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Bill Batterman is the Director of Debate at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The social services topic marks his 13th year in the activity and his ninth as an active high school coach and judge. He can be reached via email at billbatterman@gmail.com.


1. I have decided not to delete the updates to my judging philosophy that were posted during the alternative energy topic. While some of the specifics are no longer applicable, I think these thoughts/rants can provide the interested debater or coach with insights about the way I view debate as an activity and the assumptions with which I approach the judging process.

2. I don't expect anyone to read all of the many thousands of words that I've written here or at The 3NR, but doing so will almost certainly give you a good idea of how best to adapt to me as a critic. I am an open book: I care passionately about the activity and I have strong opinions about it, but nothing should come as a surprise.

3. I judge a lot. More than just about anyone else, I would imagine. Last season, for example, I judged 113 varsity policy debates (and that total does not include a handful of novice and LD debates as well as the several tournaments at which I did not judge because I was tabulating). I do this because I deeply enjoy it.

1. I think this is the "social services" topic more so than the "persons living in poverty" topic. Unfortunately, the term "social services" seems very difficult to define. Despite that, I don't think the topic requires the affirmative merely to "do something about poverty"... even if precise definitions of "social services" are difficult to establish, I will feel comfortable voting negative if the aff fails to provide a reasonable interpretation of the phrase that includes their plan. I remain a bad judge for most topicality arguments, but some of the cases that were written during the summer are so egregiously untopical that I might be more sympathetic than usual to negatives' pleas for tighter constraints on the affirmative.

2. The mirror 50-state counterplan is a crime against humanity. The Lopez counterplan is even worse. If you are aff against these types of counterplans, you can (and should) advance a theoretical objection; I can be persuaded that this is a reason to reject the team, not just the counterplan. If you are negative and want to "test the fed key warrant," you can do so in more sophisticated ways that better reflect the constraints of a decision-maker and the federalism controversy surrounding anti-poverty policy in the United States. I realize that toeing the line about this will result in many squads choosing to ratchet me several notches down on their pref sheets, but I'm okay with that.

3. The "poverty" word PIC is an awful argument. If judges start voting for this nonsense and affirmatives respond by changing their plans to say "topically-designated persons," we will all die a little inside. Our activity is better than this: please, for the love of all that is holy, find a better way to incorporate postmodern criticisms of poverty discourse into your negative arsenal.

4. I have been noticing a troubling trend: many high-level debaters seem to have abandoned all pretenses of persuasion in favor of borderline-incomprehensible, rapid-fire, brute-force deliveries. It isn't so much that these debaters are speaking in a way that cannot be understood (although that happens a lot, too); it is more that these debaters are speaking in a way that is unpleasant to listen to and utterly devoid of passion and conviction. Monotonous hyperspeed yelling and monotonous hyperspeed whispering are both fundamentally unpersuasive speaking styles. Debaters that deviate from this style will be rewarded -- communicate *with* me, not *at* me.

5. I remain convinced that debaters should verbalize the qualifications of the authors they are citing to support their arguments. I won't force anyone to do this--at least not yet. But smart, sophisticated arguments about the quality of competing pieces of evidence will make me smile from ear-to-ear and will be all the more powerful if you verbalized these qualifications when the evidence was initially presented. Don't get blindsided: I consider qualification/source quality arguments decisive and will not be afraid to discard from consideration a piece of evidence that is proven unqualified or unreliable.

6. I have a sneaking suspicious that many debaters do not know what the word "risk" means. Patently illogical statements that include the term seem to be proliferating: "There's only a risk that we're topical," "we control uniqueness so there's only a risk of a link," "there's always a risk that we solve," etc. are all absurd non-arguments. Tripp Rebrovick explains this well in his judging philosophy:

1. One team wins each argument, all of the way.

Short explanation: offense/defense is a bad way of deciding debates. I'm very unlikely to conclude that there is "always a risk" of an argument. Just because you asserted something, it doesn't make it so.

Long explanation: someone once told me that I “don’t think in terms of risk,” and I partially agree, at least in so far as most people understand the term. I abhor attempts to quantify debate arguments (30% risk of link; 45% risk of a solvency deficit); I don’t think we should conflate truth and tech under the heading of “risk.”

Here’s another way of putting it: risk only applies to likelihood of something actually happening in the world (e.g. the “risk of escalation” of a war is low because of deterrence), not to the likelihood of an argument being won or being true (e.g. there cannot be a “risk of a solvency deficit” because of a certain argument. There either is or is not a deficit; it is only the impact of that deficit that is resolved through risk. There cannot be a “risk of a link”; there either is or is not a link – the ‘risk’ is how large or small it is, when connected with an impact.)

