Alma Nicholson Paradigm

Last changed 15 October 2019 10:42 PM UTC

I am a coach and teacher at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans. I have been involved with debate on the local, regional, and national circuit as a competitor, judge, and coach for more years than I care to put in print.

Non-traditional Debate Warning: If you are looking for a judge that is into non-plan, non-topical K affs, poetry, or other interp affs, I am definitely not the best (or even second best) judge for you. I love a good POI, Oratory, and DI, but I love them in those event categories.

Speed: Once upon a time, I kept a fairly fast and thorough flow. I think that I still keep a good flow, but perhaps not as fast. I am older now (it happens to us all), and my hands hurt a bit more, so I find that I need a little time to warm up to the pace. Another issue concerning speed is that debaters, more often than not, think they are clearer than they actually are. Paperless debate has made this worse. I'll usually try give one "clearer" or "louder" warning per speaker, but after that, either you or your partner had better be paying attention to my facial expressions and whether I’m flowing. I have a terrible poker face, so it will be pretty obvious. If I don’t flow the argument or card text then that argument or card text it is not in the round and I am definitely not going to ask about it. I am inclined to be more impressed with a debater who is clear, efficient, and persuasive who speaks slightly slower than a debater who feels the need to show me their mad spreading skills. In terms of speed and T, theory, and k’s: SLOW DOWN - slow way down (see notes on kritiks). Please read my comments at the end of this page concerning the ever growing negative aspects of paperless debate.

The Role of the Affirmative: I expect the affirmative to advocate the resolution through TOPICAL PLAN action. Yes, the aff must have a plan and it must be clearly stated in the AC. If you want to run a critical aff stating that the resolution is racist, ablest, ageist, or anything else that suggests an unwillingness to affirm the resolution at hand, as written, then I am not going to be a good judge for you. I am possibly willing to listen to a critical aff that advocates the resolution. (Please see my notes on kritiks later). Performance/Project teams will probably find it a challenge to meet my view of the affirmative's role.

Topicality: It’s a voter. I like a good T debate that involves actual evidence and a description of why the aff does not meet the interpretation. The standards debate should include a viable limits argument. Why is the affirmative's interpretation of limits bad for debate? If you are going for ground, make sure you impact why it's a big deal to you in the round, and/or even for debate as a whole. Negative teams who plan to go for topicality should be prepared to go “all in." At best, you could weigh “T” and one other position. You’re unlikely to get much ground or be terribly persuasive if T is one of 3 or 4 positions in the 2NR (And really, why have four positions remaining in the 2NR?). Impact analysis on T is just as important as it is on any other position. Don’t bother to kritik T with me in the room. T is not racist. Do not run RVI’s on T. It is worth noting that a T debate needs to be a bit slower due to its needed explanation, but it does not need to be handled as slowly as a kritik.

Counterplans: Preferably, counterplans are non-topical, which creates a clearer division of ground. Counterplans also need to be clearly competitive. A CP that is basically just steals the plan is probably not competitive and is just stealing ground, but the idea of PICs can be debated in round. Conditional CP’s are probably a bad thing, but the debate as to why must be specific. A clear net benefit is better for competiveness. If going for the CP in the 2NR, the negative does not automatically get the assumption of the Status Quo as the alternative in place of the CP as a voting issue. This choice must be explained in the 2NR. The aff should definitely argue whether the neg can operate in multiple worlds, or must treat the CP as their new advocacy. Note: I find most severance perms abusive. When I have voted on such a perm, it has usually been because the neg mishandled the flow and allowed the aff to get away with it. The neg needs to note that it is the affirmative’s job to advocate their plan, in its entirety, through the 2AR. It is one thing for the Aff to kick an advantage, but it's an entirely different thing to sever part or all of the plan. Affirmatives should not argue that the "neg does not get any fiat." That's ridiculously limiting.

Disadvantages: I’m old school policy, so I like disads. Disads should have a comparable risk to the net benefits of the AC and/or serve as a net benefit to the CP. There should be a significant link debate (offense/defense) and a clear impact calculus. I hate it when teams wait until the 2NR/2AR to finally weigh the impacts. Reading more cards is not weighing an impact; it’s just reading more cards. An impact calculus requires clear analysis. I will put as much effort into weighing the disad risk as a decision calculus as you spend trying to persuade me that the argument is worth the vote.

