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RobGlass

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RobGlass last won the day on March 6

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    Rob Glass
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  1. NDT Second Rounds went out recently. This has restarted the perennial discussion about their utility and fairness, as well as the health of the NDT. This time it seems like there are two camps that are extra aggrieved: - A camp that thinks that deserving third teams from a number of schools got the shaft by not getting an invite, thanks in large part due to the cap on third teams. - A camp that implies, heavily, that certain teams that were accepted to the NDT as second rounds were not competitively justified to be allowed. I think the second camp represents a aggrieved petulance that is unworthy of discussion at length, but the first camp (even with its tinge of the latter opinion) represents a real grievance that should be recognized. I want to briefly explore this, its history, and a modest proposal to fix the problem: This isn’t the place for a proper history of the NDT’s eligibility rules. Suffice to say that the NDT has always dealt with a problem of declining participation year over year. Originally the NDT only invited one team per school, but over time it started including second teams, and then a limited number of third teams so as to make sure it could fill out the pool. We’ve even been in this position before, where the number of second rounds and third teams was barely enough to make the NDT happen according to the rules, in the nineties. The result of that crisis was the merger between CEDA and the NDT which drastically inflated the pool of eligible teams by letting CEDA schools into the mix. I don’t want to rehash something that has been basically accepted by the community writ large at this point, but I think it can take at least a brief repeating: the elitism of the NDT intrinsically drives schools out of the activity. Partially because of the frustration that results from the exclusion of not being able to qualify, and partially because of the sheer costs that are required to be able to overcome that exclusion. I will, personally, place a lion's share of that blame directly at the feet of the Second Round At Large process: National Circuit tournaments have always existed, and potential first round teams coupled with the existence of well-financed teams will always make a pseudo-national circuit emerge as top level teams travel across the country to debate each other. Theoretically this should be fine as teams that aren’t at the very top of debate should feel comfortable simply debating in local and regional circuits and not travelling to national tournaments, unless they want to. However, teams that fear that they won’t get out of districts need to protect their second round chances, and that requires repeated outings on the national circuit to prove competitive viability. That costs way more than local travel (the cost to fly two teams from the mid-west to the Cali Swings more than equals bringing multiple teams to two or three local tournaments) and these costs directly trade off with both local tournament attendance and team size. This has real consequences both in terms of the viability of local tournaments, novice participation, etc. as well as in terms of participation in the community itself: Once those costs pile up it becomes harder and harder to justify having a debate team both internally to students who deal first hand with the questions of competitive inequity, and to administrators trying to track return on investment in a debate program when these factors don't exist in parli formats.* The result has been the community losing teams year over year, with long-time stalwart programs either disappearing or going off to the ‘other side’ of parli debate. (See, most recently, Vanderbilt). Herein lies the real pain of the first camp I outlined: the limits placed on the number of third teams allowed in was designed to protect a broadly diverse mixture of competitive schools who felt like they were being locked out, the decline in participation means that those schools no longer exist, which means that they are now being excluded in what appears to be an act for exclusion’s sake while competitively inferior teams are being let in because _someone has to be let in_ to make the tournament happen. While I don’t think their pain should necessarily be prioritized over the joy of inclusion that the included second round teams have, I do think that this reveals an underlying question of how we should balance the elitist demand of the NDT** with declining participation and other concerns. In that regard, I propose the following solution as a framework to look at: - As a premise I imagine keeping the NDT, but increasing the number of participating teams. The actual number can be fluid, but I think a pool of around 90 sounds perfectly workable. - Then maintain the first round process for sixteen teams. Let as many teams who are voted in via the first round, even third or fourth teams from schools, into the NDT in the initial stage. - At this point let every subscriber school nominate one team to the NDT. I’m inclined to put some barebones requirements on this team (a minimum number of rounds during the year, let each district nominate a ‘district’ tournament during the year and require these teams to have attended at least two of those tournaments, a winning