Jonathan Voss
Sheboygan North High School
Sheboygan, WI
Strikes: Sheboygan North, Nicolet

I debated for four years at Sheboygan North High School. I graduated in 2006, and have been coaching the team since my graduation. Recently, I’ve started coaching for/traveling with Whitney Young.

*If I'm judging you in an early-morning debate, I preemptively apologize for my crabbiness*

My thoughts about debate are constantly evolving. As a result, the “top” of this philosophy will be updated every few months with new and helpful thoughts about the ways in which I think I judge.

I have (before the Wisconsin State Debate Tournament/Blake) judged 57 debates on the "social services" topic; I’ve voted affirmative two more times than I’ve voted negative, which is probably a semantic distinction. In the 15 elimination rounds I’ve judged, I have voted affirmative 7 times and negative 8 times (more on this later).



Some Updated Thoughts on the Poverty Topic: Pre-Wisconsin State Tournament, December 2009

1) I’ve come to realize that when debating in front of me, the truth of your argument is substantially more important than your technical proficiency. Your technical abilities are obviously important; if you crush a team on the poverty reps critique or similarly stupid argument, I’m not going to vote against you out of hand. But in really close (read: elim) debates where “easy outs” don’t exist, I’m unlikely to agree with a lot of your spin if your evidence disagrees.

2) Average speaker points (outliers excluded):
1N: 27.32
2N: 28.23
1A: 27.98
2A: 28.07

3) Despite what my voting record may suggest, I still have a tremendous amount of difficulty voting negative when the 2NR elects to travel along the path of least resistance. If one were to subjectively divide the rounds that I’ve judged into “close” and “not so close” debates, s/he would find that I’ve voted affirmative in more than two out of every three “close” debates.

To win my ballot when you’re negative, you *don’t* need a case-specific strategy (although it’s obviously helpful) – but you almost certainly *do* need mitigation against the case’s ability to solve its advantages. I have very rarely voted negative in debates where affirmatives win that they solve the harms presented in the 1AC even if the negative wins some impact D plus a DA. I have voted negative much more often when the negative wins their disadvantage plus mitigation against the affirmative’s ability to solve the case.

4) There are some arguments for which I’m a really bad judge - When teams asked me before debates how I felt about “x argument”, I used to pretty readily deliver the “do whatever you want, I’ll vote for you if you win” party line. This year, I’m trying to be more honest with you so that, if you want, you can better amend your strategy. This list of arguments is not all-inclusive, but includes the States counterplan (unless you have very specific solvency evidence, in which case, you’re a bit better off), the poverty representations critique, Nietzsche, and topicality arguments regarding the numerical value of the term “substantial”.

5) Elimination debates are the ones that best inform me about the way I judge – below is a summary of every elim round I’ve judged this year. Rather than typing an explanation of how I feel about every argument that you might carry in your tubs, I think this listing may provide the most objective insight into how I’ll evaluate certain arguments in a close debate.

Elimination Rounds in Which I’ve Voted Affirmative
Glenbrook North MP (AFF) v Mountain Brook MQ – Marquette Finals:
Decision: 3-0 – Voss, Batterman, Schultz
2NR: States CP/China Inflation DA
2AR: Solvency Deficit Arguments, Uniqueness Takeouts

St. Paul Central JQ (AFF) v Lane Tech CO – Valley Quarterfinals
Decision: 3-0 – Voss, Kappui, Stimson
2NR: Nietzsche
2AR: Life is Good

Homewood Flossmore (AFF) RG v Groves FS – New Trier Doubles
Decision: 2-1 - *Twinem, Wunderlich, Voss
2NR: Iran Sanctions DA Turns the Case
2AR: Swine Flu Add-On Not Turned by the DA

St. Paul Central JQ (AFF) v Edina KN – Valley Quarters
Decision: 3-0 – Voss, Song, Short
2NR: Ethics Bad floating PIK
2AR: Permutation, PIKs Bad

Woodward PP (AFF) v Eden Prairie BM – Glenbrooks Doubles
Decision: 2-1 – *C. Bruce, Voss, Forslund
2NR: Nietzsche
2AR: Life’s Good

SPASH CL (AFF) v Neenah BE – Appleton East Semifinals
Decision: 5-0 – Voss, Roubidoux, Weeman, Baseman, Merget
2NR: States CP and Health Care Good (Economy)
2AR: Solvency Deficit and US Economic Decline Good