Kritiks: Despite Newman having a new director that is well known for his love of the K, I have not grown to love kritiks. This is definitely true in terms of non-topical K affs and neg kritiks that probably have little to do with the actual plan. Some teams have become overly reliant upon them (running the same position every single year) and use them to avoid having to debate the topic or debate policies they don’t like. I find that most kritiks have ambiguous implications at best and the alternative (if there is one) is often not an alternative at all. I have found myself voting for some of these arguments, despite my not even understanding the position, because the other team failed to explain clearly why the argument has little bearing in the round or fails to point out the shortcomings of the alt. You should also be aware that I most likely have not read the critical literature you are referencing and citing. I have a rudimentary understanding of philosophy. I was not a philosophy major. I do not plan to go back to graduate school to study philosophy. If you plan to run any critical positions in my presence, you must do the following:

1) Slow Down. Really. Slow. Down. I mean conversational speed slow down

2) Explain your position clearly – no blippy tag lines or argument extensions

3) Have a specific link

4) Have a clear alternative – something more tangible than “being part of the ___ mindset," “avoiding the evils of capitalism,” or "do nothing." Huh??

Despite my personal disposition on the kritiks, the opposing team will still need to say more than “The K is bringing down policy and should go away.”

Performance/Project Debates: I’m still a cost-benefits analysis policy judge at heart. I have not changed my mind on the position that performance/project positions leave little ground for the opposing team. I have no idea how to weigh your performance against the other team’s position (performance or traditional) for the purposes of winning a debate.

Cross Ex: CX is important for fleshing out a strategy and provide clarification of arguments; I generally think that answers in cross ex are binding. I actually listen to cross ex, often take notes and even find it interesting. I also find it not that interesting on many occasions. Tag team CX is okay, but avoid taking it over. Not being able to handle your cross ex will result in lower speaker points. Taking over a partner’s CX will also result in lower speaks. CX starts when the speaker is finished. If you need 30 seconds to “set up” then that will come out of prep.

Role of the Ballot: My ballot determines who wins the round. That is all. If you win, you are (perhaps) one round closer to clearing. If you lose, you are (perhaps) one round closer to not clearing. My ballot does not send a message to the debate community; it is not a teaching tool; it is not an endorsement of a particular action or philosophy.

Theory: Save theory debates for when they really need needed and warranted. Too many debaters are running theory as their “go to” argument. Debating theory as a "default" argument every round cheapens the arguments and makes judges less likely to take them seriously. Do not run any theory arguments against Topicality (see above).

Miscellaneous:

Paperless Debate: Speaking style has simply become worse with paperless debate. Card reading has become choppy, debaters have problems toggling back and forth on the computer, debaters are taking liberties with prep while flashing or emailing speech docs, and instead of flowing the arguments as they are being presented, debaters are back-flowing from flashed material that may or may not have actually made it into the speech. Some judges have resorted to reading the email chain. These are all poor debate practices. Teams are saving paper and tons of money when flying, but debates have become sloppy.

Prep Time: Your prep ends when you have finished loading the flash drive and hand it off to the opposing team. If an email chain is set up, your prep ends when you hit “send.” This means that you are standing up to speak. If you start conversing with your partner, I will continue to run prep and I will probably dock your speaks for stealing prep.

Flowing: Do it. Follow the flow, not the “flashed” cards. Do not mess up my flow!!

Label Arguments: “First off, A-uniqueness” is not a label for my flow. Label each off case – every single one of them. When you move to the case debate, be clear as to where you are and when you are moving on to another advantage, etc. This is also true for the 1A; the AC needs to be crystal clear.

Reading Cards Post Round: I rarely do so. To get me to read a card requires a specific request during your speech and an explanation as to why and what I am looking for exactly. If I am part of the email chain, this does not mean I am automatically going to read cards. If I call for a card without you requesting it or go to the email chain without direction then something was so unclear that I felt I had no choice. This presents an opportunity to intervene, which I do not like doing if I can avoid it.

