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Dropped Arguments

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how do you handle them? do you allow extensions from other parts of the debate after the fact? in most situations, if a team tells me "they dropped X, don't let them answer it", i'll generally flow the responses the team who did drop the argument makes, but circle them or put a star by them or something.

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a lot of it depends on the situation. lots of times grouped responses in the 1ar get labeled as drops in the 2nr and that's not particularly fair for the 1ar, so i don't see the harm in allowing a more in-depth response from the 2ar. i've had teams whine about being unable to compete with speed before, and drop arguments as a result, and that i have no tolerance for.

 

if it's _completely_ dropped in the 1ar or 2ac, though, it's a concession. it's abusive to allow new 1ar answers to 1nc arguments because the neg doesn't get to respond to these until the 2nr, so they don't get to develop that debate as well.

 

of course i'm a straight tab judge so everything is debatable here - a team running abuse good could get away with this. everything depends on the round, but generally speaking a straight up drop is a concession.

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I don't know why, but this last weekend I heard a lot of debaters confuse the word "drop" with the word "mishandle." There were many arguments that I understood to be completely non-responsive to what the other teams was saying, but that doesn't mean it's "dropped" per se. Also, I tend to want to see the best debate I can watch no matter how the kids get there, so, if it's not called out, I tend to be pretty sympathetic to "wiggling" and "clarifying arguments" to mean things that they probably didn't when the arg was first said...

 

I, also, am a tab judge so, of course, everything is debatable. This last weekend, I was in a round where a team asserted that a delay PIC took a lot of the fun out of the round and that fun is an independant voting issue! Apparently, the neg didn't think I flowed it or something because they dropped it and then, ultimately, kicked out of the CP all together. The aff had it right there but they just laughed it off and didn't extend any args so I didn't get to vote for fun. :(

Edited by Teddy Ruxpin
smiley trouble

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i've had teams whine about being unable to compete with speed before, and drop arguments as a result, and that i have no tolerance for.

 

just to clarify, are you sympathetic or non-sympathetic towards the team that can't compete with speed?

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just to clarify, are you sympathetic or non-sympathetic towards the team that can't compete with speed?

 

personally i don't empathize with teams that can't compete with speed. i understand it's hard to get used to, and i myself have a much lower threshold for speed and a higher emphasis on clarity than most judges on speedy circuits (since i never really saw speedy rounds until jr/sr year in hs and never really adapted until i started judging). but there's no excuse to just completely drop a flow when you've got all of cross-x to check, plus you can ask for ev and get taglines and cites there. it is not easy to just be immersed in that all at once but that doesn't mean i give teams free reign to drop args. if i can flow it, i expect the other team to be able to.

 

to be fair the only time this has ever been an issue for me was in a round at a uil local with a team that wasn't really even spreading, just reading kinda fast for uil.

 

-edit-

 

I don't know why, but this last weekend I heard a lot of debaters confuse the word "drop" with the word "mishandle." There were many arguments that I understood to be completely non-responsive to what the other teams was saying, but that doesn't mean it's "dropped" per se.

 

I think this is just a problem with a lot of teams wanting to label them as drops as a strategy, hoping the judge buys it, since people have a way of just accepting things if you state them as fact.

Edited by Rod Marinelli

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how do you handle them? do you allow extensions from other parts of the debate after the fact? in most situations, if a team tells me "they dropped X, don't let them answer it", i'll generally flow the responses the team who did drop the argument makes, but circle them or put a star by them or something.

 

It depends on what they dropped. If they dropped two DA's with extinction impacts that outweigh, they lose the round, even if it was a Topicality. Secondly, if it was something minor like the quals for an author, it shouldn't make much of a difference. If the team intends on winning, they HAVE to point out it was dropped. Hope it helped.

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Herein lies the "original sin" which gave birth to the supersonic shitspread: a "dropped" argument COMPELS the judge to award the decision on the basis of patent absurdities - slippery slope city. The "judge" cannot exercise independent thought, but is a mere scrivener in the hands of precocious enfant terribles.

 

And over the course of more than three decades, and more than a thousand debates judged, I've been just as guilty as everyone else. I've mindlessly followed the Dogma of Droppsy right into the Heart of Dumbness. (Oh, the horror!)

 

No more. The next time some debater argues to me - with a straight face - that a one-cent increase in the price of a Sierra Leone postage stamp will cause galactic extinction... dropped or not, I reserve the right to write:

 

"RFD: K-9 Karma Turn - I had a spontaneous vision of all the puppies I've killed telling me that extinction = good."

