I am a third year, junior, high school debater from Appleton East High School in Appleton, Wisconsin. I was hoping to look for some insight on other debater's local circuits as well as share some thoughts about mine. Although there are many problems within the WDCA (Wisconsin Debate Coaches Association), I feel it necessary to attack the issue from the bottom-up, beginning with Novice "Debate," if it should even be called it.
I feel it may be similar for most other novice circuits, but 95% of the novice debates judged within Wisconsin are done by completely Lay Judges which sometimes are your soccer mom volunteering for a weekend and voting for one team because she liked their tie more. This alone is obviously an issue that encourages poor debate skills. Throughout the entirety of the season, the novice division is limited to reading three plan texts. Most of the time, these aren't even anywhere near the best affirmatives out there. My novice year (space topic), the affirmatives were ASATs, Space Debris, and Moon Col. This year it is lifting the entire Cuban Embargo, Border Security with Mexico, and Venezuela Oil. Now yes these affirmatives are sometimes good, but they are THE ONLY AFFIRMATIVES that are allowed to be read. The infamous "No Kritiks or Counterplans Rule" is in effect for the WDCA for the entirety of the novice season. However this year, there has been an exception made. After November 1st the novices were allowed to read one specific counterplan. Not one counterplan per round, but one counterplan per round, and that counterplan will be predetermined by the WDCA and that is the only counterplan that can be run. The counterplan that was chosen was the Democracy Conditions CP, which has some major issues to it substantively, let alone the fact that it is 1) a conditions counterplan, 2) it must be run UNCONDITIONALLY. This means there is no use in reading a disadvantage, or even case defense. If a novice was going to read this counterplan, it would make the most sense for them to simply read the counterplan in the 1NC and sit down. I personally have coached our novices to not read the counterplan, but have given them sufficient material to defeat it. As I mentioned earlier, the November 1st Date. This not only is a date in which the first counterplan to ever be read in a novice debate in Wisconsin was allowed, but is also a date in which any innovative argument can be read. Every year at the beginning of the season, all novices in WI are provided with the same evidence. These arguments are the only arguments that can be read up until Nov. 1. This includes only 2 DAs, the 3 Affs, and 2 T violations and obviously some case negs. Of course spreading would be a ridiculous thing to ever allow in a novice debate.
There are not only problems within novice debate, but many that resonate throughout the varsity level as well.
Judging: My very first round in WI this year (We had already attended 2 Nat Circuit Tournaments) I had a judge that had never seen a policy debate round in her entire life. Many ballots are casted just as political moves, not relevant to the debaters' activity in the round, somewhat similar to the NDT circuit point inflation scandal, but obviously as just a local circuit WI is on a much smaller scale. Above all, tab rooms fail to put qualified judges in the correct places; for 2 years there was a judge who was only judging PF until he was needed to replace a policy round. It turned out that the replacement judge debated NDT in college and was by far more qualified than the judge we were supposed to have. I sat in a room last weekend waiting for 20 minutes for a judge's decision with the other team, only to find out he didn't give oral disclosure. It was pretty upsetting and in fact is a major issue that occurs probably half the rounds i debate in WI. A judge can only write so much on a ballot, and oral disclosure I believe is a key part to bettering a debater's skills as they are able to receive interactive feedback on their performance. The damned Stock Issues Paradigm just resonates throughout maybe a quarter of the state? I can not even tell you how many times I've had arguments along the lines of "Speed Reading Bad" read against me, either in the form of straight-up theory, or a kritik. The fact that I'm able to read faster because I practice and care about debate to prepare myself to debate on the national circuit (we attend roughly 4 circuit tournaments a year) doesn't mean I should be rejected from WI debate, amirite?
IF YOU ARE GOING TO READ ANYTHING READ THIS: â€‹I do not know if this ridiculous idea exists anywhere else, but I am very curious to find out, it is the concept of what is called "'Varsity' Four Person Debate" Extra Quotes within "Varsity" because I refuse to glorify it along with what I believe is real debate. In a four person team, there are two teams of two people. One of those teams goes aff every round, and another is neg every round. Those two teams records are added together for their 4 person team score. These are two individual teams that at the end of the day function as one. I hope you understand my explanation of "'Varsity' Four Person Debate," if you do not please don't be afraid to ask me to reexplain it. Personally, I believe this form of debate is illegitimate and here's why.
â€‹It obviously kills switch side debate. A switch side debate format is good because it encourages debaters to detach themselves from the emotional ramifications of any given argument presented as they will most likely have to debate for it, and against it. Example: Through the first four tournaments of the season all but 3 of my 2NRs was free trade bad, however that did not stop me from reading a big ol' free trade advantage on the aff. Detaching oneself from arguments within the debate space allows debaters to learn both sides of the argument so that they can better their position to form their personal advocacy on the topic outside of round.
It leads to lack expansion education on the negative. I understand that there are many many affirmatives to be run, however, there are many many arguments that arguably link to every affirmative, policy or kritikal (i.e. poltics disads, condition counterplans, neoliberalism K, psychoanalysis K). This being said, one team being negative every round means they can read the same arguments, every round. In fact, many four person teams do. Whereas, even if switch side teams do this on the negative, they still see many other arguments while they are on the affirmative themselves. Learning about more things is obviously good, because it encourages teams to learn in depth about more arguments. Not just one, because with time constraints within debate especially, there is only so far in depth that one person can go educationally.
I could give you more reasons, but there's the cliff notes on why I think Wisconsin Debate is ridiculous. If you could please take the time to answer the poll regarding Varsity Four Person, it would make my day. If you read this entire thing, I thank you from the very bottom of my heart and truly wish to hear more about debate in your parts of the country. I hope this forum can help better my and your understanding of debate across the nation.