[eDebate] keenan, "K" and "policy"

Eric Morris ermocito
Sat Apr 11 20:37:33 CDT 2009

On Sat, Apr 11, 2009 at 3:01 PM, matthew farmer <matthewfarm at gmail.com>wrote:

> The METHOD arguments are ones that a k team can rarely avoid (these are
> also very specific discussions). For example, it is extremely difficult to
> 'no link' a criticism of constituitive lack if you are running a zizek arg,
> regardless of how you toy with your alt. Now, if someone successfully
> achieves this end, then it speeks more to their abilities, relative to their
> opponent's, than it does to any structural or enigmatic disconinuity in the
> adjudication of k debates. --- Dylan seems to go a step even further, so
> does Clay; things are going so well in the world that some uq cards on cap,
> env, security, with a quantitative method defense should get you a win on
> the uq debate alone? My point here is simply that the 'trivial distinction'
> argument, which has now appeared twice in this discussion, does not support
> the position that the k is not a good vehicle/k debate is not a good cite
> for discussing different impacts or impacts in different ways.

First, thank you for reading and responding to what I actually said, instead
of the "realism good" cards that some of my teams read. I know it's easier
to read front lines, particularly when they've already been written and all.
(p.s. Teams would rely LESS on 'realism good' if more nuanced and specific K
answers were adjudicated more sympathetically. That's a link turn, Massey,
but we'll get back to you in another email sometime)

Second, I think your particular example of constititutive lack method
indicts is a fabulous choice for a more detailed discussion. I've heard
judges indicate that aff indicts of constitutive lack weren't relevant
a. It wasn't 100% clear that the Lacanian author in question was relying
psychoanalytic methods in writing the specific cards the team was reading.
(Perhaps they were just used a Lacanian approach in another section of the
b. The cards in question attacked a number of authors, not exclusively the
cited author
c. The cards did not speak to the derivative author the team cited (who was
not yet so famous as to be noticed, perhaps), but only the more prominent
authors that the derivative author was CLEARLY relying upon (this one is
VERY common)
d. The cards made some reference to a specific work by a specific Lacanian
author, and thus were presumably irrelevant to any other works by that
author. (Admittedly, some indicts are - but others clearly cite works just
to give credibility to the point they are making more generally)
I've seen similar decisionmaking processes for other major critical authors.
It happens.

Third, it is very tempting to rationalize that judges resolve these
questions on the basis of the quality of debating in rounds. They should.
Many do, and we pref them despite obvious philosophical differences between
them and some of our teams. All the judges that gave you and Gabe a pass on
some of these issues at the 2006 NDT, for example, were in the right to do
so (I'm speaking of prelims, as I did not see the elim round). However, I've
seen similar points raised by judges when the debaters did not make or
explain it at all. If it were just one judge here and there, I would say
adjust the preference sheets and be done with it. But, when it happens
often, debaters draw the conclusion that they are better served with more
generic answers than more specific ones. This does not do service to the
interesting and complex literature base from which such cards are extracted.
Thus, it might be appropriate to speak to it as a generic question of
judging practice in a forum such as this.

Fourth, I've seen judges make direct answers to a K author irrelevant
through such distinctions IN THE SAME ROUND where they let the negative
skate with the most generic of links (aff had an economically related
internal link in an advantage, and one of the negative link cards used the
word 'economics', for example). I should say here that I've also voted on
links that generic, if not challenged by the other team. My point is that
the link claims of specific K answers should receive a level of scrutiny
COMPARABLE to the link claims for the K. If hyper generic links are
sufficient, they should suffice in BOTH cases. If (as I would prefer),
generic links are enough initially but judges will defer to more specific
no-link arguments, even when not evidenced (and particularly when based on
the OTHER TEAM's evidence), that's fine too. Whatever the level of scrutiny
is, it should be applied such that specific K answers are treated roughly
EQUAL to the links to the K. If that were a consistent practice in the
judging pool, I think the quality of K debates would rise dramatically, as
it would incentivize reading specific answers. The SQ does not. Lots of
teams have specific answers, but don't end up reading them because they
aren't worth the time commitment given what the judges are likely to do with

Finally, and this is a new point, there needs to be a more effective remedy
when the negative's alternative text does not effectively represent the
thesis of the criticism. Defining away evidence perm arguments as
'intrinsic' because the negative didn't actually advocate their K in
general, only the rejection of the aff on the basis of some tenuous link to
the the K, does not incentivize debaters coming to understand the literature
behind the criticism. Some possible solutions are either (a) allowing
intrinsic perms if and only if they come from the same sources that the
negative is using for their K, as those arguments should be highly
predictable, or (b) allowing affirmatives to win that their
counter-interpretation of the author/article which does not result in the
'rejection' conclusion if they win that the counter interpretation has more
fidelity to the author/article than the negative's interpretation.

I promise you, I do not intend these posts as sour grapes about a particular
decision outcome here or there. I've observed the things I mention in lots
of rounds that didn't directly involve our teams (I scout, I judge on
panels, I watch elims when not judging, etc.) Our top teams are pretty
successful against most K arguments doing what they do. Our teams deserve to
win nearly all the rounds they actually win, and deserve to lose nearly all
the rounds they actually lose. There is little to be gained through
attempting to appeal a particular decision in this forum, as there is no
appeals process and this forum would be poorly suited for it.

Instead, my point is that it's not just OUTCOMES of rounds that influence
how debaters prepare, it is the PROCESS by which judges decide those rounds.
I might even argue that the process is more important than the outcome, if
the debaters are listening and taking notes. Dismissing a specific K answer
while voting affirmative on a generic one sends a HUGE signal. So, I
encourage judges generally to think about the process by which they resolve
K debates, and how that process influences the way debaters will prepare for
future K debates. If you think a specific K answer is relevant, but the
debater's performance of it wasn't strong enough, say THAT instead of
treating the entire line of argument dismissively. Suggest language
strategies that would make it more relevant. (Now, of course, if your goal
as a judge is to make K debates as generic as possible, you'll want to do
the opposite of what I'm suggesting here).

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