Jerrod L. Walker
Varsity Switch Sides

Tabula Rosa with Emphasis on Policy
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I will listen to any argument, but I need you to weigh the round for me with real world impacts. Seriously, if you want to run a peanut butter and jelly plan that leads to the death of superman, I will listen to you as long as you explain what the impact of this fictional character’s death has on the world and why it is important. I expect everyone to make full use of logic during debate rounds and do the internal link work for impacts.

Do not just read a card and expect that to be enough. You need to analyze these cards and give me their warrants. I don’t believe in the terminology “truth vs. tech”; I believe that you should make sound arguments and that you should acknowledge and respond to bad arguments, even if you have to group them. I do not like speed because most people are not clear when doing it. It’s rare that I will call for a card; it’s up to the debaters to do the analysis and argumentation. I will only ever call for evidence if there is a dispute about the warrants that both sides contest and if the evidence is the crux of a debate.

I will tell you once to be clear during the round. From that point forward, I simply will not flow you. I will try to listen, but you are risking me forgetting an argument. To be explicit: I do not like speed, but I’m okay if you do it AND YOU ARE CLEAR; do not go at a snail’s pace because then I become bored.

What is your ideal Debate Round?
I look for excellent direct line-by-line; tell me what they argued, what your counter-argument is, why I should prefer your argument, and why I should care. I need good analysis of cards presented by both sides; do not just read the cards at me and expect me to make the connection. Speed through the card, sure, but slow down just a bit for your analysis if it’s important enough to you. I like to see a variety of arguments run, but tied into a strategy. Give me roadmaps. I believe that you should have an agenda during your CX – don’t ask a bunch of questions that are unrelated to your negative strategy. Use that time to establish links or poke holes. Split the negative block. I also believe in testing the affirmative, but once you hit the negative block, you’ve already tested it. If you force the 1A to respond to every single argument and then kick the argument in the 2NR, I’m going to believe them when they say it’s abusive. Affs, USE your case throughout the round or you run the risk of me forgetting about it. In each rebuttal speech, you need to weigh the round for me. I also like it if debaters do not sound as if they’re about to die (the gasping thing…don’t do it.) Oh, and I won’t time flashing.

What are your thoughts on Topicality?
Topicality is about what the plan actually does – what does the plan mandate must happen? Topicality has little to do with advantages that are claimed, the effects of doing the plan, or anything conditional. In other words, your plan text must be topical. Therefore, being effectually topical is a problem because it explodes the topic – a negative simply cannot prepare to debate every single case that is tangentially related to the resolution. However, being effectually topical can be legitimate under some resolutions and it is up to the affirmative to defend their effectual topicality if this is where they fall. By the same token, if negatives argue that the affirmatives are effectually topical, they must tell me why that’s a bad thing both for debate AND they should provide examples of topical plans. The same applies for extra topicality – when an affirmative team is extra-topical, they are including mandates within the plan that are not topical with the resolution. Whether that means the advantages attached to that mandate are illegitimate or the entire plan is illegitimate is up to the negatives to prove. Topicality is also a gateway issue – if the affirmative is not topical and we cannot debate the actual resolution, then nothing else in the round matters and the affirmative loses automatically. It’s out of my hands.

Negatives can use topicality as a part of their strategy – it’s a legitimate argument. Yes, I agree that in most cases it is just a time-suck, but it’s also a very predictable strategy (so I don’t buy that topicality is an abusive argument). Affirmatives should also understand that I’m a writer and I have a degree in English and Legal Studies; in other words, I believe that debating about words and what they mean can be very educational. Not to mention that if policy debate is meant to simulate a courtroom, definitions of words become incredibly important at the appellate level. So affirmatives should know that standards or voters that say, “no one wants to debate about words” are not convincing. However, if topicality IS part of your negative strategy and you run a topicality argument, you should know that I’m going to look very strangely at my flow if I see lots of on-case turns or takeouts or case-specific DA’s. If negatives decide to run topicality, then they should tell me precisely what arguments they are unable to run because of the topicality violation as well as plans that are topical under their definition. Even still, the burden is on the affirmative to point this out for me and tell me why this is abusive for the round or harmful for debate. Don’t you dare expect me to make arguments or connect the dots for you. That’s your job.

