Director of Speech & Debate
Charlotte Latin School
Updated: January, 26, 2020
Public Forum Debate Paradigm
Emory 2020 update: I will drop you with haste if you run theory in front of me.
TL;DR - Explicitly weigh and you can go kinda fast.
If you don't do it I'll try to vote on the arguments allocated the most time in the round, but I reserve the right to decide what's most important all on my own in the absence of arguments about which ones truly are. I'm a moderate on speed; doesn't have to be conversational, but my flowing definitely gets weak at top speed. If you won't think me an idiot for admitting what is true of every judge, my processing of a few, well developed arguments will be better than many underdeveloped ones.
Random thoughts on the state of the art:
- It doesn't absolutely have to have been in summary for it to be in final focus, but I definitely think that's best practice.
- Don't card dump in rebuttal. Don't read a new contention disguised as a response. If your opponents do this call them out for it and I'll drop the argument.
- I won't charge either team prep when cards are called for, but your prep time does begin once you're handed the evidence. Hand your opponent your device with the exact content they asked for displayed.
- Paraphrasing isn't the devil, but be ethical. It's essential you have the underlying text readily available (per the rules, ya know).
- I think case disclosure is ok. I distrust that this is really about enhancing education and suspect it's more often about enabling a school's war room to prep everyone out. Please don't read me disclosure theory in PF.
- I'd rather not shake your hand. It's just too much.
Public Forum lives in limbo between its Policy and Lincoln-Douglas counterparts. Frankly, one of the great things about being involved in the event right now is the lack of choking orthodoxy (which paradoxically really only tries to be as unorthodox as possible) to which our cousins in CX and LD have subjected themselves. (What a fun sentence!) Directly charged with neither the task of advocating a plan to execute a policy nor with advocating a particular value structure, as an emerging community we are only just now figuring out how to articulate what exactly debaters are supposed to be doing in Public Forum rounds. I certainly do not have the definitive answer to that question, but my best description of the event is that it is meant to be a policy-rationale debate. Public Forum debate at its best calls for a momentary suspension of the considerations of exactly how (i.e., a plan) to execute a policy and instead debating the rationale for changing/not changing the status quo. Allow me to qualify: I am not suggesting that Public Forum should systematically exclude all consideration of how policy would be executed (occasional assumptions about how the policy would unfold in the context of today’s America have a place in-round), but rather I am attempting to define appropriate parameters for Public Forum. If you've made it this far, you might also find some thoughts in my LD paradigm useful.
Lincoln-Douglas Debate Paradigm
I have remarkably low-self esteem as a Lincoln-Douglas Debate critic. I think I’m a good coach and possess somewhat above-average intelligence, but the gobbledygook that passes for “debate” in most circuit LD rounds I’ve seen is either A) so complicated and over my head that I should rethink those assumptions about myself or B) such a poor excuse for an intellectually honest discussion of the resolution that I’m glad to be an outsider in your realm. If I’m in the pool at a meaningful LD tournament it means that I’m doing a coaching friend a favor, failed to successfully hire out my commitment, or a terrible mistake of some kind has been made. I will almost certainly look miserable at the back of the room. Because I am.
As terribly negative as that sounds, I do on occasion find Lincoln-Douglas debates to be fulfilling and invigorating. What is it that can make me happy? Well, I suppose that’s what you’d like for me to attempt to articulate here. So here I go.
Speed – This is usually the only thing you ask about before you start debating. I do not believe that rate of delivery must be conversational and I will try to keep up with you. My pen can reasonably keep up, but since I don’t coach LD at a circuit-level full-time, and since I haven’t read the theory/critical literature that you want to throw at me at 500 words per minute, I’m probably not going to be very successful in evaluating it at the end of the round if you do go circuit-fast. You’ll see the frustration on my face if you ever look up. I can only vote on what I was able to process.
