John Tao ParadigmLast changed 1/15 11:09A CDT
- Nationally ranked high school debater (2004- 2006)
- Former Director of Debate at IUPUI (2009- 2012)
- Former Director of Debate at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign (2013-2015)
- Volunteer Judge for the CUDL 4+ years
- Chicago Debate Summer Institute Instructor (Summer 2015)
- Solorio HS Coach (2015- Present)
- Milwaukee Debate Legue Executive Director (2017- Present)
TL;DR (The "Round Starts in 2 minutes, Who is this judge?!") *
- Speed: Fine
- Line-by-line: Always
- Signpost: Always
- Roadmap: Yes, off the clock
- Tag Team: Meh
- Default paradigm: Policymaker
- Theory: Great
- T: Lovely
- K: Fine
- Framework: Meh
- CP: Competitive
- DA: Awesome
- Case: Fantastic
- Analysis: Necessary
- Debate Formality: Meh
Longer Form (The "Oh, there's time and we should probably see what this judge is all about")*
I'm comfortable with speed. But, with that said you need to be clear, you ideally do not do weird distracting things (like GASPS of air), you ideally slow down on tags, you ideally slow down when reading plan text/advocacy statement.
I ultimately flow based on what I hear within a round regardless of what you think you may or may not have said. I will "clear" you if you are egregiously unintelligible but that's probably a bad sign if I need to do that. If after I "clear" you and I still find myself struggling significantly with quality of presentation I will literally stop flowing for as long as I need to. With all of that said though, I do have a fairly high tolerance for speed.
There is one more important caveat I think it's necessary to say here: if you are able to spread and your opponents are clearly not able to handle it (e.g. literally cannot flow) I expect you to adapt to the round (i.e. do not steamroll a team because you are able to overwhelm them with quantity of arguments). Speed is a tool in the world of debate and I fully expect you to use it but not at the point where it becomes abusive for the other team and takes away from the educational value of the round for all parties.
Please try your best to stick to the structures of the round. Please do your best to frame your arguments in the "They say but we say" structure. Even if things get messy, please do your best to consolidate, group, or summarize arugments together and respond to them in a clear manner. Try and not jump all over the place.
With all of that said, I think this is a skill that all debaters aspire for. Sometimes rounds get messy and all I really do is ask that you do your best to try and line up your arguments as best as you can. The effort is important at the end of the day. I know all judges like a clean line-by-line, and I know that it can get lost in the moment, so... all I ask is that you try your best (cause, let's be honest, is there going to be a judge that ever says "No line-by-line"?)
Part and parcel with the idea of line-by-line format is signposts. I think it's incredibly important for teams to make sure they give proper sign posts. Give me a remider of where you are, let me know where I should be flowing, let me know what's going on. Give me a sign that you're about to move to the next card (usually a "AND NEXT" is a good indicator). Signposts help keep you organized, help your opponent stay organized, and helps the judge stay organized. It's an important skill to have... and all I ask is that you try your best.
Please. There are four things I've been seeing that drive me absolutely insane - and apparently there's enough for me to even write about it.
1) Roadmapping the 1AC. Don't do it. It's not necessary. It's not a thing.
2) Asking if I want a roadmap. The answer is YES. The answer is always YES (with the exception of the 1AC, because, once again, don't do it).
3) 1NC roadmap - just tell me how many off, and then where you plan on going on. Don't tell me what the Off cases are, that's not necessary.
4) Roadmap by being clear and concise: "DA, K, Case in order of solvency then advantage one." Do not roadmap: "I'm going to go a little bit on solvency, and then maybe the K...and if I have time maybe the DA...."
Tag teaming is okay as long as 1) the other team is okay with it and 2) as long as it is not abused. The person being questioned should be responding to a majority of the questions. The partner should be able to help but should absolutely not be dominating the cross-ex. Keep it minimal if you are not "standing up" during cross.