What are your thoughts on Solvency, Advantages and Impacts?
It’s a very simple concept, right? If you cannot solve for your harms or your advantages, then your plan doesn’t matter. Your cards need to actually prove your solvency; if you do not have a card that explicitly says that your plan will solve for the harms/contentions/advantages, you need to do the internal link work to show me how you will solve. Now, because I am a tabs judge with an emphasis on policy, you are probably going to want to run a plan that has advantages that solve real-world problems. Frankly, I don’t believe a nuclear war is ever going to happen. Maybe there will be some nuclear strikes that lead to a war, but the war itself won’t be nuclear. Now, if you can give me legitimate reasoning why nuclear war is likely in a specific scenario (rather than some convoluted systemic postulating that ends with everyone dying), I’ll give it to you. But just as I expect teams to prove topicality, I also expect teams to prove to me through logical internal links backed by evidence that the Nuclear War (or Extinction) is going to happen. But if a team tells me in a speech with pure analytics and empirics that extinction and nuclear war are unlikely, I’m going to be very inclined to believe them. And let’s be honest here – there are impacts beyond these highly unrealistic end-game scenarios. What about genocide? Economic collapse? Human rights violations? Territorial or civil war? Perpetuation of –isms (sexism, racism, elitism) that lead to oppression and dehumanization? At least all of these have actually happened, right? Come on, be creative!

Additionally, because of my emphasis on policy, I am looking for real-world impacts and impact analysis throughout the round. It’s not enough that you simply have impacts, however real they may be. What’s more important is that the impact calculus is done, especially in rebuttals since I do not consider impact calculus a new argument. Talk to me about probability – which is more likely to happen? Just as I was saying above, I’m probably more inclined to believe in a dehumanization/ human rights impact than a mass extinction impact. Why? Because one of those things has happened to the human race before – empirics can be convincing. Tell me about the timeframe of the impacts. If someone has a bunch of internal links that leads to this huge impact (i.e. global warming = climate change = melting of polar ice caps = flooding of the world = loss of life, crops, etc. = extinction) and the opponent have the same impact with a timeframe that happens sooner (i.e. biological warfare = outbreak of uncontrollable disease = extinction), I might be inclined to go with the extinction that happens sooner. You know, if you’ve convinced me that extinction is going to happen in the first place. Talk to me about magnitude – if both sides are arguing about people dying, then which impact has more people dying. If we’re debating dehumanization and one has an impact that dehumanizes a larger group of people (i.e. racism), then I have to go with the impact that saves the most people.

That’s basic impact calculus that I expect to happen, even at a novice level. Now, for advanced Varsity debaters, I’m expecting you guys to be a bit more sophisticated with your arguments. If your opponents are arguing that sexism causes human rights violations but you are arguing an impact of terrorism and national security, sure they might have a larger magnitude, but we can reverse human rights violations eventually. We can’t reverse death (of course, you could always argue that human death isn’t important). This is called arguing reversibility of an impact – if your impact is irreversible and the opponents can be corrected, you could legitimately argue that for the time being, your impact is more important. You could also take out their internal links with your impact – urban sprawl and industrial development destroys biodiversity and the environment, so the former outweighs the latter impact/advantage. You could also take out their impact by inserting your impact as an internal link that causes their impact – in other words, dehumanization leads to genocide, so stopping dehumanization is more important. You could also include their impact or advantage along with yours; for example, a third world war is inclusive of a civil war (and has a larger magnitude), so the world war outweighs the civil war. Whatever you decide, just be sure not to be lazy during the speeches and forget to do impact analysis.

What are your thoughts on Disadvantages?
Let’s start with the basics. Regardless of how you structure your Disadvantage, there absolutely must be uniqueness, external links, internal links, and impacts. If you want to combine the uniqueness and external link to be a “Unique Link” card, hey, that’s your prerogative (and a time-saver).

However you handle it, I need the negative team to explain to me why the impacts you’re going to claim have not happened yet and how the plan presented by the opposing side will uniquely cause those impacts. For example, if the negative team were going for an economic collapse scenario, then their uniqueness would show that either the economy is doing well now or that we are improving/seeking to improve the economy. I expect uniqueness cards to be current, meaning you should keep those updated throughout the debate season. There are a few scenarios where uniqueness may not require the most up-to-date cards, but that is an extreme rarity. Yes, if the affirmative proves your disadvantage is non-unique and your impacts are going to happen anyway, then you’re going to lose the DA unless you can convince me of a reason that you shouldn’t.

