[eDebate] Final Consult/Speaker Points Thoughts And A Change For Wake

Aaron Hardy spoon_22
Tue Nov 6 20:39:30 CST 2007

Two reasons for this final email on Consult and Speaker Points ?

a) For reasons I?ll explain in more depth below, I?m suspending my 
policy of docking speaker points for running consult/aspec at Wake and 
USC ? While I remain completely unconvinced of their educational merit, 
I am not confident in how the policy would interact with a new point 
scale, and I want to engage what I think is an excellent experiment by 
those tournaments on its own terms. For the record, I?ll do my best to 
try and apply whatever suggested reading of the scale those tournaments 

b) Second, I just want to wrap up my final thoughts on all the feedback 
I?ve received and a few of the last posts on this issue. I obviously 
still welcome anyone that would like to continue this discussion to 
email me. I will say that I have been very encouraged by the number of 
people who have been willing to discuss this, and the number of people 
who?ve said that this public discussion has been useful, regardless of 
which side they fall on the issue. I think open debate on issues that 
affect the community is always good?and I want to reiterate that I?m 
really trying hard to maintain an open mind as to whether or not my 
policy is an effective or useful one. I remain unconvinced that it is ? 
and still unconvinced that it isn?t.

Lastly, I obviously only speak for myself ? not for the rest of the 
Whitman coaches or debaters.

More in-depth discussion follows:

I?m very encouraged by the move towards new point scales ? I think 
essentially anything we try has the potential to be far better than the 
status quo system. Given that I?m still not sure how these new 
experiments will work, or what their analogue is on our current scale, I 
think it?s prudent to suspend my policy of docking speaker points for 
running consult/aspec at Wake and USC. I don?t think it would be fair to 
the debaters to have my approach be ad-hoc and lacking in any precedent. 
I still don?t like these arguments, but I won?t enforce any penalties 
for running them without knowing how the scale works in practice. One 
thing that hasn?t changed is how I?ll judge the round and the arguments 
in front of me, regardless of my opinion of them. I?ll always try my 
best to be fair.

Despite the various defenses proffered on e-debate, I remain unconvinced 
of the pedagogical value of running consult CP?s, and think the 
arguments for them to date have been thin. There?ve also been very, very 
few people who have suggested an alternate mechanism for how to 
discourage teams from relying on them other than utilizing speaker 
points. It?s a remedy that I remain unconvinced is adequate, and am 
still somewhat uncomfortable with, but don?t feel has been soundly defeated.

?Consult is only at the beginning of the year? (Hoe)
Not for a lot of teams ? recent prevalence at tournaments like Vandy 
(just to mention one I know about) are at least an indication that these 
arguments don?t just disappear after GSU. More importantly, they make a 
return in force every year on elim day at the NDT, and many teams have 
them in debates all year as a backup. Even if it?s true that many teams 
do jettison them in later stages of the year, my whole point is that 
these shouldn?t be the crutch they represent for a lot of teams when 
faced with the unfamiliar. If they were only run at the very first 
tournament, my opinion of them wouldn?t change. If the roadmap for how 
to get ready for the topic isn?t to worry about what cases people might 
run and invest a lot of time preparing specific arguments for 
eventualities, then I think we could encourage a much better model. They 
still represent a tradeoff with topic-specific education ? I wish my 
teams didn?t have to spend 2+ days before the first tournament cutting 
?say no? instead of working on their 1AC. Aff responses also aren?t just 
to ?cut a few say no cards? ? when there?s 20 countries you?re worried 
about, a couple say no cards that aren?t supported in the lit isn?t good 
enough. There?s no real discussion of say yes/say no vis a vis the 
affirmative anyway ? so to my mind doing that work is a complete waste 
of time.

?Consult is just as educational as anything else? (Zompetti)
I feel like I?ve answered this argument in-depth in past posts ? there?s 
a gigantic logical gulf between ?talking about Egypt is educational? and 
?talking about Egypt by running the consultation CP is educational.? You 
can still talk about Egypt. You can run the US-Egypt relations DA. You 
can have Egypt do the plan if Egypt is actually relevant. I can?t even 
envision why this is a defense of allowing the negative to run a CP 
which absolutely no one would advocate in the real world and give Egypt 
a binding veto over US policy. This isn?t a reason why other bad 
arguments aren?t also run in debates ? I hear some bad argument in a 
huge percentage of debates I judge. I?m perfectly willing to listen to 
(and vote for) things which I think are intellectually vacuous, 
including consult ? I just think that if consult is as damaging to the 
activity as it has become, we should try as a judging and coaching pool 
to encourage us to move in a different direction.

