Many of the pieces of evidence that students frequently read in debates are unquestionably terrible. Often, the desire to bolster an impact’s magnitude and raise it to extinction-level leads debaters to rely on evidence with a host of problems including but not limited to:
- evidence used to advance arguments outside its intended context;
- evidence citing unqualified, (functionally) anonymous, or even nefarious authors;
- evidence culled from (typically internet or tabloid) sources that are at best unedited and at worst contemptible;
- evidence advancing hyperbolic arguments supported by vitriolic and/or over-the-top language;
- evidence so old that it no longer makes sense given subsequent events or changes in the topic it discusses; and
- evidence which must be liberally interpreted in order for it to be used to support the desired conclusion.
The “Bad Cards” series is an attempt to highlight some of the most egregious examples of poor-quality evidence that is nonetheless commonplace in high school policy debates. It is not the author’s intention to “scold” or “shame” those who have read these pieces of evidence in the past or who will do so in the future. Instead, it is an attempt to influence the way that evidence is selected for inclusion in debate arguments by arming opposing students with the tools they need to defeat bad cards.