[eDebate] judging debates - response to james

David Register regedebate
Wed Jan 10 22:35:04 CST 2007

an oops moment with the reply button on gmail, and now the chance to

i judge the clash of civilizations debate.  i get an occasional policy
throwdown, or the zizek/agamben/baudrillard/neitzsche concludes aff/neg, but
for the most part i find myself deciding if critical arguments belong in
debate.  i usually find the clash of civs debate boring and poorly exectued,
and at the end the 2nr/ar asks me to read all of their zigambrillard cards,
and the other side wants me to read what dybvig or coverstone have to say
about policy debate.  even worse... the shotgun argument...  or even the
blitz rule...  "if aff choice works for traditional teams, why not for us?"
i'll divulge all my feelings about this argument here - it sucks.  yes, the
aff chooses the framework just like they choose their advantages, but the
neg should be able to read disads to that framework just like they can
impact turn an advantage.  when i hear "aff choice" in the 2ac, sharp pains
run through my head.  all this being said, there are some incredible
debaters out there on both sides of the framework divide.  i think if
everyone could debate realism like martin osborne, there would be less
complaining from the "policy" people.  if more folks could take a handful of
"critical" cards and break them down the way oklahoma or umkc can do, there
would be less judges complaining about having to read a stack of evidence
that doesn't make any sense.  i know i'm not really talking about
"performance" or "project" teams, but the same applies.  great debaters make
great arguments, in whatever format(s) fits their style/personality/skills.
i think as a judge, i don't get to pick the framework.  although i think it
would be sweet to have a checklist of different args before each debate,
where i could order a debate like a meal.

i judged a debate in the finals of the unt tournament that i would've
ordered if i had a pre-round menu.  everyone involved was technically
proficient and understood their args as well as those of the other team.
and as a small tangent, malgore gets a lot of publicity, but amy foster is
incredible in cx.  i was extremely tired in this debate.  i usually work
hard to keep a detailed flow, but this one got away from me in some places.
the issues were complex, and well explained by both sides.  reading cards
was unavoidable.  although two of us voted neg, all three decisions saw the
debate differently.  i think this is the mark of a great debate... it was so
close it could've gone either way.  i put in work to make sure i could
explain/justify my decision.  in some debates i feel 100% confident about my
decision, but in this one i was only about 60-70%.  but, i gave it my best
effort.  this is where i feel like i've grown as a critic over the past
couple of years.  i don't know if i've gotten any better at making
decisions, but i've gotten more careful to make sure i give the teams my
best effort.  even when i don't understand all the arguments in a debate,
i'll read cards and take notes and do the best i can.  what i've found is
that i enjoy judging.  i don't care what args are being made, i just like
watching good debaters clash.  even better, i like watching debaters develop
their arguments, so that each time i see them there's more
sophistication/tricks/explanation.  i always want to have something to say
about what could've been done better by both teams, and i think good teams
will usually ask what they could've done.  one of my favorite teams to watch
this year is baylor (hallie and obie) because they absorb post-round
discussions and get better.

ok, where is all this going?  i encourage our teams to pref judges who who
will help them improve as debaters.  this means people who are close-minded
(on either side of the ideological rift in our community) tend to get
strikes from us.  why? because we have different teams with different
argument preferences, and we try to encourage and coach them based on how
they want to participate.  in the doubles of ut-d, our team made a strategic
decision based on what we do best against the type of aff run by ku.  nick
is one of the most technically proficient debaters i've seen in this
activity, although sometimes he forgets to take it down a knotch to explain
things in the 2nr.  although joel and the chief split, both of their
decisions reflected an effort to explain themselves on all the relevant
issues.  james, you pride yourself on not reading evidence and making quick
decisions.  in this debate you didn't explain yourself on anything.  you
didn't call for any cards and you were done in less than 10 minutes.  your
decision consisted of "the aff had some business, the neg had some business,
and the aff said we could do both businesses, and i vote aff."  then you
launched a criticism of both teams about their lack of explanation, followed
recently by your new judging philosophy.  what i want to know is what can my
debaters take away from your decision?  what do they learn?  should they
learn that they suck because they didn't explain things well enough for
you?  should they now stand up and say the k doesn't make sense?  or maybe
wrong forum?  if they didn't explain things effectively, what can they
explain better next time?  what would've been a better strat?

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