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Author Topic: ADA Nationals should be judged by professionals without debate experience  (Read 5454 times)
Lwrnc
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« on: September 04, 2014, 03:30:49 PM »

I think ADA  Nationals should experiment with Professionals (lawyers, academics, think tank staff, policy consultants) as judges, particularly in late outrounds, and especially finals. 
I remember watching the semifinals of the Lafayette Debates (a public debate tournament hosted at the French Embassy) in April: Houston's Eric Lanning and his partner (forgot his name, but he was really nice and we debated at the two-step) vs. UMW's ADA Championship team.  The debate was excellent - not only were all 4 debaters cordial, engaging, and willing to clash, but the round was totally accessible.  They debated at conversational pace, made sure that every argument was fully explained, went for plausible arguments instead of cheap shots people would be reluctant to prepare for, and focused on the topic - not Wilderson, Baudrillard, or Consult NATO.  Any reasonably intelligent person would have understood and enjoyed the entirety of the debate.  The adjudication was even better.  Despite only 2 out of 7 of the panel members (all of which were highly credentialed and served as attorneys and the like) having had participated in NDT/CEDA, every RFD was totally coherent and based on who wove a better story of having won the round as opposed to peripheral factors such as dress or talking speed.  Major props to GWU for hosting.  The debates, out-of-round environment, and food were all top-notch. 
I don't think that learning to successfully execute arguments to non-debaters should be optional though.  If we train debaters to argue only in front of other debaters, they never learn what is persuasive to others, including administrators.  Debate cannot survive if we cannot defend it.  Although the administration finally came through for us at Wash U, it took 18 years for us to convince the administration to create an administratively sanctioned coaching position to happen.  I know many other programs have been in a similar plight (and have heard countless stories of administrators to historic programs failing to be persuaded by proponents of the activity, eg Richmond, Redlands, Macalester, Augustana, UCLA, MSSU, etc) - we've been shrinking continuously ever since the merger.  But who is there to merge with now? 
We're also doing a great disservice by not preparing students how to apply the skills they learn in debate to the specific career paths they intend to pursue.  I think we're not giving 'outsiders' to debate enough credit.  Most successful people were never involved in competitive debate.  Yet, as cases such as the Lafayette Debates shows, intellectuals and professionals are perfectly capable of judging a debate if we prioritize dialogic engagement over self-congratulations and the W.  Those working in Law, think tanks, the academy, etc, know what skills students should be learning to be prepared for a successful career.  Why not let them inform what resolves debates?  Big tent fails.  Students will just choose the laziest, stupidest strategies.  Impressing a lawyer-judge would also probably be an excellent networking opportunity. 
I expect there should be plenty of Professors at UGA, GSU, Emory, WGA, and many attorneys in the Atlanta area who would be interested in judging a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP - I attempted to host a tournament with a lay finals panel, and plenty of Professors showed interest  (evidence/More details on request), or you could just take a look at the judge pool at the Lafayette Debates. 
Why ADA Nats?  It's a National Championship.  Everyone wants to win - everyone wants to be a champion, and  competitors will only copy each other' style if it wins.  The wins also need to be significant - no one is going to adapt to win rounds at a small regional tournament they could skip out on.  Iím also sure I don't need to explain why competitors at ADA (rather than, suppose, CEDA) would be far more willing  and successful at adapting to those without an intricate knowledge of the activity's history. 
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tpacheco
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« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2014, 03:52:23 PM »

Hey Lawrence,

I think your argument disproves itself a bit. If the ADA champs (not bragging  Wink) were able to be successful in the Lafayette Debate Tournament, then it disproves the necessity of the call for change.

I think, by and large, this argument is a straw-person. The best debaters understand that persuasion is about appealing to the audience. That's just argumentation 101. Debate teaches how to formulate arguments in front of a wide array of audiences. It certainly teaches some degree of public speaking. Just because all the skills aren't directly transferrable to settings outside of debate doesn't mean debate should change, or the ADA should do this. Just because policy debaters speak quickly doesn't mean that is all they know how to do.

In addition, many schools have public debate opportunities. If coaches have a pedagogical desire to teach these skills, then they can offer public debate, or even require it as a part of participation on the policy team. Students can also opt to take some comm classes to learn those skills. That puts the onus on the debater to seek out that enrichment, rather than making it a mandate of the tournament.