Edited by topspeaker70
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We have a saying for this, "Silence is compliance." I think that says it simply enough. I actually believe instead of making broad encompassing statements that a line by line approach is superior, and instead of repeating the argument for every situation it applies simply say flow across argumentation from "insert here". This in my experience keeps things clear and prevents opposition from claiming dropped arguments .

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I evaluate a dropped argument if and only if the opposing team tells me that it was dropped AND tells me the importance of it being dropped (i.e that this concession = 100% risk)

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a lot of it depends on the situation. lots of times grouped responses in the 1ar get labeled as drops in the 2nr and that's not particularly fair for the 1ar, so i don't see the harm in allowing a more in-depth response from the 2ar. i've had teams whine about being unable to compete with speed before, and drop arguments as a result, and that i have no tolerance for.

 

of course i'm a straight tab judge

Glad to see you're so "tab" on the notion that effective argumentation requires that you learn to comprehend, flow, and answer arguments delivered at six times normal conversational speech.

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Herein lies the "original sin" which gave birth to the supersonic shitspread: a "dropped" argument COMPELS the judge to award the decision on the basis of patent absurdities - slippery slope city. The "judge" cannot exercise independent thought, but is a mere scrivener in the hands of precocious enfant terribles.

 

And over the course of more than three decades, and more than a thousand debates judged, I've been just as guilty as everyone else. I've mindlessly followed the Dogma of Droppsy right into the Heart of Dumbness. (Oh, the horror!)

 

No more. The next time some debater argues to me - with a straight face - that a one-cent increase in the price of a Sierra Leone postage stamp will cause galactic extinction... dropped or not, I reserve the right to write:

 

"RFD: K-9 Karma Turn - I had a spontaneous vision of all the puppies I've killed telling me that extinction = good."

QFT

 

Though I don't take it this far, I have a great appreciation for coaching who train their debaters to be "nightstalkers." You don't have to be vampires like the rest of the debate world, but if you're not entering the vampire beauty pageant, you'd better be good at wielding a stake, flinging holy water, and wearing a garlic lei.

 

Far too often, debaters just fail at playing the "droppsy" game. Sometimes they just haven't thought for themselves "I'm going to try and play this game another way." Often they're just less skilled, less experiences, or otherwise inferior debaters from vampire programs and thus aren't really free to be nightstalkers.

 

If you run your 1AC at a reasonable clip, and the 1NC comes out at mach 4, already on the C point of their first off-case seven seconds into the speech, you have other options besides "playing their game."

 

Debaters have a responsibility to debate. I define debate as a "formal method of interactive and representational argument." In CX, we have few formal rules and therefore frameworks are often decided on a round-by-round basis. Both sides are responsible for contributing to the method's framework, and the key term is "interactive." Many delivery styles are incomprehensible to the average person. If you're unwilling to communicate in a way that the judge and your opponents can understand, you're NOT interacting. If the judge can't understand you, they reserve the right to disregard your gibberish. If your opponents can't understand you or reply to the sheer quantity of your argumentation, they have the right to raise that objection.

 

Now, this raises a number of questions. I love when those who disagree claim that it's infinitely regressive, and we'd be dragged down to the communicative level of a toddler. Certainly, we can demand that our judges are at least capable of understanding everyday methods of communication. And while I'd applaud debaters with developmental or language handicaps trying to take part in the activity, I don't think you can demand that their opponents communicate at a rate that's dramatically slower than typical human interaction.

 

And, of course, the objection over the spread becomes an issue like any other, subject to the circumstances of the round and the specific remedies requested by the offended team. If all a team does is whine in rebuttal that they couldn't keep up, I won't have much sympathy for them. If they stand up from the start and say, "that was incomprehensible drivel, here's the remedy," they're well on their way to changing the game.

 

Even if they don't go all out for some sort of Speed K, there are lots of things they can do. If they can effectively group and avoid cold-dropping anything, they're well on their way. As a judge, I'm not easily persuaded to vote on some 5-second blip that the NEG claims wasn't adequately answered. If an argument is truly that impressive, it should be communicated effectively from the start.

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i would just prefer the team dropping arguments to say "judge. i am dropping a bunch of arguments my opponents make on the flow. we dont consider these points important to the outcome of the round because of X Y Z. we would like to crystallize the round to points A B C which do actually merit the ballot."

 

i'd be quite open to disregarding the dropped points.

 

its just that debaters are taught that dropping arguments is bad and as a result avoid ever conceding arguments if at all humanly possible.

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Glad to see you're so "tab" on the notion that effective argumentation requires that you learn to comprehend, flow, and answer arguments delivered at six times normal conversational speech.