Framework – I do need you to articulate some weighing mechanism or decision-making calculus before you hit me with your case. I don’t care what you call it or what form it takes, but it does need to be clear, and the less variables you put into it the more comprehensible my decision will be at the end of the round. I tend to prefer specificity in criteria. If you never address this then what choice do I have but to arbitrarily decide? By that I mean don’t just put some nebulous, overly broad value at the top of your case and then never reference it. That’s just some vestigial relic from the way things were in LD 20 years ago. Then you’ll need to win why it’s preferable to use your weighing mechanism. Then just evaluate the arguments in the round (that’s “link back” I think in your vernacular) by that standard. If you do these things well and in a manner I can understand, you’re going to win.
Theory – I have opinions about what debate ought to be. You have opinions about what debate ought to be. Everyone has opinions about what debate ought to be. They differ wildly. I suppose then that I’m obligated to evaluating your arguments about how this activity should take place and to being open-minded about what best practices really are. But like everyone else, I have my personal biases and preferences and it’s going to be difficult to dislodge me from them. I prefer straightforward debate with comparison of the impacts in a world for which the resolution is or is not true. Now, you’re going to read that and think that I’m some sort of horrible “Truth seeker” judge. No. I just want to hear a debate of the resolution itself, not an advocacy primarily about what the educational value of debate is, some tenuous application of fringe academic theories, or some significant variation on the resolution that you wish to debate instead. That means I’m highly likely to accept some very simple topicality analysis as an answer when your opponent does any of these things. I like the way Joe Vaughan put it many years ago in an old version of his paradigm (I liked it so much I saved it), “I am open to a variety of different types of argumentation (kritiks, counterplans, et cetera), but only if such positions are linked specifically to a reasonable interpretation of the topic and are not an attempt to fundamentally change the focus of the issues intended by the framing of the resolution. Arguments that are only tangential to the conflict embedded in the resolution and shift the focus of the round to the validity of alternative philosophies are difficult for me to accept if challenged sufficiently.”
Disclaimer – While I deeply value winning as a worthwhile goal of debate, I am still also responsible for being a (albeit flawed) role model and an educator. If you are so profoundly rude or callous towards your opponent, or anyone in the community at any time for that matter, I reserve the right to drop you for that. I don’t have to accept all possible behaviors just because this is a game where we play with ideas.
Policy Debate Paradigm
I know the names of all the stock issues. I am a native speaker of English. I promise to try my best to be attentive and fair. Those are the only possible qualifications I have to be sitting in the back of your room (at least at any tournament important enough for you to be checking here for a paradigm). Go complain to the tab room immediately. I already tried and they didn't listen to me.
Past School Affiliations
Director of Forensics, Charlotte Latin School 2013-present
Director of Congressional Debate & Individual Events, The Harker School, San Jose, CA, 2009-2013
Director of Forensics, Manchester Essex Regional HS, Manchester, MA, 2007-2009
Director of Forensics, East Chapel Hill HS, Chapel Hill, NC, 2002-2007
Assistant Speech & Debate Coach, East Chapel Hill HS, Chapel Hill, NC, 2000-2002
Student (Primary Event: Congressional Debate), South View HS, Hope Mills, NC, 1996-2000
Co-Founder & Co-Director, The Institute for Speech and Debate, Boulder, CO, Charlotte, NC & Fort Lauderdale, FL 2013-present
Director, Congressional Debate & Individual Events, University of California National Forensics Institute, Berkeley, CA 2012-2013
Director, Public Forum Debate, Capitol Debate Institute, Baltimore, MD 2011-2012
Instructor, Public Forum Debate, Harvard Debate Institute, Boston MA 2010
Instructor, Public Forum Debate, National Debate Forum, Boston, MA, 2008-2009
Instructor, Public Forum Debate, National Debate Forum, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 2009
Director, Public Forum Debate, University of Kentucky National Debate Institute, Lexington, KY, 2008
Director, Public Forum Debate, Florida Forensic Institute, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 2007
Instructor, Congressional Debate, Florida Forensic Institute, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 2006
Director, Congressional Debate, Research Triangle Forensics Institute, Cary, NC, 2003-2005