Billerbeck, Franklin

School constraints: Janesville Parker

Experience: Policy and CEDA debate in college back in the 1970s. I have been a hired judge for the past 4 years. My background includes training in classical rhetoric, argumentation, and law.

Philosophy: policy debate within an educational context ought to be designed to lead the participants through debate for the purposes of increasing critical thinking skills (including deductive and inductive argument, identifying and rebutting fallacies, and analyzing evidence), developing the ability to present and to refute an argument (always adjusting as appropriate for the given audience[s]), developing research skills, developing the ability to think on one’s feet and under pressure, and presenting the material in a way that effectively (persuasively) communicates to the audience. Debate can help provide a superb background for such areas as law, business, and politics. The real “trophy” in debate is not a piece of hardware but the skills that transfer to the “real” world.

Paradigm: I would probably be classified as a stock issues judge with a heavy dose of “real word policy.” My thinking goes like this: is the affirmative topical? Most affirmative cases I have heard are topical, and I tend to be a little bit broad in the topicality area. For me, topicality, ultimately, is “winner takes all.” If the aff. is clearly not topical, the neg. wins. If topicality is really open to interpretation, I will interpret and, if the aff. has a reasonable case, I will grant topicality so we can move onto the debate. My blunt advice is this: if a team really believes topicality is an issue, present the case (I really do want to hear it) and move on. Yes, topicality can hinge on definition of terms. If it does, show me why your interpretation is better than the one provided by the other side. It can’t hurt to raise the issue; however, don’t put all your proverbial “eggs” in the topicality basket. Aff. needs to show me we have a significant harm that is inherent (structurally or attitudinally) to the status quo. Should aff. fail here, I vote neg. If aff. wins harm and inherency, I go to plan and solvency. If aff. wins these, aff. wins the round. Negatives may focus on any of the above areas and win the round. This is a delicate balance between the advantage the aff. has is presenting a prepared case combined with the negative of needing to win all 4 issues and the neg. advantage of needing to win one issue but having the huge issue of facing an unknown affirmative position.

Counterplans are fine by me; however, giving a counterplan shifts the debate to plan and solvency. A counterplan may, in my view, be topical or nontopical. However, I really prefer nontopical counterplans because the status quo needs a good defender and there are always two or more sides to an argument. Since this is a competition, I consider a counterplan to be always an either/or proposition, and I will judge it that way (even if the plan and counterplan could be combined). When it comes to plans and counterplans, my “real world policy” side comes into play. Allowing for fiat and hence the absence of the political reality, show me how this plan or counterplan is really going to work.

Kritics/critiques: I’m fine with these. However, I like to see tangibility and specifics applicable in the “real” world. I weigh impacts based on significance and likelihood of harm and numbers likely impacted and likely degree of impact. Hence, death outweighs feeling disenfranchised.

ADs and DAs: I love them. However, I prefer specifics over generics.

Clash: in debate, clash is a good thing.

Theory: If a team believes something the other team is doing is wrong, argue the point and show me why it is wrong and why it is important. However, this is a policy debate and not a debate about policy debate. Hence, I prefer a focus on policy. However, if theory will help me decider, run the case.

Issues/concerns/things you might want to know.

Speed/Rate: if an average person could not understand what you are saying then YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN OR STOP TALKING!!! We are training here for the “real” world. Don’t get into bad habits that will be difficult to break. In my college argumentation and debate class, one of my classmates was a nationally ranked NDT debater. He almost failed the course!! Why? The instructor could not understand him because he spoke too fast and he could not slow down! I hope he broke his habit because he was going to law school and, frankly, if a judge and/or jury can’t understand and the attorney can’t slow down, that will a very poor attorney in a court room. I reduce speaker points for speed if, in my judgment, an average person could not understand it. I find 1AC especially guilty of this. After informing teams of this, I have had 1AC completely ignore my admonition, speak in what to an average person would be unintelligible babble, and literally gasp noisily for air between sound bursts (evidently the concept of audience adaptation was not understood or the speaker lacked the skill to adapt). This is a communication activity with a series of speeches. Hence, the rules of public speaking apply. I like previews/roadmaps, internal summaries and signposting. Be consistent in signposting—don’t say “third” without having stated a “first” and a “second.” Speak so as to persuade me. Put passion into your presentation. Examples are terrific. I also like humor and incorporating appropriate quotations (though provide translation if from a foreign language). I do time roadmaps. Clarity and precision are important.

Politeness: the other side is not the enemy, merely the competition. Lack of politeness is not acceptable now and not acceptable latter in life (e.g., business, social settings, etc.). Grabbing evidence, using nonverbal communication to try and intimidate the other side, foul language, etc. will be considered in my decision. Being rude only causes me to think you are jerks and are afraid you won’t win on the merits. I do, however, expect and understand the need to be assertive. There is a difference. Be polite and professional.

Poor reasoning: Be clear and logical! Please show me errors in reasoning and give me solid critical thinking. Please attack the links in a chain argument and show me probability. I’m not buying that hunger in South Africa will lead to world destruction via a nuclear war (though a quarter final round national high school debate team not only did, but never attacked the chain argument). Point out assumptions and convince me those assumptions are to be believed or not.

Evidence is great, but I can get evidence that says whatever I want. The key is what the debater does with the evidence. Qualify your sources and establish your warrants. Show me why I should or should not believe a piece of evidence e.g., poorly qualified source, more quantity of evidence on the other side, etc. Know your argument and how this evidence helps it and remember your grammar: subjunctive is different than indicative and tags need to match what the evidence actually says, not what a debater wants the card to say.

Tag teaming: not at this level. Here it is more important to develop the ability to stand on your own rather than develop the ability to withstand tag teaming.

ID key issues. As part of the learning process, I try to identify the key point in a debate. This is a crucial skill for debaters to learn because the goal is to win the war, not every battle.

Quality over quantity. I prefer a few issues debate well and with depth to a spread of poorly developed or shallow arguments.

Neg. block: 2 NC and 1 NR create a problem, namely, aff. lacks a significant amount of time, in my opinion, to present a fully developed response to new arguments developed by the negative. Therefore, I take this into consideration and do not expect the same level of rebuttal to new arguments presented in 2 NC.

Tabula rosa: I am not a complete tabula rosa. My personal beliefs and opinions have no place in the round; however, things that are clearly common knowledge I will assume. You don’t need to prove to me the world is not flat or that there are people who don’t like the United States. However, I am pretty much open to any idea—especially if it is well thought through and developed.

Cross Examination: in general, this is an area for improvement. I have heard the 1AC asked: “Could you state the plan in your own words?” First, the only answer needed is “yes.” After all, neg. only asked if 1AC had the ability to do it, neg. did not ask 1AC to do it. Second, the 1AC did just state the plan in her or his own words. Let us not waste time here: go for clarification or set up a devastating line of questioning, etc.