Is that somehow a response to an argument made on the flow? Or are you the kind of judge that doesn't evaluate arguments but instead votes on the type of debating occurring? Are sneakers a voting issue?
Hey, I've written comments on the ballot about attire. But I've never let it influence my decision.

 

If you read the thread, I think you'll understand the context of my remark. Mainly, it was in response to interpretations like this from omomom or whatever his name is:

 

personally i don't empathize with teams that can't compete with speed...if i can flow it, i expect the other team to be able to.
i've had teams whine about being unable to compete with speed before, and drop arguments as a result, and that i have no tolerance for.

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QFT

 

Though I don't take it this far, I have a great appreciation for coaching who train their debaters to be "nightstalkers." You don't have to be vampires like the rest of the debate world, but if you're not entering the vampire beauty pageant, you'd better be good at wielding a stake, flinging holy water, and wearing a garlic lei.

 

Far too often, debaters just fail at playing the "droppsy" game. Sometimes they just haven't thought for themselves "I'm going to try and play this game another way." Often they're just less skilled, less experiences, or otherwise inferior debaters from vampire programs and thus aren't really free to be nightstalkers.

 

If you run your 1AC at a reasonable clip, and the 1NC comes out at mach 4, already on the C point of their first off-case seven seconds into the speech, you have other options besides "playing their game."

 

Debaters have a responsibility to debate. I define debate as a "formal method of interactive and representational argument." In CX, we have few formal rules and therefore frameworks are often decided on a round-by-round basis. Both sides are responsible for contributing to the method's framework, and the key term is "interactive." Many delivery styles are incomprehensible to the average person. If you're unwilling to communicate in a way that the judge and your opponents can understand, you're NOT interacting. If the judge can't understand you, they reserve the right to disregard your gibberish. If your opponents can't understand you or reply to the sheer quantity of your argumentation, they have the right to raise that objection.

 

Now, this raises a number of questions. I love when those who disagree claim that it's infinitely regressive, and we'd be dragged down to the communicative level of a toddler. Certainly, we can demand that our judges are at least capable of understanding everyday methods of communication. And while I'd applaud debaters with developmental or language handicaps trying to take part in the activity, I don't think you can demand that their opponents communicate at a rate that's dramatically slower than typical human interaction.

 

And, of course, the objection over the spread becomes an issue like any other, subject to the circumstances of the round and the specific remedies requested by the offended team. If all a team does is whine in rebuttal that they couldn't keep up, I won't have much sympathy for them. If they stand up from the start and say, "that was incomprehensible drivel, here's the remedy," they're well on their way to changing the game.

 

Even if they don't go all out for some sort of Speed K, there are lots of things they can do. If they can effectively group and avoid cold-dropping anything, they're well on their way. As a judge, I'm not easily persuaded to vote on some 5-second blip that the NEG claims wasn't adequately answered. If an argument is truly that impressive, it should be communicated effectively from the start.

 

agreed

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So I am confused, the judge can flow it, so what is the issue exactly? One team is a lot faster than the other so its unfair?

 

I'm slow as fuck for college, pretty sure I'm still to fast for some novices to understand completely just from a keeping up stand point, not really a clarity issue. Does that mean I didn't communicate?

 

Why punish a team because the other team can't process fast enough?

Why punish a team who can't:

 

- understand a 1AC delivered in Japanese?

- psychicly understand a 1AC you give to the judge in writing?

- use super hearing to understand arguments you whisper into the judge's ear?

 

If the other team can't keep up with your abnormal mode of communication, you're not fulfilling your duty to communicate. I generally leave it up to the teams to hash out what's excessive, though I have flirted with other mechanisms to prevent abuse.

 

The bottom line is that the notion that debaters must learn freakish modes of delivery/comprehension that have little-to-no real world benefit to compete represents a very narrow view of the activity. If a team walks in the room and believes that debate is about quality argumentation and oratory, or believes that debate should be accessible to all, it is disrespectful and exclusionary for their opponents/judges to embrace a mindset that they have to learn to deal with extreme modes of communication.

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Why punish a team who can't:

 

- understand a 1AC delivered in Japanese?

- psychicly understand a 1AC you give to the judge in writing?

- use super hearing to understand arguments you whisper into the judge's ear?

 

If the other team can't keep up with your abnormal mode of communication, you're not fulfilling your duty to communicate. I generally leave it up to the teams to hash out what's excessive, though I have flirted with other mechanisms to prevent abuse.

 

The bottom line is that the notion that debaters must learn freakish modes of delivery/comprehension that have little-to-no real world benefit to compete represents a very narrow view of the activity. If a team walks in the room and believes that debate is about quality argumentation and oratory, or believes that debate should be accessible to all, it is disrespectful and exclusionary for their opponents/judges to embrace a mindset that they have to learn to deal with extreme modes of communication.

