[eDebate] the good old days?

Jim Hanson hansonjb
Sun Oct 14 22:38:16 CDT 2007

Re: the good old days?
just a quick throw-in that isn't a complete solution to the below but somewhat: I support mpj for jv and novice division too.

jim :)
hansonjb at whitman.edu

From: LACC Forensics 
Sent: Sunday, October 14, 2007 3:37 PM
To: matt stannard ; E-Debate 
Subject: Re: [eDebate] the good old days?

I don't disagree with Matt's complaints about the pre-MPJ days. I think these criticisms are absolutely true and continue on the high school circuit today. Unfortunately, I think MPJ has solved some problems, but created others.

Now, I will fully admit that my perspective is colored by my experience. Yes, I did compete for a good program and won't deny that we enjoyed good relationships with judges. However, there are two issues for which Matt, Jim, and Andy's defenses of MPJ don't really account.

The first is true adaptation. Andy says that this still occurs just with different parameters. While this may be true, I don't think it is as significant or as valuable as the adaptation that was necessary in the past. Yes, we had a good reputation and that worked to our advantage much as it does today's debaters. However, unlike today's debaters, we routinely had to adapt to judges who had very different preferences than we did. How often do today's national circuit debaters have to adapt to judging styles as widely different as Bud York and Rodger Biles? I would say almost never, yet we had to do so almost every week. Our range of skills were far greater than those developed by the top debaters in the country today because they had to be. 

The second issue is education. The problem I have with defenders of MPJ on the question of education is, education for who? Maybe there is some very specific education that takes place for those elite teams that benefit from MPJ on a regular basis. But what about those who are left behind? As a community college coach, I rarely have open division competitors and who judges the novice and JV divisions? We are left with the judges that no one in the Varsity division wants. So, not only do the students who are most in need of education in the activity not receive access to the better judges, they are often judged by people who use their time in the lower divisions to ingratiate themselves to teams in the higher divisions by voting for their types of arguments so that they might be preferred in the future.

I won't deny that MPJ works great for some programs. Of course there is a drop-off in attendance by major circuit schools with varsity teams when tournaments don't use MPJ - those teams lose a huge competitive advantage. But, it doesn't work for a lot of programs and that's fine as long as supporters of MPJ stop pretending that it is an egalitarian approach. At least admit that you're willing to sacrifice novice and JV debaters for the success of varsity students. The truth is that I don't care much about what happens at the varsity level. I think students who are still competing at that level are far more able to adapt to the challenges of judging and arguments than those in the lower divisions. 

So, who are we educating?


On 10/14/07 1:19 PM, "matt stannard" <stannardmatt at hotmail.com> wrote:

  "Golden age" arguments scare me.  
  Prior to the MPJ we practice (at SOME tournaments) today, tab room operators routinely placed judges in rounds that favored their teams or the best or most reputable teams.  "Random" judging made it impossible for new and resource-challenged teams to get a break from "circuit" judges.  Some tournaments purposely stacked their judging pools with lay judges to send a message about contemporary debate practices (but never told us they were doing this in the tournament invitations).  
  Anyone wanting to see what that world was like need only go to the majority of parli tournaments today.  Judges write things on ballots like "I just don't buy that argument, sorry" and "you should tuck in your shirt."  Speaker points range from four 30s to four 12s.  Some judges will drop you for being too patriotic, others for not being patriotic enough.  Good, hard-working judges routinely find themselves on the bottom of 2-1s.  
  MPJ has some problems, all of which could be solved by more explicitly valuing mutuality a bit more and preference a bit less.  But MPJ has has a tangible, externally-positive effect even on tournaments that don't use MPJ--the judging is better practically everywhere in NDT/CEDA now, than it was in the 1980s and early 1990s when I debated.  And by "better" I mean: judges listen more conscientiously to arguments and work harder to make good decisions.  "Thoughtful decision" is a phrase I find myself saying quietly as I listen to the majority judges talking to our policy teams after debates these days.  
  I would venture to say (and I think much of the edebate discussion has borne out) that many of those who long for pre-MPJ days debated at pretty good schools themselves, and in circuits where the "random" judging favored them and their colleagues fairly consistently.  Of course many of them would long for the good old days, when some unknown team didn't stand a chance against them and the judges they partied with the night before.    

  > Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2007 11:58:04 -0700
  > From: forensics at lacitycollege.edu
  > To: edebate at ndtceda.com
  > Subject: Re: [eDebate] ans Larson
  > I think Mike has the right idea about Gary's call for an alternative.
  > Prior to the full MPJ we practice today, most national-circuit tournaments
  > simply allowed a certain number of strikes. Beyond that, judging should be
  > random. The strikes serve the purpose of controlling specific issues such as
  > judges who have prejudices against certain debaters or programs (a very real
  > problem) but randomizing the remaining judging pool does require teams to
  > adapt in ways that currently do not occur.
  > Of course, there is no perfect solution. There will never be complete
  > adaptation by teams with the great diversity of argumentative approaches
  > that have developed. For example, my teams are never going to engage in
  > performance alternatives or be pirates no matter who the judge is. But, at
  > least there would be a better chance that my teams would have a fair chance
  > at the few "policy only" judges, as Josh calls them, who might be in the
  > pool.
  > I will admit that the evidence is merely anecdotal and confounds Gary's call
  > for testable alternatives, but the more I read this list lately, the more I
  > see that I am not the only person in the community who thinks that there has
  > been significantly more stratification and interpersonal conflict in the
  > community since MPJ became standard.
  > Ken Sherwood
  > LACC Debate
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  > eDebate at www.ndtceda.com
  > http://www.ndtceda.com/mailman/listinfo/edebate

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