You give some heartfelt advice about a convenient service in exchange for no money and everyone ribs on you. I guess I only get to talk about debate. The message was clear:
Dance, debate takes monkey, dance!
1. Cards from the blog
First the Harvard roast, then outlasting http://policydb8.com/, now someone has cut a card from the blog. We have really arrived folks.
Here is the card in question:
No quantitative limits on this year’s topic and its only gonna get worse.
Lincoln Garrett (Lincoln Garrett is the head debate coach at UK and a coach with Montgomery Bell Academy. Lincoln graduated from Liberty University in 2012 with a B.S. in history. “Debate Musings: First Semester Wrap Up 11/27/2019.)
1. The Space Topic: A Theorization I can’t remember if I have said this out loud before, but it feels like we are in a year long version of debate camp. The topic feels contrived instead of salient. There is no negative position shaping what people say on the aff (answering ESR on executive power, finding topical flexibility on the healthcare topic). The literature base is a big constraining factor. The impact to that constraint is that the relative quality of positions is flat. The one interesting thing that causes is people can just occupy the archetype they want to occupy (like at debate camp when you pick whatever assignment because you want to, not because you have to). You want to read the biggest mechanism (despite being capped at like 3 distinct advantages)? Read ASATs. Want to ratify the status quo? Read SSA. Want to care about link uniqueness? Read Russia (although I am not sure coop now features prominently in anyone’s strategy). Want to pretend the topic is something else? Read BMD. You want to be the Chinese politics team? The allies CP team? The NSP PIC team? There’s something for everyone! That’s because there aren’t any distinguishing features that makes an argument way better than another. 2. The Zaxby paradox I lived in Virginia for six years and did not have a local Zaxby’s. My only experience was at the Shirley. Always thought it was pretty good. Moved to Lexington where there are Zaxby’s. Ordered it fresh. Tasted TERRIBLE. The only way I want to eat Zaxby’s is when it has been sitting there for at least 25 minutes. Preferably in the rain. Nothing makes it taste better. 3. The Affs are coming Going into Wake there were a limited number of Aff clusters.
A. Thank you for reading.
B. Thank you for including my degree in the qual. More people should know I have a degree in history.
C. SHAME for not caring about that super relevant Zaxby’s content. Probably my most important point from that post.
D. Don’t read cards from debate coaches. You do not want to equate shit I say with what actual smart people say in any way. Giving me license as an expert is a recipe for disaster. I know there are a lot of coaches who publish scholarship, but no one has to read it in a round. It circulating in rounds isn’t going to help anyone with tenure and it is better to be safe than sorry. Now turn this into a card!
E. My apologies for not putting this fail safe in earlier:
“If anyone reads a card from me in a debate, they should lose the debate. This should be the only part of the blog that is carded. This card should only be deemed valid if the following image is also included in the doc
2. Plan page
Most people I assume flow the plan on solvency, or just paraphrase it somewhere, or don’t do anything with it because it is easy to look at when needed.
But what if the 1AC says make a plan page and puts a clarification card on it under the plan?
This begs the question: has topicality secretly been the plan page the whole time? Should the plan page have the plan in the 1AC column, then the T violation in the 1NC column and progress from there?
I vote yes, no more topicality, only the plan page. “But Lincoln, what if there is more than one T violation in the debate?” It doesn’t matter. There is but only one plan. And it is on the plan page.
Cal NR is taking an accelerationist approach to the question of rust by not debating at all in the second semester to date. Can’t say I have ever seen a top 5 caliber team do that.
4. Frosh-frosh teams
Harvard BH, Harvard BY, Dartmouth LV, Kansas MS, Kansas PS. Impressive group of all first-year teams! Don’t quite recall a year off-hand with so many.
5. Final Rounds
The first three final rounds:
GSU—Falcon Aff vs Haptic Digitalization. Too big brain for me, but ok sure. Aff wins
Kentucky---new space weather Aff vs Topicality. Aff wins. Sure.
Harvard---Krumping vs Framework. Aff wins. Sure.
But the next two final rounds:
Wake---Test ban with new adv vs. Spark. Uhh, things are getting weird. Aff wins
Texas---Get rid of ICBMs with Russia vs. Topicality. Aff wins. Wtf.
Aff won the finals 5 times. Get rid of ICBMs?? No nukes neg but going for T-arms control??? What other affs from last year are we dusting off? Are we going to not neg it and just go for the NSP PIC or something?
6. Scratching cards in CX
In the semifinals Emory may have double turned themselves in the 2AC. Dartmouth then asked about in CX. Emory then tried to scratch one of the cards. None of the judges scratch the card. Emory goes on to win this debate because two judges don’t think the double turn implicates Emory’s business as much as Dartmouth does.
Was Emory’s scratching attempt legit or not legit? I lean not legit because while CX is a speech in some sense, it involves two people… one person can’t just go off the rails scratching or adding stuff to the speech that just happened. But if both parties agree to ignore something, then I think it’s fine.
When was a debate last decided on one team double turning themselves and then just losing? I always feel like the accusing team loses, never the alleged double turners.
7. Dark days for CPs
I believe the two biggest CP-based victories of the weekend were concon and politics (NU JW vs Cal FG) and President bans the plan, congress overrides the ban thus reestablishing congressional power (Dartmouth ET vs Emory CM).