SPASH CL (AFF) v Neenah HO – Appleton East Finals
Decision: 2-3 – *Voss, *Henning, Traas, Palmbach, Krakowski
2NR: States and Health Care Good (Economy)
2AR: Solvency Deficit and US Economic Decline Good

Elimination Rounds in Which I’ve Voted Negative
Maine East JV (AFF) v Edina AK – Marquette Octafinals
Decision: 3-0 – Voss, E. Oddo, Zimmer
2NR: Capitalism Critique
2AR: Capitalism Good

Glenbrook South SV (AFF) v Mountain Brook MQ – Marquette Semifinals
Decision: 4-1 - *Batterman, Voss, Schultz, Henning, Trilling
2NR: Capitalism Critique
2AR: Capitalism Good/No Alternative/Capitalism Inevitable

St. Paul Central JQ (AFF) v Whitney Young HG – Valley Finals
Decision: 2-1 - *Dhillon, Voss, Chin
2NR: 13th Amendment CP/Equal Protection DA (coercion impact)
2AR: Solvency Deficit/Interpassivity

Neenah HO (AFF) v Neenah HO – West Bend Finals
Decision: 3-0 – Voss, Trilling, Schultz
2NR: Politics – health care bad
2AR: Link turns, case outweighs

Glenbrook South KS (AFF) v McDonough RB – New Trier Octafinals
Decision: 3-0 – Voss, Schirmer, R. Gordon
2NR: Politics, Util Good
2AR: Util Bad, Fasching

Dallas Jesuit MY (AFF) v Westlake BM – Glenbrooks Quarters
Decision: 2-1 - *Whitmore, Nishioka, Voss
2NR: Capitalism Critique
2AR: Alternative Doesn’t Solve Small Farming/Capitalism Not So Bad/Link Turns

Woodward PP (AFF) v Damien EG – Glenbrooks Semis
Decision: 2-1 - *Berthiaume, Voss, Jennings
2NR: State Action Doctrine Good, Health Care Bad
2AR: State Action Doctrine Good, Health Care Good, Case Outweighs

Appleton West KS (AFF) v West Bend HM – Appleton East Quarterfinals
Decision: 2-1 - *Glenzer, Voss, Voves
2NR: Conservative Backlash DA
2AR: No Link/Fiat Solves the Link


Initial Thoughts on the Poverty Topic: Pre-Marquette, 2009
1) My first and largest fear on this year's topic is that negative strategies will mirror the first semester of the alternative energy topic -- bad critiques and the States counterplan. I strongly encourage all of you to develop innovative negative strategies. To be clear, it's not that I wont or even dislike voting for hyper-generic arguments -- but this topic's advantage ground is *already* stale and the neg only has a handful of *quality* generics; affirmative teams are likely to have better-than-normal 2AC responses that will make being negative ridiculously difficult if you envision your 2NR including phrases like "topically-designated persons solves all your offense" or "uniform state action doesn't cost political capital". Given the timely and decision-framing nature of many of this topic's advantages, you should be prepared to talk alot about the aff.

2) I'm still not sold that the States CP is a reason to reject the team -- I probably will never get there. But I think most of the "50 State Fiat bad" arguments are true in the context of debate as an educational model. I'll probably still vote neg for the States at least 15 times this year...but if you're reading the States CP and the affirmative advances a theoretical objection to it, you should perhaps take the theory part of the flow a bit more seriously than normal.

3) After judging a few paperless teams at Marquette, I have come to the realization that the process of transferring speeches (either via jump drive or networking) is a time-consuming process. While some coaches are calling for the mandatory use of preparation time during this process, I think an extra five minutes per debate is a small price to pay for the facilitation of the paperless transition (it's inevitable and necessary -- I won't rant). Accordingly, my only request to paperless teams is that you transfer files *as quickly as possible*. I'm going to use a gut-check rule for this -- if I think you're intentionally taking extra time to share your speech, I'll start the clock; but as long as you're genuinely trying your best to transfer files in a timely manner, I won't hold you accountable for technology's limitations.

Meta Issues
1) Yes offense/defense – but not as an absolute. I still have yet to judge a good debate in which I find zero risk of a link or zero impact to a net benefit, but I frequently find myself frequently voting affirmative because the plan + decent defense against the disad is “good enough.” This comment, then, is most helpful to the negative: you might be better strategically advised to answer the 2ac’s defense rather than read another impact module that you won’t go for anyway.

