MSHSL Section 3 Debate Tournament
2023 — Eagan, MN/US
Lincoln-Douglas Paradigm ListAll Paradigms: Show Hide
I've been the LD coach at Saint Thomas Academy/Visitation since 2005. I debated LD a long time ago.
TLDR (my round is starting):
Be smart, interesting and topical. Theory is drop the arg, reasonability. Otherwise open to anything
As for how I adjudicate the round, I try to let the you tell me what matters. I evaluate things under an offense/defense model. I'm a big picture judge much more than one that will dive into some minutia of the line by line (unless I have to). To win the debate, you have to have more offense, or a higher risk of offense than your opponent. This offense should link to the framework being won. Framework is only useful for ruling offense as useful or not useful in the round.
I highly appreciate it when you tell me how to layer my decision making. Do I start on role of the ballot or framework? Does an argument get evaluated pre or post fiat. If you give me an order of evaluation and your opponent does not, I'll usually follow that order of operations. If both of you give me a different order, I try to rectify that by following the better reasons for order, or failing warrants, smooshing them together in the way that makes sense to me. Layer your debate. I'm happier that way. If it's a traditional value/criterion debate, Im happy to follow the classic standard of using the winning value/cr to weigh offense. Give me a ballot story. I'll try to evaluate the round according to how you tell me to. If you just have a bunch of points on the line by line, I will have to go digging for something. Making me dig is a sure way to lose speaker points.
I evaluate arguments by comparing the analysis you give in support of your claim. If I cannot make sense of your analysis, I do not give the claim much weight in the round (if any). If you are simply making an assertion, I give it little weight in the round. For me to care about the argument that you are making, it must be well warranted and it must be impacted within whatever framework you are working from. impact things for me. If you are going to run arguments that contradict each-other, provide me an explanation of why there is a contradiction (i.e., layer). Otherwise, I have trouble making sense of your position. Remember, Im big picture.
When extending, I have a few different thresholds depending on context. If an argument is dropped, you just have to point out that it is dropped, then give me the impact. You have to tell me how this dropped point impacts the round at that point in the round, since it may be a bit different given the status of frameworks, etc.
If the argument is contested, you have to deal with the ink on the flow before making the extension. I wont flow your extension if you try to do it through an arg you haven't dealt with. This is to protect you. I don't want to think something was extended even though there was a response to it.This means that if someone put a poor response against the entire aff contention, I will ignore all of the aff extensions of cards from that contention unless they first deal with the response (even just "Response A misses the specifics of the contention" can be sufficient). You don't really have to re-extend warrants, unless those are key to dealing with your response to their args.
Stock (traditional) debate
Im perfectly capable of deciding a stock round. I debated a long time ago, so I know how that stuff works. If this is what you do and you do it well, Im fine with that. Happy to give you the win if you're. I'd prefer you put some twist in to keep it interesting, but debate what you're most comfortable with. Remember, smart, interesting, topical. I am much happier judging creative approaches to the resolution, or creative twists in how you make that argument.
If you are debating someone running some other form of debate though, I expect you to engage with it. CX is your friend. Don't throw up your hands in fear. I've judged some really good rounds where stock util just outweighed the K.
Im very open to critical arguments (I like 'em). They're entertaining. I've got a decent grasp of a fair bit of the lit, but I may not know the author de jure. Make sure you give me an alt or role of the ballot. Let me know if it operates pre or post fiat. I want to know how you see the K operating. Critical debate can get messy fast with layering, so layering is super important. I need some offense coming off the K. A reject alt probably needs as much explanation as some alternate methodology alt. If you want to do some crazy stuff, I'm your judge. I'll vote for anything but theory if done well. If you want to break out a critical position just to try it, I'm your judge.
Also down with plans/policy style, if run well. I much prefer a reasonable plan to something that just explodes to Bostrom. If you're well researched on some specific plan, I consider that to being a good debater. If it's hyper specific, I expect you to give at least a little leeway in granting your opponent links so that there can actually be some clash. Same with counterplans
PIC's are iffy. I want to have you do something with the PIC, not just take a cheap shot easy out that doesn't allow any clash. Again, I grant more leeway on this the more specific the plan is. If you're running a consult PIC (or something in that vein) though, Im not going to be happy
Also enjoy these when run well. Im decently versed in the analytic traditions, though as with anything, I may not know your author. Since Im much better versed in this than I am on the K side, Im more picky about what 'well run' means. If you really botch something, Im usually not happy. I know my analytic epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language pretty well. This means you should likely avoid running things from those areas unless youreallyknow it. Skep makes me sick, partially because none of y'all know enough epistemology to do it well.