This might seem like a semantic distinction, but I don’t think so. Arguments in a given debate must be resolved in favor of one team. Arguments are either won or lost; risk helps determine the relative importance of a won-or-lost argument in the context of the rest of the debate.

Why does this matter? What you might think is "defense" is often sufficient in my mind to defeat an argument.

How judges feel about this issue makes a huge difference in how they resolve debates.

7. I am becoming convinced that conditionality is bad. I'm still not all the way there yet, but I'm getting closer... Jarrod Atchison is very persuasive. It used to be pretty much impossible to beat the argument that "a rational decision-maker should always be able to opt for no change" in front of me, but now I'm not so sure. If you've done the work and are making sophisticated arguments, don't be afraid to give "condo bad" a try.

8. I'm not as bad for critique arguments as many people seem to think. The key is to avoid engaging in a "race to the absurd" with the affirmative. Instead of one-upping their dumb advantage internal links with a lame extinction DA, frame your arguments more modestly and criticize the affirmative for the bankruptcy of their approach. "The assumptions that underly the aff's defense of their plan are wrong and have justified terrible things" and "the authors/ideas that the affirmative relies upon to make their case for change are wrong and should not be used as the basis for policy decisions" can both be incredibly persuasive positions. "The aff causes extinction and value-less life" tends to be stupid and easily defeated, especially when the negative opts to criticize all engagement with politics/government/reality. If your argument is that we shouldn't talk about government policies, I should be at the bottom of your pref sheet. But if your argument is that government policies based on the assumptions/ideas/authors/representations/something of the affirmative tend to be disastrous, I'm actually quite a good judge for you. I think what this means in practice is that "K teams" probably still shouldn't pref me, but flexible teams and "policy teams" shouldn't dismiss the idea of going for a critical argument in front of me.

I told my debaters that the best way to earn very high speaker points from me is to debate in a way that my mother could follow you and would think that you are decisively ahead. She might not know exactly what is going on, but she will be impressed with your intelligence, professionalism, sense of humor, and overall presence in the round.

High-tech, hyper-speed speeches are undoubtedly impressive, but they do not set you apart: if you want me to roll out the points, you need to inspire me with something more than technical skills... I've seen incredibly skilled technical speeches before and will undoubtedly see them again. What did you bring to the debate that inspired me? What did you do that rekindled my love for debate?

I am an unapologetic hack for debaters that slow down to conversational speed, masterfully control the cross-examinations, and thoroughly and comparatively explain the key arguments in the debate. I love the NFL National Tournament: the more you can integrate the strong communication skills needed to win in front of that judging pool into the style of debate needed to win at the TOC, the more I will appreciate your performance and the more likely I am to reward you with very high points.

I think Will Repko's analogy to teachers is extremely useful: like him, I see myself as a tough grader.

As always, if I feel like the debate is close enough to warrant it, I will write a thorough reason for decision and take as long as necessary to do so. I take no joy in ending anyone's career, but if forced to do so I will do my best to justify my decision in a way that covers all of the bases and leaves nothing unresolved.

How To Win My Ballot When You're Negative

The most important thing is to have a specific strategy and talk a lot about the case. I realize that this is difficult: there are a lot of affirmatives and it takes hard work to research them all. Still, there is a big difference between relying on generics like states/politics or Heidegger and relying on generics like efficiency/mechanism CPs and energy DAs. A good advantage counterplan coupled with a disadvantage that is intrinsic to the plan will get you a long way… don't settle for the path of least resistance when constructing your negative strategies because you'll almost certainly lose.

Second, contest the ability of the plan to solve the case. Almost every affirmative on this topic has at least one advantage that isolates an existential threat to humanity (warming, resource conflicts, etc.). In most debates that I judge, the negative spots the affirmative at least one of these advantages—this makes it nearly impossible for them to win. In a small percentage of debates, the negative reads some terminal impact defense against these advantages—this is better, but the affirmative still almost always wins that the impact is still quite large and that the plan solves the entirety of it. In an unbelievably small percentage of debates, the negative actually contests the plan's ability to solve the advantages and therefore prevents the affirmative from accessing them in the first place—this is great, and in these debates I usually vote negative. Harms defense coupled with a generic mini-max DA is usually not a winning strategy for me; solvency defense and a generic mini-max DA is a much better bet.