2) In a perfectly even debate, I find myself located on the truth side of the “truth/tech” debate – but only insofar as the evidence is explained in the debate. The ways in which the debaters explain their arguments establish the filter through which I evaluate evidence because I feel the “explanation” is probably more important (if only slightly) than technical skills. Of course, these sorts of issues only arise in close debates; in a scenario in which one team is blatantly out-tech-ing their opponents, I prefer not to intervene.

Here’s the rest…
My argumentative preferences are probably less relevant than I’d like them to be – no matter what I think of your strategy, I’ll try to handle every argument you make as objectively as possible, even if I think the argument in question is dumb. The debaters in the round should make arguments that they are comfortable defending and enjoy talking about. There’s no argument/type of argument/type of debate that I *won’t* accept—I went for everything as a debater. As a caveat though, I find the best debates occur when the participants identify and highlight the ways in which different arguments clash; there’s nothing more frustrating than a debate where arguments aren’t compared against one another. At the end of the debate, I will try to intervene as little as possible; which means it is critical that the debaters frame the debate for me in the final rebuttals. My tendency toward anti-intervention, then, means I will evaluate the round in the manner in which I was instructed by the debaters. Of course, in close debates, some intervention will be inevitable; see above for more about that.

The only situation in which I will voluntarily intervene is clipping cards/cross-reading/fabrication of evidence. I’ll always give you the benefit of the doubt, but if I’m sure you’ve engaged in the aforementioned actions, you will lose the debate and receive the minimum number of speaker points allowed by the tournament.

If you don’t have time to read this in its entirety, here’s the abridged version: I'm a better judge for "good ole fashioned policy debates" than I am for debates about the Real and the Lack, and I'm a better judge for debates about postmodern philosophy than I am for debaters who critique debate as an institution/don't defend the topic on the aff/etc. I fanatically like to hear debates where the students have a heightened understanding of their arguments. THIS DEBATE IS NOT ABOUT ME, it’s about all of you. Like most critics, I will most enjoy adjudicating a debate in which all participants debate smart and debate hard—intelligent/tricky strategies are phenomenal and make it FAR easier for me to justify spending my Friday nights at high schools around the nation. What you do to win is up to you; I have the propensity to vote on anything so long as I am persuaded to do so. In order to persuade me, it’s really helpful if you impact whatever argument it is that you think can win you the debate. All debates are impact debates insofar as all arguments (policy, theory, critical, activist, performance et al) need to have some sort of contextual implication—impacts are really just strategic tools debaters use to sway the ballot. Along that same line of thought, I evaluate ALL arguments in an offense/defense paradigm unless told to do otherwise by the debaters. I like speed *a lot* -- but I like clarity and persuasion more. Questions? Read on or ask me.

1) Speed:
Go as fast as you want. If I can’t understand you, I’ll say ‘clear’ at times that won’t interfere with your speech. This shouldn’t be an issue though—I have yet to find the debater I can’t flow.

2) Speaker point scale:
Operates as follows—25 or below means you were excessively/unnecessarily rude, unethical, or didn’t seriously compete in the debate; a 26 is an indication that you had comprehension problems or grossly mis-handled argument(s) in the round; a 27-28.5 is the ‘standard’ for me. I award 29’s for debaters I feel should be in contention for a top 5 speaker award & 30’s are reserved for timeless performances. Good arguments, persuasive rebuttals, and effective use of humor will increase your points. Being mean, grossly mis-interpreting your own arguments, stealing prep time, clipping cards, and/or changing the meaning of evidence (e.g. President Bush is not intelligent) will force me to adjust your points accordingly.


3) Topicality:
it’s a voter—probably the primary voting issue. I've never voted on "the K outweighs T" or "theory comes first". It's possible that I might vote on those arguments in the future, but it's unlikely. Generally, the 2nr will need to articulate a round-specific impact to the topicality debate (although it wouldn’t be too difficult to convince me that potential abuse is a voting issue). I’m usually more likely to prefer evidenced/grammatically correct interpretations.

4) Theory:
I really enjoy high-tech theory debates. The more specific your objection, the better. Similar to topicality, I’m most likely to vote on theory if you can prove in-round abuse. This *doesn't* mean I don't like evaluating competing interpretations on theory flows--but your impact/objection should still pertain to the debate at hand in some fashion. As a side note, I believe that too many teams rely on theory as their number one option. Make sure you’re making policy-level arguments too—failure to do so will make your theoretical objections look less credible.


