Ryan Malone Paradigm
This is unconscionably long, but I’ve tried to be thorough and not too self-indulgent.
How I make decisions
1. After the 2ar I review 2nr and 2ar arguments and their comportment with the block and 1ar. Unless there are arguments about how I should or should not flow, I appreciate when debaters are attentive to line-by-line, but I understand that strategy sometimes calls one to deviate from it. When that occurs, I am less likely to line up arguments in the same way as you may want me to.
2. While doing that, I clarify shorthand and mark out things that aren’t arguments. There is a difference between arguments and nascent things that purport to be arguments. It’s not that I have some ultra-strenuous “not buying it” threshold. We don't need to talk about Toulmin--an argument is really anything that could inform a decision. Marking out non-arguments staves off the temptation to embellish not-quite-arguments, especially those that, if they had been full arguments, would be compelling, strategic, or make for an easy decision.
3. I then look to arguments the 2nr and 2ar say are the most important and other arguments that appear central to the debate or that may supplant opposing lines of reasoning. The last part may seem to imply a premium on the meta, but rarely are debates leveraged on Archimedean points.
4. If necessary, I read evidence. I don’t follow along in speech docs or look at speeches in more than a cursory way prior to the end of the debate, with perhaps the exception of interpretations and counterplan texts. I will read a piece of evidence if there is contestation about its quality, applicability, or illocution, if I am asked to compare two pieces of evidence or a piece of evidence and a countervailing explanation, or if some argument is dense and, despite good explanation, I’m just not following. My concern is that the more evidence a judge reads without specific reason, the more they may reward good evidence read sloppily over clear, persuasive argumentation and risk reconstructing the debate along those lines.
5. I hash out the above (it’s hard to adumbrate this in a way that’s not super vague) and I get something resembling a decision. I run through a few even-if scenarios: what, if any, central arguments the losing team could have won, but still lose the debate, and what arguments the winning team would have had to lose or the losing team would have had to win for the losing team to win the debate. Finally, I review the flow again to make sure my decision is firmly based in the 2nr and 2ar and that there is nothing I’ve missed.
6. I decide theory and independent issues last for the team that needs it to win, e.g. if 2nr goes for a PIK and 2ar answers the PIK and PIKs theory, I will evaluate the PIK first and, only if the affirmative would otherwise lose, then evaluate PIKs theory. Mostly, this is so I can talk about more than theory in the rfd.
List of predispositions and foibles
The following is assiduously believed, but weakly held. If contested, I will defer to arguments made by debaters—my goal is to intervene as little as possible, honest. A lot of this is super basic and in line with community norms. I just want to be transparent about how I filter some arguments.
1. Framework. While I think affirmatives are generally more interesting and give better framework answers when they have a novel way of affirming or criticizing the resolution, I’m agnostic about what, if any, necessary relationship there ought to be between the 1ac and the resolution.
Even if fairness is intrinsically valuable, by which I mean fairness is valuable regardless of relation, I’m unsure how valuable procedural fairness is, in and of itself. Because of that fairness arguments make more sense to me as internal links rather than impacts.
Sound topical versions are under-utilized.
Occasionally, framework arguments imply that a decision is precedent-setting. I wonder how much of that is a vestige of a punishment paradigm approach to framework and topicality. Unless an argument about future debates/precedence or other arguments about the meta-ish purpose of framework are made, I take framework to be about comparing the desirability of divergent approaches to the debate at hand. In effect this means I’m squirm-ish about paring precedent/other meta-purpose of framework arguments with quasi-jurisdictional arguments like, “vote for the interpretation the ballot can best resolves the harms of.” Either argument may be valid, it’s just weird to say a decision has some beyond-round effect, while also being limited to what a W can resolve.
