Bill Batterman ParadigmLast changed 9/13 1:04P EDT
Associate Director of Debate — Woodward Academy (2010-present)
Last Updated 09/13/2018 (education-specific #5 and #6 replaced by immigration-specific #5)
Please put me on the email chain: email@example.com. Respect your opponents by sending the same documents to the email chain that you use to deliver your speeches. If you create separate versions of your speech documents (typically by deleting headings and analytical arguments) before sharing them, I will assume that you do not respect your opponents.
My promise: I will pay close attention to every debate, provide careful and complete scrutiny to every argument, and give students honest feedback about their arguments so that they are continuously challenged to improve as debaters.
Twitter version: Debate like an adult. Show me the evidence. Attend to the details. Don't dodge, clash. Great research and informed comparisons win debates.
1. I care most about clarity, clash, and argument comparison. I will be more impressed by students that demonstrate topic knowledge, line-by-line organization skills (supported by careful flowing), and intelligent cross-examinations than by those that rely on superfast speaking, obfuscation, jargon, backfile recycling, and/or tricks. I will never bore of strong fundamental skills and execution of basic, core-of-the-topic arguments. To impress me, invite clash and show off what you have learned this season. I will want to vote for the team that (a) is more prepared and more knowledgeable about the assigned topic and that (b) better invites clash and provides their opponents with a productive opportunity for an in-depth debate. Aff cases that lack solvency advocates and claim multiple contrived advantages do not invite a productive debate. Neither do whipsaw/scattershot 1NCs chock-full of incomplete, contradictory, and contrived off-case positions. Debates are best when the aff reads a plan with a high-quality solvency advocate and one or two well-supported advantages and the neg responds with a limited number of complete, consistent, and well-supported positions (including, usually, thorough case answers). I would unapologetically prefer not to judge debates between students that do not want to invite a productive, clash-heavy debate.
2. I'm a critic of argument, not a blank slate. My most important "judge preference" is that I value debating: "a direct and sustained confrontation of rival positions through the dialectic of assertion, critique, response and counter-critique" (Gutting 2013). While I will always do my best to maintain fidelity to the debate that has taken place when forming a decision, I am more comfortable than most judges with judging the arguments that students present: "To form an opinion or estimation of after careful consideration." I will always do my best to figure out who is right, not just who dropped fewer things. The process I use to reach a decision is outlined here: http://the3nr.com/2009/11/03/judging-methodologies-how-do-judges-reach-their-decisions/. I carefully review all relevant evidence when making a decision.
3. I value "debate as argument-judgment" more than "debate as information production" (Cram 2012). I want to hear debates between students that are invested in debating scholarly arguments based on rigorous preparation, expert evidence, deep content knowledge, and strategic thinking. I care much more about evidence and argument quality and am far less tolerant of trickery and obfuscation than the median judge. This has two main implications. First, what a card "says" is not as important as what a card proves. I spend more time on questions like "what argument does this expert make and is the argument right?" than on questions like "what words has this debate team highlighted in this card and have these words been dropped by the other team?." Second, the burden of proof precedes the burden of rejoinder. As presented, the risk of many advantages and disadvantages is zero because of missing internal links or a lack of grounding for important claims. "I know this argument doesn't make sense, but they dropped it!" will not convince me. When I disagree with other judges about the outcome of a debate, my most common criticism of their decision is that it gives too much credit to bad arguments or arguments that don't make sense. Their most common criticism of my decision is that it is "too interventionist" and that while they agree with my assessment of the arguments/evidence, they think that something else that happened in the debate (often a "technical concession") should be more determinative. I respect many judges that disagree with me in these situations; I'm glad there are both "tech-leaning" and "truth-leaning" judges in our activity. In the vast majority of debates, we come to the same conclusion. But at the margins, this is the major point of disagreement between us — it's much more important than any particular argument or theory preference.
4. I am most persuaded by arguments about the assigned topic. One of the most gratifying things about debate is when students meet field experts and impress them with their knowledge and skills. Even more gratifying is when students grow up to become field experts themselves — often because of a passion they developed while researching a particular topic. I love it that former policy debaters have jobs on Capitol Hill, at the Congressional Research Service, at the Government Accountability Office, at think tanks, at lobbying organizations, at newspapers and magazines, at unions, at high schools and colleges, at public defender's offices, or in political campaigns. I care about public policy. It matters. Kritiks that demonstrate concern for good policymaking can be very persuasive, but kritiks that ignore the topic or disavow policy analysis entirely are tough to win. Kritiks of topicality are similarly difficult to win. An unlimited topic would not facilitate the in-depth clash over core-of-the-topic arguments that I most value about debate. The combination of "topical version of the aff" and "argue this kritik on the neg" is difficult to defeat when coupled with a fairness or topic education impact.
5. The immigration topic is extremely complicated and I will do my best to keep an open mind. This is perhaps the most challenging topic that students have been tasked to learn during my 20 years in debate. I have found it to be very difficult to develop ad hoc expertise in immigration law without formal legal training, but I am hopeful that attempting to do so can be a transformative experience for students and coaches. More than ever, I deeply respect teams/schools that take this challenge seriously rather than opting out or settling for shallowness and mediocrity.