5) Procedurals, Objections, Assorted Gripes:
I’m probably slightly more likely to vote on these arguments than other critics IF THE PLAN TEXT MANDATES AN OBJECTION. However, that does not mean that I enjoy deciding rounds on procedural complaints—the only thing in debate I dislike more than whining is unnecessary whining. Plan text should probably be specific enough that the negative has specific disad/counterplan ground, but not so specific that they can no-link every offensive position. I suppose my only expectation is that the affirmative advocate a reasonable plan text that fosters an educational debate.



6) Critiques:
I have no problem with these arguments, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly well-versed with some of the obscure literature. I prefer to hear very specific links to the plan, but I understand the need for generic critique links against obscure/cheating affirmatives. The implication of the K should be explained very thoroughly to me. Does it turn the case? Does my ballot have a specific role? In which framework do the implications operate? I also find that there’s an increasing trend in current debate—the role of the alternative seems to rollback on an almost weekly basis. If you’re going for the K, please explain to me what I am voting for—If you’re hoping to beat the K, disads to the alternative and reasons the alternative can’t solve are sort of crucial. As a general rule, the alternative and permutations to the alternative should have texts, but I won’t make this an issue unless the other team makes it one. Again, I cannot stress enough—EXPLAIN WHAT I AM VOTING FOR; only telling me to Traverse the Fantasy or Engage in Psychoanalytic Resistance is about as helpful as speaking to me in Mandarin (I don’t know a lick of Chinese).

7) Counterplans:
are fantastic. Debates are (usually) better when counterplans are advanced. I'm told that I err neg on counterplan theory, but I've voted aff on PICs bad/conditionality bad a fair number of times as well.


8) Don’t Cheat:
my love for counterplans is intense—but ONLY because they create clash and test the viability of the plan. Counterplans that compete on the certainty of the plan are bad for the activity. I’ve still voted for these, and probably will again. But I won’t enjoy it, and I have a REALLY low threshold for theoretical objections to them.
NEW UPDATE I thought this was obvious, a recent tournament experience taught me otherwise. Multiple contradictory conditional counterplans are not okay. If the 2ac makes this a voting issue, the debate's probably over.


9) Disads:
Links and internal links need to be unique. If they’re non-unique enough, I have no problem granting zero risk of a disad. Implicating the case and assessing your impacts (beginning in the block) is imperative. In order to win, negatives need a counterplan that solves some of the disad or need to win that disad mitigates part of the case. Affirmatives that lose a disad but win 100% of the case could still win with strategic impact analysis. In the simplest terms possible, the degree to which the plan causes the link or turns the link is the crucial framework in which the impacts should be explained.


10) The Case Debate:
I evaluate the case debate similar to the way I evaluate disadvantage debates (unless the aff is critical, in which case it’s evaluated the same way I evaluate critiques). It’s important to win that you plan solves the links to your advantages, but it’s equally as important to articulate the ways that your advantages’ impacts interact with negative offense.


11) Projects/Performance:
You’re fighting an uphill battle in front of me. I certainly find arguments that challenge the nature of debate to be interesting, but I have a hard time understanding why your activist approach is important enough to ignore the resolution, why contest debate rounds are an appropriate forum for your voices to be heard, and why you deserve the ballot. If you're a critically active team and you feel you can answer the three aforementioned issues, I look forward to seeing you debate!


12) Other things:
a. I try to come into the round with literally no biases—and I think I do a pretty respectable job. That said, I will not morally nor strategically object to any argument.
b. I won’t intervene unless you make me—in rounds where two competing impact claims aren’t compared against one another, I will most likely be forced to determine each impact’s timeframe, probability, magnitude, etc. I don’t really “mind” doing this, per se, but understand that I might not view the impacts the same way you do. Simply put, compare impacts and articulate clear reasons you should win—this ensures we’re all safe from the bad feelings produced from judge intervention.
c. Reading Evidence—I do this a lot. Sometimes I read evidence because the debate requires me to do so, and sometimes I read evidence because I’m interested in its’ content. If the debate was close enough that I need to read evidence to resolve my decision, you’ll probably know which pieces of evidence are relevant.
d. Debate is a strategic game of academic growth—as a current coach, aspiring educator and 4-year high-school debater, I firmly believe that fun, light-hearted debates are most conducive to education.
e. As a highschool debater, you are a member of a very special community that most people never have the opportunity to enjoy. During a time of recession, schools across the country are looking to save as much money as possible; perhaps now more than ever, it's imperative that all of us reaffirm debate's good reputation. Please, have ethos -- don't hide ev, don't steal prep, don't break desks, don't engage in all of the other jackasstic/Brett Favre-esque practices in which some debaters choose to partake.

Good luck, have fun!