 

 

to play devils advocate, then i suppose offensive linemen shouldnt bother lifting weights and becoming absolute monsters because there is no real world purpose to being able to bench 500 lbs. and for guys who cant lift such absurd weight, they just get shoved around unfairly.

 

its kinda silly to evaluate the activity through the lens of 'real world benefit' without simultaneously evaluating other facets of the activity through the same lens.

 

in a 'real world sense', spread or not, its still net beneficial from a 'real world' sense.

 

while i agree that a team that spreads a non-spread team out of the round has very poor sense of 'fair play', i think the check against unsportsmanship behavior is the ballot but not unilaterally so. judges should be more receptive to the anti-spread argument and evaluate it in the context of the round. judges should not be tanking speaks just on their own whims of 'fair play'.

Edited by Ankur

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to play devils advocate,
I know you're just playing devil's advocate here, but I'm compelled to point out a few things...

 

then i suppose offensive linemen shouldnt bother lifting weights and becoming absolute monsters because there is no real world purpose to being able to bench 500 lbs. and for guys who cant lift such absurd weight, they just get shoved around unfairly.
I disagree on two levels. First, I'd argue that human physical strength has a more tangible real world benefit than super-fast communication. I could be much more productive at manual labor if I could life more. Plus there are the health benefits of better fitness. The ability to speak at an absurd pace is practically useless. Unless you're talking to someone who can understand your verbal blur (and very few can), the "skill" is neutralized.

 

More importantly, though, is the fact that strength is a universally accepted value in football. No one disputes that offensive linemen should be able to increase their physical strength through weight training, or use that strength in the game.

 

The obviously response here is something along the lines of "speed isn't illegal in debate, therefore the analogy fits." This ignores the fact that debate is an interactive activity that requires the judge (and opponents) to process your mode of communication. In football, the officials don't have to absorb and process your shoving power. The official can be a bodybuilder or a pencilneck; how hard you shove a defensive lineman is irrelevant. Everyone agrees that the lineman's job is to shove as effectively as possible, and no special strength training is required stand by and watch for rule violations. Conversely, not everyone agrees that rapid-fire delivery the appropriate way to argue effectively, and special training is required to comprehend, process (and respond to) such tactics.

 

its kinda silly to evaluate the activity through the lens of 'real world benefit' without simultaneously evaluating other facets of the activity through the same lens.
I can't say I disagree here, except to say that evaluating facets of the activity through the lens of "real world benefit" isn't a primary benchmark. I don't embrace "logical argumentation" as an always-necessary trait because I see it as having a "real world benefit." Sure, it helps. But it's probably only the third-best reason to embrace it (behind the fact that it's inherent to the activity and accepted through consensus).

 

And, as a side note, proving that something has a real-world benefit doesn't prove that it belongs in debate as a universally-embraced trait. I'm not about to allow one team to dictate that arm wrestling or Japanese fluency should play a role in the ballot, even though I see tremendous value in both of these skills. For this reasons, the scientific "speed good" evidence (better comprehension, etc.) people read is completely irrelevant to me.

 

in a 'real world sense', spread or not, its still net beneficial from a 'real world' sense.
I don't think I follow you here.

 

while i agree that a team that spreads a non-spread team out of the round has very poor sense of 'fair play', i think the check against unsportsmanship behavior is the ballot but not unilaterally so. judges should be more receptive to the anti-spread argument and evaluate it in the context of the round. judges should not be tanking speaks just on their own whims of 'fair play'.
Agreed. If I gave the impression that judges should "unilaterally" punish teams that spread, it was not my intention.

 

In fact, that would be the ultimate hypocrisy. Here I am lecturing on the need to be open to alternate views of debate (including the notion that speed is not universally embraced). I can't be in favor of blanket discrimination of a major school of thought in debate. I'm not advocating the "speed bad" position. Indeed, I'm advocating a "speed (or the lack of speed) are neither good nor bad."

 

I look at cosmological violence (of which speed abuse is one type) as a "tree falling in the woods" type of dealie. If no one complains, no one feels abused and I'm out of line intervening. If someone does complain, it becomes a "fair play" issue. Sure, it's debatable. A fast team can answer back a "speed abuse" argument in numerous ways, depending on the circumstances. And I'll even be open to a blanket repudiation of the offended team's right to be communicated to in a way they can understand (though, for me, the burden of winning this difficult argument is lies with the team advancing it).