Im not a fan of most theory, though if there is real abuse, it's a good tool. I want substantive debate related to the topic. My evaluation on theory is super idiosyncratic. First, I always go with reasonability. If the theory violation gets the 'oh come on' reaction from me, it's not going to win. Theory is only ever drop the arg, not drop the debater. Now, this can effectively mean drop the debater. If your theory violation is that all of their arguments are theoretically problematic, when those go away, you likely win. So, real world example. I pulled the trigger on a PIC bad shell, because that specific PIC was really abusive. So, when the PIC went away, even though the aff was mostly unextended, I vote there on risk of offense.
T is a bit different. If the T is about actual definitions being in or out of bounds of the topic, I love a good T debate. If the T is whining that their case was unfair, I hate that T debate. It's about being related to the topic. I want debate on that. Im open to totally alternate readings of what the resolution is. Framers intent args usually dont cut it. Good definitional interps can be really fun though.
My theory approach is different enough that I want to give the justification: Theory is supposed to be a tool to prevent abusive practices in round. In that form, I actually think it's helpful. However, with the development of structure and technicality around how theory is addressed, it seems like it actually accelerates abusive practices. Someone can win rounds by baiting a theory debate and then just be better at theory, so that invites abuse. Plus, the usual thing on theory is that somehow it's going to change things eventually by setting norms. I've been doing this long enough that Im perfectly happy intervening at the 'rules of debate level' to try to set the norms that I think are good. You're calling your opponent a cheater. As the referee, that's my call to make. Also, by intervening with reasonability and drop the arg, this opens it up so that a debater who is not versed in the technicalities of theory still has a chance to beat back something abusive, even if their interp wasn't correctly worded, or that they dropped the b point on the second voter. Theory is a check on abuse, and I want to actually keep it a check on abuse and let the real debate happen, not devolve to theory being what debate is.
I still like to see some style in presentation. Enunciate clearly. Speed is fine provided I can still understand you. I will not tell you that you are not clear. It's your job as a speaker to know what you can do. THere have only been a couple instances in 10+ years where I haven't been able to keep up on the flow even though the speaker was clear. I was still fine enough with those couple rounds to get 'big picture' flow together. However, if I cant understand the words coming out of your mouth, we have a problem. If I dont think an argument can matter in the round anymore, I may not bother to flow it. I don't consider an argument new if it a clear development of an argument that is on my flow. However, tell me what that link is. Don't float arguments out there without signposting them and hope I find the link. I'm fine with reading evidence and developing arguments in every speech. Claiming that something is new and launching into a long diatribe on why I should vote against this on face is not desirable. Im more impressed if you note that it was new, then beat it anyways.
I think in the realm of normative theory, both analytic and continental philosophy have a lot to say. Analytic approaches tend to be very good at well warranted framework building. The downside to this is that you cant read all of the warrants quickly enough to really do the same thing it took your author 500 pages to do. Continental philosophy tends to (I think) lack well developed warrants. It more than makes up for it though by being far more observational about the world. To me, the ideal positions marry an analytic framework with some critical impacts.
It goes without saying, but don't be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.
Dont be mean
Im usually pretty relaxed, debate is supposed to be fun. You should relax a bit too.
Feel free to ask any questions before the round.
Background: Head Coach at Robbinsdale Armstrong and Robbinsdale Cooper HS in Minnesota. There I coach LD, PF and Congressional Debate.
Most Important: Debate should be about comparing and weighing arguments. In LD (and optional in PF) there should be a criterion (standard) which argument are weighed through. The purpose of the criterion is to filter out arguments. So simply winning the criterion does not mean you win the debate. You should have arguments that link to the winning criterion and those arguments should be weighed against any opposing/linking arguments. If the debaters do not weigh the arguments, then you force the judge to do that weighing for you and that is never good.
Overall: Debate should be inclusive and available to all people. If your goal is to speak as fast as possible and run the most obscure arguments ever to exclude people, then this isn't a winning strategy for you. My suggestion would be to run topical arguments at a pace that is inclusive to all students. Speed within limits is ok. The more obscure the argument the more time you should spend on explaining it. Don't just throw out random words and assume I'll fill in the blanks for you. No need to ask if I want to be on the email chain, job of debate is to communicate the evidence to me.