Fast debate produces the most rigorous test of various positions which optimizes the critical thinking skills gained (ideally). Those are critical thinking skills not produced in other venues. It also makes students the best possible advocates for their position. The ADA shouldn't do this.
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sspring
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2014, 04:13:44 PM »

I'm pretty sure that most debates are judged by "professionals with debate experience." Debate coaches are professionals too.
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Lwrnc
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Posts: 80


« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2014, 05:34:27 PM »

Hey Lawrence,

I think your argument disproves itself a bit. If the ADA champs (not bragging  Wink) were able to be successful in the Lafayette Debate Tournament, then it disproves the necessity of the call for change.

I think, by and large, this argument is a straw-person. The best debaters understand that persuasion is about appealing to the audience. That's just argumentation 101. Debate teaches how to formulate arguments in front of a wide array of audiences. It certainly teaches some degree of public speaking. Just because all the skills aren't directly transferrable to settings outside of debate doesn't mean debate should change, or the ADA should do this. Just because policy debaters speak quickly doesn't mean that is all they know how to do.

In addition, many schools have public debate opportunities. If coaches have a pedagogical desire to teach these skills, then they can offer public debate, or even require it as a part of participation on the policy team. Students can also opt to take some comm classes to learn those skills. That puts the onus on the debater to seek out that enrichment, rather than making it a mandate of the tournament.

Fast debate produces the most rigorous test of various positions which optimizes the critical thinking skills gained (ideally). Those are critical thinking skills not produced in other venues. It also makes students the best possible advocates for their position. The ADA shouldn't do this.

I'll concede your no link argument.  Those in outrounds at ADA have to be well-rounded enough to appeal to variety of audiences.  Also, I don't have any problem with speed except when it's used to clip, nor with heavy reliance on evidence, nor most of the other conventions of debate. 
Also, if some of the things we learn aren't transferable to settings outside of debate, we should probably just get rid of them.  How many more times do you want to hear the consult cp or "framework is violent"?  These arguments are so stupid no one outside of debate would ever make them and we shouldn't be burdened with learning to refute them. 

I'm pretty sure that most debates are judged by "professionals with debate experience." Debate coaches are professionals too.

I meant that debaters should be judged by a wider variety of professionals - not everyone has work ethic and talent to be a Professor and a Coach (or even one of the two), not that coaches are in themselves not professionals.  I apologize if you took offense. 
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kelly young
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2014, 06:18:43 PM »

NEDA, a self-proclaimed education and audience-centered style of debate split from CEDA in the 1990s. The organization uses almost all attorney or lay judges for every round. That organization has experienced tremendous membership loss since it was founded. Following your logic, it would appear as though an audience-centered style of debate with lay judges isn't terribly persuasive to administrators either, given the experience in NEDA.

Of course, the real problem with your claim is that you are making a rather unfounded assumption that style of debate is the reason why any of the schools you list lost their debate program. Each of those cases are very different and had a number of complicated factors that led to the termination of those programs. If there was any single factor that you could point to in a number of those cases, it would be cost. Administrations decided to spend the resources dedicated to debate on new/different faculty and other departmental development.

Yes, we should probably have more public/audience-oriented debates. Not sure program preservation and real-life transferable skills are the reasons why.

Furthermore, framework (or in the real world, pedagogy and citizenship debates, which at times make similar violence arguments) and consultation arguments occur in the real world. As someone who used to debate in front of lay judges frequently in both high school and 1990s CEDA, I can assure you that either of those arguments can be made persuasively in front of a lay judge.

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Director of Forensics/Associate Professor
Wayne State University
313-577-2953
kelly.young [at] wayne.edu
www.wsuforensics.org
Lwrnc
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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2014, 07:09:21 PM »

NEDA, a self-proclaimed education and audience-centered style of debate split from CEDA in the 1990s. The organization uses almost all attorney or lay judges for every round. That organization has experienced tremendous membership loss since it was founded. Following your logic, it would appear as though an audience-centered style of debate with lay judges isn't terribly persuasive to administrators either, given the experience in NEDA.

Of course, the real problem with your claim is that you are making a rather unfounded assumption that style of debate is the reason why any of the schools you list lost their debate program. Each of those cases are very different and had a number of complicated factors that led to the termination of those programs. If there was any single factor that you could point to in a number of those cases, it would be cost. Administrations decided to spend the resources dedicated to debate on new/different faculty and other departmental development.

Yes, we should probably have more public/audience-oriented debates. Not sure program preservation and real-life transferable skills are the reasons why.

Furthermore, framework (or in the real world, pedagogy and citizenship debates, which at times make similar violence arguments) and consultation arguments occur in the real world. As someone who used to debate in front of lay judges frequently in both high school and 1990s CEDA, I can assure you that either of those arguments can be made persuasively in front of a lay judge.