record in Open, etc.), but nothing too strenuous. These teams should be allowed in if they clear those requirements. - This should fill up a majority of the slots to the NDT. To fill out the rest I propose having a National Qualifying Tournament. A tournament held in February that is open to every school and is run like present day district tournaments, except open to every team in the country. (We can rotate the hosting duties of the NQT between the schools every year). Every school can bring as many teams as they’d like to the NQT, and the top qualifiers will be let into the NDT to fill out the numbers. Obviously, this is not a perfect system, but I think it allows a baseline of compromise between the exclusionary demands that underlie the NDT’s focus on elitism with the real need to open the NDT up to more schools and participants and break the hold of the national circuit on schools***. There are also problems with this system that may make particular parts of it unworkable. For instance, the intra-squad discussion of which team to nominate to the NDT will probably be heart-rending and divisive. I also know that some schools would absolutely opt to use their nomination for a ‘B’ team while choosing to send their ‘A’ team to the NQT, which is less than ideal. But, this is a starting point and not a final product and I think that there are many things that recommend it over our current system which is fundamentally broken, and has been since the 70s. At a core level, if we want to preserve the activity we need to come up with a fix that allows more schools in, there isn’t another parallel debate league to merge with a-la CEDA in the mid-90s, and if we don’t do something soon to fix the structural problems in the activity it might be too late to actually right the ship. Rob Glass is the Editor in Chief of Policydb8 and debate coach for the University of Houston, before this he has worked for schools like Binghamton University, the University of Rochester, and Stuyvesant High School. * If we were to abolish the second round and simply give those bids to the districts, either as part of the district tournament or as a second round bid to be given out by them, I think we would be in a far better place. ** I will gladly flag here that the response of “elitism bad” is a fair one. Abolishing the NDT as a poisoned relic and embracing CEDA as the end of year championship is something that should absolutely be on the table for the community. *** One of the great shames of this year is that the splitter movement that fled the Cali swings for the Miami Georgetown tournament weren't called out for the damage that that move did to community cohesion. The spirit of the PRL still haunts the activity and we are all worse for it.
  2. NDT Second Rounds went out recently. This has restarted the perennial discussion about their utility and fairness, as well as the health of the NDT. This time it seems like there are two camps that are extra aggrieved: - A camp that thinks that deserving third teams from a number of schools got the shaft by not getting an invite, thanks in large part due to the cap on third teams. - A camp that implies, heavily, that certain teams that were accepted to the NDT as second rounds were not competitively justified to be allowed. I think the second camp represents a aggrieved petulance that is unworthy of discussion at length, but the first camp (even with its tinge of the latter opinion) represents a real grievance that should be recognized. I want to briefly explore this, its history, and a modest proposal to fix the problem: This isn’t the place for a proper history of the NDT’s eligibility rules. Suffice to say that the NDT has always dealt with a problem of declining participation year over year. Originally the NDT only invited one team per school, but over time it started including second teams, and then a limited number of third teams so as to make sure it could fill out the pool. We’ve even been in this position before, where the number of second rounds and third teams was barely enough to make the NDT happen according to the rules, in the nineties. The result of that crisis was the merger between CEDA and the NDT which drastically inflated the pool of eligible teams by letting CEDA schools into the mix. I don’t want to rehash something that has been basically accepted by the community writ large at this point, but I think it can take at least a brief repeating: the elitism of the NDT intrinsically drives schools out of the activity. Partially because of the frustration that results from the exclusion of not being able to qualify, and partially because of the sheer costs that are required to be able to overcome that exclusion. I will, personally, place a lion's share of that blame directly at the feet of the Second Round At Large process: National Circuit tournaments have always existed, and potential first round teams coupled with the existence of well-financed teams will always make a pseudo-national circuit emerge as top level teams travel across the country to debate each other. Theoretically this should be fine as teams that aren’t at the very top of debate should feel comfortable simply debating in local and regional circuits and not travelling to national tournaments, unless they want to. However, teams that fear that they won’t get out of districts need to protect their second round chances, and that requires repeated outings on the national circuit to prove competitive viability. That costs way more than local travel (the cost to fly two teams from the mid-west to the Cali Swings more than equals bringing multiple teams to two or three local tournaments) and these costs directly trade off with both local tournament attendance and team size. This has real consequences both in terms of the viability of local tournaments, novice participation, etc. as well as in terms of participation in the community itself: Once those costs pile up it becomes harder and harder to justify having a debate team both internally to students who deal first hand with the questions of competitive inequity, and to administrators trying to track return on investment in a debate program when these factors don't exist in parli formats.