Congressional Debate: Read everything above because it is still valuable information. Congressional Debate is debate by nature. It is not a dueling oratory round. In general, the first cycle is there to set up arguments in the round. The author/sponsor speech should be polished. All other speeches should have elements of refutation to other students and arguments in the round. If you are giving a speech in the fourth cycle and never refer to another person's argument, you are not going to score well in front of me. Simply dropping a person's name isn't refutation. You should tell me why their argument is wrong. With evidence it is even better.
You should do everything in your power to not go back-to-back on the same side. I will flow little of a second speech back-to-back on the same side. If you are the third speaker on the same side in a row, I'm not flowing any of it. Debaters should be prepared to switch sides if necessary. Lastly, there is a trend for no one to give an author/sponsor speech as they are worried, they will not score well. That isn't true in front of me. All parts of the debate are important.
The questioning period is about defeating arguments not to make the person look good. Softball questions are not helpful to debate. Do it multiple times and expect your rank to go down. All aspects, your speech, the quality of sources, refutation and questioning all go into your final rank. Just because you speak the prettiest does not mean you are the champion. You should be able to author/sponsor, refute, crystalize, ask tough questions, and defend yourself in questioning throughout the debate. Do all in a session and you are in decent shape.
Presiding Officers (PO): The PO will start with a rank of five in all chambers for me. From there, you can work your way up or down based on your performance. PO's who are clearly favoring the same school or same circuit students will lose rank. A PO can absolutely receive the one in my ranks likewise they can be unranked if you make many errors.
The current trend is for "super wordy" PO's. You do not need to say things like "Thank you for that speech of 3:09. As this was the 3rd Affirmative Speech, we are in line for 1 minute block of questioning. All those who wish to ask a question, please indicate." If you add up the above through an entire session, that adds up to multiple speeches that were taken by the PO. Watch how many words you say between speeches, question blocks, etc. A great PO blends away in the room. Extra language like "The chair thanks you", "this is speech 22", etc. All of this is just filler words for the PO taking time away from the debate. Lastly, a "chair" doesn't have feelings. It is not rude to be efficient.
I track precedence/recency in all sessions. I keep a detailed flow in all rounds debate - Congress, LD and PF.
Disclosure: I typically do not give any oral critiques. All the information will be on the ballot.
Value clash seems unnecessary...aren't you all valuing something good? I almost never vote on the value debate.
Criterion is, like, VERY important. Please keep in mind: just because we use your framework to weigh the round doesn't mean YOU WIN. I vote for the debater who meets the agreed upon framework the best. I mean, I shouldn't have to say this, but apparently I do since there seems to be confusion about what "winning the framework" means.
The only reason I would vote for you if you use nuclear war impacts is if the resolution is actually about nuclear weapons. Other than that, I will not buy slippery slope arguments. I truly hate extinction arguments...like, truly truly.
I don't like debate theory. It seems like an excuse to not debate the actual topic. It avoids thoughtful discourse about the topic at hand. I'll listen to topic-appropriate theory/philosophy, but not debate theory.
Background. Total rounds debated in HS: 5 policy, 2 LD. Coach since 1987, policy and LD. B.A. double major history/economics, M.A. history. Currently teach AP US history, AP US government, AP Comparative Gov and AP Micro & Macro Econ. Published author (history). Mostly coaching novice in recent years, so probably a few years behind in national circuit trends. I'll listen, but they may need more explanation.
I'd prefer not to be on an email chain. I want to listen to the arguments. You also increase the chance for me to intervene if I think your evidence is lined down in a sketchy or unethical way.
I believe that the debaters should be allowed to debate the arguments that they think are best suited to the resolution and the opponent's arguments. Semi-tabula rasa, probably default to comparative worlds unless you give me a reason not to. Feel free to do so.
While I will attempt to render a fair ballot on whatever arguments are presented in the round, I do have some policies or preferences.
I contend that debaters should actually sound like they know what they are talking about. With novice debaters I will act as a patient teacher. With varsity debaters I will have less sympathy with a debater who is reading a position they clearly do not understand.
Debates should feature clash, and both debaters have an obligation to argue positions which are open to clash. Ideally, these positions should at least attempt to engage the resolution. I will listen to narratives, but as these generally avoid clash on anything but a theory level, they are less preferred. I am not fond of narratives or other positions that essentially guilt the judge into voting for a debater. Just because I didn't vote for your narrative doesn't mean I reject you or your identity or your position. It is not ok to equate my ballot with me being an oppressor. Plans and counterplans are valid in LD debate, but they must be run properly. I judged (nat circuit) policy from 1997 to 2009, if that's any help.