That’s ass, people. Bring back real CPs. Or nullification. Or something with the WTO. I am not picky.
8. Travel Schedule
The travel schedule has been a topic a few times in the second semester. There was a Council of Tournament Directors meeting at Texas and this was one of the biggest topics of conversation.
Every team that expressed an opinion seemed to be of the belief that their travel schedule should help their debaters achieve their goals and develop their skills. A corollary to that was that a lot of teams claim to show a lot of deference to their debaters in terms of how much they debate and where they do it.
The problem that was highlighted related to geographic equity. Schools in the west don’t have very efficient options to travel to, negatively impacting so debater development.
This is highlighted clearly by the Coast tournaments. In 2017 80 teams went to the second California tournament. In 2020 it was 20. That is a dramatic reversal.
A couple of quick fixes were proposed. Have California host one 8 round tournament to lessen costs. Have more rotating tournaments like Northwestern/Texas. For instance, maybe California/Georgetown can alternate.
Three things were under discussed in relation to travel schedules:
A. What do debaters want? This mainly related to how many tournaments in a school year one wants to go to and balance academics and other opportunities. If there is a hard numerical cap on what people are willing to do then adding geographical options to the schedule isn’t as good as replacing existing tournaments with different locations.
This also mattered in the context of winter break. Do debaters really want to spend winter break time debating? Historically the preparation and early debating at winter break tournaments has been some of the worst of the season. A lot more debaters have explicitly opted out.
B. Corollary to what debaters/coaches want is ideological make up of tournaments. Can a field of teams or judge pool skew too far policy or K before a schism occurs (the answer seems to be yes, so the question is where is the line)?
What do debaters think about when judging where they want to go? Who is good that is going? What’s the judge pool? Other factors? How important are each of those factors? Something survey and data tools could help with potentially.
The travel schedule has never been more disjointed. In 2012 everyone seemed to debate at the four first semester tournaments, the two California tournaments then the February tournament. In 2020 the number of teams that went to the same 6 or 7 tournaments is much smaller.
That may not be a tragic problem, but the argument was made that developing teams need to have access to teams better than them and teams that run different arguments.
How to bridge the gap is still relevant even though it feels like a back-burner issue compared to six years ago.
C. Regional travel. Everyone said it was good, but two things lingered for me. One was, is there a point where a debater graduates from regional debate and it becomes a waste of their time? More on this in a second.
The other thing is…regional travel’s efficiency comes from driving. One coach and 3 teams in one van. You can’t beat that scale. Debate at its peak was an activity dominated by going to tournaments 2 to 6 hours away from your campus and not missing much class.
Is there a vast surplus of debate that just needs to be redistributed geographically? I don’t think so. Debate is contracting overall. We need to figure out how to lower entry costs. We need to figure out retention. I believe the retention issue is tied to ideological polarization. That also increases the complexity of the game by orders of magnitude and makes it intimidating to try and compete.
9. Results vs Process
I think another thing that implicates the regional travel discussion relates to results-based thinking vs process-based thinking.
Debate loves some good results bias. An argument loses, it is banished. An argument wins, it makes someone a genius. You scrape out a first round, everyone looks at you different. The difference between saying they are a doubles team and miss on points team is huge, despite the difference being .1 speaker points.
We are familiar with the copycatting. We see it in high school. It drives us nuts. I am not going for copycatting bad, because good process is looking at everything that is out there and saying the best thing even if you didn’t think of it first. But a thing winning one debate doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best thing.
This relates to the travel schedule because of the way people think about tournaments. People discount regional tournaments because of sloppy results-oriented thinking.
This is encapsulated by the phrase “no one good will be there.” This reveals a problematic way to think of a debate tournament. It says, “I am very likely to win a given debate against the teams in this field, so what is the point of going through those motions?”
You would only think this way if you focused too much on the result compared to the process. It is not really about whether someone will win, but about how they will win.
Good debaters winning with slop doesn’t demonstrate very much. I guess it demonstrates slightly more when they do it to each other (but mostly one side messing up rather than the winner’s skill).
Tournaments are as much a test against yourself as they are a test against your opponents. How specific can you get? How good do you sound? How knowledgeable of their evidence? How focused? Are you reading new arguments? Are you trying new things during the debate? Are you adapting to your judge? How disciplined are you before the tournament starts to make these things happen?
Debate tournaments in general, and regional ones in particular, are surely boring/terrible enterprises if you are older, have accumulated reputation and skill, and everything is judged by the chance a team can steal a victory from you and you berate the judge after they have wronged you in such a way.
But you are the one creating the problem. Engaging in a process where the goal isn’t to merely win a debate, but to elevate your debating, is the answer.
10. First rounds
First round voting is a short, but stressful time for folks. I am not looking to make the process worse for people by telling them why they shouldn’t get one on the internet.
I do plan to think about it this Saturday when all the applicants are revealed. I may make a post similar to last year. If you want to backchannel discuss how I would vote, feel free. My track record is ok. I average about 15 right per year.
Good luck to all who are applying.
I am Lincoln, head coach at UK and coach with Montgomery Bell Academy. This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.