Third, don't rely on an agent or process counterplan to beat the case. For every impact affirmatives can read, there are dozens or even hundreds of policy proposals that the USFG could adopt to solve the harm. There are only three reasons that negative teams should not rely on alternative mechanism counterplans: (1) they are lazy, and researching these counterplans requires work; (2) they can only go for the politics DA, and it isn't a net-benefit; and/or (3) they don't think they can actually beat the case and so they want to fiat it away and rely on winning a risk of a trivial, stupid, and/or politics net-benefit. If one or more of these is a good description of how you approach the negative, don't be upset when I vote aff.

Fourth, don't rely on a generic critique—especially Heidegger. If you are planning on going for a critique, it needs to be specific and it needs to disprove the desirability of the plan; I am not entirely dogmatic about this, but I tend to resolve "plan focus vs. focus-on-something-else" debates in favor of the former and it is better for you to leverage your methodological, representational, or epistemological arguments in a way that disproves the desirability of the plan rather than rely on excluding the plan via framework or role of the ballot arguments. That said, I am actually a pretty good judge for role of the ballot arguments and especially for critiques of particular types of scholarship—most affirmatives have poor defenses of the "default" judge-position and even poorer defenses of the quality of their evidence, so this is actually a fruitful strategic option for the negative to pursue. If you are not planning on going for a critique, don't even bother reading it in the 1NC—that time is almost always better spent advancing additional case arguments and a smart affirmative will take advantage of my disdain for your generic critique and nullify or reverse your expected time tradeoff.

I have voted negative when the 2NR has gone for positions that I think are stupid—even once for Heidegger—but this is usually because the affirmative messed something up, not because the negative really "won". On the other hand, I have often voted affirmative despite believing that the negative debated very well and demonstrated superior technical skills when they have gone for a stupid argument/strategy. If you rely on spin control and technical superiority to overcome the odious quality of your stale and generic 1NC strategies, I am a really bad judge for you. This does not mean that I dislike you as a person, but I do not feel any pangs of guilt when I hold you to a high standard and you come up short… that's your failure, not mine.

How To Win My Ballot When You're Affirmative

This should be obvious, but the most important thing is to be smart and to reach for the challenge flag every time the negative tries to cheat. Extend your case and leverage it against the negative's impacts at every opportunity, especially when one or more advantages go uncontested. Make smart defensive arguments against their mini-max disadvantages and call shenanigans when their critique lacks a coherent internal link or relies on ambiguous and totalizing inevitability claims to justify ignoring your case. You are almost always better off making smart defensive arguments in front of me instead of playing the negative's game and relying exclusively on "offense". If their politics DA does not have an internal link or a "top of the agenda" card, point that out and make a big deal of it instead of knee-jerking for your generic link turns. Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is maintain the high ground; I will probably think the negative is really stupid, so don't cede that edge and make me think that you're stupid, too.

1. I'm now 18-18 on the season (14-15 in prelims, 4-3 in elims). This is probably just regression to the mean; I still feel like I've been loving the aff a lot more than the neg. The aff usually isn't very smart, but at least they talk about the topic. The neg, on the other hand, reads the same stale 1NC in every debate and doesn't talk about the aff, perhaps hoping that I will not remember its existence. Sometimes this works and the neg wins; most times it doesn't and the aff wins. Fortunately for the neg, this means that the bar has been set very low - a few case cards and some CXes about the case are quite likely to convince me that you're actually talking about the aff even when you're not. (I have not been judging nearly as much as I usually do but I've watched a lot of elim debates and I'm probably cutting even more cards than usual, so I don't think it has or will impact the way I judge debates. This is definitely the fewest debates I've judged at this point in the season in at least five years, though.)

2. I really don't get the Heidegger argument. At all. You know how some judges are extremely frustrating because they won't vote on a particular argument or genre of argument and you don't find that out until after you've gone for it and lost? It's like that, except I'm warning you ahead of time. I've actually voted negative once this year when the 2NR went for Heidegger: the 1AR spent about 15 seconds on it (the 1NR had taken it for five minutes) and I still almost voted aff on "calculative thought is inevitable and good beep beep beep". I used to think the reason I couldn't wrap my head around the Heidegger argument was because I just hadn't seen someone competent extend it, but I'm still waiting and I'm not very optimistic. Unless you think you'll be the first person to successfully convince me that identifying problems and solving them causes extinction (or *gasp* something worse!), you are encouraged to go for another position.