I will listen to theory positions and enjoy a well thought out theory debate. Kind of. I insist that you actually engage the theory debate on its merits. I dislike rounds in which a ton of theory crap is tossed out hoping the opponent will miss some tiny little spike which is then blown up to monumental proportions in rebuttals. Just because you call something an absolute voting issue doesn't mean it is. I am much more likely to vote for a person winning on the substantive issues even if they allegedly mishandled the third subpoint on an RVI.
I will be extremely reluctant to "drop the debater" except in cases of in-round misconduct. Debate is about arguments, not people. A claim of "drop the debater" better have a lot of support and can't just be one more response on your list of bullet points. I will consider intervening against this argument.
I am willing to listen to other pre-fiat arguments such as Kritiks. Again, you need to understand the position and it should be germane. I tend to believe that most kritiks should have a viable alternative, but would be willing to listen to a claim that they don't.
I've been coaching debate at Robbinsdale since 2013 and love a clean and clear traditional debate. Have offense that outweighs your opponents and links cleanly into the winning framework and you'll win my ballot. If I can't understand you I'll stop flowing, so clarity and a reasonable speed are both important. Be sure to make your signposting and extensions clear. Not a fan of theory or other complex and exclusionary argument frameworks. If you can't make the argument in a conversational way on the flow, or as an overview I probably won't consider it in the round.
Overall, the point is to have fun, so take a deep breath and try to enjoy yourself. :)
I did LD as a debater and now coach LD for Armstrong High School. I co-founded the Minnesota Debate Institute, where I worked mainly with LD and Congressional debate.
You can win in front of me by extending offense (contention-level impacts or turns) that links to the winning criterion and outweighs your opponent's offense. It's not enough to just say "extend;" you should re-explain the warrant of the argument (briefly is fine!) and re-explain the link to the contention (again, briefly is fine!). Weighing is A+.
Explain arguments well. Please be clear so someone hearing your ideas/authors for the first time can get what you're saying.
Please do not spread (speed read) or read national circuit / policy case styles (Ks, CPs, theory, etc.). Spreading and nat circuit-style arguments tend to make LD debate more exclusionary, racist, and classist. If your opponent runs these things, still do your best to respond to their argument's warrants and tell me it's exclusionary, and then I'll probably vote for you.
The issue with national circuit and policy case styles tends to be, IMO, form/structure, not content. So if you have a good critical or policy-oriented argument you want to run, cool: Put it in an accessible case format and let's go.
I care about evidence quality. Johnson '98? Lastname '20? A brief garble of syllables and a two digit number are not a citation. :) Even at tournaments that don't require full source citations, I'd love to hear them (author, author qualification, publication/source, year). Folks run skeeeetchy cards... call them on it!!
I evaluate arguments only if I can distinguish what words you are saying. When I listen to a set of syllables, can I hear a word? If I cannot hear a word, then I cannot flow or consider the argument. I will not read a case doc while folks imitate spreading; I'd like to hear the arguments. The trend of case docs and spreading worsens the neg side bias and, more importantly, makes debate an even more exclusionary activity to folks without access to the immense resources required to engage effectively in such practices.
Argument content: I am open to hearing critical race theory, feminist philosophy, deep ecology, anti-capitalism, or whatever ideas you want to run. Debate is about exploring ideas, so run what's important and interesting to you. If it's a serious argument, I will not vote you down just because you read something outside the Overton Window of whiteness, patriarchy and U.S. empire.
That said, please do think critically and carefully about how your social position relates to the arguments you're running and to your opponent's social position. For example, suppose you're a white debater reading a ("pre-fiat") position with many cards from Black women writers, a position that asks the judge to vote for your performance in the round or something. Particularly if your opponent is a Black woman, is it ethical for you to run that position? Maybe not.
Btw, we should never run arguments that are harmful. Right? If someone is racist in round, for example, I'll vote against them. Please don't blame people for circumstances they're trapped in due to oppression. Please don't deny the tragic reality — and deep weight — of racism, sexism, poverty, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, imperialism, settler colonialism, ableism, colorism, and other forms of domination, marginalization, and violence.
Debate should be fun, yes, but we're also talking about serious stuff — many of us from perspectives of privilege. Let's be respectful of the people we're debating and the people we're debating about, and we should be cool. Good luck in the round; I look forward to judging you! :)