* The result has been the community losing teams year over year, with long-time stalwart programs either disappearing or going off to the ‘other side’ of parli debate. (See, most recently, Vanderbilt). Herein lies the real pain of the first camp I outlined: the limits placed on the number of third teams allowed in was designed to protect a broadly diverse mixture of competitive schools who felt like they were being locked out, the decline in participation means that those schools no longer exist, which means that they are now being excluded in what appears to be an act for exclusion’s sake while competitively inferior teams are being let in because _someone has to be let in_ to make the tournament happen. While I don’t think their pain should necessarily be prioritized over the joy of inclusion that the included second round teams have, I do think that this reveals an underlying question of how we should balance the elitist demand of the NDT** with declining participation and other concerns. In that regard, I propose the following solution as a framework to look at: - As a premise I imagine keeping the NDT, but increasing the number of participating teams. The actual number can be fluid, but I think a pool of around 90 sounds perfectly workable. - Then maintain the first round process for sixteen teams. Let as many teams who are voted in via the first round, even third or fourth teams from schools, into the NDT in the initial stage. - At this point let every subscriber school nominate one team to the NDT. I’m inclined to put some barebones requirements on this team (a minimum number of rounds during the year, let each district nominate a ‘district’ tournament during the year and require these teams to have attended at least two of those tournaments, a winning record in Open, etc.), but nothing too strenuous. These teams should be allowed in if they clear those requirements. - This should fill up a majority of the slots to the NDT. To fill out the rest I propose having a National Qualifying Tournament. A tournament held in February that is open to every school and is run like present day district tournaments, except open to every team in the country. (We can rotate the hosting duties of the NQT between the schools every year). Every school can bring as many teams as they’d like to the NQT, and the top qualifiers will be let into the NDT to fill out the numbers. Obviously, this is not a perfect system, but I think it allows a baseline of compromise between the exclusionary demands that underlie the NDT’s focus on elitism with the real need to open the NDT up to more schools and participants and break the hold of the national circuit on schools***. There are also problems with this system that may make particular parts of it unworkable. For instance, the intra-squad discussion of which team to nominate to the NDT will probably be heart-rending and divisive. I also know that some schools would absolutely opt to use their nomination for a ‘B’ team while choosing to send their ‘A’ team to the NQT, which is less than ideal. But, this is a starting point and not a final product and I think that there are many things that recommend it over our current system which is fundamentally broken, and has been since the 70s. At a core level, if we want to preserve the activity we need to come up with a fix that allows more schools in, there isn’t another parallel debate league to merge with a-la CEDA in the mid-90s, and if we don’t do something soon to fix the structural problems in the activity it might be too late to actually right the ship. Rob Glass is the Editor in Chief of Policydb8 and debate coach for the University of Houston, before this he has worked for schools like Binghamton University, the University of Rochester, and Stuyvesant High School. * If we were to abolish the second round and simply give those bids to the districts, either as part of the district tournament or as a second round bid to be given out by them, I think we would be in a far better place. ** I will gladly flag here that the response of “elitism bad” is a fair one. Abolishing the NDT as a poisoned relic and embracing CEDA as the end of year championship is something that should absolutely be on the table for the community. *** One of the great shames of this year is that the splitter movement that fled the Cali swings for the Miami Georgetown tournament weren't called out for the damage that that move did to community cohesion. The spirit of the PRL still haunts the activity and we are all worse for it. View full article
  3. I was already a card at some earlier point (a K card though), and everything seems kind of trite after you've been a disad. The insult here is how crappy this card is and how it concludes the opposite way of what's being said. Besides that, yes, there is some fun to be had here.
