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Leveruis

Winning Traditional LD judges over.

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The judges at the local tournaments in my state are pretty much 75% traditional 25% progressive. Often times I find myself doing very well when running into the more progressive side of judges but I cannot seem to consistently win over traditional judges. This is a skill necessary to achieving higher placements in my state. Does anyone with similar experiences to this have any advice?

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More detail would be nice. What sort of comments have you gotten from these judges?

This is going to be a bunch of scattershot generalizations. There are good traditional judges to whom this advice doesn't apply. There are even good traditional judges to whom this advice does apply. Also, I'm sort of addressing this advice at both casual and traditional judges. My experience has been that experienced traditional judges share a lot of the weaknesses of casual judges. However, in some situations, the two groups can behave quite differently.

You must have a value and criterion.

Many traditional judges evaluate rounds in a sort of oversimplified checklist fashion. They check if you win your value and criterion, and if you've beaten your opponents value and criterion. Contentions sort of get lost in the muddle, most of the time. If you win every V/C argument in the round, you win. If you only win some of them, then generally the most persuasive speaker or the speaker who best flatters the judge's moral prejudices wins. Therefore, the best choice is to try to win everything while pandering. (You might expect the checklist to be symmetric, so that your opponent is in jeopardy if they too fail to meet the checklist, unfortunately this is only sort of true because checklist judging is always implemented arbitrarily by people who are unwilling to cope with difficult decisionmaking. See also: Attribute Substitution. Judging places a large burden on cognitive load and when people can't handle it they flail around for a template or other way to make the round easy to decide.) Don't expect strictly tabula rasa judging, by the way. Weighing across flows is not something many people are capable of. Even if you prove that the value is bunk, if you don't also prove the criterion is bunk, you might lose if the judge is especially bad. This is insane troll logic, but it's reassuring to many judges to have the ability to lean on this template when judging. See this LessWrong post for an inadvertent demonstration of how many incompetent judges think about the V/C debate. It's highly categorical and rigid thinking, label-driven rather than warrant-driven.
 

Defense is valued more highly.

Familiarity is important. An unfamiliar argument, or one you've created yourself, is generally suspect. It can be perceived as arrogant, or just deluded. Better to humbly lean on quotations, ideally from nonthreatening sources whose arguments the judge already knows backwards and forwards. Don't read arguments heavily influenced by policy debate unless you've prettied them up and repackaged them so their origins are indiscernable. Policy debaters are disgusting heretics paranoid of nuclear war and you should despise them. Even carded evidence might be questionable. Stick to philosophers that will be covered in Philosophy 102 and below whenever possible. Don't have multiple philosophical influences on the case.

Recaps are very important. Repetition is very important. "The two reasons I win the value debate are..." Take signposting up to 11. I've seen some people give both overviews and underviews in the same speech when pitching to traditional judges, and while I cringe at the practice it might actually be strategically sound. I don't know why they'd be doing this unless it worked.

Avoid biting bullets unless you can do so with extreme persuasiveness, even if the bullets aren't actually scary. Biting bullets makes people uncomfortable and is a sign you've been forced into a corner, which is low status. The mark of high quality moral philosophy is a willingness to bite bullets, but there's a reason people are reluctant to do so in everyday life, and you should adopt that reluctance when dealing with everyday judges. You might wish to stay away from potentially taboo arguments like moral relativism or utilitarianism even if there are strong, traditional and respectable arguments to be deployed on their behalf, because your judges will be extremely reluctant to reject cliche platitudes opposed to these ideas. Oftentimes, people dress up the actual moral system they're defending in the clothes of a different one in order to distance themselves from such cliche criticisms.  Vague two word values without any discussion of their actual meaning are common for this reason. For example, one might claim to value "human flourishing" rather than utilitarian pleasure just to make it more tedious and questionable for an opponent to assert this would eg justify slavery, even if the rest of the case is blatantly utilitarian. Again, I assume this sort of halfhearted deflection must work for people.

Analogies are extremely helpful if you're struggling to make your arguments understood. Analogies provide a mental hook for judges' intuition to latch onto. Oftentimes judges get lost or bored if you keep things too abstract, you should always be connecting your arguments to a concrete and simplified toy example of what it looks like to deploy the moral logic. Humorously obvious examples of fallacious reasoning are an especially good opportunity to apply this. It's a lot easier to grasp that not all dogs are Labradors than that not all As are Bs even if all Bs are As.

I phrased a lot of this advice more intensely than I'd actually recommend adhering to it, exaggerating for the sake of comprehension. There are tradeoffs associated with adopting traditional practices more thoroughly, and even in front of a very traditional judge the ideal balance usually would be to allow some of your progressive influence to shine through. You'll always be an imperfect mimic of a purely traditional debater, if that's what you try to be, so while you should keep these issues in mind don't think of most of them as absolute restrictions but as costs to be balanced. The ideal might be being the sort of person who can rehabilitate traditional judges' bad perceptions of progressive debate, although this ambition might be too risky. Understanding their grievances more clearly might help you adapt, if you get the opportunity to have conversations with them. Regardless, this is the general direction you should move in if you're working on adapting to conservative judging.

Edited by Chaos
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My style of judging varies from tournament to tournament but since I’m in such a traditionalist area, I tend to judge conservatively more often. However, my paradigms are still a little bit more on the progressive side. Nonetheless, I’ve noticed that more traditional judges dislike the following:

1.) Theory- if a judge discloses that they are a traditional or casual judge, then beware of running theory. More often than not, they will drop you because of it, even though I view this as unethical, it happens way too often. Absolutely NO KRITIKS. I’ve met dozens of traditional judges, who I fundamentally disagree with, that believe if you run a Kritik then you have violated the educational standard in a round.

2.) Jargon- severely tone down the jargon. There is no “standard” there is only a V/C. There is no PICPs (plan inclusive counter plans), this is LD, a values debate, not CX. Do not frame DA’s as DA’s, instead run them as counter arguments in an offcase construction, it’s functionally the same thing but the ley/traditional judge won’t automatically think that the round has a policy “tone” to it.  

3.) Delivery- “If you spread, you are a heathen who has succumbed to the wretched temptation of policy debate.”- direct quote from a former judge

 *Your main goal when having a traditional judge is to make the content accessible.* Typically ley/traditional judges want to hear a good straight up values debate, but it’s very easy to get caught up with all the technicalities. Thus, your job as a debater is to always provide clarity in the round and never muddy the waters. 

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