For the record, I'm not claiming that debate be exclusively audience-centered, only on occasion (hence my call for change at only 1 tournament).  I think my continuing choice to stay involved with debate is evidence that I find value in debate right now.  And from my understanding, NEDA is unpersuasive to administrators because it substituted dogmatism for argument, not because it is audience-centered. 
I'll take your authority on the rest of that though. 
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CouldaBeenaContenda
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« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2014, 10:40:22 PM »

NEDA, a self-proclaimed education and audience-centered style of debate ...has experienced tremendous membership loss since it was founded. Following your logic, it would appear as though an audience-centered style of debate with lay judges isn't terribly persuasive to administrators either, given the experience in NEDA.

Of course, the NDT had 210 enrolled, dues paying member schools in 1972, but I think I counted just 85 when the list was posted here earlier this year.  Just sayin'.
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Dover (New Hampshire) High School debate team, 1967-1970
Dover High School Debate Coach, 1970-1971
University of New Hampshire debate team, 1970 (when we still spoke like human beings)
University of New Hampshire debate team, 1980-1981 (and when we didn't)
UNH assistant debate coach, 1980-1981
kelly young
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« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2014, 10:08:27 AM »

NEDA, a self-proclaimed education and audience-centered style of debate ...has experienced tremendous membership loss since it was founded. Following your logic, it would appear as though an audience-centered style of debate with lay judges isn't terribly persuasive to administrators either, given the experience in NEDA.

Of course, the NDT had 210 enrolled, dues paying member schools in 1972, but I think I counted just 85 when the list was posted here earlier this year.  Just sayin'.

Dozens of reasons for these trends, all discussed extensively on this forum over the years. Correlation is not causation. Just saying...
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Director of Forensics/Associate Professor
Wayne State University
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kelly.young [at] wayne.edu
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PHayes
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« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2014, 08:40:42 AM »

I'm not familiar with NEDA, but I'd think it'd be very difficult to operate a year-round league using "lay" judges.  We're in DC--a mecca of expertise and advocacy, and have to work hard to build quality judging pools for tournaments capped at 32 teams.   Remember, these are all volunteers giving up some of their weekends.  (In fact, it's judging capacity more than anything else that's the reason we have to cap the field at 32).  

And while I think policy debate would benefit from an increased emphasis on the standards of evidence and argument employed by topic experts and advocacy professionals, I also think the policy model has proven to be an excellent vehicle for training students, and that we don't need to replace it, so much as reform it in some areas.  (And, really, my complaints aside, what format is perfect?)  Although we work really hard at our tournaments to create an "open" platform that allows debaters from all formats to fairly compete against each other--and are committed to further reforms for this years' events that promote inter-format competitive equity, I admit to being proud to see debaters from "my" type of debate doing so well against debaters from other formats in a tournament that requires skills policy debaters supposedly aren't learning (public speaking and traditional communications skills, mainly.)  (Although to be clear, I think our debaters would benefit greatly from more emphasis on public debate (2-3 events per year, per debater), so that they don't end up waiting until after college to begin transforming their "portable skills" into the tools they'll need on the "next level," shedding bad/annoying habits that I see even our best debaters carry into public debates, etc.)  

Finally, I'll push back a bit on describing our field as "lay" judges, given what that term usually means in the debate context. These aren't random people we find on campus. These are the people our debaters are going to have to impress, persuade, etc. for the rest of their lives if they want to rise to the top of most every field other than coaching policy debate (high-level topic experts and advocacy professionals (lawyers, diplomats, political professionals, activists etc). Our events have a number of goals (including building debate community, promoting debate networking, promoting debate to people outside the community, public diplomacy, etc.), but the core goal is seeking to give debaters a preview, a head start if you will, on their transition from college debate to ... life.  Here are the pools, btw, from our last two events: http://www.treatydebate.com/judges.htm, http://www.lafayettedebates.com/judges.htm

Thanks for the kind words about the LD, Lawrence.   But for the record, we view what we're doing as a complement, not a replacement, to existing forms of college debate. Would I like to see a few other schools create similar events?  Yes, of course, bc I'd like to see debaters have opportunities to engage in the highest caliber public debate events the best minds in our community can design (and I'm super excited by rumors of Houston's upcoming event on disability), but not at the expense of existing formats.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2014, 09:49:57 AM by PHayes » Logged
Lwrnc
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« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2014, 10:41:48 AM »