 

The obvious "intervention" caveat would be teams that fail to communicate in a way the judge can understand. The judge in such a case wouldn't really be intervening by "tanking speaks on their own whims of 'fair play'." Rather, the debaters would've failed to communicate in a way the judge can evaluate. Judges should be open minded, but they have human limitations. If they can't follow you, they can't give you a fair shake.

Edited by WCUDebate

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If they dropped two DA's with extinction impacts that outweigh, they lose the round, even if it was a Topicality.

 

Wat? I don't understand- how are two DA's a topicality?

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I thought I'd weigh in here on the speed/spread discussion. We're on a relatively fast circuit (Iowa/Nebraska) and as a coach and judge, I encounter about 40% all-out-speed, 40% speed but clean tags, and 20% "very fast LD" slower speed.

 

Having returned to policy after twenty years in the business world (I'm a operational and technology risk executive in my day job), I've grown to see speed rounds as a validation of posthumanist information theory thought. Consider a technological analog to speed debate: data compression. That's really what's going on, getting more arguments in the round to be evaluated within the constraints of a fixed clock. As the compression involves more than one party, the compressing-entity had better make sure the judge speaks the same protocol, or else the data will become more noise and less signal. Indeed, the use of speaking to convey information has been depreciated and the role of information itself placed front and forward in policy. This is outright posthumanist debate.

 

In rounds with some teams that blur the tags, I always give pre-round paradigm disclosure and make it damn clear: speed the tags at your peril. Unlike the other team, I can't go up and pull off your evidence as you've read it. I do attempt to evaluate the evidence read for indications of powertagging, but rely on the other team to make that warrant.

 

The ability to speak at an absurd pace is practically useless. Unless you're talking to someone who can understand your verbal blur (and very few can), the "skill" is neutralized.

 

I think arguments like this miss the de facto purpose of policy debate; there is a depth in argumentation strategy that has evolved to require a mass of arguments on the board and parlimentary debate style + 8 minute constructives and 5 minute rebuttals is too shallow. It's why I often feel like I'm on a 9600 baud modem line in public forum rounds and only getting 56 kbps in LD (it's why I force myself to judge PF and LD through a different paradigm and get in that mindset; any other approach to their format would be destructive to the educational experience). Policy's about feeding high data streams in for the game. Policy has become more of an outlier event, taking on significant risk through the use of extreme speeds in order to attain a hopeful return of a ballot through more depth on the judges flow, allowing the prevailing team to convert that to a winning solution.

 

I'm perfectly comfortable supporting and promoting an activity like that in the porfolio of forensics, given that we have numerous other activities that provide for the different diversification needs. Indeed, I find very few other activities giving me the information junkie rush I get from policy and have a hunch others love the format for a similar reason. Just watch a policy judge in a PF round and notice what's going on his laptop... I guarantee there's something else going on to fill the bandwidth since he's not being taxed with the 9600 stream. He's updating facebook, chatting with other judges about their rounds, playing games or paying bills online.

 

This ignores the fact that debate is an interactive activity that requires the judge (and opponents) to process your mode of communication. Conversely, not everyone agrees that rapid-fire delivery the appropriate way to argue effectively, and special training is required to comprehend, process (and respond to) such tactics.

 

That's a critically important comment. It's one of the reasons I teach my varsity debaters the philosophy of Michel Serres (e.g. The Parasite), especially per his concepts of three entities involved in a communication model. Serres's information theory is equally relevant in explaining a commonly-held myth that there is a single conceptual flow in the round (as occasionally alleged post-round by the losing team arguing "but on THE flow we had X in our overview that takes out their Y!" when X got lost). Many debaters believe in that objective "true single flow" floating above the room and usually believe it is a mirror of their own flows (how convenient!). What is lost is that there is no such abstraction. Instead, we have a room of communication streams, noise/error/parasites that are damaging the information transmitted in the streams, and remote flows that may reflect much/some/little/none of the information sent over the channels.

 

Foundational to the communication is the need to identify who determines the decision on the ballot -- I'm always shocked when a new team enters a debate round and doesn't take a moment to ask for input from the judge. I post my paradigm online, have a copy available for review in rounds, and give a very brief 20-30 second top issues before each round while I also access any emotional biases I may have with either team in order to expose them to myself and make sure they're set aside.

 

Key to increasing signal and reducing error is an agreement on protocol with the judge(s). Clean tags are one of my recommendations as it has the benefit comparable to journaling filesystems... it makes extra sure you know that argument gets flowed in the right way and place. But that's just me... other judges may not desire that, or other judges may abhore blistering speed altogether.

