David Zin ParadigmLast changed 11/24 2:59P EDT
Debate Coach, Okemos High School
Quick version: If you want to run it, justify it and win it and I'll go for it. I tend to think the resolution is the focus (rather than the plan), but have yet to see a high school round where that was a point with which anybody took issue or advantage. I like succinct tags, but there should be an explanation/warrant or evidence after them. I do pine for the days when debaters would at least say something like "next" when moving from one argument to another. If you run a critical argument, explain it--don't assume I understand the nuances or jargon of your theory. Similarly, the few critical debaters who have delivered succinct tags on their evidence to me have been well-rewarded. Maybe I'm a dinosaur, but I can't flow your 55-70 word tag, and the parts I get might not be the parts you want. I think all four debaters are intelligent beings, so don't be rude to your opponent or your partner, and try not to make c-x a free-for-all, or an opportunity for you to mow over your partner. I like the final rebuttals to compare and evaluate, not just say "we beat on time-frame and magnitude"--give me some explanation, and don't assume you are winning everything on the flow. Anything else, just ask.
The longer version: I'm a dinosaur. I debated in college more than 30 years ago. I coached at Michigan State University for 5 years. I'm old enough I might have coached or debated your parents. I got back into debate because I wanted my children to learn debate.
That history is relevant because I am potentially neither as fast a flow as I used to be (rest assured, you needn't pretend the round is after-dinner speaking) and for years I did not kept pace with many of the argumentative developments that occurred. I know and understand a number of K's, but if you make the assumption I am intimately familiar with some aspect of Kato, Taoism, Heidegger, or whoever, you may not like the results you get. Half the time I still struggle to be conversant about what many of these arguments involve unless somebody prompts me (indigenous peoples and nuclear development, anthropocentrism, tech=evil, etc. is far more informative than simply saying Baudrillard or Zizek). Go for the idea/theme not the author. If you like to use the word "subjectivity" a lot on your K argumentation, you might explain what you mean. Same thing for policy and K debaters alike if they like to argue "violence".
Having discussed my inadequacies as a judge, here is my default position for judging rounds: Absent other argumentation, I view the focus of the round as the resolution. The resolution may implicitly shrink to the affirmative if that is the only representation discussed. If I sign the ballot affirmative, I am generally voting to implement the resolution, and if the affirmative is the only representation, then it is as embodied by the plan. However, I like the debaters to essentially have free rein--making me somewhat tabula rosa. So if you prefer a more resolution focus rather than plan focus, I'm there. I also like cases that have essential content and theory elements (stock issues), but if one is missing or bad, the negative needs to bring it up and win it to win. I do generally view my role as a policy maker, in that I am trying to evaluate the merits of a policy that will be applied to the real world--but that evaluation is being done in a format that has strong gamelike aspects and strong "cognitive laboratory" aspects. As such, I will accept counter-intuitive arguments (e.g. extinction is good), planless affs, etc. and vote on them--although you will have to justify/win such an approach if it is challenged and in many cases there is a bit of a natural bias against such arguments.
I say "absent other argumentation" because if you want me to use another process, I all ears. I'm pretty open-minded about arguments (even counter-intuitive ones), so if you want to run something, either theoretical or substantive, justify it, argue it, and if you win it, I'll vote for it.
The biggest problem I observed when I did judge college rounds, and at the high school level, is that debates about how I should evaluate the round are often incomplete and/or muddled, such as justifying the use of some deontological criteria on utilitarian grounds. While such consequentialism is certainly an option in evaluating deontological positions, I struggle to see how I'm not ultimately just deciding a round on some utilitarian risk-based decision calculus like I would ordinarily use. I've had this statement in my philosophy for years and no one seems to understand it: if I reject cap, or the state, or racism, or violations of human rights, or whatever because it leads to extinction/war/whatever, am I really being deontological--or just letting you access extinction via a perspective. That fine if that's why you want it, but I think it makes "reject every instance" quite difficult, since every instance probably has solvency issues and certainly creates some low internal link probabilities. If you do truly argue something deontologically, having some sort of hierarchy so I can see where the other team's impacts fit would be helpful--especially if they are arguing an deontological position as well. Applying your position might be helpful: think how you would reconcile the classic argument of "you can't have rights if you are dead, yet many have been willing to give their life for rights". Sorting out that statement does an awful lot for you in a deontology vs. utilitarianism round. Why is your argument the case for one or the other?
Given my hypothesis-testing tendencies, conditionality can be fine. However, as indicated above, by default I view the round as a policy-making choice. If you run three conditional counterplans, that's fine but I need to know what they are conditional upon or I don't know what policy I am voting for when I sign the ballot—or if I even need to evaluate them. I prefer, although almost never get it, that conditionality should be based on a substantive argument in the round, preferably a claim the other team made.
Theory and K's:
I can like both theory args, especially T, when the debate unfolds with real analysis, not a ton of 3-5 word tags that people rip through. Theory arguments (including T) can be very rewarding, and often are a place where the best debaters can show their skills. However, debaters often provide poorly developed arguments and the debate often lacks real analysis. I do not like theory arguments that eliminate ground for one side or the other, are patently abusive, or patently time sucks. I like theory arguments but want them treated well.
I'm not a fan of K's, but they definitely have a place in debate. I will vote on one (and have voted for them numerous times) if two things happen: 1) I understand it and 2) you win it. That's a relatively low threshold, but if you babble author names, jargon, or have tags longer than most plans, you make it much harder for me.
As for argument preferences, I'll vote on things that do not meet my criteria, although I dislike being put in the position of having to reconcile two incomprehensible positions. I'll vote on anything you can justify and win. If you want me in a specific paradigm, justify it and win that I should use it. I like a 2ar/2nr that ties up loose ends and evaluates--recognizing that they probably aren't winning everything on the flow.
I don't like to ask for cards after the round, or reviewing the evidence in pocketbox, etc. and will not ask for a card I couldn't understand because you were unintelligible. If there is a debate over what a card really says or signifies, or it seems to contain a nuance highlighted in the round that is worth checking, I may take a look at the evidence.
I traditionally rely on providing nonverbal feedback—if I'm not writing anything, or I'm looking at you with a confused expression, I'm probably not getting what you are saying for one reason or another.
Debate is still a communication activity, even if we rip along at several hundred words a minute. If I missed something in your speech, that is your fault--either because you did not emphasize it adequately in the round or you were unintelligible. If you are a gasper, you'll probably get better points if you slow down a bit. I tend to dislike prompting on content, but keeping your partner on pace is fine. I'd prefer you ask/answer your own c-x questions. I like numbering and organization, even though much has apparently died. At this point, even hearing "next" when going to the next tag would be a breath of fresh air (especially when it isn't being read off of a block). Similarly, I'll reward you if you have clear tags that would fit on a bumper sticker I could read without tailgating. Humor is a highly successful way to improve your speaker points. If you are organized, intelligible and funny, the much-sought-after 30 is something I have given. I haven't given many, but that reflects the debaters I've heard, not some unreasonable predisposition or threshold.
If you have questions about anything not on here, just ask.