?Consultation is complex, and therefore educational? (Souders)
You can debate about theory, competition, and tactical choices on a 
whole range of other CP?s. This is scarily close to ?run terrible 
arguments so you learn to win with nothing.? While some education might 
result from that process, I think it?s a hard sell to say it?s better 
than just running good, smart arguments that engage with the aff. And I 
don?t think this speaks to the fairness question at all.

?Bid teams run them? (Souders)
That?s my point. The community should not be incentivizing teams to have 
a great deal of success relying on arguments which are unfair and 
uneducational. Maybe if bid teams stopped relying on them in so many of 
their negative debates, they?d be less of a ?cool? lazy shortcut.

?Consult is dynamic, and therefore educational? (Souders)
I disagree with the basic premise of this...The blueprint for an 
acceptable consult CP is re-reading the Mochizuki 95 article on 
consulting Japan, and setting the bar for ?say yes? cards lower than 
politics uniqueness. You learn just as much about relations with other 
countries debating disads and international CP?s ? but there is no 
literature base defending these counterplans as run in debates, which 
makes them ?subject educational? only on a non-subject. It?s also a 
tradeoff ? cutting cards on that means not cutting cards on something 
that actually IS dynamic ? I?d much rather my students be cutting cards 
on, say, Larijani, than looking for 10 year old articles on US-Egypt 

?They?re easy to judge? (Souders)
You may be only ?somewhat facetious? but I think there are plenty of 
judges out there that would say the same thing NOT in jest. I think 
that?s a problem. Debates that encourage the judge to ?nap out? till the 
2AR are obviously stale and anti-educational. I think judging is hard 
work, and should be ? it?s the least we can do as judges to respect the 
work a lot of debaters put into this activity?

?If consult bad is so true, it should take care of itself? (Baker)
This is the crux of the reason why I?m trying this experiment in the 
first place ? because I feel like a large percentage of people I talk to 
dislike consult CP?s, yet they never go away and teams win on them all 
the time. I think the marketplace of ideas is broken ? modern judging 
incentivizes these arguments to a high degree, and teams won?t stop 
running them without some sort of negative feedback to their strategic 

?Lower speaks result from poor debate? (Baker)
This is true ? but there?s an obvious difference in the degree. I also 
disagree with the statement that I?m dismissing them a priori ? I?m 
willing to vote on them, and have in nearly every debate I?ve ever 
judged on them. I think that speaks precisely to the problem ? debate as 
it?s currently practiced means that despite my bias, I feel forced into 
voting for an argument I think is making debate tangibly worse, all in 
the name of objectivity.

?I?ll give 30?s to fight back? (Cyrus)
That?s obviously your prerogative. There?s one obvious DA to this ? 
you?ll be giving out 30?s to every single negative team you judge, 
because regardless of their take on the argument, they?ll run it for the 
extra speaker points. I can?t see how that?s even an attempt to improve 
the quality of the debate community.

?You?re just criticizing PIC?s? (Cyrus)
I?m pretty sure my posts aren?t ? I think PIC?s are good. I think PIC?s 
that have no comparative literature, compete on things not in the plan, 
encourage complete laziness, and build in a structure which screws the 
aff are bad.

?Dictating arguments is a bad precedent? (Cyrus)
I think this begs the question. The community?s collective obsession 
with these counterplans is already unhealthy. I?m not suggesting teams 
can?t run any argument they like ? I vote on consult CP?s when I judge 
them. My whole point is to question whether a ?healthy community? can 
come up with a way for coaches (educators) to encourage their debaters 
(students) in a more educational and fair direction.

