[eDebate] the high-tech MPJ Good case

Kris Willis kristopherwillis
Wed Nov 22 16:49:28 CST 2006

Josh thank you for taking the time to respond directly to my concerns and I 
also appreciate your honesty in reply. A good honest discussion is needed 
regarding MPJ.
First, a few ideas not yet addressed and of great concern. In my original 
post I discussed how MPJ allows teams to pick judges that may not only be 
biased to their styles, but also to them. I know I would rate certain people 
high because I knew them personally and it would be difficult to vote 
against me (especially as a senior and at nationals). While I do believe 
there are some judges who are truly as objective as possible and hence they 
are rated highly, I also know people are rated highly because they will vote 
for "their boys" or award high points. If objectivity and impartiality are 
what we should strive for, then MPJ is a mechanism that can (and is) used to 
disrupt those goals.
While Josh I am glad you used MPJ to pick impartial judges (for 
argumentative style preferences) I am also sure you did what others do and 
rate non-impartial judges in your favor highly too. I believe this practice 
to be of great concern.
Also good teams win regardless. I believe MPJ only effects a few teams but 
everyone is lured into this false sense of control.
Now lets discuss what you did respond to.

>1. Adaptability
>There's no question that MPJ decreases the amount of adaptation demanded of 
>debaters. I don't think that's a bad thing.
>There's no question that adapting to people's opinions and views is 
>important in life; nobody can really dispute that. But should debate merely 
>model the real world? Students (and the rest of us) get trained in normal 
>persuasion and the art of dealing with people's different quirks and styles 
>almost every hour of every day. That's what people practice at their jobs, 
>in class, in their social interactions...all the time. I think what 
>separates debate from the 'real world' and what makes it so valuable is its 
>UNIQUE ability to give students a reprieve from the ideology and 
>irrationality that so saturate a lot of human interactions. When asked by 
>people why I think debate is sweet, I always find myself talking about its 
>relative intellectual purity---for 2 hours, you get to engage in argument 
>that is in its ideal form is uncontrained by all the bullshit we all deal 
>with all the time: the personal agendas, the refusal to listen to opposing 
>points of view, the laziness, the incompetance etc. I think that that 
>experience is profoundly valuable to everyone involved; the ability to 
>debate your arguments in a very advanced way in front of neutral judges who 
>are just as if not more informed about the arguments you're making is 
>something that is NOT available in other forums. I could have had a 
>rudimentary discussion about emissions trading systems and gotten someone's 
>gut reaction any time I wanted. But being able to delve into the details of 
>a hybrid permits scheme vs a purely upstream system and its implications 
>for innovation and WTO compatability in front of someone like Repko or 
>DHeidt who had read about the subject and judged about it all year 
>long----THAT you cannot get somewhere else.

Granted. This does cut both ways. However, I also believe your argument 
below about how some teams will continue to debate their styles will 
continue regardless of MPJ. I know Fort Hayes wont change etc. So why is MPJ 
so important? All of these advantages are specific to debate as a practice 
and not MPJ. I am sure the depth of your argument (the example you provide) 
was still what you argued in front of other judges as well. Not because of 
MPJ, but rather because it was an argument you believed was correct and 

>Lets take the adaptability argument to its logical conclusion: speed would 
>be eliminated, because you don't talk fast in the real world, we'd bring 
>people in off the street to judge, evidence would be drastically altered, 
>etc. If you are against MPJ for the reasons of adaptation, then I think you 
>also must be against fast talking for the same reason. One of the thing 
>that sets debate apart from the real world is that you have an opportunity 
>to control who judges you: someone that you feel is a good match for the 
>style and sophisticiation of your arguments. I think we should preserve 
>that. It's part of the value-added that debate provides.

This is a slippery slope. There is no way debate will change or that I am 
advocating it should etc. That is because debating at a fast-pace in depth 
level and reading evidence is very educational. MPJ is not critical for this 
to exist and my argument is not about changing debate, but rather MPJ. I 
certainly would never support dragging people in of the street. That is 
great for Public Debate, not Policy. The activity existed in this way before 
MPJ and will continue after.

