[eDebate] Judging philosophies, exclusions, points, and other such idiocy

Jason Russell jasonlrussell1
Fri Oct 12 16:30:41 CDT 2007


At the outset, everyone knows that my belief is that debate is for the
debaters. I will start with the not at all revolutionary presumption that
arbitrarily or even systematically excluding debate arguments does not serve
a pedagogical purpose. Teaching debaters about arguments ought to be the
goal of judges and coaches. The variety of arguments under attack are not
under attack because they are "bad"; they're under attack because they are
strategically valuable and as a result difficult to defeat. As coaches and
judges, our obligation is to intelligently engage these arguments and train
our debaters to defeat them. As I've heard in about a billion debates since
the advent of the K, "switch sides debate is good" and the best way to beat
bad arguments is by investigating, engaging, and dismantling them.

Excluding arguments is the bugaboo of what we do here; where it starts, it
is very difficult to stop. If there is a grain of truth in Asha's argument,
I think this might be it. The logical limits of the punishment of speaker
points for arguments Hardy doesn't like are infinite. They extend to such
sacrosanct debates institutions as the politics disad, wipeout, the zero
point of the holocaust, and, even, aspec. I shudder to consider the
consequences.

Judges often struggle with their significance in the activity, with attempts
to make their role more important and formative to debaters, especially
those debaters who are very successful. We want to matter. The best thing
that judges can do is educate. Arbitrariness, punishment, and general
dickheadery do not, however, educate, as much as I sometimes wish that they
did. Teaching is harder than it looks. I recommend dialogue, advice, and an
openness to ideas, not as if they are all of equal value (they assuredly are
not) but in order to better understand the rationale behind why they could
be. Don't let your struggle for meaning in the activity turn into a crusade
against debaters who don't reflect your view of the world.

Being irritated by these exclusions is quite reasonable. I quite frankly and
obviously loathe them. But, the reaction from the left to policy-only
exclusions by some judges falls prey to the old saying that two wrongs don't
make a right. If you want to stop these prior restraints on debate
arguments, do it in bars, hallways, message boards like this, institutional
meetings, etc., but dont make debaters the targets of your proxy wars.

The motives for all of these actions are, I understand, largely to protect
the debaters. I just think that they are misguided. If K's, the politics
disad, consult CPs, or whatever else are unfair, stupid, lame, etc., then we
ought to be able to train our debaters to answer these arguments with
clarity and strength. Debate is, clearly and perhaps definitionally, not a
fight for the "truth", but a move toward right thinking. These barriers are
not just walls around bad arguments, but blockages on thinking. We're doing
students a disservice in closing them off from considering the merits of all
of these arguments. If debating the resolution is such a good idea (it is),
then debaters ought to be awesome at defending this proposition. If consult
is terrible tof aff ground (it is), then debaters ought to be awesome at
defending this proposition. If aspec rots your brain (it does), then
debaters ought to be awesome at defending this proposition. But these things
are not givens anymore than Hardy's favorite TV show is objectively the
best.

J
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