?Just say you won?t vote for them? (Cyrus and backchannels)
I still think this is the wrong remedy. I think that my job in deciding 
who wins the debate is to be as objective as possible based on the 
arguments on the flow. I think anyone suggesting I do otherwise should 
think very hard about what they?re asking me to do. It?s a FAR more 
dangerous precedent to suggest that how I judge should change from round 
to round based on my opinions of an argument. Speaker points seem to be 
in place precisely to give the judge a subjective outlet on things like 
argument choice, speaking style, CX style, etc?Saying I should vote 
against a team just because I don?t like their argument is 
indistinguishable to just voting against a team because you ?don?t 
believe in the politics DA? even though the aff dropped it in the 2AC. I 
strive to judge by the exact same process in every debate I judge ? no 
matter the content.

?People might not clear? (Cyrus)
Some punitive effect is largely the point. A friendly ?FYI, that arg is 
dumb? is the status quo ? and is resolutely failing to discourage teams 
from running these arguments. I also think these fears are very 
overhyped. Teams are making a choice of what to run, it?s not like 
there?s no forewarning or chance to preclude that from happening. In 
reality, the win or loss is a lot more important to clearing, which I?m 
not suggesting I change ? and high/lows largely remedy any overall 
impact one round would have. My experience so far with this policy bears 
this out in practice. I?m sure many would point to this as a reason why 
my policy is destined to be completely ineffective ? that?s probably 
true, and one of the reasons why I remain open-minded about the success 
of this experiment. The bottom line is I?m not sure yet ? there?s 
insufficient data to do anything other than speculate.

?Fairness should be decided in round? (Cyrus)
It is ? which is precisely why I (and many other judges) vote for 
consult so often. The question isn?t about letting debaters do what they 
want ? it?s questioning whether there can be a downside which changes 
debaters calculus without doing something I think is unacceptable ? 
which is categorically refusing to vote on an argument, or judging some 
other way.

?You wouldn?t have liked this as a debater? (Cyrus)
I would have been fine with this ? at least I would have known, and 
could have made a strategic calculation. More judge transparency in 
argument likes and dislikes would have facilitated a whole lot more 
wins. What I disliked far more as a debater was judges who assigned a 
win or loss based on some subjective criteria I couldn?t understand. I 
would want a judge in the back of the room who tried as hard as possible 
to judge in a consistent and applied way, regardless of arguments, and 
let their subjective preferences be reflected some other way ? which is 
precisely the judge I endeavor (imperfectly, I?m sure) to be.

?It?s an arbitrary line? (Cyrus)
The point of having this discussion is that it?s not ?arbitrary? ? I 
think all the evidence points in one direction, which is that consult is 

?Various ad-homs? (Cyrus)

?Speaker points are for responses to arguments, not arguments 
themselves? (Cyrus)
I?m not sure I understand the brightline you?re trying to draw. If it?s 
?how you respond to your opponent? that matters, than consultation CP?s 
are one of the stupidest possible responses by a negative to the 
arguments made by the aff. Your distinction doesn?t make a lot of sense 
? and I think speaker points reflect a range of things, not just ?smart 

?Debaters should fix it? (Cyrus)
I think this is responded to in-depth elsewhere. It?s not how debate 
works, and it?s not how judging works. If you want to come up with a way 
for judges to read genuine consultation cards and not say ??japan w/50 
iran? is an acceptable barometer, I vote neg,? I?d love to hear it. The 
fact that debaters went for dispo bad instead of consult bad against you 
is proof of my argument. Take a simple straw poll ? the number of people 
that think consult is dumb is a whole lot higher than the people who 
think dispo is dumb. Your opponents could only make that calculation 
because something in the marketplace of ideas about consult is broken ? 
and they thought ?dispo bad? was still a better shot to win than consult 
theory. I could write a much longer post on my overall opinions of ?neg 
flex? ? but the short version is that I think its interactions with a 
variety of theory arguments is suspect, to say the least.