Card Clipping: It’s cheating. Don’t do it. If an accusation is brought up in the round, I will take it seriously (even stop the round if necessary). If you bring it up as an accusation, you need to be darn certain you are correct. Be clear where you stop reading a card if you do not finish. "Stop card" is probably not clear enough.

As we say in New Orleans, “Be Nice or Leave”. It is fine to be competitive, but have fun. You are competitors in the round, but you should be friends outside of the round. Being a jerk in the round will not lead to friendships and it will definitely hurt your speaker points.

Full Judging Record

Tournament Lv Date Ev Rd Aff Neg Vote Result
National Speech and Debate Tournament HS 2020-06-12 XDB R4 K326 K390 Neg
National Speech and Debate Tournament HS 2020-06-12 XDB R4 K213 K381 Neg
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2020-02-15 JVCX Double ADL ChCh Davis Senior CX Neg Neg 3-0
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2020-02-15 JVCX R5 Cypress Bay DI BASIS Chandler DV Neg
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2020-02-15 JVCX R4 Lowell MS Sonoma MG Neg
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2020-02-15 JVCX R2 Sonoma JA ADL CC Aff
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2020-02-15 JVCX R1 Mira Loma JY Dougherty Valley SR Aff
New York City Invitational Debate and Speech Tournament HS 2019-10-18 CX R3 Perry LA Edgemont KS Aff
New York City Invitational Debate and Speech Tournament HS 2019-10-18 CX R2 Cypress Bay LR Damien BD Aff
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2018-02-17 VCX Double Bellarmine College Prep TJ College Prep CM Aff Neg 2-1
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2018-02-17 VCX Triple McQueen RR Damien BJ Neg Aff 2-1
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2018-02-17 VCX R5 McQueen RR New Trier AK Aff
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2018-02-17 VCX R2 James Logan MS Northwood GH Neg
Golden Desert Debate Tournament at UNLV HS 2018-02-03 NCX Quarte Rowland Hall LB Damien TD Aff Aff 2-1
Golden Desert Debate Tournament at UNLV HS 2018-02-03 NCX R5 Juan Diego Catholic ST Notre Dame GN Neg
Golden Desert Debate Tournament at UNLV HS 2018-02-03 NCX R4 Notre Dame AD Meadows SR Neg
Golden Desert Debate Tournament at UNLV HS 2018-02-03 NCX R3 SLC West SC Rowland Hall SL Neg
Golden Desert Debate Tournament at UNLV HS 2018-02-03 NCX R2 Damien TD Coronado RL Aff
Golden Desert Debate Tournament at UNLV HS 2018-02-03 NCX R1 Rosemont JW SLC West SA Neg
Lexington Winter Invitational HS 2018-01-13 VCX R6 Lexington HT Edgemont BP Aff
Lexington Winter Invitational HS 2018-01-13 VCX R5 Boston Latin FM Strath Haven DL Neg
Lexington Winter Invitational HS 2018-01-13 VCX R4 TechBoston IJ Strath Haven SW Neg
University of Michigan HS Debate Tournament HS 2017-11-01 SRR RR7 Cypress Bay Lance Kotler & Tyler Kotler Whitney Young Keren Gekker & Brandon Puchowitz Aff
University of Michigan HS Debate Tournament HS 2017-11-01 JRR RR7 Northside CP Magi Ortiz & Alex Pinheiro Glenbrook South Michael Scott & Dylan Goldberg Neg
University of Michigan HS Debate Tournament HS 2017-11-01 JRR RR3 Cypress Bay Miles Berger & Shrenik Bhansali Niles West Eliana Bender & Dylan Chikko Aff
University of Michigan HS Debate Tournament HS 2017-11-01 JRR RR1 Whitney Young Catherine Jacob & Dorothy Tarasul Lexington Devanshi Bhangle & Talia Blatt Neg
New York City Invitational Debate and Speech Tournament HS 2017-10-13 CX Octofi Gulliver Prep GP Lexington LT Neg Neg 3-0
