[eDebate] Zomp and the value of MPJ

Jason Russell jasonlrussell1
Sat Oct 13 15:30:50 CDT 2007


I havent heard anyone defend MPJ as being valuable only due to competitive
success. It is valuable because some judges are, to be fair, better than
others. By better, I mean more educational. I know this will be an unpopular
position, but I firmly believe it and will staunchly defend it. Most of the
judges that I want our teams debating in front of are not ideological hacks,
but are instead those individuals who I think will give both sides of the
aisle a fair shake and will inform our debaters about how to better make
their arguments presentable to middle of the road judges. MPJ allows what I
believe to be a fair isolation of both lazy (bad) judges and ideological
hacks.

The K versus policy divide as it relates to MPJ is almost irrelevant. I will
say this: the far right in debate gets a way more than fair shake versus the
far left. The appeal against MPJ, and Josh's gripe about the policy versus K
divide, seems to be that it means that they get more moderate judges. I
would hope that this is what we are all aiming for.

Everytime I hear people make a series of arguments against MPJ and in favor
of extreme judge philosophies I am reminded of the last generation of CEDA,
an era I participated in, and the awful and often corrupt judging it
featured. Im certain that the NDT was also not immune. MPJ is good because
some judges are bad and others are stubborn and debaters shouldnt have to
debate in front of either if they find this style uneducational.

K and policy teams alike will have to debate in front of moderate judges to
succeed, and this does force adaptation to the middle, a skill that I, as a
communication professional, view as considerably more valuable than
attempting to persuade openly hostile audiences. It is both more likely
overall and more likely to be successful.

Judges spend too much time bashing debaters. They are often bad, whiny, and
annoying. But, coaches and judges are not above the fray. They dont always
know whats best and, even if they do, there is educational value in letting
debaters make their own mistakes and learn from those lessons. Preffing the
party line for a K team is dangerous; they're bound to get out-flanked by
someone crazier over time. Preffing the party line for a policy team is
dangerous; eventually, they're going to debate a K team, get a moderate
judge, and have no idea why "realism is real" doesn't answer "meaning to
life". Debaters should learn the lessons about taking their arguments to the
middle and making their arguments for a more all-purpose audience. MPJ *does
* necessitate that.

There is a dangerous paternalism involved in us coaches asserting that we
know best. I've heard this argument made about topic selection, argument
restrictions, judging philosophies, and a variety of other debate practices.
These are short-cuts for thinking. I know that this sounds an awful lot like
letting the inmates run the asylum, but I happen to hold debaters in quite a
bit of esteem. If I didn't, I think it would be awfully hard to respect the
coaches, also, given that their reputations are often built and their
experience is always based on prior debate practice. The end result of this
type of thinking about debate and debaters sounds a lot like NEDA or Ted
Turner. It also smacks of sophistry of the worst type.

It's unfortunate but true that all judges are not in fact created equally.
Some of them are more talented educators and as a result more desirable
adjudicators. They add value to their decisions in giving advice and
providing insight into the thinking of other judges that makes debaters
better. It's not to say that there are intrinsic traits that make one good
at judging; it is largely a learned activity and a lot of successful
debaters are terrible judges and many mediocre or below debaters show true
brilliance as judges. Judges have to work at it. The group of great judges
is not static. It changes as people improve (and stagnate) over time.

Judging takes effort and getting into grad school or graduating from comm
school doesn't make someone an automatically qualified debate judge. Mostly,
modern debate is not a spectator activity. Judges need to work at it to stay
good at it. Judges need to be actively involved to be great at it. And to be
excellent, an almost inimitable set of skills is required. Judging is hard.
I can't imagine why we would expect that everyone would be equally good at
it. And, if we know that not everyone is that good at it, then allowing for
coaches and debaters to make discriminations amongst judges is probably not
only justified but pedagogically required.

One end result of the type of educational judging I'm describing is that
these debaters become more successful, but the other is that these debaters
become smarter. I can't for sure tell you that the education proceeds the
success, but I can tell you that in large part the debaters who have been
successful since MPJ are just as educationally equipped as their
predecessors in the activity who had random or, worse yet, "old boys club"
assigned judging. I agree with Gary that these are primarily empirical
questions. I can only cite my observational and anecdotal data on these
questions. But, I think I would support the hypothesis that, in the
aggregate, MPJ is a more educational system of judge assignment than any
alternative.

J
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