"The following is from the APDA rules and appears to indicate a level of self-censorship that I personally would find very objectionable:
“Certain cases may be considered “APDA tight.” That means that although some people argue for each side of the debate, the general characteristics of APDA as a community of college students make the opposition side too difficult to defend. Legalizing sodomy may be debatable, but a vast majority of APDA debaters would support that case, so the case could be considered tight.”
Thus, the “big issues” appear only to be open for debate IF the Opp and the judge both consider them to be something other than that which the “vast majority of APDA debaters would support”. Basically, to place off-limits a theoretically unbounded set of cases under the assumption that the “vast majority” of a group would all think the same way is both a recognition of a disturbing degree of “group-think” and a troubling endorsement of judge intervention.
Some of my other objections certainly may be local instances peculiar to the local APDA group (which itself appears to have some stark internal divisions on some issues, such as respectability of NPDA)."
-I don’t think the level of “group-think” here is disturbing. It’s a recognition of sometimes shared beliefs, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with recognizing that. Moreover, as I said, this isn’t an issue that is constantly debated. People run issue cases often without this worry.
"Well, unfortunately, your initial framing of the discussion in “APDA is better” terms was/is not helpful. I don’t believe that NPDA is free of problems, but I don’t think APDA is either. "
-Back up there. This discussion did not begin as APDA is better. I think there are clear benefits to NPDA’s style, as outlined in my first post. I’m not the best advocate of NPDA because I haven’t competed on NPDA, but I can recognize that you guys have some advantages.
“You reference “APDA etiquete” and other informal forms several times. My question is, how can unwritten rules be enforced without embracing judge intervention and/or recognizing that enforcement will be selective? Indeed, the issue of selective enforcement of rules and preferential treatment towards certain teams has been one of the more persistent rumors swirling around APDA.”
-It’s much easier to enforce unwritten rules because of the smallness of the community. If someone is running a case multiple times in a tournament, it’ll become clear because people talk to one another.
In regards to preferential treatment of teams, while there is always talk of “busted” tournaments, most of it is just that. We did however, in a discussion of adherence to time, note that most of the better debaters feel free to ignore time limits, and the problems that causes. APDA as a body is actually working towards solving that problem, as many tournaments have declared stricter enforcement of time will be the norm, and it seems to be working.
"Well, let me offer the explicit context in which it was used to let people judge for themselves. The context is a practice round on a case canned by the controller of the local APDA team. The case thesis is, “moving nuclear waste from Belgrade to Uzbekistan is bad”. I pressed for a comparison – bad compared to what? What do you propose to do differently? The response was:
“Jason’s just a dino – he doesn’t understand how it works in APDA. We don’t have to present a plan, we can just say that nuclear waste is bad.”
Frankly, that was what led me to stop trying to work with the local APDA team. If their idea of debate is that they need only say something is bad (without comparison) and use some idea of “APDA tradition” to shield their arguments from challenge, then its not a format that I care to work within. And, since the students are also the judges, I see nothing to indicate that such distorted views of debate would be correctable."
-This would be a bad APDA team. While they don’t have to present a plan, to say that something is just bad will not produce many good rounds. Saying “nuclear waste is bad” isn’t debatable, because, well, duh. A case of, “Nuclear waste ought not be moved from Belgrade to Uzbekistan” is debatable. Don’t worry about them, man, they’re idiots.
“This is a troubling attitude. Basically, all LO has to do is accuse a case of being “tight”. Then the MG must point out the flaws in the case or lose instantly. Then the MO can use the flaws pointed out by the MG to win anyway. That’s a no-win scenario for Gov. Indeed, I have seen this PRECISE method used by APDA crossover teams out of Missouri several years ago.”
-A few things. First of all, if an LO calls a case tight and it’s not tight, then they ought to, and usually do, face penalties. Moreover, the LO isn’t just allowed to say “tight” - they have to attempt to offer arguments in opposition.