  4. ... but it's been cut in a way antithetical to what the card actually says. Shame on you, Kentucky. Shame on you. (It's the 2NC AT: Perm card.) Kentucky-Bannister-Trufanov-Neg-Clay-Round3.docx
  5. Over the past few months I have been analyzing the voting histories of over 400 active judges on the College Policy Circuit, covering just about every judge who has been to a major national or large regional tournament in the past year and a half. I have posted publicly about some of the insights this brings on which judges have judged the most rounds, and what this can show about how judges behave and the question of judge predictability. For my latest project I’ve been investigating school bias in judges, testing to see if judges can be biased towards teams from a school (or set of schools) when compared to other judges. That analysis is still in its embryonic stages, but in the meantime I felt that there might be interest in what the raw data tells us about the successes of various schools. I will make a separate, longer, post going deeper into the methodology behind this data, however the basic process was scouring through the Tabroom judging record of 416 Judges, analyzing the over 48,000 ballots that they had between them, parsing which schools were involved and who won, and then compiling that data. While this isn’t a complete history of the tabroom era it does give a relatively representative understanding of the past six years of debate history. Below I present three relatively basic metrics for school success: Percentage of ballots won (the data treats each ballot as a separate decision as opposed to analyzing panel decisions holistically), the total number of ballots won, and the most ballots contested. This data explicitly excludes swing-teams but does count the rounds of teams who were debating swing teams. There was no differentiation made between Novice, JV, or Varsity divisions in the compiling of this data. The top ten most successful teams* by percentage of ballots that they’ve won are: 1. Harvard – 63.0% of ballots 2. Northwestern – 62.1% of ballots 3. Towson – 60.7% of ballots 4. UC – Berkeley – 59.2% of ballots 5. Georgetown – 58.8% of ballots 6. University of Michigan – 57.8% of ballots 7. Oklahoma – 57.3% of ballots 8. Rutgers-Newark – 57.3 % of ballots 9. Kansas – 56.6% of ballots 10. Wake Forest – 56.2% of ballots The top ten most successful teams by won ballots are: 1. Liberty University – 2,583 Ballots 2. George Mason – 2,268 Ballots 3. Kansas – 2,186 Ballots 4. Wake Forest – 1,777 Ballots 5. Emory – 1,562 Ballots 6. University of Michigan – 1,556 Ballots 7. Harvard – 1,509 Ballots 8. Oklahoma – 1,346 Ballots 9. Northwestern – 1,189 Ballots 10. James Madison University – 1,181 Ballots Honorable mention goes to Binghamton University in a very close 11th place. The top ten most successful teams by ballots contested are: 1. Liberty University – 4,681 RBallots 2. George Mason University – 4,090 Ballots 3. Kansas – 3,860 Ballots 4. Wake Forest – 3,162 Ballots 5. Emory – 2,844 Ballots 6. University of Michigan – 2,693 Ballots 7. James Madison University – 2,625 Ballots 8. Harvard University – 2,394 Ballots 9. Binghamton University – 2,393 Ballots 10. Oklahoma – 2,347 Ballots * Not including teams with under 40 ballots in my data set. Apologies to Columbia, SUNY Broome, and City College who would otherwise have places on this list.
  6. Editor's Note: This speech was originally presented at the Barkley Forum a number of years ago. It is one of my favorite pieces of debate writing, and Les Phillips has honored us by letting us reprint it here, with a few, very minor, updates. I turned forty in October. I don't feel old, or middle aged, but I don't feel young either. I am a person who counts years. When I see a newspaper article about a new Clinton Administration appointee, or a profile of some suddenly successful actor or businessman, my mind quickly settles on the detail of age -- two years younger than me -- one year older than me -- six years younger than me. Until recently, I thought of myself as young. So, it astonishes me to count back and realize that this is my twenty-sixth year in forensics; my fifteenth year in coaching high school debate; my fourteenth Barkley Forum. When St. Augustine sat down to write his Confessions, and toted up all his misdeeds, his work in forensics was near the head of the list. He wrote: "From my eighteenth to my twenty-seventh year I was led astray and led others astray in turn. I was a teacher of public speaking. How wicked are the sins of men!" I have now exceeded Augustine's record of depravity by thirteen and one half years. I have sinned, I continue to sin, and I shall go on sinning. I know who to blame. I blame not my parents for raising me badly, nor the Christian education of my childhood for its inadequacies. I do not blame society for creating an imperfect world. One person did this to me. I blame Mrs. Charline Burton, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You may recoil in shock at my bad taste. Blame Charline Burton! Such a wonderful lady. Not even here to defend herself. But listen: Eight years ago this evening it was Mrs. Burton who stabbed the key into my breast and emitted a bloodcurdling exhortation: "Les! Become one of our old warhorses!" This command has hovered over my life ever since. It has had the effect of a curse or a prophecy in a Greek tragedy. After much consideration of the difficulties of a beast of burden, and with one eye on the glue factory, I'd have to conclude that, indeed, I'm going to be an old warhorse. And I want to share with you this evening my reflections on that decision -- on why I will grow old in