Austin Fracchia ParadigmLast changed 1/8 12:40P MDT
A mandatory sentence about me: I did speech and debate for three years in my high school prime; was trained in classical rhetoric at the University of Colorado; and am currently a coach on the Niwot High School forensics team. I've had to reflect on whether I judge debate based on how I did it back in the day, or my understanding of argumentation now. These days, I take an old school understanding of argumentation/debate to heart, and as a result, judge accordingly. For all practical purposes, I treat debate as a rhetorical process.
Aristotle defined rhetoric to be "finding the available means of persuasion". To me, high school debates are no different. I will judge you by how you persuade me in your attempt to satisfy your burden. "How well you persuade me" doesn't necessarily mean "how well". I am an extremely biased person. As a judge, I don't care so much as if you manage to convince me of one side or the other because that outcome largely depends on whether I initially agree or disagree with each particular side of a debate. I care about how you go about trying to persuade me. So, here's some rhetorical criteria I use to judge:
1. Logos is only part of the package. I will be assessing the structure and content of your arguments as much as the next guy, but unless you have a pair of pointy ears, I'll be looking for more. Ethos is a very big deal: what kind of character you present in terms of your personal ethics, and what kind of credibility you display through your research, citations, and general preparedness will be important. Pathos is also a requirement: how effectively are you supporting your arguments with the necessary emotional appeals to actually persuade a human being?
2. I look for creative topoi: unique but relevant sources of argumentation. Basically, if you are giving me the typical stock case or debate brief arguments, that will have an impact on me. Having a good value, criterion, and contentions is only the prerequisite for debate.
3. This is still a speech event: delivery matters. I am more than capable of flowing at spreading speeds, but I will begin to analyze your purpose for speed. Are you nervous? Are you trying to outpace your opponent? Do you have so much content and very little word economy?
4. I am a firm believer in the Greek notion of kairos, or acting at the opportune time. Basically, it comes down to this: there is a time and a place for most things; arguments and argumentative strategies included. I look for the debater who demonstrates recognize and act on opportune moments within the debate. A basic example of this is acting on dropped arguments.
5. Finally, and more importantly, don't leave me to connect the dots. Enthymemes and quasi-logical arguments only leave cracks for interpretation open. So, minimize your assumptions, walk me through your arguments, and make sure everything you do and say has rhetorical value to your overall goal.
Alright then. Other than that: good luck, may the Force be with you, and may the odds be ever in your favor.
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