3. I might start interrupting the cross-ex. If that happens, don't freak out -- it just means that I'm giving you a chance to restore your ethos. I complain to everyone who will listen about the horror/comedy of most CXes, so Antonucci's three rules seem like a pretty reasonable way to do something about it. We'll see how it goes.

1. I am not narcissistic enough to think that this excessively long judge philosophy is important or profound or essential. In 90% of debates, neither team cares much about any of this -- that's fine. The only people that will read this probably subscribe to the judgephilosophies wiki via RSS, so my intended audience is entirely debate geeks. If you fit that description, I hope this is helpful or at least mildly insightful. (Yes, I am enough of a debate geek to subscribe to this wiki's RSS feed; I also subscribe to Scotty P's blog, look forward to reading Alderete's tournament recaps on the TMS site, and regularly read cross-x. I have issues -- deal with it.)

2. After St. Mark's, I'm 14-7 for the affirmative (10-6 in the prelims, 4-1 in the elims). While that sample size remains small, it is consistent with how I "feel" I have been evaluating debates. In rounds that I vote aff, the most frequent reason-for-decision is that the affirmative has at least one (big) impact that the negative's counterplan or alternative does not solve and the negative's disad/K does not outweigh. In three instances, for example, I have voted aff despite the negative winning a K because the plan solved some impact that the K did not access/solve/turn. Interestingly, I have voted negative five out of the seven times that the 2NR has included at least some case arguments; take that for what it's worth.

3. I have been a part of several split decisions already this year and they have been helpful in isolating the points of departure that I have with other judges. The common theme that seems to crop up in very good or very close debates is that I place much more emphasis on the execution of *explanation* than I do on the execution of *technique*. The best way that I can describe this is that at the margins, my overall "feel" for the key issues in the debate outweighs my "map" (flow) of the micro-issues of the debate. For me, winning the preponderance of the micro-issues doesn't necessarily mean that you have won the macro-issues; the last rebuttals that I have found most persuasive have focused more on what they thought the most important arguments were than on meticulously refuting the arguments in each cell of my flow spreadsheet. This doesn't mean that I don't value technique or (in particular) good evidence; I just have a slightly different opinion about what constitutes good technical skills as they are applied to the 2NR/2AR.

4. I voted negative on topicality in a prelim debate at St. Mark's, but I'm still not a good neg judge for topicality unless the block includes lots of cards on the issue. Most topicality debates strike me as shallow and self-serving; I care a lot more about what the topic means than I do about "abuse". For example, I have yet to hear a 2NR go for "nuclear energy is not alternative energy," but in such a debate I would default to prioritizing arguments about the meaning of alternative energy over arguments about what cases are allowed if nuclear energy is topical. If alternative energy *does* include nuclear energy, arguing that the judge should still vote negative because it would be better if the topic didn't include nuclear cases strikes me as completely absurd.

Rant About The States Counterplan: The states counterplan does not test the necessity or desirability of federal action in any meaningful way. It is a disingenuous contrivance that sidesteps the large and very interesting body of literature surrounding U.S. energy policy and the appropriate roles of different levels of government in its implementation.

Solvency evidence for state experimentation, state energy initiatives, and other "states good" arguments is not solvency evidence for the states counterplan. Fiating that the fifty states (and relevant territories) enact the mandates of the plan lacks a solvency advocate precisely because it is neither discussed nor even contemplated by experts in the field of U.S. energy policy. [The "rethink thinking" alternative to the Heidegger K is more realistic than the states counterplan. (Re)think about that, policy debaters that hate the K.]

Requiring the affirmative to defend a "federal action key" warrant is sensible; requiring the affirmative to defend a "federal action compared to simultaneous adoption of the equivalent policy by all states and relevant territories and just in case that can't happen first devolving the appropriate power to states and territories key" warrant is self-evidently ridiculous.

I get it: you want to outweigh the case with your politics disad, but you don't want to actually beat the case. Fair enough. But that doesn't mean that the states counterplan is legitimate; "it's key to test USFG" and "it's key to neg ground" are false and "it's predictable" and "you can read disads to it" are irrelevant.

What does this mean for the negative? You can read your states counterplan, but you'll have a hard time winning that it is theoretically legitimate against an affirmative that invests the time to make these arguments. You'd be much better served to read a counterplan that is actually supported by experts; even if you can't be bothered to do much additional work, have the National Governors Association issue a recommendation that states adopt the plan, for example, or have the USFG provide incentives for states that adopt the plan. In any case, actually read (gasp!) solvency evidence for your counterplan and compare it to the case without the "fiat solves" crutch.

