[eDebate] Rejecting the cult of fairness

David Register regedebate
Thu Nov 15 01:51:18 CST 2007

Packing for Europe in the morning, but I appreciated Josh's comments enough
to respond.

Branson says:

*My other observation is that you say "This is probably why I'll pull the
trigger on "No straight turn option --> Neg usually wins," especially if
it's coupled with the actual disad to the counterplan and the Neg just kicks
the CP."

In my mind, there is no impact to this statement. For one, I'm not entirely
sure if the 'neg usually wins' when there's a conditional CP. Maybe so,
maybe not, but it's certainly something i'd like to see ANY sort of
empirical data on before just presuming that to be the case. I'm trying to
think of the times I lost on the aff where the conditional nature of the alt
played a major role in my loss, and I can think of one time. That was my
fault. But even if the neg usually wins when there is a conditional CP, I
don't think there's an impact. In my mind, that just means people are stupid
on the aff. If the CP is conditional, why are 2AC's investing so much time
in trying to straight turn it? If you do that, you deserve to lose. I have
no sympathy for people that make bad strategic choices.
Well I'm not sure that I really intended an impact here, other than I like
2ACs/1ARs to be able to straight turn a CP/K Alt and narrow the debate to
that issue.  I don't think it's a question of bad strategy.  I think it's a
question of rewarding people who can use conventions to make things happen
in debates.  Some people are good at debating theory, and I think it's not
necessarily something to so easily discourage.  Learning to use
technicalities to make things happen occurs in a lot of fields, and seems
like a decent critical thinking skill to take away from the activity.  I
think conditional alternatives make for shallow debates, and tend to
encourage terrible counterplans.  I also think conditional alternatives
encourage poor negative strategy, and I think Branson agrees with this in
earlier posts.  I don't know about deserving to lose if you try to straight
turn a conditional counterplan in the 2AC.  Why can't you read a short DA to
the counterplan and still answer everything else?  I agree that it's a
terrible idea to just turn the counterplan and ignore all of the things that
aren't net benefits if the Neg has said "it's conditional"? But what is the
warrant for the particular theoretical objection (no straight turn) being
bankrupt as a tool in debates?  It seems like the original answer was an ad
hom for debaters who try to use theory to get an advantage on substantive
issues.  I'm partial to the impact turn?  Why not teach people how to make
stronger theoretical objections in debate?  I've seen many bad theory
debates that link to everything in Branson's original post, but I try to be
objective when evaluating arguments in these debates.  I also try to
encourage them to make other (better/what I as an educator and person who
loves debate thinks are smarter and more valuable) arguments.  And why not?
 I don't have any empirical data for this argument, but why not teach people
these skills?  They are different from the substantive nature of the debate.
 The legal profession (to some extent) thrives on them.  Corporations use
this skill to do all kinds of wonderful things to punctuate their
bottom-lines.  Technicalities seem to be a productive thing to negotiate.
 Plus, it's probably useful to be able to look at a set of technical
arguments and apply some strain of critical theory to get an idea of the
underlying assumptions that warrant the claims in that logic.  Maybe that's
why I'm so anti on the "Aff Choice" argument.  It's one of those "they
cheated, I win" arguments that doesn't do anything other than limit out
reflexivity?  But? that's the great thing about this activity?  the 'K'
arguments are often equipped to answer technical objections.  When that
happens you get impact debates, where worldviews compete and people learn
about the assumptions that form their claims?  and then you even get that
whole synthesis and evaluation thing?  Of course it's a learning process,
and people are bound to make shallow arguments in the beginning, but why not
encourage this skill?  That's why I think Topicality should be a voting
issue begs the question.  Sure it makes debate work in an interesting way, a
lot like the straight turn strategy argument, but shouldn't that shit be up
for debate?  If T's a voter, why not compare the warrants to that argument
with the impact turns that say that's not a good perspective?  It just seems
to me like it's wiser to let all that stuff be up for debate, and then
encourage the next generations of debaters to make the game 'better'? even
if this means listening to a lot of arguments that make people cringe at
their superficiality.

Branson also says:

*Now, maybe the TYPES of debates encouraged by this negative tactic are bad.
If so, then again, we're back to my original point. It matters what we're
doing in debate, but not whether or not something is labeled 'fair' or not.
Maybe there's something intrinsically valuable about a 'straight turn.' I
know D-Reg says he 'likes seeing it.' Well me too, but that's not an impact.
Yes I think it's about the types of debates encouraged (see above).  Yes
it's true this is not an impact.  I sort of wish it was.  It's the "I care
about your happiness, judge" impact.  Now of course, there is the judge
adaptation argument.  I know this is pretty idealist, but I put things in my
judging philosophy in part to see how people adapt to my opinions on the
game.  How do they adapt to or challenge what I think about debate?  How do
they try to negotiate my opinions?  How can they persuade me to think
differently?  This seems like a valuable skill.  I don't think it's just
about me either.  Not everyone we'll try to communicate with and persuade in
life will be a skilled adjudicator of argument, and even when they are they
won't be exactly like the next person (I hope).  I don't know much about the
law but it seems like if one is at trial they would want to know about the
judge, and definitely about the jury.

Overall, I agree that "fairness" has become a race to the bottom.  Let's
face it? this activity is too much about style biting.  People reproduce
other people's work all the time.  When someone wins on a stupid theory
argument, some younger someone will inevitably think it's cool and then try
it out.  But? when it's well thought out?  why not develop the skill?  I
would certainly rather watch a bunch of bad theory debates to see people get
better at it than I would want to read a card by someone not in that
particular debate about the value of the argument in debate rounds.
Unless...  they learn how to compare the warrants in the evidence to the
arguments happening in the debate... that's probably pretty useful too...

D Reg
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