, I’ve always found it interesting to discuss with high schoolers the complicated idea of ‘causation’ (that is, what caused, what contributed to, past events).


What’s striking about conversations involving this topic is the extent to which students are willing (often through no fault of their own) to attribute events to ideologies – as if Nazism itself were responsible for the Holocaust.


Regarding Nazism (and Fascism, too), I stress that, without Nazis, Nazism (as an ideology) would have been unable to do, well, to do anything.


This, I think, is key: that students confront the idea that systems of belief are not, in and of themselves, capable of destruction. Ideology becomes dangerous – in a historical sense – when individuals activate their core tenets.


At the high school level, conversations involving causation can lead in other directions as well. Most rewarding, I think, are those which involve the idea of ‘attribution.’


Continuing for a moment with the example of the Second World War: students must address in their thinking the notion that Germany (with a capital ‘G’) was not in itself responsible for the Holocaust.


True, that country initiated the events which conspired against Europe’s Jews, but again, a nation cannot act without individuals. To attribute to Germany (as many text books do) blame for the Holocaust seems, therefore, as irresponsible as attributing that same umbrella of blame to Nazism.


After discussions involving ideology and attribution, students, I find, are more effectively positioned to handle the crux of the issue involving causation – that is, that individuals, and individual action, trigger historical events. To get at the Holocaust, students need to wrestle with documents which reflect the mindset, the priorities, of the German people.


New Free OCR Tool

Daniel Gaskell has recently released ScreenOCR, a front-end for the Tesseract engine that lets you instantly OCR anything visible on your screen with a single click. After playing around with it, ScreenOCR gets my official stamp of approval: it’s the easiest way yet to OCR text so that it can be copied into your debate template. The download is available online for free along with some suggestions for using the software. One hint that I’ll echo: make sure you zoom in so that the text is very large before using ScreenOCR. Once I figured this out, OCRing text from Google Books became a snap. Thanks to Daniel for making this software available to the debate community.

Putting The K In Debate: A Conversation With Ryan Galloway

The Putting The K In Debate website has posted several videos and podcasts in recent weeks that should be of interest to our readers. In particular, I wanted to highlight the “Critical Issues in Debate: A Conversation with Dr. Ryan Galloway” episode of the podcast. In it, Scott Odekirk—the Assistant Debate Coach at Idaho State University and the host of the podcast—engages in a lengthy conversation with Ryan Galloway—the Director of Debate at Samford University—about a wide range of subjects. While the entire discussion is worthwhile listening, Galloway’s tips for debaters seeking to improve during the off-season are particularly valuable. If you’d just like to hear that part of the podcast, skip to the 49 minute mark.

Fiori on Performative Contradictions

In an article on the UTNIF blog, Nick Fiori—Assistant Director of Debate at Damien High School—highlights the frequency with which contradictions are made between a critique and the rest of the arguments presented in a first negative constructive speech. Negatives often present a security critique, for example, while simultaneously presenting disadvantages premised upon security logic.

[C]ertainly there exists a pre-disposition against performative contradictions in debate; only by mistake do negatives read a hegemony good disad and a hegemony bad disad in the same 1NC. But this type of contradiction is less problematic because any reasonably experienced 2AC could exploit the contradiction to their advantage by conceding some arguments and turning others. But with advocacies, by this I mean arguments that would produce a change over the status quo (counterplans, alternatives), it’s more tricky, and when those advocacies exists on conceptually different levels like a counterplan and Kritik, the contradiction seems to take on actual and not just debate practice problems. If it is true, as the negative’s had argued, that it wasn’t the effects of the plan that were the problem, but the rhetoric of the 1AC, then why is it that the negative is allowed to make such utterances but the affirmative cannot? I speak only from my personal experience, but it seems to me that there is a general default among debate judges that this position is perfectly defensible. Why is it so incredibly rare for the aff to be able to win on the argument that the negative links to their own Kritik when, on face, it seems largely unfair?

Head over the UTNIF blog to read the entire piece.