What does this mean for the affirmative? I'm a hack for a theoretical objection to the states counterplan. You don't get an auto-W just because you point out the stupidity of their argument, but if you are smart and technically proficient in answering the negative's jive and extending an impact, you'll be in really good shape. Here's a hint: don't just challenge the fairness of the states counterplan; challenge the productiveness of "federal vs. states" debates in a world where the negative gets to fiat uniform 50-state adoption.

Is it a voting issue? Probably not, but I could be persuaded otherwise. This rant is an attempt to deter teams from relying on the states counterplan, at least when they debate in front of me. Could the ballot serve the same function? Perhaps. Affirmatives can certainly make the argument and I'll give it a fair hearing.

My thoughts about debate are constantly evolving. I coach debate full-time and my interactions with top-level high school debaters, coaches, novice debaters, non-debate teachers, and school administrators are always challenging me to rethink some of my assumptions about what we do and why we do it. There are a few things that I want to emphasize this season that are hopefully helpful for those filling out preference sheets or attempting to adapt.

Being negative is not hard – Anyone who claims to believe that is either lying or not paying attention. Over the past five years, affirming the resolution has become increasingly difficult for a variety of reasons, some complex and some simple. The overwhelming trend on the part of judges to "err negative" on everything from counterplan theory to impact calculations to topicality has made it exceedingly difficult to be affirmative – speaking first and last is not enough to make up for the negative's access to a diverse and largely unpredictable arsenal of "theory," "policy," and "critical" positions.

As a result of my feelings about side bias, I am becoming exceedingly unimpressed by "tricky" negative strategies that rely on avoiding the affirmative as much as possible – debaters that rely on this "strategy" are lazy and should be made fun of, not emulated. If your idea of a negative strategy is to consult NATO or critique western metaphysics, you need to do more work and challenge yourself to learn something new. I will not intervene to reject these arguments out-of-hand, but I will be much more easily convinced that a given negative position is theoretically illegitimate (consultation counterplans or plan-inclusive critique alternatives) or outweighed by the specificity of the affirmative's harms (generic critiques and seven-internal-link disads).

Clash is my favorite part of debate – More than anything else, I enjoy debates that involve clear distinctions between the affirmative and negative. I wish teams would impact turn more often, especially against critiques (biopower, the state, etc.). I love it when negatives engage the affirmative's case, even if only with defense; affirmatives that challenge negative disadvantage impacts are equally impressive. Instead of racing to find a strategy that enables you to defend as little as possible, take a risk and defend something big. Debaters that intelligently challenge the thesis of their opponents' vision of the debate are the ones that I most admire and respect.

Research is my second favorite part of debate – In close debates, I will read all of the evidence extended in the last two rebuttals and will critically evaluate both content and quality based on the framing done within the debate. While I understand the position that many judges take when refusing to read evidence ("it's the debater's job to explain it!," they assert), I believe adamantly that rigorous evidentiary review is necessary to maximize the educational value and productiveness of our game.

Fundamentally, debate should not just be about spin; it is important that students learn the importance of supporting their arguments with credible evidence. If your evidence is two sentence fragments from a New York Sun op-ed, it does not become "true" just because the other team "dropped" it. Unlike many judges, I am often willing to excuse technical "drops" if the overall thesis of an argument was challenged elsewhere in a speech. This doesn't mean that you can drop a disad; coverage is part of the game and it is important to learn to allocate your time so as to maximize the force of your arguments, but don't rely on the "I know this argument is terrible and our evidence doesn't even say this but you have to vote on it 'cause it was cold conceded" strategy in the last rebuttals if you expect to win my ballot.

Tech is important, but so is truth.

Almost all of the judging philosophies that I read (and I read all of them) include some comment about how "these are only my defaults" or "I'll vote on anything as long as you explain it well and have a reason," but for me that's something of a cop-out. Of course "these are only my defaults" and "I'll vote on anything as long as you explain it well and have a reason." But I care passionately about debate, and I have put a lot of thought into how the activity should be taught and how our community ought to function. I am always willing to revise my opinions based on my interactions with others, but I am not a "blank slate" who wants to remove himself and his opinions from the debate. If you are a hard-working debater who challenges her-/himself to clash with the opposition, I am confident you'll be satisfied with me in the back of the room.

I view myself as a critic of argument and view debate as a competitive academic game. I strive to make a least-interventionist decision while rewarding practices that I find educational and deterring those I do not. As a full-time debate teacher/coach, I am more likely to resolve that balance in favor of educational concerns than I would have been earlier in my judging career. While I am not yet a curmudgeonly interventionist, the transition to full-time teaching/coaching has certainly altered my perspective on the activity and I am more sensitive to concerns about the long-term viability and educational value of high school debate than some other judges you will encounter.