New York City Invitational Debate and Speech Tournament HS 2017-10-13 CX R4 Marquette Univ MS Edgemont TT Aff
New York City Invitational Debate and Speech Tournament HS 2017-10-13 CX R3 Mamaroneck SW Newark Tech GM Aff
New York City Invitational Debate and Speech Tournament HS 2017-10-13 CX R1 McQueen RC Bronx HS Of Science RC Aff
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2017-09-16 CX R6 Kinkaid PS Kent Denver JL Aff
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2017-09-16 CX R5 Kapaun Mount Carmel LP McQueen RR Aff
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2017-09-16 CX R2 Emporia HP Blue Valley Southwest KL Neg
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2017-02-18 VCX Triple Montgomery Bell BH Oregon Episcopal LR Aff Aff 2-1
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2017-02-18 VCX R3 New Trier SE Downtown Magnets CP Aff
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2017-02-18 VCX R2 Portland Independent SK Niles North CG Aff
Cal Invitational UC Berkeley HS 2017-02-18 VCX R1 New Trier BW Kent Denver HW Aff
New York City Invitational Debate and Speech Tournament HS 2016-10-14 CX R3 Cypress Bay VK University CE Aff
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2016-09-18 CX R5 Glenbrook South SB Kapaun Mount Carmel EH Aff
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2016-09-18 CX R4 St. Peter's Classical Ru Kent Denver HM Neg
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2016-09-18 CX R3 Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart DP Jesuit CP LV Aff
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2016-09-18 CX R2 Damien MP Niles North WM Aff
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2016-09-18 CX R1 Niles North BL Damien YR Aff
Policy Early Bird at Wake Forest HS 2016-09-03 Var R6 Westminster Schools-Atlanta RM Chattahoochee JN Aff
Policy Early Bird at Wake Forest HS 2016-09-03 Var R5 Georgetown Day FC Chattahoochee KV Aff
Cal Invitational at Berkeley HS Tournament HS 2016-02-13 VCX R5 Alliance Stern Math and Science AV Jesuit CP LV Neg
Cal Invitational at Berkeley HS Tournament HS 2016-02-13 VCX R4 James Logan SB Bingham SS Neg
Cal Invitational at Berkeley HS Tournament HS 2016-02-13 VCX R2 Cherry Creek GL Leland YD Neg
Cal Invitational at Berkeley HS Tournament HS 2016-02-13 VCX R1 Jesuit CP HL Kinkaid BY Aff
Barkley Forum for High Schools HS 2016-01-29 PEL R6 Rowland Hall-St. Mark's BB Henry W. Grady CW Aff
Barkley Forum for High Schools HS 2016-01-29 PEL R5 Paideia RH Northview JK Aff
Samford University Bishop Guild HS 2016-01-08 NCX R5 USN FD Chattahoochee DS Aff
Samford University Bishop Guild HS 2016-01-08 VCX R4 Marist ES Mountain Brook WS Aff
Samford University Bishop Guild HS 2016-01-08 VCX R1 Marist AV Milton HH Neg
Chattahoochee Cougar Classic HS 2015-09-25 JVP R5 Montgomery Bell Mudter & Renkis Woodward Farley & Roberts Aff
Chattahoochee Cougar Classic HS 2015-09-25 VP R4 Woodward Abdullah & Srinivasan Johns Creek Deng & Logan Neg
Chattahoochee Cougar Classic HS 2015-09-25 NP R1 Paideia Tram & Harrington University School of Nashville Dasari & Laibinis Neg
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2015-09-19 CX R6 TriVal LL CarSch PT Aff
Greenhill Fall Classic HS 2015-09-19 CX R3 GleSou RS Grapev SP Aff
University of Michigan H.S. Debate Tournament HS 2012-11-02 NCX nov 6 CarSch MT NilWes GS Neg
University of Michigan H.S. Debate Tournament HS 2012-11-02 NCX nov 2 DowCat MT AnnArb HM Aff
University of Michigan H.S. Debate Tournament HS 2012-11-02 NCX nov 1 CarSch QT DowCat KM Aff