 

Underview

 

  • policy is posthuman: we are nothing but information and the purpose of the event as it has evolved is to engage clashing memes in the window of about an hour for the determination of a relative, local "truth" under the rules negotiated by the four players in the room
  • there are four, not two or three players in a round: There is the Aff team, Neg team, the judge, and noise. Ignore any single player at your peril.
  • three of the players have a conceptual map aka flow: The judge, Aff and Neg have maps of what has been defined as the local reality and ruleset. When attempting to communicate to the players, be mindful that noise diminishes signal and destroys the information content within. (Thoughts of culture jamming to intentionally introduce noise/error in rounds further validates this observation)

Anyway... that's how this information theorist sees and values speed/compression in policy.

 

jamie

Edited by JamieSaker
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I've grown to see speed rounds as a validation of posthumanist information theory thought.
Really? Aren't posthumanists the folks who consider human consciousness an illusion? Pardon me, but if the praxis you are defending really does "validate" this notion, how do you defend its presence in a high school curricular or extra-curricular program?
Consider a technological analog to speed debate: data compression. That's really what's going on, getting more arguments in the round to be evaluated within the constraints of a fixed clock.
What constitutes "in the round," in your view? Is it what is contained on the sheets of paper from which the debater is reading? You're aware, I'm sure, that part of the training required to get students to speak at hyperfast rates involves teaching them not to see words on a page as meaningful linguistic elements interacting with one another, but rather as a series of sounds which only need be voiced as rapidly as possible. When words are spoken entirely without affect, employing a delivery that is totally at odds with everything we know about how spoken communication works, in what sense are those words "in the round?"
Indeed, the use of speaking to convey information has been depreciated and the role of information itself placed front and forward in policy. This is outright posthumanist debate.
This is as succinct a justification as we could hope for to condemn the practice, isn't it? In what sense is "depreciating the use of speaking" an appropriate practice in a speech program?
I think arguments like this miss the de facto purpose of policy debate; there is a depth in argumentation strategy that has evolved to require a mass of arguments on the board and parlimentary debate style + 8 minute constructives and 5 minute rebuttals is too shallow.
Pardon me, but isn't that the very bone of contention here? What is "required" to have a good policy debate? To simply say that because some have embraced the "more = better" view does not establish that that view is the correct one, and in fact there are some good arguments as to why it isn't. If we're going to debate the issue, it simply won't do for you to try to steal a base in this way...
Indeed, I find very few other activities giving me the information junkie rush I get from policy and have a hunch others love the format for a similar reason.
I have no doubt that this is so. Again, though, it is hardly a sufficient pedagogical defense of the practice...
I'm perfectly comfortable supporting and promoting an activity like that in the porfolio of forensics, given that we have numerous other activities that provide for the different diversification needs.
This is a common argument: It doesn't matter if policy becomes the private preserve of a handful of junkies who want their speed rush, because everyone else can just do PF or something. Pardon me, but for those of us who consider old school policy debate to be a cut above other forensic events (which it manifestly is), why should we allow you to circumscribe our students' education in this way? "Go fast or go home?" Justify that, please (and, when you do, please explain how the fact that hundreds of once-vibrant policy programs have "gone home"--look at the moonscape that is the Iowa policy circuit, for instance--is a good thing)...
Key to increasing signal and reducing error is an agreement on protocol with the judge(s).
What does "agreement" mean to you? If one team declines to engage in the spew-fest, what would be the appropriate response from the judge? I can tell you from hard experience that many "information junkies" tend to privilege their rush over my students' competitive opportunities. Do you find that educationally defensible?

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Policy debate has evolved, but then again, debate has always been evolving. Today, it has what appears to be a specifically fast speed and other aspects that render it unrecognizable to a 1920's Laycock and Scales resolutional debater, or a 1950s Musgrave case/plan debater. The speed aspect is nonunique when compared to a 1980s policy/counterplan debater and this is what makes me suggest that there is something other than the speed causing the decline in numbers.

 

Coming from a 1980's Millard North policy program, we fielded more than a half-dozen varsity policy teams and even greater numbers of novices. Speed on our team was not remarkably different than it is today, with the exception that we were aggressively coached for judge adaptation, and that we made damn sure our tags were clean. God help you if you spread on one of the senior coaches/judges on the circuit (something that is remarkably absent today, which I think points at a better candidate for the root cause of policy's challenges than mere speed). I'd suggest alternate causation for the decline:

 

Problem #1: An increasingly homogeneous judging demographic

Look at the demographic of the judging population: it's predominantly made up of young college student judges who were on the circuit within the past 2-4 years. This tends to reinforce a homogeneous microculture. We experimented with this all year - e.g. running Berube warranted intrinsicness theory for link testing at NFL districts only to have it rejected by unwarranted, weak arguments that were little more than "this doesn't make sense." Try telling me that "tab" judge didn't have preconditions (we all do). Further complicating this is that the more experienced coaches who have a more diverse background are rarely judging. This causes error to increase -- e.g. I was amazed to recently see how dropped arguments from 1NC are still considered live in some eyes. That's what brought me to this thread - back in our day, a dropped argument was not material for a judge to go back and resurrect. To do so screams intervention.