What does that mean? A quote from Tim O’Donnell’s judging philosophy may be helpful:

I firmly believe that debate is one of the last places on earth where free and unfettered discourse is celebrated as an epistemological method. In my (now more mature/dogmatic) view, the critical/activist turn in competitive policy debate is a direct threat to this discursive laboratory. And so, the folks who say: “the ballot is a tool” are at least partially right. The ballot is a tool and I intend to use it to promote my view of what constitutes “good” debate. If we start debating about only things that we actually believe (i.e. that align with our sensibilities, attitudes, dispositions, convictions, and biases), the gig is up, the game is over, and debate—as a wonderful sphere of free and unfettered discourse—will forever vanish from this earth. At this point you might ask: “Tim, don’t you know that fiat is illusory!” My response, “Yeah, so what and no kidding! You aren’t telling me anything I don’t already know.” I never thought that the things that we talked about in debate had an impact beyond the discreet confines of a particular debate. I do, however, believe that the debate methodology has real value. And for that methodology to function properly, we need an agreed upon starting point. It is a simple fact that any social learning activity presumes that participants come to some agreement –in advance – about what they are going to talk about. The originating stasis point needs to be clear from the outset for both educational and competitive reasons. I have yet to hear a persuasive rejoinder to this claim from those that think that commensurability among the various approaches to debate is possible.

While I am perhaps more sympathetic to critical arguments than Professor O’Donnell, his vigorous defense of “the debate methodology” is something with which I fanatically agree. If your approach to debate or the arguments you choose to advance are at odds with the switch-sides model of contest debating, I am likely to find it/them unpersuasive and will be sympathetic to the substantive and theoretical responses advanced by your opponents.

With my “meta” conception of the activity established, there are three main things you should know:

My specific argument preferences are mostly unimportant (with a few caveats noted below). I would much rather have debaters go for arguments they are confident in than arguments they think I will like better. While most judges include this kind of statement in their philosophies, I think it is a fair characterization of my voting record: I enjoy critical, left-wing strategies as well as gutsy, right-wing impact turn strategies. If your arguments fulfill the burden of rejoinder and clash with your opponents’ claims, I am likely to be quite receptive to them. Debates that involve clear, meaningful disputes between the two teams are awesome regardless of the genre or content of the arguments: a hegemony bad critique versus a big hegemony affirmative is as desirable as a military readiness disadvantage against a critical Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell affirmative. Switch-sides debate requires—and indeed thrives on—clash. If you clash with your opponents’ arguments, I am an excellent judge for you. If you avoid clashing with your opponents’ arguments or otherwise try to craft undebatable positions, I am a poor judge for you.

I place more emphasis on argument truthfulness and evidence quality than many other critics. Put another way, just because you say it doesn’t make it true. While I am not naïve enough to believe that I know what is “True,” I am naïve enough to believe that I can effectively determine the quality of competing arguments using the critical thinking skills we teach in debate. Explanation of quality (qualified and warranted) evidence always trumps superficial extensions of “more evidence” (by that I mean lots of lower-quality cards). Debates about source credibility and evidence quality are fantastic and encouraged, and I will use these debates to guide my reading of each teams’ evidence. After almost every debate, I will read a lot of evidence – I consider the work your squad has done in preparation for a tournament to be exceptionally important and will do my best to evaluate the product of your preparation in terms of its quality and the degree to which it supports your arguments. As a result, I have found that teams who work hard developing specific strategies and who read high-quality evidence tend to prefer me as a judge while teams that read poor-quality evidence and rely on generic arguments do not. I have no problem with this.

As a direct result of my views on argument and evidence quality, probability tends to be much more important than magnitude when assessing impact claims. I tend to find the debate community’s obsession with extinction rather perverse and often anti-educational – you don’t need to find a ridiculous piece of evidence (think “Rabid Tiger” or “Mead”) to make the impact to your position meaningful. In the vast majority of debates, both teams would be better off spending more time comparing the probability of their impacts than extending silly “extinction turns the case ‘cause if we’re dead, case doesn’t matter” claims. Debaters who utilize intelligent risk assessment when comparing the terminal impacts to their positions will be rewarded more than debaters who focus mostly on these terminal impacts without regard to their probability.