I like policy rounds. I think debate is a forum for analyzing policy so my default is always to be a policy maker. But, with that said, I've been engaged in this activity enough that I also just see it as a free-form open game space for debaters to discuss whatever issues, in whatever format they want to. If you are making arguments that deviate outside of the traditional policy arguments that's totally cool! I'm down (with caveats I'll explain on each specific argument below) but you need to give me a paradigm to judge in otherwise it probably won't go in your favor (or at least it'll be more of an upward climb).
I used to debate theory all the time. I don't think abuse necessarily has to be proven within a round to win this argument. I do think you need to make well articulated, well warranted, well impacted out arguments though. I am more on the side of rejecting the argument and not the team but depending on the flow of the round I can be convinced otherwise. I think a well run theory argument is something a debater can fill a full 8 minutes with, if necessary. That is the level of analysis I love for theory. The quick 10s blips are not particularly compelling.
Okay. I really do like Ks. BUT I need to see that the team running it (whether as a negative argument or aff advocacy statement) has a very good understanding of the Kritikal arguments. I think too many K cards are incredibly power tagged and full of unnecessary jargon. Keep things simple, pretend I've never heard of your literature/author, and explain it to me, do not assume I know your literature or author. For example, if you use the term "war machine" repeatedly but never explain what the "war machine" is, I will not do the mental work for you. You need to at a minimum explain it in the beginning of your speech. I think the K debate ultimately is made or broken at the link level -- generic Ks will not really do that much for me. I want to see that you understand the K you are running, and that you can actually find specific, concrete links, into your opponents' arguments.
Second, I think alternatives should actually be viable alternatives. Tell me what the altnerative is and show me how it can work. I think that should come without saying but often I hear alternatives that don't necessarily connect with the thesis of the K or ultimately just don't make sense. If the argument does not make sense then I will very unlikely vote for it.
Framework arguments are kind of boring these days to be honest. Try and keep it interesting by being specific. Show me how the framework interacts with the rest of your arguments. Explain to me how your framework works. Give me analysis, bring it outside of the world of generic cards and let me know how the framework works within the round we are in.
Ideally CPs are non-topical and competitive. I think they are viable options but there needs to be a clear solvency story presented and particularly good impact analysis to balance the world of the plan against the world of the counter plan.
DAs are great. The more specific the better. Generic DAs happen, of course, but the better the link story the better. If you can give me a good DA to the case then you have a significant chance of being able to win the round but it has to be well articulated, it has to be well warranted, it has to be well impacted out against the world of the plan.
Let's be real, the more specific case arguments you can make the better. Who doesn't like clash and actually engaging in the arguments?
Give me analysis. It's not good enough to give me impact calculus in the form of magnitude, timeframe, and significance. I need to understand how you reach the world of the impacts. I need to understand why the impacts are even a possibility. The magnitude, timeframe, and significance formula is fine and all but I need much more than that.
I may or may not run a timer at the back of the room and I strongly prefer both teams time themselves. I don't really care where you're speaking from. I'm not particularly formal about the rounds.
* I reserve the right to modify my paradigm based upon how much coffee I've had, my understanding of your team's argument tool kit (e.g. if your coach believes (s)he is the President when evaluating rounds I will hold any team from any such school to a higher expectation that the debaters' default actor for any plan is Executive unless I am specifically told otherwise), and any number of factors. If there is anything confusing, anything you're unsure of, please feel free to ask me before the round begins. It can only be a benefit for you.
~ A comment on speaker points if I am judging a Wisconsin, non-national circuit tournament. My default speaker point calibration is set to a 28.1 in accordance with national debate trends. Within the state of Wisconsin I have traditionally held an average of 27.5/28 with the idea that points should not and cannot go lower than a 25 (as a matter of custom and as a matter of rule at many tournaments since at least 2002). However, I have recently seen ballots within the state of Wisconsin where points within the low 20s (e.g. "23") seem to be acceptable and endorsed by the state. With that in mind, I am specifically calibrating my average point distribution to a 26 to ensure consistency with state practices.