?Debaters just aren?t good at theory? (Cyrus)
This is true on all theory arguments ? we train students from high 
school on to read a generic conditionality block on both sides and spew 
down meaningless buzzwords. I wish that would change, but somehow I 
doubt it will. In practice, this writes the judge completely out of the 
equation ? ?err neg and arg not team? are the mantra of the vast 
majority of judges on all theory questions, and there doesn?t seem to be 
a persuasive argument to most of them to deviate from that. The aff is 
also at a serious structural disadvantage on these theory questions ? 
the 2AC can?t devote more than 10ish seconds to making an incomplete 
theory arg, at the risk of undercovering the rest of the negative?s 
strategy. If a 2AC devoted the time necessary to give the 1AR the right 
set of tools to work with, the neg would kick the CP and say ?we win, 
you dropped a disad.?

Then, the block has a massive time trade to bury the 1AR under 30 blippy 
theory buzzwords with loaded meaning for most judges who give ?err neg, 
first last, infinite prep, neg flex? the full weight of an explanation 
they?ve heard for years. This isn?t like a DA where the neg?s investment 
to get ahead requires substantially more work and dealing with aff 
evidence. The 1AR then still has to make a decision on how much time to 
spend on consult bad while covering the rest of the neg?s strategy, and 
undoubtedly drops some of the negatives theory block. The 2NR then just 
has to extend their few dropped arguments that make it tough to 
objectively vote on, and the barrier to the 2AR winning on it is set 
pretty damn high. Theory arguments aren?t debated like other arguments, 
and time pressures and the reality of dealing with multiple worlds and 
the necessity of making substantive arguments means that these arguments 
never get played out in depth in the debates themselves. That means 
debaters just beating these arguments on the ?true? side of the theory 
debate can?t be an effective enough remedy.

?I love consult Japan? (Cyrus)
I hope you?re an anomaly. And I?m pretty sure you are. Because I?ve had 
multiple debaters on my team (and backchannels from other people) who?ve 
said some variation on ?why the hell do I do this when all teams do is 
ignore my aff and read consult Japan.? Or ask me why they?re wasting 
their time doing debate research when they?re not learning about the 
topic, they?re spending 2 days looking for a say no card that just 
doesn?t exist.

?Do I believe you should be able to say ?have a plan or get a 26.?? (Cyrus)

?There?s not that many of them? (Cyrus)
Look at the caselist before you make this argument. ?Neg?s ev isn?t good 
enough on binding key? is defensive, and not the reality of how judges 
seem to evaluate those questions. More importantly, there?s not ?binding 
consultation key? evidence specific to the plan EVER. I have literally 
never read a piece of evidence that actually suggested giving another 
country a binding veto over the mandates of an affirmative plan on any 
college debate topic I?ve been involved with. Evidence that uses the 
word ?genuine? is never talking about the way the CP is deployed in 
debates ? it?s using the phrase to mean ?don?t just ignore other 
countries feelings.? Consider it a public challenge to post any piece of 
evidence you think meets that criteria to e-debate. Sadly, this never 
seems to get the aff anywhere.

?It?s just like Politics DA?s? (Cyrus)
Even if politics is also bad, this is a non-sequitur. Do I think that 
politics DA?s can be a crutch? Yes, of course. Do I think there?s an 
argument that they hurt topic-specific education? Of course. They?re 
still not alike in kind. If you can convince me that the effects on 
debate and negative preparation is the same for politics DA?s, we?ll 
stop running them. Even if consult does somehow have ?specific? say yes 
evidence similar to a politics link, they?re substantially less fair, 
and encouraging a bad type of research.

Politics DA?s encourage topical, timely research on relevant political 
issues. Recycling the Mochizuki article does not. Even if many politics 
DA?s lack the degree of link specificity we?d all like, that rarely 
results in an affirmative loss the way consult does ? the aff has a case 
as offense to a poor DA. The CP changes that calculus by sucking up the 
aff to the same degree the neg wins there?s no solvency deficit. If the 
?do the plan, but don?t have it tradeoff with the Law of the Sea CP? was 
considered competitive and acceptable the way consult is, I?d be a lot 
more worried for the aff.

?I learned stuff about Japan? (Cyrus)
And a whole lot less than you could have on 4 years worth of topics. 
What you did learn on Japan you could also have learned by cutting the 
US-Japan DA.