debate, and how. It has not exactly escaped my attention that fewer and fewer people are growing old in this activity -- even as old as I am. This is not new. I had two wonderful high school coaches. The first one got out when she was twenty-eight and never looked back. Her successor made it to thirty. Most of the people I coached with in the Northeast ten years ago have gotten out. Fifty women and men have been named Key Coaches of the Barkley Forum in the past fifteen years. Twenty of them have gotten out. Several good coaches my age or younger are hanging on by their thumbs, desperately seeking a successor; they are trying to get out. They are tired. I am tired. Some weeks I am just exhausted. The driving -- farther and farther each year, as New England debate completes its collapse. The practice rounds, sometimes four or five a week. The grading, the fundraising, the talks with parents, the amateur medical treatments, the photocopying, the adolescent crisis management, the adult crisis management, the tournament-running, the seven years' war against the assistant principal, the state tournament-running, the district tournament running, the thirty years' war against the custodians, the car washes, the undone laundry, the friends not seen, the letters unanswered, the family neglected, the van which breaks down at 1 a.m. on the Massachusetts Turnpike when the wind chill is thirty below. Inherency asks: Why do good men tolerate evil? Debate coaching asks: Why do sane women and men tolerate this? But when I asked myself whether I wanted to quit, the answer was always surprisingly clear. No. Will I keep the same pace into middle age? No. I've cut back already. Do I want to travel less? Yes. Do I want to go home earlier? Yes. But I will keep going. And what keeps me going, apart from a compelling need to appease my landlord and pay the Visa bills? I do love my students. But I could find students to enjoy outside debate. I like arguments, but the fascination I used to have with the design of a debate round is gone. I am not looking for one last championship to crown a career. I have been to enough round robins. I am not sentimental about the value of what I do. And I do not think I am indispensable. But I will keep on because I think we have a mission. There are special things that we have to do. First of all, debate must be a force which counters the dilution of secondary education. Now I am very uncomfortable in the role of educational traditionalist. I am not frequently confused with a conservative of any sort. But I hope I am not the only person who notices that high schools are dumbing down their curricula and expectations. I speak only for myself, but I find that year by year I must pull and push and stretch and goad my freshman debaters harder, longer, more vigorously to get them where they need to be intellectually. Their middle school preparation has simply left them without the social studies context, the reading skills, the notetaking skills, the attention span, or the simple work ethic necessary to do this activity well -- or to do any other serious academic work. I know that academics is not all of secondary education. I truly believe that schools must help build a whole person, and that self-esteem is the key to that whole person. But when schools make self-esteem and challenge mutually exclusive, when they seek to insulate students from difficulty or the possibility of failure, they have betrayed the meaning of self-esteem. No one knows better than the people in this room that self-esteem is built by presenting students with challenges -- goals beyond their reach -- and then preparing them to meet that challenge. When schools allow their expectations to decline to the level of what a fourteen-year-old happens to feel like doing that day - - when schools treat sloth as a "learning style" instead of a deadly sin -- they betray education. Robert Frost once defined education as "hanging around until you've caught on." Robert Frost was wrong. An educator, true to the Latin root of the word, leads the student out of his self-satisfaction to something new. I will go so far as to predict that as the rest of education is watered down, and as it becomes "incorrect" to focus on gifted students, parents will rediscover the value of forensics. I want to be around to see that happen. The second thing we need to do is make certain that debate continues to be education. There are any number of committees, platforms, and movements afoot to enhance, reform, and expand debate in America. My three predecessors at this pulpit have spoken somewhat programmatically, and I'm not going to try to improve on what they have said. My particular worry is that fewer debaters seem to understand that debate is arguing, not reading; that the best arguments are those you derive, not borrow or purchase; that evidence should come from the library, not the friend who knows someone who was in Cheshier's lab last summer. I worry that actual debate, rather than reading, may be retreating into a small elite corner of the activity. Working on the fundamentals with students is not always interesting. But it is what we on the front line of debate education must do. The summer institute teacher may know the evidence better. She may be the superior strategist. But no one at Dartmouth or Michigan or Northwestern is better equipped to teach thinking better than the people in this room. None of these good things happen if we all get out. I can't presume to tell anyone here how to live their lives. Each of your circumstances are different, and I don't know them all. But I know that, as I decided not to get out, I knew that I could not stay in unless I made