Cort Sylvester ParadigmLast changed 10/14 5:11P CDT
Head coach, Rosemount, MN. Do both policy & LD, and I don’t approach them very differently.
I’m a chubby, gray-haired, middle-aged white dude, no ink, usually wearing a golf shirt or an Iron Maiden shirt. If that makes you think I’m kind of old-school and lean toward soft-left policy stuff rather than transgressive reimaginations of debate, you ain’t wrong. Also, I’m a lawyer, so I understand the background of legal topics and issues better than most debaters and judges. (And I can tell when you don’t, which is most of the time.)
I was a decent college debater in the last half of the 1980s (never a first-round, but cleared at NDT), and I’ve been coaching for over 25 years. So I’m not a lay judge, and I’m mostly down with a “circuit” style—speed doesn’t offend me, I focus on the flow and not on presentation, theory doesn’t automatically seem like cheating, etc. However, by paradigm, I'm an old-school policymaker. The round is a thought experiment about whether the plan is a good idea (or, in LD, whether the resolution is true).
I try to minimize intervention. I'm more likely to default to "theoretical" preferences (how arguments interact to produce a decision) than "substantive" or "ideological" preferences (the merits or “truth” of a position). I don't usually reject arguments as repugnant, but if you run white supremacist positions or crap like that, I might. I'm a lot less politically "lefty" than most circuit types (my real job is defending corporations in court, after all). I distrust conspiracy theories, nonscientific medicine, etc.
I detest the K. I don't understand most philosophy and don't much care to, so most K literature is unintelligible junk to me. (I think Sokal did the world a great service.) I'll listen and process (nonintervention, you know), but I can't guarantee that my understanding of it at the end of the round is going to match yours. I'm especially vulnerable to “no voter” arguments. I’m also predisposed to think that I should vote for an option that actually DOES something to solve a problem. Links are also critical, and “you’re roleplaying as the state” doesn’t seem like a link to me. (It’s a thought experiment, remember.) I’m profoundly uncomfortable with performance debates. I tend not to see how they force a decision. I'll listen, and perhaps be entertained, but need to know why I must vote for it.
T is cool and is usually a limitations issue. I don't require specific in-round abuse--an excessively broad resolution is inherently abusive to negs. K or performance affs are not excused from the burden of being topical. Moreover, why the case is topical probably needs to be explained in traditional debate language--I have a hard time understanding how a dance move or interpretive reading proves T. Ks of T start out at a disadvantage. Some K arguments might justify particular interpretations of the topic, but I have a harder time seeing why they would make T go away. You aren’t topical simply because you’ve identified some great injustice in the world.
Counterplans are cool. Competition is the most important element of the CP debate, and is virtually always an issue of net benefits. Perms are a good test of competition. I don't have really strong theoretical biases on most CP issues. I do prefer that CPs be nontopical, but am easily persuaded it doesn't matter. Perms probably don't need to be topical, and are usually just a test of competitiveness. I think PICs are seldom competitive and might be abusive. All of these things are highly debatable.
Some LD-specific stuff:
Framework is usually unimportant to me. If it needs to be important to you, it’s your burden to tell me how it affects my decision. The whole “philosophy is gibberish” thing still applies in LD. Dense, auto-voter frameworks usually lose me. If you argue some interpretation of the topic that says you automatically win, I’m very susceptible to the response that that makes it a stupid interp I should reject.
LD theory usually comes across as bastardized policy theory. It often doesn’t make sense to me in the context of LD. Disclosure theory seems to me like an elitist demand that the rest of the world conform to circuit norms.
I am more likely to be happy with a disad/counterplan type of LD debate than with an intensely philosophical or critical one. I’ll default to util if I can’t really comprehend how I’m supposed to operate in a different framework.
Feel free to ask about specific issues. I'm happy to provide further explanation of these things or talk about any issues not in this statement.