 

Problem #2: We have a postmodern debate rules crisis

What are the rules of policy debate? Oh right... that we don't have them until the debaters determine them. This is going to always be problematic when there allegedly are no pre-debate standards for the judge to embrace, and further confounded by judges pretending they're truly tab when they're clearly not. Judges have pre-conditions and the best thing they can do is disclose them before the round. Consider, how do you vote on a round where neither team utters a word? I ask this of "pure tab" judges all the time and usually get an answer like "Oh, I'd have to vote for the Neg." Why? "Presumption." But where is presumption in a purely tab universe? It's a precondition. It's a rule in the judge's head that was not provided in our fictional silent round.

 

Yet we have educated judges and teams to believe there are no rules. Some of the better debating I've seen is from "fun rounds" where both teams and the judge agree to the rules before the round starts. AFC evolved in response to this same crisis, though it became misused (IMHO) to exclude valid arguments. The bottom line is that when a debate round becomes increasingly random in the outcome due to undisclosed rules in a judges head having a greater impact than the actual performance of the debate, then participants leave. Who would continue playing soccer when, in spite of you out-scoring the other team, the referees award the game to the other team because they were from a known soccer institution of a greater pedigree?

 

It is this very reason of judging harm that I abhor the current state of public forum debate judging. It was an interesting idea to engage laypersons as judges, but when I read ballot after ballot saying "Team A really were better speakers and had better arguments, but I just cannot believe that social networking is ever good. So I vote for Team B," I shake my head and realize we're doing more harm than good. I listened to parent judges all year making fundamental mistakes -- bringing personal experience in and saying "you just didn't convince me, but then, my niece was stalked by a child predator on facebook so you'll probably never convince me that social networking's good" to judges making bad decisions and then confessing "Oh crap, I guessed wrong AGAIN" to the other two judges, it causes me to regard the event as problematic. And then there's the semifinals rounds where you lose on a 2-1 where the one vote for your team was an experienced, long-time speech coach, and the 2 against your team were kids parents. I love reading those ballots.

 

Incidentally, there is a good base of posthumanist literature that is highly critical of the postmodern nihilistic thought, alleging it is reactionary and local/responsive to specific abhorrent events in recent history. World War I shattered the last illusions of scientific romanticism and led to excessive hopelessness. It's for this reason that I see posthumanism as having a path past the world of pomo-influenced framework debate in that we can find common denominators that serve as candidates for minimalist judging standards in that angst-reduced environment. But I digress.

 

Problem #3: Brand Extension

When you look at a school like Millard West fielding its total PF, LD and CX debaters, it doesn't look much different than Millard North in the 1980s. Except we've extended the debate brand, creating LD and PF. As marketing experts realize, there's a real risk in extending brands (e.g. Diet Pepsi Vanilla) as it tends to create growth in the extended category through the cannibalization of the original brand. This has to be a factor in policy's decline.

 

Problem #4: Competitive Alternatives requiring Extensive Specialization

As the child of a former high school and current college band director, I remember marching bands in the 1970s being huge, even in small school districts. My wife's a high school band director as well, and I can tell you it's a different game today. Not only are there hundreds of more activities available for our students to participate in, but we have a culture that has pushed early development and advancement of skills in those activities. Exploring an interest in soccer for the first time in junior high used to be common; now, it's nearly impossible. Everyone else on the team has had years of competitive soccer since preschool and attended camps for numerous summers. Throw in the competition from technology and media (e.g. Internet, gaming, etc.) and you've lost 2/3 of the available base of students for debate.

 

Problem #5: Even if speed was the problem, what's your plan and solvency?

How would a judge gauge "too fast" without being horribly subjective? Many of the top circuit teams rebuttals are no faster than some of the LD'ers on the circuit. Do we have a debate radar detector? Counting words per minute? Sampling? I don't know how we'd address this without engaging significant intervention (and indeed, in PF, we have). Let me modify my "silent round" example from above: in PF, team A is silent and team B runs at aggressive policy speed. Who wins? I'd bet 90% of the PF judges would give the ballot to team A, simply because they didn't offend the Church of PF Debate. ;)

 

Resolution: progression, not regression

 

This is where I fundamentally differ with your concerns expressed. Policy is where it is, for good and for bad. I believe it's a superior format for improvement than the alternatives in that it does have some openness to experimentation and change, though the microculture problem is going to continue to be a challenge.