Despite this, I try to resolve debates using the least intervention possible. If you implement your “vision” of the debate in the 2NR or 2AR and your opponents do not, I will almost certainly prefer your arguments. If both sides implement a vision or if neither side implements a vision, then the above caveats about truthfulness become much more important.

In the past, I have provided a lengthy issue-by-issue breakdown of my predispositions. The more I judge and the more I coach, however, I have found that these specific diatribes we outline in our judging philosophies are mostly useless when filling out preference sheets and coaching teams before rounds.

Instead, I have compiled a list of bad arguments that I despise to varying degrees. If one of these arguments constitutes your “A strat,” you should probably find something else to say or pref me accordingly. While I have voted on most all of these arguments and will probably continue to do so in the future, they are bad arguments and I will do everything I can to avoid rewarding you for making them. There are other arguments I think are bad, obviously… ask me if you’re not sure.

The bottom line is that debate should be hard and hard work should be rewarded; if your idea of doing work is cutting some "Japan says yes" cards or writing some new specification blocks, please strike me.

  • Topicality—“should is the past tense of shall" (it’s not)
  • “Topicality is a reverse voting issue” (this might be the worst argument ever)
  • Counter-interpretation: Only our case is topical (false)
  • Cheap Shot Theory Arguments (I can’t define it, but I know it when I hear it)
  • Theory counter-interpretation: we only get to cheat in the specific way that we're cheating, solves your offense (false)
  • All Words (they don't have the entire resolution in their plan text so they lose, judge)
  • Over-Specification (if the aff has no defense of their agent, use that to your advantage and stop whining)
  • Agent Specification (ask in cross-ex; literature is the litmus test)
  • XYZ Specification (country specification, for example, or funding specification… ridiculously dumb)
  • Plan-Contingent aka Cheating Counterplans (consultation, referendums, conditioning, etc.)
  • Process aka Cheating Counterplans (veto cheato, sunset provision, pocket passage, etc.)
  • Delay Counterplans (also cheating)
  • Wipeout (this isn’t cheating, but it shouldn’t be hard to answer; same goes for Spark, Caldwell, etc.)
  • Links of Omission (“the aff didn’t talk about X, so they should lose”… dumb)
  • Time Cube, Ashtar, Hyperspace, etc. (remember what I said about evidence quality?)

I will continue to add to this list over time. You can certainly go for one of these arguments in front of me, and I might even vote for you, but your speaker points will not be very high (a perfectly-extended “should is the past tense of shall” 2NR will receive 27 points). Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, but don’t expect me to enjoy it.

I have put a lot of thought into the speaker points I give and have found judges’ philosophies that include their point scales very helpful. I assign speaker points to reward good debating and to deter bad debating while attempting to fairly measure each debaters’ performance during a given round against the rest of the field at the tournament. Assigning speaker points isn’t easy—little things can make a big difference (being a good debate citizen will help a lot). I have consciously tried to increase my scale slightly this season, especially at the top end; I have awarded several 29s and have judged a handful of speakers in elimination rounds to whom I would have awarded 29.5. Here is my basic scale:

30 – the best performance I am likely to hear in a given season. I don’t think I have given anyone a 30 in five or six years and am frustrated by judges who give multiple 30s at each tournament.
29.5 – one of the best performances I will see during the season. Someone I feel should be in contention for the top speaker award at the tournament.
29 – an excellent performance. Someone I feel should be in contention for a top-ten speaker award at the tournament.
28.5 – a very good performance. Someone I feel should be in contention for a speaker award at the tournament.
28 – a good performance. Someone who isn’t quite “there” yet but who demonstrates solid skills across the board. A team that averages two 28s is one that I feel should be in contention to clear at the tournament.
27.5 – an average or slightly above-average performance. Someone who shows strong technical skills and poor strategic vision or poor technical skills and strong strategic vision. A 27.5-28 is “average” on my point scale.
27 – an average or slightly below-average performance. Someone who is competent for their division but who needs to improve in order to be in contention for elimination rounds.
26-26.5 – a below-average performance. Someone who needs work in a lot of areas in order to be competitive in their division. I tend to differentiate between 26 and 26.5 to reward debaters who are showing promise in a specific area.
Below 26 – this is reserved for offensive debaters or debaters who are clearly in over their heads and who don’t demonstrate much effort or desire to improve. I will use 25s and 25.5s to differentiate between below-average varsity debaters and novice debaters competing in a varsity division.