When giving me a link, please avoid generic links. If every single possible case links, then I have to agree that it’s an abusive argument. Unless of course you tell me why generic disadvantages are good for debate. In fact, when it comes to generic disadvantages, the only time I really approve of them is when a team is running them along with a topicality argument and I’m told “this is all we can run because of how non-topical their plan is.” That is called good strategy. Otherwise, if your DA is important to you, make sure the link is specific to the plan you are debating against (unless you provide me debate theory about why generic disadvantages are not bad). Whatever the case, it is the presenter’s burden to prove to me that the plan causes the disadvantage you are claiming. Following your link, you should probably have an internal link if the connection between the external link and the impact is unclear. You could leave it out, but running a DA in the 2NC with no internal link and then trying to provide them in rebuttals is abusive. It’s simply good practice to ensure that you have done the work to show me how this change that the plan causes leads directly (or systemically) to the impact you provide. Refer to the above section for my thoughts on impacts.

As far as how I like to see teams defeat Disadvantages, there are a few ways that I think work very well. The easiest is usually going to be demonstrating that you do not link to the disadvantage (No Link arg). You could also argue that your plan doesn’t cause the internal link that causes the impact. And then, of course, you can argue that there is no uniqueness – demonstrating that the link has happened in the past (or is currently happening) and the impact has not happened. Then there is the no threshold argument, arguing that the link does not make it clear when the impact will happen, which is mildly convincing. Now, these are all defensive arguments and while easier to make, are not the best for a good debate round. An offensive argument that works very well with me is a link turn, which I think should always happen in two ways: 1) Show me that the impact is already going to happen in the status quo (Non-Unique) and 2) Show me that you actually do the opposite of what the opponent’s link says (turn). This is a great strategy because now you can include their impact scenario as an advantage to your plan! Now, if you want to make things really interesting for me, do impact turns where you try to convince me that the impacts of the disadvantage are actually a good thing. Again, I am a tabs judge, so I’ll consider any argument fairly. Put the opponent into a position where they must respond to your arguments or risk them becoming advantages to your plan. Just be careful not to double turn the disadvantage by doing a link turn and an impact turn (because then, you’re telling me that the status quo is doing something that you stop, but that thing you stop is actually a good thing…meaning I shouldn’t do your plan). I’ll also accept severance permutations if you can convince me they are legitimate.

As far as how I like to see disadvantages run, I only have a few things. First, please clearly say which cards apply to which arguments: Uniqueness/Unique Link, Link, Internal Link, Impact, etc. (same for responding: No uniqueness, No Link, Link Turn, Impact Turn, No Internal Link, etc.) Second, disads are fair during any constructive, even during the 2NC – still, it’s sporting to ensure that you do most of your off-case in the 1NC. Oh, and side-note: I’m going to be very impressed by an affirmative team that effectively uses a disadvantage against a counterplan.

What are your thoughts on Counterplans?
While in traditional, old school debate, the negative’s job was to negate the resolution (argue against it), today, we realize that sometimes, a resolution is such an obvious societal good that counterplans have become common. And you know what? I love it when negatives run counterplans! I am of the philosophy that once an affirmative gives us a topical plan text, they abandon all other grounds within the resolution to the negative because you are saying that your plan is the best method for answering the resolution, or at the very least the only plan you’ll be advocating this round. As a tabs judge, I don’t care whether the plan is topical or non-topical. A smart affirmative that runs into a non-topical CP would be smart to argue how abusive it is to allow a negative to run non-topical plans. But ensure that you understand the debate theory behind such an argument.

Unless you convince me otherwise (which, again, is more than possible), a negative team must offer a counterplan that is competitive. This means that the CP should be fundamentally better and different to the affirmative plan and any combination of the plan and counterplan; in other words, they should be mutually exclusive, meaning unable to exist simultaneously.

One final thing on counterplans: You MUST present a counterplan in the 1NC and if you continue to advocate for the counterplan in the negative block, I expect you to continue it throughout the round. If you’re going to make us debate a counterplan at all, it had better not be a time-suck. Hypothesis testing is fine, but you can determine after you’ve heard the 2AC if you want to continue that route or not. If you do, then stick to it. If you’ve run a bunch of other arguments along with a CP during the negative block, then kick the CP in the 2NR, I will totally side with the affirmatives if they claim abuse.

What are your thoughts on Framework, Theory & Kritiks?
When dealing with a tabs judge like me, providing a framework is one way to take control of the debate. In most cases, judges will default to “calculative framework,” which doesn’t necessarily consider which course of action is the best, but which course of action causes the least damage (or saves the most lives/resources/etc.). Now, for many teams, this is perfectly fine. But depending on what type of arguments you run, you might decide that you need me to consider things differently. Perhaps you need me to think about morality over anything else. Perhaps you need me to consider future advantages over immediate disadvantages. Again, when you run a framework, you’re telling me how to evaluate the round in the end (and for a tabs judge, that works out really well). Here’s the thing – if a team runs a framework argument, you MUST respond to it or you’re telling me that you agree with them, which probably isn’t in your best interests. And I get rather excited when I have two competing frameworks – it makes the debate more interesting.

