[eDebate] listening skillz : ans Harvey
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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