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

Darren Elliott delliott
Fri Oct 12 17:17:31 CDT 2007


According to the pairing in front of me, you are supposed to be judging a debate right upstairs from me as you post this.  I know its us and UMKC and Im sure its a stellar debate.  But first you try to pay OU's entry fee with 3 cigarettes and now this!  You are incorrigible.


>>> "Jason Russell" <jasonlrussell1 at gmail.com> 10/12/2007 4:30 PM >>>

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. 

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