some changes in the way I did things. And I was able to see how to make those changes precisely because I am getting older. Four years ago my aunt, a person I loved very much, died too young. Then an uncle, a year later. My mother and father are in good health, but those other deaths forced me to really think about my parents' mortality. They will die. Which means -- you are unequivocally the adult now. Your full maturity is not something that will happen later. You have become what you will be. So, if you are a debate teacher, it's time to batten down and prepare for the long haul. That meant confronting the workaholic martyr in myself. The part that worried that if I admitted that any portion of the work that I did turned out to be dispensable, somebody might come along and get rid of all of me. The part of me that needed to think of the job as huge, impossible, thankless. I had to begin to tame that inner workaholic. I had to start delegating. I had to learn to get in the car and go home at four-thirty. I can assure you that my program has not collapsed as a result. My principal has not hauled me up on charges of negligence. My students have noticed that I stay home once in a while and don't hear quite as many rounds. They have also noticed that I'm a little more approachable, a little more fun to be around, less exhausted. Besides, everyone has noticed that Lexington never wins the final round if Phillips is present at the tournament. I'm going to work hard for thirty more years doing what I think I do well -- teaching novices, especially, and advanced debaters to be critical, to be subversive in their questioning and thinking. Whether you stay in for another year or another thirty, or more, please do what you do best. Teach the young. Love your work. And goodnight, Mrs. Burton, wherever you are. - Les Phillips is the Director of Debate at the Nueva School, for many years he directed debate at Lexington High School. His students have won national championships in Policy, Lincoln Douglas, and Public Forum. View full article
  7. Thought y'all might be interested in a list of the most experienced judges in HS and College in the era of Tabroom. For College: Jackie Poapst - 477 Rounds Me - 470 Rounds Armands Revelins - 467 Daniel Stout - 466 Kurt Fifelski - 458 Benjamin Hagwood - 425 Lindsey Shook - 417 Becca Steiner - 414 Shae Bunas - 409 Joe Leeson-Schatz - 391 Honorable mention that 11th, 12th, and 13th are one round separated from each other. With Will Baker at 371, Matthew Moore at 370, and Andy Montee at 369. This is out of a data pull of 416 judges. The average number of rounds judged for judges at most tournaments over the past year is 121, and the Median is around 90. For High School: Valerie McIntosh - 389 Kevin Hirn - 321 David Heidt - 307 Brad Meloche - 291 Brock Hanson - 282 Scott Wheeler - 282 Wayne Tang - 266 Kevin McCaffrey - 264 Sam Haley-Hill - 248 Eric Forslund - 247 Honorable Mention to Mark A. Hernandez Sr. in 11th with 241. This is out of a pull of 646 judges who attended a wide selection of recent tournaments. This is only HS Policy, and excludes camp rounds. The mean average number of rounds judged by judges is 61. The Median is 40.
  8. Decker already traded this draft pick to JMU for two novices and a second round draft pick to be named later.
  9. Debate can take you nearly anywhere. Places you never imagined you could go. Sometimes, places you wish you’d never found—places like media outlets dedicated to disseminating white supremacist ideologies. For the last year, my research interests, background in debate, and generally antagonistic personality have brought me deep into the world of “bloodsport debating,” a style of unstructured, polemic debate practiced by the white supremacist far-right. By arguing amongst themselves, the right has created the aesthetic of flourishing political discourse while never straying too far from their core belief that the composition of a nation must be carefully curated and maintained. A significant contingent of the left has rejected the political utility of debating those who hold such abhorrent views—a feeling I suspect is tied to an understanding of debate that is the most pedantic, elitist version possible. Such a case was recently made in an article by English feminist author Laurie Penny, who collapsed all forms of debate into “the way [she] was taught to do it at [her] posh school,” and “fundamentally an intellectual dick-smacking contest dressed up in institutional lingerie, and while there are plenty of women out there who can unzip their enormous brains and thwack them on the table with the best of them, the formula is catastrophically macho.” Yikes. That’s a link. Most of us recognize that form of debate, primarily practiced by very online avatars, but it’s far from the only kind that exists. Policy debate presents us with an argumentative training ground that isn’t just about logic, but about persuasion more broadly. In a recent piece in Current Affairs, Nathan Robinson explains that “‘debate’ is not strictly a contest of logical argumentation; it is a contest of persuasion, and the strict presentation of factual arguments and conclusions is only one of the ways in which this occurs.” The most valuable aspect of policy debate is its uncertainty and ability to accommodate diverse intellectual tactics, putting everything from the audience to the argument style to the very definition of winning and losing up for re/interpretation. Understanding debate holistically is critical for real-world advocacy. One significant reason white supremacists win the public relations war with the majority of civically-minded citizens is that they tend to the