 

PF is so determined to "not be policy" that it currently is overwhelmingly reactive and rigid. Try running a relevant lightly critical deontological argument with exceptional speaking styles and you'll be chased out of the round with pitchforks. I've had coaches warn me not to put policy debaters in the PF pool, even when they spoke at PF speeds ("those arguments don't belong in our format," apparently citing the PF Bible that I've not been able to locate yet). I have ballots from PF judges saying "Do not EVER put policy crap in PF. Go debate in policy if you want to argue that crap." Verbatim. Curious how arguments such as coercion are not relevant in the real world, when we have had two administrations in a row that are encroaching upon American's civil liberties and extending the state of exception (Agamben) toward tyranny. Philosophy is apparently irrelevant in life. But I digress... the PF world wants to live within the Matrix and we shouldn't shatter the illusion for the believers.

 

Indeed, I believe there is greater ground for further evolution in policy and I've seen cases of that innovation on our circuit this last year. Indeed, innovation continues in spite of the predominance of a particular style today. Millard South's "Finnigan's Wake" critical affirmative was a highly successful on the circuit, yet I'd suggest that if one set aside the issue of speed, a judge from the pre-plan era of resolutional debate would have no difficulty in voting for it. Other schools have shown serious innovation in both theory and style. Schools such as Iowa City West have shown tremendous success and apitude in their policy programs, as witnessed in my judging at Indianola Middle School tourney last weekend. All of these debaters would be well received by my debate mentors (a 1950s Northwestern debater and later Air Force Academy coach, and a 1930s resolutional debater).

 

So back to the argument that speed/spread have destroyed policy, there simply are too many greater coefficients associated with its probable decline than speed, and regardless, the solution is not to regress, but to innovate and move the format forward. For PF, I think it'd have an opportunity to become a more credible format if it embraced minimal standards in judging to reduce its interventionist crisis,

 

Incidentally, Spencer Waugh (Indianola debate coach) did a phenomenal job bringing in over 60 middle school teams from all over Iowa to debate -- with the format being neither policy nor PF. His judging instructions were outstanding and he emphasized a style which again would be widely recognized to judges from the 1950s and before. I'm always open to two teams that want to establish retro-theory round preconditions, and would love to scrimmage with any Iowa, Missouri or Nebraska team that wants to run pure pre-spread policy or better yet, resolutional debate, e.g. in the spirit of Sandford and Yeager's 1933 Problems for Debate Practice.

 

Jamie

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I just had to post this per the discussion on the educational value of speed debate. Indeed, the demand is increasing, especially in government where the current Congress's appetite for spending a trillion dollars a day is constrained only by the requirement to actually have someone read the legislation they're passing.

 

Talley '09 (Ian Talley, Wall Street Journal, "Need for Speed (Read) to Pass Climate Bill," May 20 2009, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124278191732237461.html )

 

WASHINGTON -- Democrats in the House Energy and Commerce Committee have taken a novel precaution to head off Republican efforts to slow action this week on a sweeping climate bill. They are hiring a speed reader. Republicans on the committee have said they may force the reading of the entire 946-page bill -- as well as major amendments that measure several hundred pages -- all aloud. This is a procedure lawmakers have a right to invoke. Republicans are largely against the bill, which aims to cut emissions of so-called greenhouse gases by more than 80% over the next half-century but would be costly. Republicans haven't tried the tactic, but Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) is prepared. A committee spokeswoman said the speed reader -- a high school policy debater who was on door duty at the hearing as he awaited a call to the microphone -- was hired to help staffers. After years of practice, the panel's clerks can read at a good clip. But the policy debater is a lot faster, she said.

 

"Judging by the size of the amendments, I can read a page about every 3.4 seconds," said the newly hired staff assistant from Des Moines Iowa, who declined to give his name. Based on that estimate, it would take him about eight minutes.

------------

 

 

Incidentally, some of the text might have changed in the copy/paste :) Check the link for the original.

 

 

 

jamie

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I seriously hope this gets on CSPAN and someone posts it on youtube. Just the reactions on the GOP's faces would be priceless.

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And they say there is no practical use for spreading in the real world.

 

"Judging by the size of the amendments, I can read a page about every 3.4 seconds," said the newly hired staff assistant from Des Moines Iowa, who declined to give his name. Based on that estimate, it would take him about eight minutes.

If the bill is 946 pages, it would take him about 54 minutes at that speed. Where did they get 8 minutes from?

Edited by jemmyc
math

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