[eDebate] My beef with debate
Sat Nov 3 19:29:53 CST 2001
Wow, I have been offline for a few days and missed much of this thread, but I have read enough to think that it is fascinating.
Here are a couple of observations that I don't think have been made (at least one anyway).
As an avowed leftist (notice I did not type "liberal") I find it amazing that anyone could really believe that the majority of arguments run in debate these days are anything but leftist. All of the big, successful critique positions are based on theories that exist well outside the mainstream of public discussion and well to the left of anything argued in the public sphere. And though I would not claim that this is inherently bad, I think that the arguments made regarding how this affects judging are right on target for what has been happening in our activity for a number of years now.
Judging, on the whole, has severely deteriorated in terms of objectivity in recent years. I remember a time (granted this was back when I was debating and first coaching) when judges regularly claimed to be tabula rasa in their pre-round philosophy discussion. Now, I recognize that there is no such monster as a true tab judge and if there were I wouldn't want them judging my teams due to lack of intrinsic knowledge about debate, but I would rather have someone like Nick Burnett judging my teams these days than most of the idiots that my kids have to perform in front of. I think the prbolem is not so much that the political leanings of the community are clearly leftist but that today's judges can't bring themselves to vote against ideas that they themselves believe in even when such ideas are thoroughly trounced on the flow. For example, last year at CEDA Nats my team was aff against a neg that relied mostly on a Bush strategy. We put out 14 carded uniqueness responses that went completely unanswered by the neg. The one and only response in 2nr to this 14 card block was "extend my links". We dropped the ballot in that round because, the judge explained that even though we had all these uniqueness cards (which post-dated every card read by the neg), there was still a significant risk of the disad occuring and that risk outwighed the impacts to the case (which were, of course, conceded). The problem is...the neg never made either of these arguments in the debate. These arguments were made only by the judge. During the 2ac, 1ar, and 2ar, the judge's lips were moving as he was making arguments for the neg that they did not make for themselves.
This scenario is unfortunately typical of judging on the policy circuit these days. We hear decisions like this at every tournament. My theory is that judges who have spent so much of their own time doing research on these arguments, be they critiques or process disads, believe so much in their own work that even when these arguments are demolished in rounds, they can't bring themselves to vote against the arguments.
Granted, some times there is fault to be lodged against the debaters. I see almost no impact analysis at the end of rounds these days. The quality of debate has deteriorated along witht he quality of judging. But, my experience leads me to believe that one of the central problems with our activity currently is an almost total lack of objectivity in decisions. I don't think it really matters that the majority of our community happen to be politically left (like myself). To me the greater problem is that too many of our current judging pool can't bring themselves to vote against their own ideology even when the flow clearly indicates that they should.
Trying to start a movement toward objectivity and away from intervention in judging.
Los Angeles City College
(323) 953-4000 xt 2962
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