John Lawson ParadigmLast changed 2/2 10:57P EDT
I am the Co- Director of Debate at Wylie E. Groves HS in Beverly Hills, MI. I have coached high school debate for 45 years, debated at the University of Michigan for 3.5 years and coached at Michigan for one year (in the mid 1970s). I have coached at summer institutes for 45 years.
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On the 2017-18 education topic, I judged 28 rounds at the SDI, U of M Institute Final Tournament, Okemos HS @Lansing Community College (MI), West Bloomfield HS (MI ), Spartan Classic at MSU, Varsity and Novice State Finals, JV State Finals, Detroit Urban Debate League Championships, Montgomery Bell Academy Southern Bell Forum and the University of Michigan, voting affirmative 17 times. I have also judged three rounds on the 2017-18 NDT/CEDA college topic (health insurance), voting negative in all three rounds. I judged eight public forum rounds on the background checks and Catalonian independence topics, voting pro four times. I taught at the SDI two week institute and administered a one week Detroit Urban Debate League institute at Wayne State University.
On the 2018-19 immigration topic, I coached at the two week Spartan Debate Institute and judged 28 rounds at the SDI two week tournament, the University of Michigan Institutes final tournament, West Bloomfield HS, Wayne State University, Detroit Urban Debate League, Groves HS, Michigan State University, Sylvania, Ohio, the University of Michigan and MIFA State Debate Finals, voting affirmative 15 times. I've also judged three public forum debates on the UNCLOS and drug price controls topics, voting pro once.
On the 2019-2020 arms sales topic, I coached at the two week Spartan Debate Institute and administered and taught the coaches workshop at the one week Detroit Urban Debate League Institute. Thus far, I've judged 28 rounds at the SDI Two Week Tournament, West Bloomfield HS, University of Kentucky, University of Michigan, Wayne State, Michigan State, Evanston Township HS and the University of Michigan Institutes final tournament, voting affirmative 13 times. I've also judged two middle school public forum rounds on the "One Belt, One Road" resolution, splitting one pro and one con ballot.
I am open to most types of argument but default to a policy making perspective on debate rounds. Speed is fine; if unintelligible I will warn several times, continue to flow but it's in the debater's ball park to communicate the content of arguments and evidence and their implication or importance. Traditional on- case debate, disads, counterplans and kritiks are fine. However, I am more familiar with the literature of so-called non mainstream political philosophies (Marxism, neoliberalism, libertarianism, objectivism) than with many post modern philosophers and psychoanalytic literature. If your kritik becomes an effort to obfuscate through mindless jargon, please note that your threshold for my ballot becomes substantially higher.
At the margins of critical debate, for example, if you like to engage in "semiotic insurrection," interface psychoanalysis with political action, defend the proposition that 'death is good,' advocate that debate must make a difference outside the "argument room" or just play games with Baudrilliard, it would be the better part of valor to not pref me. What you might perceive as flights of intellectual brilliance I am more likely to view as incoherent babble or antithetical to participation in a truly educational activity. Capitalism/neoliberalism, securitization, anthropocentrism, Taoism, anti-blackness, queer theory, IR feminism, ableism and ageism are all kritiks that I find more palatable for the most part than the arguments listed above. I have voted for "death good" and Schlag, escape the argument box/room, arguments more times than I would like to admit (on the college and HS levels)-though I think these arguments are either just plain dumb or inapplicable to interscholastic debate respectively. Now, it is time to state that my threshold for voting for even these arguments has gotten much higher. For example, even a single, persuasive turn or solid defensive position against these arguments would very likely be enough for me to vote against them.
I am less likely to vote on theory, not necessarily because I dislike all theory debates, but because I am often confronted with competing lists of why something is legitimate or illegitimate, without any direct comparison or attempt to indicate why one position is superior to the other on the basis of fairness and/or education. In those cases, I default to voting to reject the argument and not the team, or not voting on theory at all.
In T or framework debates regarding critical affirmatives or Ks on the negative, I often am confronted with competing impacts (often labeled disadvantages with a variety of "clever" names) without any direct comparison of their relative importance. Again, without the comparisons, you will never know how a judge will resolve the framework debate (likely with a fair amount of judge intervention).
Additionally, though I personally believe that the affirmative should present a topical plan or an advocacy reasonably related to the resolution, I am somewhat open to a good performance related debate based on a variety of cultural, sociological and philosophical concepts. My personal antipathy to judge intervention and willingness to change if persuaded make me at least open to this type of debate. Finally, I am definitely not averse to voting against the kritik on either the affirmative or negative on framework and topicality-like arguments. On face, I don't find framework arguments to be inherently exclusionary.
As to the use of gratuitous/unnecessary profanity in debate rounds: "It don't impress me much!" Using terms like "fuck" or "bullshit" doesn't increase your ethos. I am quite willing to deduct speaker points for their systemic use. The use of such terms is almost always unnecessary and often turns arguments into ad hominem attacks.
Finally, I am a fan of the least amount of judge intervention as possible. The line by line debate is very important; so don't embed your clash so much that the arguments can't be "unembedded" without substantial judge intervention. I'm not a "truth seeker" and would rather vote for arguments I don't like than intervene directly with my preferences as a judge. Generally, the check on so-called "bad" arguments and evidence should be provided by the teams in round, not by me as the judge. This also provides an educationally sound incentive to listen and flow carefully, and prepare answers/blocks to those particularly "bad" arguments so as not to lose to them. Phrasing this in terms of the "tech" v. "truth" dichotomy, I try to keep the "truth" part to as close to zero (%) as humanly possible in my decision making. "Truth" can sometimes be a fluid concept and you might not like my perspective on what is the "correct" side of a particular argument..
An additional word or two on paperless debate and new arguments. There are many benefits to paperless debate, as well as a few downsides. For debaters' purposes, I rarely take "flashing" time out of prep time, unless the delay seems very excessive. I do understand that technical glitches do occur. However, once electronic transmission begins, all prep by both teams must cease immediately. This would also be true if a paper team declares "end prep" but continues to prepare. I will deduct any prep time "stolen" from the team's prep and, if the problem continues, deduct speaker points. Prep includes writing, typing and consulting with partner about strategy, arguments, order, etc.
With respect to new arguments, I do not automatically disregard new arguments until the 2AR (since there is no 3NR). Prior to that time, the next speaker should act as a check on new arguments or cross applications by noting what is "new" and why it's unfair or antithetical to sound educational practice. I do not subscribe to the notion that "if it's true, it's not new" as what is "true" can be quite subjective.