LD Philosophy:

LD Background:
I debated in high school LD during the late 1990s with some success, but I was largely absent from the LD community from about 2000-2005. Upon returning to the activity, much had changed; those years had radically altered the national circuit landscape and so it has taken a while to get back up to speed. I have judged LD only sparingly since then, mostly at local tournaments in Wisconsin. For the last four years, however, I have coached a small but competitive Lincoln-Douglas squad and so I am very familiar with the topic and with the norms of the national circuit. I most frequently judge policy debate and I actively coach policy, LD, and PF.

Paradigmatic and Theoretical Issues:
While I haven't judged very much in the past few years, I have kept up with the theoretical literature and have spent a lot of time working through many of these issues with my students. In fact, I would surmise that my theoretical background is even more in-depth than most current LD debaters and coaches -- in addition to contemporary debates over "truth-testing" vs. "competing worlds," I have read dozens of journal articles on value debate from the 1970s and 1980s including seminal texts by Zarefsky, Berube, and others. This literature offers students a rich foundation on which to build and refine theoretical arguments, but my impression is that it has been largely overlooked. This is unfortunate.

I approach value debates from the perspective of a critic of argument tasked with evaluating the argumentation advanced by each debater. This metaparadigm allows debaters themselves to resolve the role of the ballot and to contest the criteria/on under which the debate should be evaluated, but it acknowledges the judge's role in the resolution of these arguments. The "blank slate" is a myth -- attempts to erase the knowledge, perspective, and standpoint of the judge are futile and counter-productive. I will strive for content-neutrality when evaluating the debate, but I cannot (and wouldn't want to) check my brain at the door -- good arguments beat bad ones, rigorous analysis beats superficiality, and accepted standards for evaluating evidence and argument prefigure the evaluation of the debate. If you cannot accept these as fair starting points, you should not prefer me as a judge. (I do not think that *any* judges really begin from any other starting point, but if you are more comfortable with judges that *pretend* to do so then best of luck and we will go our separate ways.)

Technical Issues:
My policy background is probably most relevant here - most of the things that you would assume about someone who predominantly judges policy debate are probably true of me as well. Fast, highly-technical debating is acceptable; I will not have trouble keeping up. However, I am not used to flowing LD debates and so particular emphasis on sign-posting and structure is appreciated.

Coverage is important, but so is communicating an overall vision of the debate; rebuttals that focus on crucial arguments tend to be more persuasive than those that never step back from the flow. You can "drop" things, in other words, as long as you win that the arguments you dropped are not as important as the arguments you've won elsewhere.

I *will* critically evaluate your arguments - the more developed they are, the more weight they will be given and the higher the standard for refutation. Arguments can almost never be made in a sentence; "extending" the "dropped" "argument" you made in a sentence of your AC or NC is ridiculous. I value engagement with your opponent's arguments more than anything else; debaters that rely on tricks and intentional obfuscation to avoid clash and sidestep the burden of rejoinder will not be received well. Likewise, debaters that rely on superior evidence and explanation and who meaningfully engage with their opponent's arguments will be rewarded handsomely.

Other Helpful Defaults:
1. Evidence is helpful to support an argument. "Evidence" is not evidence, however, unless it contains a claim, warrant, and grounding. That said, a claim from an expert is much more persuasive than a claim without expert support; if you want to get credit for the qualifications of your evidence, however, you need to read them aloud. I will read evidence after debates.

2. I will first determine the framework for evaluating the arguments in the debate. If a framework is not agreed upon, the debaters should focus on winning that their framework should be preferred. Arguments cannot "come before" the framework; so-called "a priori" arguments are fine, but they *change* rather than *obviate the need for* a discussion of framework. As such, debaters must justify why the framework under which their "a priori" argument operates is preferable to the competing framework of their opponent.

3. The framework for the debate can take many forms, the most basic of which is a traditional value hierarchy (Value Premise/Value Criteria/on). Regardless of the format adopted, debaters should spend significant time developing and defending the lens through which they would like the judge to evaluate the debate. It is impossible to resolve a value debate without a framework for evaluation: I take these arguments very seriously.

4. The affirmative is tasked with defending the desirability of the resolution. Arguments that rely on a different interpretation of the affirmative's burden must overcome this presumption. To do so, debaters should provide an explicit interpretation of each side's burdens and defend its desirability. A parametric approach to the resolution is welcome, although the negative is certainly free to contest the desirability or fairness of this approach. The same goes for the "truth testing" model. I find debates between these competing approaches to debate interesting and will strive to be open-minded.

5. I am happy to answer specific questions before a round. I will disclose and discuss my decision after debates.

Good luck!