audience rather than beating someone over the head with the most correct and logical information. Any debater who has been caught with an unsympathetic judge in the back of the room knows that if your audience doesn’t have the intellectual tools or frame of mind to understand your argument, you may as well have never made it. White supremacists excel at speaking to the audience instead of the facts, tapping into the “common-sense” racism most Americans feel. Rather than allowing this to lead us to the conclusion debate is impossible, we should redouble our commitment to strategizing around the audience and truth, instead of hoping the truth will speak for itself. Some readers may now be wondering, “Why bother?” The answer is simple. At some point, you aren’t just refusing to debate—you’re also refusing to persuade. The hesitation around this kind of engagement, Robinson argues, has tangible consequences: “There’s something that sounds faintly dirty about encouraging people to think beyond purely rational forms of persuasion. But it’s that refusal to get one’s hands dirty with rhetoric that is the problem, not the willingness to use language rather than physical force as one’s chief political weapon. The choice is not necessarily between “trying to reason logically with the other side” and “engaging in violent struggle.” It could also be that for progressives, persuasion is usually best effected neither through violence nor formal deductive reasoning, but through effective messaging, telling people things that actually get them to support your politics. In other words, it’s not just what you say, but how you say it and who you are.” I have been met with my fair share of suspicion and horror for engaging white supremacists in their spaces but am no less convinced of its importance. It’s not true that, as the refrain goes, “There’s just no debating white supremacy” or “We can’t debate over people’s humanity.” Those debates are already occurring, with or without us, in well-funded spaces and highly publicized platforms all over the world. Of course, any engagement must be careful to avoid amplifying or strengthening white supremacy’s public platform, but the fight for liberation and justice requires walking into deeply immoral spaces and hijacking them with better arguments and the kind of credibility that you can only build through repeated exposure and thoughtful consideration of your audience. After all, white supremacy is not simply immoral in the abstract—it’s immoral because it’s a terrible argument whose backing falls apart with even the slightest application of scrutiny. Articulating those embarrassing gaps in white supremacy’s logic strengthens people’s convictions against it and empowers them to tackle those arguments in their daily life. Debate certainly can’t save us on its own (and we should not all run out to debate every random racist on the internet), but it is one important tool in the Big Box of Tactics because you lose 100% of the flows you drop. When persuading people to turn away from the alt-right, I rely on four main lessons from my time in policy debate. While other forms of debate are wonderful for teaching public speaking skills or introducing someone to a civil or traditional method of argumentation, there’s nothing quite like this activity. Lesson 1: “Framework Makes the Game Work” Anyone who has debated in the Southeast in the last decade has heard Erik Mathis repeat this phrase, though I was far less appreciative of it as a competitor. The process of moving through a debate round teaches us that, no matter what you choose to do with your life, you will have far too little time to do it. The further you get into a career or a doctoral program, the more you have to make difficult choices about where to spend your time building depth at the exclusion of something else. Given these temporal constraints, framework provides an argument about what information the audience should dedicate their time to evaluating. In other words, framework controls the rubric for what it means to win. When it comes to debating white supremacists, the stakes can feel exceptionally high if “losing” means more people walk away believing in the elevated humanity of whiteness. Reworking a debate to be about something else—like the ethics of even allowing white supremacists to advocate for their position when it is not cogent enough to meet even a basic burden of proof—sets the bar higher and changes how people are approaching the question as they evaluate the arguments. Lesson 2: Know Your Opponents Argument Better Than They Do If there’s one thing that sets policy debate apart from every other activity, it’s the depth of research. From deep, two-sided research emerges “round vision,” or the ability to predict an opponent’s available strategic options in their last speech before the debate even begins. Those new to debate will often get caught up in the logical minutia of something that can be easily conceded in favor of ten new, late-breaking examples that can’t all be adequately examined. A deep understanding of what your opponent believes is the single best predictor of how persuasively you can preempt their positions. For example, many on the right have begun to cite a recent academic “hoax” wherein people spent a year attempting (and mostly failing) to publish outrageous fake articles in feminist studies journals. There are a host of reasons why this hoax is not a sufficient indictment of entire academic departments, but anyone that invested in delegitimizing research that undermines power will quickly turn to hyperbolic examples about professors or graduate students that spoke too candidly about whiteness, or