Finally, I'll push back a bit on describing our field as "lay" judges, given what that term usually means in the debate context. These aren't random people we find on campus. These are the people our debaters are going to have to impress, persuade, etc. for the rest of their lives if they want to rise to the top of most every field other than coaching policy debate (high-level topic experts and advocacy professionals (lawyers, diplomats, political professionals, activists etc). Our events have a number of goals (including building debate community, promoting debate networking, promoting debate to people outside the community, public diplomacy, etc.), but the core goal is seeking to give debaters a preview, a head start if you will, on their transition from college debate to ... life.  Here are the pools, btw, from our last two events: http://www.treatydebate.com/judges.htm, http://www.lafayettedebates.com/judges.htm

Thanks for the kind words about the LD, Lawrence.   But for the record, we view what we're doing as a complement, not a replacement, to existing forms of college debate. Would I like to see a few other schools create similar events?  Yes, of course, bc I'd like to see debaters have opportunities to engage in the highest caliber public debate events the best minds in our community can design (and I'm super excited by rumors of Houston's upcoming event on disability), but not at the expense of existing formats.


I don't think I ever claimed that we should get rid of policy debate as is, but am advocating for a perm.  I'm certainly no top speaker, but I've benefitted disproportionately from debate and compelled to preserve it. 
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joep
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« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2014, 08:28:50 AM »

there are lots of lawyers and diplomats who aren't necessarily intelligent people. sure, we should be able to speak to unintelligent people who are in positions of power, but isn't that just called college? i participated in the first French-German embassy debates at GW two Mays ago and was adjudicated by a lot of individuals form the French and German embassies who underscored why the diplomatic system is such a jokeóthe format was cool and the experience was awesome, but the adjudication was pretty terrible considering that we were debating issues French and German diplomats have pretty unwavering positions on. i'd fear that the natural bias that exists in every person is only amplified when 'professionals' step into debate, but i could very well be wrong. if the argument is "we should be able to persuade people who make money" then cool, let's get some of them professionals to judge us. but if the argument is "that will lead to better debating and better judging" i'd say there's no guarantee.
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CouldaBeenaContenda
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« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2014, 04:13:54 PM »

there are lots of lawyers...who aren't necessarily intelligent people.
Grin

Quote
I'd fear that the natural bias that exists in every person...

Back during the Vietnam War, I was in a debate on a military policy topic, and I argued that if the United States prohibited unilateral military intervention in foreign countries, we would be unable to assure the supply of raw materials from some countries, and the judge, who was a very highly esteemed debate coach but also a retired military man, was absolutely aghast at the suggestion that the United States would ever intervene militarily in the affairs of a foreign nation for reasons other than to advance the causes of freedom and justice.  He gave us the win, but he gave me the "4th" and reacted rather disdainfully towards me when I encountered him at future gatherings.  Policy debate has long endured and survived such subtle and not so subtle biases.

Quote
...if the argument is "we should be able to persuade people who make money" then cool, let's get some of them professionals to judge us. but if the argument is "that will lead to better debating and better judging" I'd say there's no guarantee.

Quote from Donald Trump:
Quote
You're fired!

Here is a debate truism.  "Should" means, "ought to, but not necessarily will".  Debaters should be able to persuade people who make money, but if debates are to be judged by such outsiders, what if they frequently produce the "wrong" results?  What if there are lots of important rounds in which all the inbred, debate professionals agree that one team won but the lay judges voted otherwise?  Are schools and their students willing to make year long commitments to participation in a time and labor intensive competition in which the results are determined even more arbitrarily than they are now?  My former partner may have been the best ever at explaining why the judges were wrong to have given him the many losses that he incurred.  Maybe that will become a useful skill to have when it is all the solace that a losing team gets to take away from wrong judging decisions.

For the first 33 years of the NDT, all the final rounds were split decisions.  I long ago read the published decisions from over a dozen of those rounds, and usually, the judges tended to have seen the issues in those debates similarly.  They generally agreed that the problem the affirmative addressed was indeed a problem, though their assessments of its magnitude varied; and they often agreed that the affirmative plan would do something towards ameliorating it, though again, varying in their assessments of the remedial magnitude; but also that doing so would incur some costs, both anticipated and unintended or unanticipated.  The reason for the split decisions was that the judges weighed the contents of the competing balance pans differently.