Is there no ability to call a case tight on NPDA? So if the link was, “The government ought protect it’s citizens”, I could run “a just government ought try to prevent mass murder”, the Opp couldn’t declare that tight?
A flawless case makes for a dull round, because if the case is a tautology, there’s no discussion to be had. At the point which Gov can prep cases in advance, you get an even greater problem of being able to develop tight cases that create boring debate. The ability to determine if something is tight and to call someone on that encourages cases in which both sides are debatable.
“Of course not. I am, however, saying that active competitors are more likely to engage in “you vote for me and I will vote for you next time” kind of deal-making than coaches are. While some coaches are vested in a kind of “proxy competition”, even that is relatively less likely to become a problem than APDA judges who are in ACTUAL competition.”
-Perhaps. I still can’t say that I’ve encountered true biases in judges, but they do exist. All I know is that in HS, with coach/parent judges, I saw much greater bias towards particular teams than I have in college.
"Accountable? To whom and by what mechanism? And why do you assume that coaches do NOT know best (or at least know more than students)? The issue that students should sit in judgment on the judges has always been a curious claim to me. Why do you go to school if you already know it all?
There certainly are some crummy judges in NPDA, that I will grant you and I have a pile of ballots to provide some hilarious examples. But I see no reason to believe competitors (particularly novices) would be any better as judges. Further, competitors are vulnerable to types of social pressures that make it LESS likely they will judge each round fairly."
-Judges who have been judging for twenty years are much more likely to develop biases in regards to certain antiquated rules and their own sense of what’s right and wrong. Read your own forum and you’ll find a discussion of just this.
Moreover, judging a round shouldn’t be about “knowing” - the judge is supposed to be a blank slate. Debate is about communication, so it shouldn’t matter who your judge is, in that regard. Convincing novices and campus judges that your side is right has just as much value as convincing an experienced debater. The only issue that comes in is the point scale that inexperienced judges are given sometimes, which can be different from the one dinos are used to - we actually just talked about this, and the basic feeling is, just make people follow a scale. I also think this problem isn’t solved by coaches who come from different regions and backgrounds, who would also have differing point systems.
“See, here you just don’t know what you are talking about. While relatively few invitational tournaments use strikes, NPDA Nationals requires judge philosophies and provides 10-20% judge strikes. NPTE uses judge philosophies and a modified MPJ system. Further, at ANY tournament the judges are constrained from judging schools for whom they recently competed or coached.”
-Good to hear. We too prevent judges from judging someone from their school.
“Well, a couple of responses occur to me. First, I think there is a substantial community in NPDA, particularly in the areas where there are enough teams that they see each other frequently. I mean, where do you think this forum came from? They even tolerate us “dinos” without feeling it necessary to come up with a special term to label/discriminate with. Second, however, I think the “bond” in APDA among the “frequent” debaters may be a problem, not an advantage, insofar as it creates an “in-group” that tends strongly to favor each other with preferential judging and preferential access to tab rooms. I’ve heard this concern expressed by many APDA debaters over the years.”
-Ha - we don’t just tolerate our dinos, we love them much. Also, I didn’t say there isn’t a community on NPDA, just that it doesn’t seem as close-knit - again, perception.
In regards to the frequent debater argument, I think the success of teams from Minnesota when they have competed in APDA shows that it’s not impossible for teams to do well without being part of the in-crowd. I do think that being on the circuit a lot can factor in in a judging director’s mind - they know who the better debaters are, and thus will make sure to give them an experienced judge first round. This gets mitigated after a round or two, because everyone in the up-brackets will get the experienced judges, regardless of who their friends are. Still, the fact that APDA at times feels like a social group almost as much as a debate circuit can create problems, but I accept them because I think the social aspect is highly positive. It doesn’t ruin my fun to find out that someone got their friend as a judge, even if it can be annoying. It’s not an every-weekend occurrence, but when it does happen, I roll with it.