2. Offense/Defense. Defensive arguments are generally factual determinations, e.g. single payer is (un)likely to solve health disparities, whereas offensive arguments characterize factual determinations or attest to their desirability, e.g. health disparities are bad. Given that, it's difficult for me to evaluate debates in terms other than offense/defense because factual determinations alone can't sustain a decision. Phrased differently, my initial thinking is that a decision needs something like an ethic, implicit or otherwise.
3. Risk. It seems more realistic to talk about the negligibility of a risk either in and of itself or vis a vis another team’s impact, instead of totally-nullified-zero-% risk. Defense-heavy responses would seem to benefit from arguments about how risk should be assessed and problems with the other team’s assessment.
4. Assessing component parts of a disad and assessing “risk of the disad” seem different. Hypo: negative’s argument that the affirmative detrimentally affects pharmaceutical R&D is uncontested, but the affirmative arguments that the risk of the affirmative negatively affecting pharmaceutical R&D to the extent that it results in pandemics that would otherwise be averted is so low as to be negligible are also uncontested; there are some defensive arguments about the internal link and impact. Who wins? Almost always the affirmative because though the negative has incontrovertibly won that there is a risk of the disad, they have likely not proven that that risk is either non-negligible or outweighs the benefits or redressed impact of the affirmative under the prevailing means of impact assessment, i.e. the affirmative’s.
5. Competing impact assessments. Proving comparative qualities of an impact—it’s bigger, more likely, less reversible, etc.—is helpful when comparing impacts that are similar, like different armed conflicts. Those means of comparison seem way less useful when the compared impacts are totally different, like armed conflict and death induced by poverty, pollution, inadequate healthcare and nutrition, stress, etc. At that point the whole TPM triad seems only to describe obvious differences, rather than provide reasons why one impact ought to be prioritized over the other. When very different impacts are compared it’s helpful when debaters more thoroughly argue why their way of assessing impacts is preferable.
6. Presumption arguments seem to usually mean one or more of the following: (1) the affirmative has not met the burden of a prima facie case; (2) all arguments being equal, the judge should default to the most parsimonious option, even if presumption flips affirmative; (3) the affirmative does not present a reason to vote affirmative. (3) is different from arguments that affirmative solvency is terrabad or that the affirmative “doesn’t do anything,” but may extend to, for example, an affirmative that (a) takes the resolution to be the question “Will the United States Federal Government establish national health insurance in the United States?” and says yes, the U.S. will, (b) lists the relevant parties and considerations in establishing national health insurance, or (c) merely interprets the resolution. (As a subset, we could imagine a per se case where the affirmative reads the resolution as a plan which, in effect, gives a federal interpretation of the resolution. It’s difficult to say if this violates (1), (3), or both.)
7. I won’t kick the CP or alternative unless instructed to by the 2nr.
How I give decisions
In a rfd I try to do roughly three things: (1) give a satisfactory explanation of why I voted the way I did, including identifying arguments that, had they gone the other way, would have altered the decision, (2) give a sense of how your arguments resonated with me, what I found confusing, compelling, clever, etc., and (3) give suggestions about how arguments could have been better deployed in the debate.
I largely think debaters know their arguments better than I do and so I’m reticent to give more general advice that is tantamount to argument coaching, unless asked to do so.
Occasionally, I read as kind of curt or lacking in affect. If you’ve engaged in the debate diligently, sincerely, with purpose or conviction, or in a way that is novel, you’ve earned your due and then some and I will be glad to be there.
I will comply with any tournament rules regarding decision time, speaker points, W/L assignment, etc. Any request not to be recorded or videotaped should be honored. If proven, clipping, cross-reading, or deceitfully manufacturing or altering evidence will result in a loss and zero speaker points. Unlike wit, sass, and tasteful self-effacement, bald-faced meanness will negatively affect speaker points.
Debated at Texas 2011-2015
Coach at Texas 2016-present
J.D./M.A. at GSU 2017-present
Some people I think are good critics: Teddy Albiniak, Sarah Lundeen, Gabe Murillo, Amber Kelsie, and Sean Kennedy.
Please feel free to email me if you have questions or concerns.