>2. Balkanization
>Is there really a 'war in debate?' I find this a little ridiculous, and 
>whatever level of 'divide' there is between K and policy folks, I don't 
>think MPJ is the cause. Do you really think Fort Hays is going to bust out 
>their Stare Decisis DA if we get rid of MPJ? Is MSU going to display their 
>hidden Nietzsche talents? I thought Sue Peterson's post on this was pretty 
>interesting; I think that eliminating MPJ might actually heighten the 
>problem---if anyone thinks that the post-round discussion between some of 
>the extreme K teams and extreme policy judges (and the other way around) is 
>going to be wonderfully integrative and productive if they are FORCED to 
>judge each other, I'd be surprised.
>(edited for space)
>In fact, the killer part about this arg is that it turns the anti-MPJ 
>adaptability arguments. The absolutely crucial part of MPJ for me was that 
>it preserved flexibility WITHIN the debates. Only through MPJ was I able to 
>get rid of the people who, through whatever Balkanist ideology, were 
>rabidly anti-K or anti-policy. Eliminate MPJ, and all of a sudden the 
>strategy in some debates becomes determined by the judge, not by the 
>research done or the merits of the arguments. And I think THAT is the exact 
>sort of argumentative inflexibility that would be horrible for the 

First, I think a diversity of arguments and rhetorical styles are wonderful 
for the activity. My Balkanization argument was not in reference to 
argumentative choice but rather how MPJ LITERALLY allows people to create a 
separation within debate. While I am glad you chose people in the middle of 
the road, others do not. Specifically it allows for teams to determine who 
is a "good judge" and what constitutes good judging. It allows competitors 
to pick their audience and critics. These are practices which create an 
insular activity with divisions amongst its members. I think this is bad for 
the activity. It prevents judges who don't fit in from being heard (see 
Sarah Snider's post).
Second, I also see a problem with saying certain judges who are so dogmatic 
in their approach should have to watch other rhetorical style teams or that 
teams should be stuck with these bad judges. I do not support MPJ, but do 
believe that some (albeit a select few) do not try to be objective and allow 
their personal dispositions to rule the round. They should be struck from 
teams that do want them in the room. This is a problem but MPJ is not the 
solution. Rather it should be judges trying to be objective. In fact, if you 
read the CEDA Nationals philosophy booklet you see the vast majority of 
judges are committed to that goal. (P.S. this is the same place I found the 
"war in debate" comment...I can't take credit for that one).

>3. There's a gigantic DA to eliminating MPJ that turns and outweighs your 
>That DA is simply judge competance. Nobody can credibly claim that all 
>judges are equal...(edited for space)
>And I know that for some reason in debate nobody likes to call anybody bad, 
>and we love to say that All Judges Are Equal and that apparent talent is 
>either a result of privilege or bias. But at the end of the day, lets be 
>honest, there are some judges better than others, and MPJ, while it has its 
>problems, generally allows the better judges to judge more.

First, judges get better by judging (see Sarah's post again). If you define 
out "bad judges how are they ever to get better. The very reason you say 
Will and DHeidt are good is that they try; how can judges get better if they 
are not allowed to try. This becomes an insular or self-fulfilling argument 
because MPJ allows this to happen.
Second, Strikes would eliminate the most egregious judges which don't try.
Third, I have a serious problem with who gets to define "good judging." As I 
discussed earlier, good judging can become "he's my boy" etc.
Fourth, I used to have this belief until this year. Coaching a mostly Novice 
squad means you don't get MPJ and usually have the "undesirables" judging 
your teams. With a few exceptions (like not knowing the time limits etc.) I 
have fundamently changed my opinions because my teams have received good 
judging (read not necessarily wins) from people I would have struck.
Perhaps we should try and not get so focused on the "worst case senerio" and 
stop trying to reach for control through MPJ.

>4. I'm less sure about the minority representation argument, but I do know 
>that there is a problem when our solution to underepresentation is to FORCE 
>people to take minority judges they don't want. I think the problem lies 
>less with MPJ than with the fact that people's mutual choices seem to be 
>biased. The argument that lies in banning MPJ to force people to take 
>minority judges is awfully close to just proposing that female/female teams 
>be given a few automatic wins per tournament. There are obviously no easy 
>answers, but the mandate affirmative action proposals sure don't seem like 
>the right ones.

This is the power to Balkanize I discussed earlier and the Female/Female 
argument is not even close to analogous.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

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