?People are there to win? (Cyrus)
I care more about the ?competition? aspect of debate than any other ? 
it?s the whole reason I?m still involved with it, and I don?t fashion 
myself some educational revolutionary with grand designs on our 
communities import. That said, I have hopes that the community at large 
can be about more than ?beating people into submission.? This seems to 
be the worst example of ?blinders? in this discussion ? that nothing 
matters outside your desire to win while recycling a consult Japan 
backfile. The bottom line is that coaches are not just coaches ? they?re 
educators, and employed by institutions and administrations who fund 
debate programs which are sold on the activity on that basis. The vast 
majority of people who come in and out of debate don?t stick around for 
years just to play the game ? they debate for 4 years as an 
undergraduate and then go out into the real world. Hopefully this ?game? 
can help teach them something. Is the debate community completely 
uneducational and falling apart as a result of consult CP?s? ? obviously 
not. But I think it?s still a good goal for us to have that we can be 
better, learn about more, and push ourselves intellectually.

?More ad-homs about MSU? (Cyrus)
You?re right ? I have nothing better to do than sit around nursing a 
grudge over a couple of irrelevant prelim losses in 2004.

?I gave 30s to a consult team? (Harris)
Once in 26 years seems to speak for itself.

?Be open-minded and listen to args? (Harris)
That?s why this is a public discussion ? because I want to be 
open-minded and listen to other people make arguments in the other 
direction. I?m not interested in being an ideologue. I think having this 
be an excuse to never encourage better argument trends is the wrong remedy.

?Consultation is topic-specific.? (Johnny)
Binding genuine consultation over the plan isn?t ? Adam already dealt 
with this one.

?Punishing points assumes you?re correct? (Martin)
That?s why I wanted to encourage a debate on this question ? to give 
someone the opportunity to dispute the claim that these counterplans are 
net bad for debate. I haven?t really heard a compelling argument yet.

?You?ll miss out on consult innovations? (Martin)
I don?t think there?s been an innovation in how consult is argued since 
I?ve been involved in this activity, and my students will have to 
contend with debating them no matter what. I?m not worried about my 
teams ability to research answers to the CP ? we do okay. I?m saddened 
that that?s the blueprint for what constitutes preparation.

?Vote against it CP? (Martin)
I?ve already talked about this elsewhere ? Voting against an argument is 
precisely the blueprint I want to avoid. I do appreciate this element of 
your response quite a bit ? you?re one of the only people who?s 
explicitly tried to couch their arguments in terms of a CP instead of 
just knee-jerking to criticism.

?It unfairly affects novice and JV? (Barnes)
This is totally fair. I won?t punish those teams in any way ? if a 
novice debater comes in with nothing else in their tubs, I?ll wish it 
wasn?t the case?but it?s probably not the right forum for this experiment.

?Lots of people like consultation? (Barnes, post-Cyrus)
This may be true, it may not ? I would caution against taking edebate as 
a barometer of community consensus on ANY issue, much less one given 
over to this type of debate.

Russell wrote what I frankly think was the best post in response to all 
of these associated issues that falls on the other side of the line ? he 
has a level defense and coherence to his argument that respects this 
activity for its value as a myriad of things to a myriad of people. I 
do, however, think it underestimates the power for ?change people?s 
minds? to succeed ? that strategy is failing despite people thinking 
consult is bad. I?m willing to be convinced that that strategy COULD 
work ? but I?m definitely not there yet. He made a couple specific 
arguments I want to briefly mention ?

?Just teach debaters how to beat them?
I talked about this a bit already. The bottom line is that I have taught 
my debaters these arguments ? and we still lose because the debates 
created by consultation are structurally unfair and make our ?good 
arguments? very difficult to execute on in a fair way

?It?s a slippery slope to exclusion?
This is my number one concern about my policy, and I remain very open to 
being convinced that I should abandon it on that basis. My initial 
exhortation was for community input on an experiment, and I meant it. If 
the slippery slope disad really does outweigh any advantages in 
practice, then I?ll have to abandon or reformulate my policy.

?Just be a teacher?
I wish that I thought this worked ? but there?s only so much I can do. 
I?ve been on this rant for years and failing miserably against what 
amounts to institutionalized inertia and the willingness of a large 
segment of undergraduates to take shortcuts when handed to them on a 
silver platter.

I?m sure there?s more I missed, but that?s all for now ? time to prep 
for Wake.


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