[eDebate] listening skillz : ans Harvey

Kevin Sanchez let_the_american_empire_burn
Tue Sep 17 04:43:22 CDT 2002


i understand your confusion, Korry, but i never used cross-examinations of 
debaters to advance my own ideas (at least not intentionally), because i 
wasn't making statements, but rather asking questions.
  in fact, i particularly liked the moments when i could pursue a line of 
questioning that i'd never personally advocate: for example, asking about 
the detailed effects of a particular policy on the president's political 
capital or trying to magnify the disadvantageous impacts of an economic 
  i suggested this judging method as a way to be of better service to the 
debaters, as a way of enhancing the educational mission of debate, and not 
as a soap-box for a critic's personal opinions.
  Korry asks: "doesn't this fundamentally, and even necessarily, deviate 
from the 'debate is between the debaters not between the judge and debaters' 
mentality? as a judge, how can you simultaneously leave the argumentative 
progress in the hands of the debaters and yet also interject your own 
subjective analysis (also read: bias) into the mix?"
  a judge cx (in the context of a traditional contest-round format) seeks to 
heighten the clash (or 'level the playing field') between the two opposing 
sides: a team will listen intently as a judge asks questions of their 
opponents which may provide links to positions they've already run, or bring 
potentially effective counter-arguments to light.


now, of course, a judge's bias is an inevitability. it's an inescapable fact 
that two reasonable people may see a dispute between two warranted claims 
completely differently, e.g: one judge might consider a mitigated link a 
reason not to vote on a disadvantage and another judge might see the impacts 
as disadvantageous enough to not vote for the plan. that's life in all it's 
  and naturally, what one knows about a critic (whether from a pre-round 
statement of paradigms, or a history of their previous decisions, or 
whatever) will influence how a given argument develops in their prescence. 
and i agree that this justifies some carefully-taken steps beyond the 
conventional boundaries of 'tabula rasa' - notice that i've not defended 
traditional 'non-interventionism' at all.
  yet saying all this doesn't mean 'anything goes' - i can't up and ignore a 
debater because i don't like what they're saying, nor can i simply refuse to 
vote for a position because i personally disagree with it. in my (baised) 
opinion, this is disrespectful and doesn't do justice to the debaters. and 
my questions were intended ask: how can any debater possibly adapt to this 
  there will always be an 'interaction' between the judge and the debaters - 
the judge is perpetually 'in the way' and it remains a debater's perogative 
how to 'adapt'. so the question becomes, how will a judge formulate their 
side of the interaction? i mean, the impossibility of ideal fairness does 
not mean one shouldn't try to be as fair as possible in a particular 
situation, does it?
  to me it means seeking methods and paradigms that are as fair, 
educational, and empowering as possible. and i think judge cross-examination 
is such a method.
  (and when i wrote that "i discovered [through judeg cx-es] that i could 
get debaters thinking about arguments which i'd be sympathic to regardless 
of their side", i meant this specifically for Andy, who is trying to 
reconcile his activist stances with his role as a critic. i did not mean 
what Korry suggests by quoting it, which is, 'i'm more likely to vote for 
arguments i'm sympathic toward'. if anything, i'm less likely to vote for 
Foucauldian kritiks for example, considering how badly they're bastardized 
by academic debaters.)


and let me disgress a bit to say that i think many debaters (unduly 
influenced by the 'rejectionist kritik' of the pomo-coach-vanguard) appear 
to have some qualms about the words 'justice' and 'fairness' which i find 
naive. take Jacques Derrida's work, for instace. in Spectres of Marx, he 
argues that justice is an ethical imperative *precisely because* it can 
never be adequately reduced to calculation. Derridean deconstruction applied 
to the role of a debate critic entails taking account of arguments presented 
in such a way that a judge's decision is *internal* and *not external* to a 
round ('there is no outside-text'). when Derrida says that "deconstruction 
happens and happens from within", this means that one need not revert to the 
'neutral, objective observer'-position: one can admit bias, use 
deconstructive methods, and try to be as fair as possible.


as for judge's differances, i encourage respect for them; and if one can't 
hear (or doesn't want to hear) high-pitched, rapid-fire speech, for example, 
then letting debaters know this should be sufficient to help you help them 
more effectively. i certainly don't like that anyone would be struck from 
judging pools because of a disability - that's not right. and as an outcast 
(for admittedly different reasons), i can sympathize.
  and wouldn't you like to ask a debater that has just given a speedy 1ac, 
how they expect your ballot when you couldn't understand a word they said? 
:) i also think that word-to-text translators might be a viable long-term 
option, which would force debaters to speak more clearly and allow judges to 
better listen (instead of 'flow').


you're certainly preaching to the choir when you advocate de-emphasizing 
debate's reliance on hyper-competitiveness and working to create a more 
public sphere, especially: "if the only way a person can 'win' an argument 
is by being able to 'out-spew' an opponent, then we should all stop 
pretending that debate has anything valuable to offer society at-large."
  yet this isn't an indictment of verbal speed per se, but very specific 
discursive practices debate deploys which are bound up with structures of 
binary opposition argument-formats, fractured and narrowly-framed 
thought-modes, and mono-agonivity generally.
  listen to the Gift of Gab, of Blackalicious, deliver his 'A to Z' (with 
Cut Chemist doing beatz), and he'll free-style at an incredibly fast-rate, 
but that's still very easy to understand. or GoG's work with DJ Shadow on a 
cut called 'Midnight in a Perfect World' - which works a beautiful poem as 
well. so rhetorical acceleration (just like a fast-paced piano-piece) can 
intensify ideas - and to say that this skill (like every skill) should take 
the audience into account, i agree with; to say that it's bad form in every 
instance, i disagree with.
  the question you raise appears to be a more fundamental issue with 
debate's exclusive privledging of 'the W', which i've persistently argued 
hurts this forum's capacity for free play. so i unreservedly agree with this 
quotation from Korry:
"what about diversity? dissent? dialogue? if debate is meant to teach 
advocacy skills then adaptation seems to be a cornerstone of that endeavor. 
i am not like all other judges. i am unique, and will not apologize for 
being so, nor will i attempt to become something i am not for the sake of a 
solely strategic method."
  no where did i suggest that *all* judges should fit a totalizing mold: i 
was questioning Andy for demanding that *all* debaters fit his totalizing 
(and 'inconsistent') mold, thereby arguing that, as a critic, one will be 
called upon to service dialogue in debate in diverse ways. being a faithful 
dissenter (in debate or in society)never entails a refusal to listen. i 
think we should all be able to agree that listening is what's so crucial for 
both debaters and critics.


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