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School Constraints: Middleton

About me:
I am the debate coach at Middleton high school and am diamond coach in the National Forensics League. The space topic represents my 13th year of being involved in high school debate, 14th year of being involved in forensics, and 10th year of coaching debate.

From 2002 to 2005, I was James Madison Memorial's Lincoln Douglas debate coach. In 2005, we sent Wisconsin's first representative to the TOC in LD in over a decade (and I don't think anyone since then has made it). From 2005-2007 I returned to my high school (Sheboygan North) to assist their policy debate program. The program has since returned to the TOC in policy debate and appeared in the final round of the Wisconsin State Championship. I led the top lab at the 2007 Marquette University Debate Institute with and was a Regent to the 2003 Standford National Debate Institute for Lincoln Douglas Debate. I currently serve the Wisconsin debate community as the Tournament Practices and Procedures Committee Chair for the Wisconsin Debate Coaches' Association and am the Wisconsin State Debate Tournament Director.

I hold Master's and Bachelor's degrees from the University of Wisconsin. As a graduate student I studied education policy and policy analysis. As an undergraduate I majored in Political Science (American - Legal) and Communication Arts (Rhetoric). In 2008, I graduated from the La Follette School of Public Affairs and since April 2008 I have worked for the State of Wisconsin as a Budget and Policy Analyst.

These statements were edited in December of 2011.

Things that apply to both LD and Policy
  1. Technical debating is important, but so is truth. For example: if the aff drops a three word blip on topicality, but has quality, true answers to the violation; more than likely I will weigh the truth of the argument in favor of an insignificant drop. This is not to say that you can skip on responding to your opponent and assert that your position is true. There is a burden of rejoinder, but it does not extend to every conceivable subset of an issue if one has answered the argument's thesis.
  2. Stolen from Bill Batterman, but I hold the same opinion: "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."
  3. Persuasion is a lost art. Do not misunderstand this. I prefer a fast debate to a slow one. But just because a debater is delivering a speech quickly, does not mean that s/he has to lack any quality of passion and persuasiveness. Debaters who argue quickly and persuasively will be rewarded with more speaker points.
  4. I want debaters to resolve the arguments in the round for me. If this does not happen, I will attempt to resolve them myself. Frequently, I have heard LD judges make comments like "well, you both made theory arguments; so they are a wash." This is not the kind of evaluation you will see from me. One side will clearly win the issue.
  5. Offense/Defense only makes sense through the lens of viewing a discussion about a debate. It is not a method of deciding the round. One side will win each argument all of the way. Tripp Rebrovick explains in his judging philosophy:

... 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.

Policy Debate Judge Philosophy:

I collapsed this down to the core essentials of my perspectives on judging policy debates. If you have questions, please ask.

  1. I default to a policy making paradigm. I am a trained, professional public policy analyst and it's difficult for me to evaluate critical positions against policy alternatives. I think in policy alternatives and I think that this is a useful construct to evaluate the debate, absent any argument from the debaters.
  2. Continuing on number 1: I have come to notice that I am poor judge for critical arguments. This is not to say that I will not vote for them. The problem lies in the fact that most K debaters do not specify the framework for the round and I'm often left evaluating a kritik against a proposed policy with no discussion of how to resolve the competing frameworks. Kritik debaters need to win a debate about the role of the ballot or specify how their alternative fits within the traditional policy making paradigm.
  3. Speed is fine with me - but it is critically important that you be clear at all times. Additionally, you must slow down on tag lines and on/in theory arguments in general. I do not have significant experience completely flowing blippy responses and sloppy, unclear debating.
  4. As a debater I loved topicality, and I think I that engaging the topic is necessary in order for a discussion about policy outcomes to occur. That's not to say that I want to see a 20 T 1NC. That's absurd. But if a case is non-topical or violates a procedural norm of debate, I will have no reservations striking it down.
  5. Signposting and overviews, I generally find extremely helpful, especially in the final rebuttals. This idea also deserves some stress: “extending” cards is not sufficient, especially when your opponent has some response. Even if you are not flowing through ink, you need to tell me why your analysis is correct in light of what the other side has said. It is not enough for debaters to say “extend Zizek” and expect me to vote affirmative. I need to hear the analysis especially in the final rebuttal why that extension matters at all. What I want debaters to do at the end of the round is to be able to tell me what argument matters and why it matters. Analysis like "prefer our evidence" or "because of this, you look to X arg first" is particularly persuasive to me. This also means that it is especially important for debaters to collapse down, rather than to force me to sort out the round.
  6. I try not to intervene at all, if possible, because I believe that the debate is really up to the debaters and that I should adapt to the debate. That means you can go as fast as you like, tag-team during cross-x, run any form of argument you’d like to run, and whatever else you’d like to do. I generally enjoy a fast debate, than a slow debate (especially a slow debate that goes nowhere).
  7. Some things in a debate are ethically dubious. These include: Lying to me in the debate (saying something was dropped when it wasn’t or responded to when it wasn’t), Going new in the two, and arguing with me after my oral critique (or having your coach do so). Card clipping is a recent addition to this list.


Lincoln Douglas Debate Philosophy:

Again, I collapsed this down to the essentials of my perspectives on judging Lincoln Douglas. If you have questions, please ask.

  1. Most of what I wrote for policy debate applies. Wisconsin debaters should know that I usually won't disclose (unless it's an elim debate), but I will give some oral comments. I don't have a problem with disclosure, but few other LD judges disclose.
  2. Speed is fine - but this means an entirely different thing than it used to mean. Since most LD cases are built upon the specific language written by each debater and quoted evidence is becoming more important, my threshold for speed in LD is much lower than in policy. LD debaters need to differentiate in delivery the difference between case analysis and card text - they cannot be read at the same speed. You need to articulate the jumps between arguments rhetorically if you don't want my flow to get messed up. Clearly labeling warrants in analysis is important.
  3. A blurb about theory: I think that theory is a necessary check against debaters who engage in abusive practices. However, I am concerned about the debaters who engage in theory-baiting or use theory to avoid debating the resolution.
  4. Those who use policy debate theory, really need to understand it. Because of my background, I am more critical of the importation of policy theory in national circuit LD debates. This doesn't mean that there isn't room for using policy debate argumentation, but you need to know what you are doing when using a policy-imported theory of debate.
  5. I default to a standards based paradigm. This is not to say that I will not vote on other issues, but a standards debate is where I want is the debate to be heading. In accordance with this: I like the standards to be well developed and linked to the resolution, and for arguments to be impacted back towards the standard in a meaningful way. In other words, I very much enjoy debaters who present a single, consistent position. You don't need to have a value/criterion, any framework you setup will do just fine so long as it is a principled defense or rejection of the resolution. I do have a hard time understanding what it means for an argument to be "pre-standards" and do not give those arguments much credit. Just because you say something is important does not make it so. You need to present reasons why your impact is important.
  6. I have a hard time buying into some recent LD theory developments: conditionally affirming (don't say 'condo' because LD conditionality is not the same thing as it is in policy debate) and interpreting the resolution as a truth statement. There is a debate to be had about the burdens in the debate round, but making your burdens fair is important.
  7. I really enjoy debaters that engage the topic literature and develop cases in response to that literature, rather than reading his/her favorite thinker

Speaker Points

When it comes to speaker points I use the following mental reference: lower than 26; you did something quite offensive in your round. 26-27 average debater. 27.5-28 better than average. 28.5-29.5 very good. 30 - perfection. I do not give out many 30's based on principle. Rarely is there something in a debate that you could not have done better.