masculinity, or colonialism on Twitter. It’s far more powerful to indict evidence in the broader context of your opponent’s worldview—especially if you can explain their arguments and ridiculous examples before they do. Lesson 3: Truth and Tech Matter Differently Hillary Clinton may have won the flow in every presidential debate against Donald Trump, but a disproportionately powerful minority of people saw her as a loser. As she prattled off policy details and encouraged people to seek out live fact-checking websites, Trump accused her of starting ISIS and paraded in women who had accused her husband of sexual misconduct. The audience, with no idea how to compare those two things, defaulted to whoever and whatever they trusted before the debates began. Knowing your opposition’s content is important, but so is knowing their form. A bombastic persuasion style must be met with something equally invested in emotional connection while also seeking the upper hand in credibility. A highly technical, civility-minded opponent requires a more controlled style that tackles precision with more accessible, but still truthful, explanations. Advocates find ourselves faced with every kind of interlocuter, and nothing teaches you to adapt your explanations to the setting quite like approaching the same topic 50 different ways with different opponents and audiences each time. Lesson 4: Research, Test, Clash As Wisconsin’s own Assistant Director Jordan Foley always reminds me, “You can’t beat the game in one night.” Debate is an iterative process of persuasion that can’t be reduced to even the most impressively and thoroughly researched files. Creating a persuasive message requires taking research and testing it by clashing against those who hold other perspectives. Things that seem obviously persuasive in your own head or friend group may have no resonance whatsoever with those outside of it. There’s no better way to figure out what is convincing than to try to convince people, failing, and reworking your arguments until you break through. Clash also provides the opportunity to attack weak arguments—I truly cannot overstate the impact of the phrase “Can you point to a line in the study that says that?” in front an audience who has never seen their intellectual icons pushed to prove they are characterizing evidence fairly. Debate will take you to places you never imagined, and to some you’ve surely been eyeing since you began your educational lives. No matter where you wind up, debate will have taught you a core set of lessons about how to persuade people, and what they can (and can’t) be persuaded of in any given context. By the end of your career, you will have spent years training yourself in a particular style of argumentation. You will take what you've learned out of the often-cruel world of competitive debate and into a much crueler world that you will find yourself desperate to change. Along the way, persuasion will be a critical part of asking for help, building a base, and making real forward movement. Growing into an advocate is a lifelong process of honing and sharpening and adjusting our tactics. As debaters, we have something necessary (but not sufficient) to spur change—good or bad. With those skills in mind, where will debate take you? CV is the Director of Debate at the University of Wisconsin--Madison and a doctoral candidate in the department of Communication Arts. They study institutional use of genetic data and human taxonomies in political discourse. View full article
  10. The wings contest? We've got a plan in the works. For the record, I will be crushing the both of them.
  11. Watch grand-cross in PF and he'll seem a bastion of dainty civility in comparison.
  12. Hi, I’m the new Editor-in-Chief of PolicyDb8, and I just wanted to introduce you to our forthcoming content. Starting this week and running for the foreseeable future we will be posting two to three articles a week about Policy Debate. Some will be about its culture, both for good and ill, and how we can improve it. Some about the power of debate outside the round and the potential of our activity. And some will be advice for students, and coaches, both for how to improve as students and competitors and also to give perspective for what debate offers for those of us who want to venture out beyond the cloister and into the so-called “real world.” The goal of this project is to offer a place for both long-form content about debate and also to be a site for dialogue and discussion absent the polarizing and destructive tendencies of social media. As time goes on we’re hope to branch out to offer new, and more innovative, forms of engagement and to increase the kinds of content that we have on offer, and we hope that you’ll join us for that journey. If you’re interested in contributing please feel free to reach out to me directly, all offers and forms of feedback are welcome. Thank you, Rob Glass Editor-in-Chief Policydb8
  13. Worst topic I've ever heard about from coaches and debaters who were active was the Social Services topic in the early 90s. It was, apparently, a complete disaster in every possible way. College Europe is generally up there in the disasters list, and I think this year will be remembered the same way. That said, I haven't talked to anyone who debated/coached on the topic(s) but some of the value CEDA resolutions from before the merger strike me as being just the worst to debate for more than a tournament. For instance: " Resolved: That the national news media in the United States impair the public's understanding of political issues."
  14. Three rounds in and I feel compelled to ask.
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