David Henning—Lincoln-Douglas Debate Judging Philosophy

Version 1.4—January 7, 2017
NSDA Qualifier Debate Tournament Edition


School Affiliation: The Sheb--Sheboygan South High School Position: Director of Debate
Hired by: Homestead High School, Mequon, Wisconsin Position: Judge



L-D Rounds judged this season: 8 Lifetime: 250 Years Judging: 33


Experience with academic debate: I began my debate career during the Carter Administration. I was a policy and Lincoln-Douglas debater in high school and college during the 1980s. I was an independent (mostly high school) policy debate judge for many years. This is my seventh year as a high school debate coach and was my fourth year as a college debate coach until Lakeland University eliminated the debate program. I've had some success as a debater and as a coach.

Paradigm: Tabula Rasa, but please don’t insult my intelligence or agency. That also holds for Framework arguments. Ignore my philosophy at your own peril.


Framework: A Framework is an integral part of Lincoln-Douglas Debate. By this I am referring to the value and value criteria for the round. You must specifically define and explain your value. Define and explain your value criteria and tell me how your case will best achieve your value as defined by your value criteria. You may attack the Framework and case of your opponent, or demonstrate how your case better achieves your opponent’s value as defined by his or her value criteria. You may also argue the superiority of your value or value criteria to that of your opponent. Arguments about the nature of the resolution and/or the burdens of each speaker are completely acceptable. As for starting your speech with a list of definitions, don’t bother. Only define what you need to for your value, value criteria, resolutional interpretation and case, and use quality sources for those definitions rather than some old or online dictionary.

Argumentation: A well-written, structured and reasoned case is essential for both debaters. Be aware that evidence matters a great deal to me in Lincoln-Douglas debate. So does evidence quality. Provide qualifications for the sources you use and tell me why your evidence is of high quality and/or better than the evidence used by your opponent. Clash directly with the arguments your opponent makes. Tell me specifically why you achieve your value as defined by your value criteria (or achieve your opponent’s) and why that means you should win the round. Provide a few clearly explained voting issues near the end of your last rebuttal, and make a convincing call for the ballot.

Topic Requirements: The January/February L-D topic is Resolved: Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict any constitutionally protected speech. You need to tell me what is constitutionally protected speech and why it is or is not important, hopefully with more than some nebulous philosophical evidence. There are lots of good arguments and evidence on this topic, so please use them. Implementation is fair game for Lincoln-Douglas debate. As in policy debate, do not assume that anything is inherently good or bad. And be aware that I do not default to a policy-making paradigm if the issue is unargued.

Debate Theory: Theory has its place, but don’t read cards from some debate coach at me. Why is that coach any more qualified than you, me or someone judging in the next room? Explain your theory positions to me and tell me why they matter in this round. Arguments about the nature of Lincoln-Douglas debate are perfectly acceptable. What are the in-round impacts to your theory argument? Are there impacts on the activity itself? Does my ballot have a role in your theory argument? If you are claiming some kind of “abuse” of theory, show me the actual in-round abuse—potential abuse is not enough—and tell me why it should be voted against.

Delivery Style: Speak loud and be clear. That is the most important thing. I work hard to try to get down as much of each speech as possible on my flow. I don’t mind a little speed, but the nature of Lincoln-Douglas debate is antithetical to a full-on varsity policy spread. Lincoln didn’t speak rapidly at all, and the Little Giant rarely had to. Persuasion mattered to them and it should matter to you. Delivery style contributes to your overall impression and has a good deal to do with the speaker point total I assign to you after the round.


". . . there are no truths outside the gates of Eden.”—Bob Dylan


"What is truth, if you know what I mean?”—Lionel Hutz


“When Stalin says dance, a wise man dances.”—Nikita Khrushchev