Then, from 1980 through 1986, four of the seven final rounds resulted in unanimous decisions.  I no longer have access to those transcripts, but I recall having concluded that the increase in the incidence of unanimous elimination round decisions of that era coincided with the ascendency of the so-called "hypothesis testing" judging paradigm.  Judges who had classified themselves as hypothesis testers were more inclined to arrive at the same conclusions as one another than were policy analyst judges.  I saw those hypothesis tester judges as "Binars" from the Star Trek episode.  Occurrence A either "equaled" result B or it didn't.  The evidence either proved it did or it didn't.  Making matters worse was the universality of the notion that a proven argument consisted of a claim, followed by someone's last name, the last two digits of a year, and then an excerpt from a publication which contained the same subject, object and verb as did the claim it was introduced to prove.

Lay debate judges are not going to be Binars, and they will exasperate the beejeebers out of debaters who have worked so hard to become adept at persuading....Binars.  I'm sure that I would enjoy judging a debate that was conducted to persuade lay judges, but I am similarly sure that exactly one-half the participants of each round I judged would not like the decision I rendered, and in a tournament that cut to octos, as many as fifteen of the sixteen non-winners would leave those tournaments with sour tastes in their mouths... even more than do now, since I am under the impression that the losing teams now often (well, OK, sometimes) agree with the judge's decisions.

I don't see how intercollegiate debate survives.  I mentioned in a post above that the number of schools "enrolled" in the NDT is about 40% of what I knew it to have been about four decades ago, but I also know that the size of the enduring programs and the number of students in those programs that are obsessively committed to debate have increased.  Member kelly young said above that reasons for that trend have been discussed extensively on this forum over the years.  I was not here for those discussions, but since I predate most of you, I will vote that the biggest reasons for that consolidation were the decision to allow schools to qualify two teams for the NDT beginning in 1970, thereby giving the schools that hosted successful high school debate clinics a more favorable recruiting situation, followed by the ridiculously broad, 1971-1972 topic that might as well have been, "Resolved: That the Federal Government should do something differently".  From then on, debate teams had to have at least half a dozen active participants, so that at least two would be available to wheel around the evidence for the others.

Back in the West Point NDT era, commonly about 400 people would watch the final round of the tournament, and the debaters expressed themselves in a manner that enabled the guests to comprehend what was being said.  For those of you who may wonder what that might have sounded like, there is an audio file of the 1961 NDT Final Round buried somewhere on the NDT website.  The link to it is not presently navigable through the site's "front door", however, so I will have to hack around until I find it again and append that link here when I do, but let me warn you, it is painful to listen to.

Index of /NDT/HistoricalLists/FinalRdsAudio
http://groups.wfu.edu/NDT/HistoricalLists/FinalRdsAudio/
(I wasn't able to get it to run on the computer I am presently using, but I had run it successfully on another computer previously)
(Update: I was able to get the 1957 audio to run using my iTunes player... which I didn't even know my computer had.  The last audio thingie I knowingly purchased was a Sony Walkman)

Any one of us could have shredded that winning, affirmative case, if only we could have been there.  Except maybe we couldn't have shredded it - at least, not by using the debating skills that we have each developed - because the judges might have thought we were nuts.  The first affirmative spent about the first three minutes of his opening speech telling the audience (au∑di∑ence:ˈŰdēəns noun 1. the assembled spectators or listeners at a public event, such as a play, movie, concert, or meeting) what the debate was going to be about. The audiences then at least knew what the issues were going to be, and may have believed they comprehended the flow of the argumentation, but I think a lot of us from that era tend to overlook how many really, really arbitrary or just plain bad decisions were rendered.    I remember the old topicality arguments we used to have.  "The affirmative plan is not topical."  "Yes it is." "No it isn't" "Yes it is."  The Monte Python "Argument" skit wasn't all that original.  I think that is the type of discourse that would be invited if debate had lay judges.

As a self-appointed spokesmen for the hundreds of thousands of former debaters who owe so much to their involvement in intercollegiate policy debate but find contemporary policy debate to be unpalatable, I applaud any and all efforts to further restore debate to comprehensibility, but I'm afraid that it can't be done.  Is that a bad thing?  I don't know.  Maybe the good old days really weren't all that good.


Michael W. Toland
« Last Edit: November 02, 2016, 11:39:53 AM by CouldaBeenaContenda » Logged

Dover (New Hampshire) High School debate team, 1967-1970
Dover High School Debate Coach, 1970-1971
University of New Hampshire debate team, 1970 (when we still spoke like human beings)
University of New Hampshire debate team, 1980-1981 (and when we didn't)
UNH assistant debate coach, 1980-1981
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