Jeffrey Richards ParadigmLast changed 9/23 9:00A PDT
Background: I was a policy debater for Dimond High School in Anchorage, AK; in college, I debated in CEDA 4 years for Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, ID. I have coached policy, LD, and I.E.'s at Meridian High School in Boise, ID, Sammamish High School in Seattle, WA, and currently with Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, WA. I have had two textbooks on competitive debate published by National Textbook Company (now McGraw-Hill): Moving from Policy to Value Debate and Debating by Doing. I have coached LD competitors at the 2015 Tournament of Champions and at several NFL Nationals tournaments. I have judged many policy and LD high school debate rounds locally in WA and at national circuit tournaments.
Approach: I see competitive debate as a strategic activity where both sides attempt to exclude the other’s arguments and keep them from functioning. As such, I expect both debaters to argue the evaluative frameworks that apply in this particular round and how they function with regard to the positions that have been advanced.
My Ballot: The better you access my ballot, the more you keep me from intervening. You access my ballot best when you clearly and simply tell me (1) what argument you won, (2) why you won it, and (3) why that means you win the round. Don’t under-estimate the importance of #3: It would be a mistake to assume that all arguments are voters and that winning the argument means you win the round. You need to clearly provide the comparative analysis by which arguments should be weighed or you risk the round by leaving that analysis in my hands. I will not look to evaluate every nuance of the line-by-line; it is your responsibility to tell me which arguments are most relevant and significant to the decision.
Let’s use Theory RVIs as an example. Some judges disfavor these arguments, but in front of me, they are perfectly acceptable. However, the fact that you beat back a theory position from your opponent does not, in and of itself, provide you access to an RVI. To win an RVI posted against a theory position generally requires that you demonstrate that your opponent ran the argument in bad faith (e.g., only as a time suck, without intent to go for the argument), and that the argument caused actual harm in the round. When it comes to potential abuse, I tend to agree with the Supreme Court's view in FCC v. Pacifica: "Invalidating any rule on the basis of its hypothetical application to situations not before the Court is 'strong medicine' to be applied 'sparingly and only as a last resort.'" You certainly can argue for a different evaluative framework for the RVI, but you cannot assume that I already have one.
Think, before you start your rebuttal(s). Ask yourself, what do I have to win in order to win the round? Whatever the answer to that question is, that is where you start and end your speech.
Paradigm: The most important thing I can do in any debate round is to critique the arguments presented in the round. As such, I consider myself very liberal about what you do in a debate round, but conservative about how you do it. What that means for debaters is that you can run just about any argument you like, but you will need to be persuasive and thorough about how you do it. If you run theory, for example, you will need to understand the jurisdictional nature of theory arguments and either provide a compelling argument why the violation is so critical that dropping the debater is the only appropriate remedy or a convincing justification as to why theory should have a low threshold (competing interps). I try very hard not to inject myself into the debate, and I do my best to allow the speakers to develop what they think are the important issues.
Additional Items to Consider:
1. Speed is fine, but don’t chop off the ends of your words, or I will have trouble understanding you. Rapid speech is no excuse for failing to enunciate and emphasize arguments you want to be sure I get on my flow.
2. Argue competing paradigms. This is true in every form of debate. I am not married to any single framework, but too often, the underlying assumptions of how I need to view the round to give your arguments more impact than those of your opponent go unstated, much less debated. Tell me WHY your argument matters most. It’s okay to shift my paradigm to better access your impacts; just tell me why I should do so and how.
3. Presumption is a framework issue but is given short shrift almost every time I hear it argued. My default position is to be skeptical of any proposition until there is good and sufficient reason to accept it. That means presumption generally lies against the resolution until the affirmative presents a prima facie case to accept it. If you want to shift presumption so that it lies in a different position (with the prevailing attitude, in favor of fundamental human rights, etc.), then be sure to justify the shift in mindset and clearly explain whether that means we err on the side of the resolution being true or false.