When it comes to debate theory and kritikal arguments, I absolutely LOVE them. When it comes down to it, we are debating about ideas. If I vote for your plan, in the real world, nothing actually happens. But a kritik allows us to examine how we are thinking, which can have a very real impact in our lives. In my humble opinion, kritiks tend to be some of the most important debates in the round. Indeed, it’s important enough that it’s considered an a priori argument, meaning that I will consider a kritik before I consider any other argument (indeed, I’ll place it directly after topicality during evaluation). But as much as I love kritiks, I love coherent debate more. That is, if you do not understand a kritik well enough to make what you’re arguments are explicitly clear to your opponents, you shouldn’t use it. I don’t want to see someone struggling to make an argument they don’t understand… or, worse, running arguments that bite (or in ways that bite) into their own kritik.

If you do decide to run a kritik, you must have all 3 parts of the kritik and you should clearly sign-post them (unless, of course, your kritik is against linear thinking…). First, you must provide me with a link. Because a kritik is usually a philosophical argument, there’s no need to prove that it is not happening in the status quo (in other words, I don’t expect a kritik to have uniqueness to the opponent’s arguments/plan), but you have to show me how the affirmatives actually bite into the kritik. You must explain to me how the affirmative or negative’s entire mindset is wrong. When giving me the link, you should clearly explain what the opponent’s mindset is as well as explaining the fundamental ideals behind that mindset. Next, you’re going to want to give me an implication. Here, you will explain to me what impact that mindset has on the world or society. What is the moral/ethical/real world impact? Finally, a kritik must have an alternative; it’s all well and good that we understand how harmful a certain mindset is, but what is our alternative? Give me an option that is better than what the opponent is doing.

Defeating kritiks can be done in a number of ways, but there are a few that I’m partial to. Among the easiest ways to defeat them with me is to attack the alternative. I am not a fan of the “reject the affirmative” or “reject the mindset” alternative and, should the opponent be so foolish as to not read this and use that sort of alternative, feel free to point out that they’ve provided no “real” alternative. They haven’t provided us with a different mindset or solution to actually evaluate. You’d also want to point out that the mindset also exists in the status quo while doing so. For me, that’s enough. Now if they actually went ahead and provided a real alternative, it becomes a bit stickier for you.

You could also go for more logical refutation. Maybe the opponent doesn’t actually end up making an argument for something that is objectionable, so then you shouldn’t be required to respond to it. After all, they have an entire speech to make a clear argument and shouldn’t be allowed to expand on an a priori topic so late in a debate when they’ve already had the opportunity. You could concede that what the opponents claim as a bad mindset is bad, but that it doesn’t actually link to your case. You could argue that after re-thinking everything through, that the kritik actually still doesn’t matter that much (all the easier if you’ve provided a framework for the debate already). If the negatives have run any other arguments that bite into their kritik, you could argue that the kritik should be thrown out for pure reasons of inconsistency. At best, it means they probably don’t understand their own kritik. At worst, they’re demonstrating that debating or thinking in their proposed mindset is impossible. Sure, I’ll buy that (but here, you run into the risk of the negs kicking that argument; you can try to still point out that the kritik is invalid since, regardless of whether they kicked the argument or not, they’ve already demonstrated the exact same mindset, so they are no better and don’t deserve to win the round).

More interesting still, you could decide to argue against the kritik itself! Prove, through reasoning and evidence, that the kritik simply isn’t true. Or, you could argue that the assumptions being made are justified because it’s the best option we have (again, easier with a framework). For those most comfortable with traditional policy debate, it’s probably your best bet.

The most interesting of answers involves kritiking the kritik. You could kritik the assumptions that the kritik is making using your own evidence and analysis (so yeah, make blocks against common kritiks). You could argue that kritiks are, by their nature, self-contradictory; if kritiks are saying we must question all assumptions, then you can probably convince me that negatives have the burden of proving that there are no hidden assumptions in their kritik and that before we consider any part of their kritik, they must provide evidence that they are not vulnerable to hidden assumptions (almost like a T argument). Finally, you could lean on the fact that I place emphasis on policy and argue that kritiks are not valid because of their nihilistic nature – if we have to question everything, then we are left with never-ending skepticism with no solution, which just isn’t acceptable for the world. If we are to get on with life and solve problems, then we have to reject kritiks as a concept because they stop us from living. I may love kritiks, but I concede that this might be a problem with kritikal arguments. You just have to argue it. Effectively.