Ben Reid—The University of Texas at Tyler
1 year of bad high school LD in KCMO.
4 years of college Parli (and some LD), mostly at McKendree University.
When it comes to evaluating the substantive debate, I generally imagine myself as a policymaker. In an ideal world, the affirmative would defend the imagined implementation of a topical plan text, and the negative would defend either the status quo or a competitive (preferably functionally and textually) counterplan. That said, my role as a policymaker is subordinate to my role as an observer and participant in a game. Thus, absent the establishment of some kind of an alternative judging framework, I generally default to evaluating topicality, theory and other procedurals first. Beyond that, the substantive debate will be evaluated based on how it shakes out.
While it goes without saying at this point, what you are reading are only my predilections and preferences regarding judging parliamentary debates. I do not want to impose my views about debate on anyone else unilaterally. That means you should do everything you can to make my decision calculus simple and clear. This is especially true if you’re out of my wheelhouse. I will work hard, but there’s a limit to my prowess that hovers somewhere around the point of “mildly clever”. Decisions are made based upon specific comparative impact and link analysis work done in the PMR and negative block. Unfortunately, I find that specific, logical impact analysis is often overlooked, and this makes me sad, because it’s usually the most interesting and important part of a debate. Developmentally, my biggest influences were probably Cory Freivogel, Jeff Jones, and Kyle Dennis. These influences often varied by subject area, but that may well give you some insight into how I like to approach these issues.
Topicality is always a voting issue and never a reverse voting issue. The affirmative does not get to win because they read a topical affirmative. Topicality is probably always a question of competing interpretations. I’ve yet to hear an argument for why reasonability is a preferable topicality framework, and I’m still not sure I’ve heard a logical explanation of what reasonability would even mean in this context. This means you need to do work on the standards debate. Standards are best debated like any other impact—this means developed stories late in the game.
For those of you playing left of center—do your best to move in the direction of the topic. Despite my unequivocal statement in the last paragraph, I can be persuaded that there is perhaps a reason not to be topical in the traditional sense (I would have voted for Emporia in finals of the NDT last year, for example), but that struggle will be an uphill battle for you, not least because I often think of policy debate and parliamentary debate differently. As a general rule, play it safe, and see if you can get creative and do what you want to do while adapting your argument for relevance to the topic.
Do not let (insert silly specification argument) be your A-strat. I think these arguments are largely anti-educational. If the MO is 8 minutes of spec, then something has gone horribly, horribly wrong, and nobody’s going to get much in the way of speaker points. I understand the utility of reading A/F/E-spec as link insurance for your CP/DA, and will (try) not (to) hold the fact that you read an LOC shell against you. If the affirmative unfairly shifts their agent in responding to the negative’s substantive strategy, then the negative will not be punished for going for spec in the block. This hypothetical example is probably the lone caveat to my distaste for this position as a judge. P-p-please don’t do this to me.
I’m not nearly as hostile to these positions as my competitive persona has lead y’all to believe. The reality is that I’m not hostile to these positions at all. It’s true, I preferred to read DA/CP/Case strategies as a debater, and these positions are the ones I’m most knowledgeable about and comfortable evaluating. That said, I appreciate the educational and competitive value of critiques and want you to do what you do best and what’s most strategic in the context of a particular debate.
I think you should have specific link evidence in your shell. I’m not convinced that an alternative is a necessary component of a critical argument. Should you choose to forego using an alternative, then framing and role of the ballot questions must be clear, and instructional as to what the implications of a position are. Should you read a critique that is inclusive of an alternative text, then the alternative should be clear, and utilize explicit, specific solvency evidence. The negative would do well to have specific blocks to common permutations prepared. You should probably know that in most cases, I’m not sure why the alt solves (and I often find that the perm solves about as well as the alternative), so you should make that clear (and make explicit differentiations between the solvency of the perm and the alternative).
I believe the affirmative should be allowed to weigh case against the critique, which magnifies the importance of your alt. solvency evidence. As far as how the affirmative should respond—Cory Freivogel’s expanded philosophy about answering critiques is generally the way I think about things. Too many otherwise decent affirmative teams lose K debates because the MG is preoccupied with answering the position line by line in a fashion similar to basically every other argument. This seems a waste of time. I like affirmative team’s that try to engage the substance of the critique. I’m also a big fan of impact turning. The affirmative should not forget that they have an aff. For some reason, people need to be reminded of this.
I want to be the very best judge that I can be. Unfortunately, we’re all going to have to deal with the gaps in my knowledge. While I cannot promise that I will make a perfect (or even necessarily a “right” decision all of the time), I can promise you that I will do everything I can to deliver a decision that is fair, impartial, coherent, and helpful. If it helps you at all, critiques of traditional IR theory are the Ks that make the most sense to me, so those are a good place to start. Be clear. Don’t assume I’ve read your authors in the same depth you have, because I haven’t.
By now you’ve noticed that I devote more language to critiques than to any other section of my philosophy. Perhaps this is overcompensation on my part. I hope not. You should know that a number of “critical” issues are near and dear to me. I spend a lot of time thinking about privilege, race, sex, sexuality, gender, and social class. Justice is important to me. So I will reiterate the promise—I will do the best I can.
You should read them. Specific, intrinsic, highly probable, big impact disads with fast time frames are my favorite negative arguments. Reading them, reading them well, and going for them will make me happy, and that bodes well for you.
I tend to side with the neg in theory debates. Theory is most likely a reason to reject the position, not the team. The affirmative would benefit from reading disadvantages to the CP. You’re probably better off not saying consult, delay or veto/cheato (though, if your solvency ev is good, I find consult less repulsive than the other two). Decisions in intense counterplan theory debates are tricky things in Parli. In policy, I default to thinking that the quality and specificity of your solvency evidence is the arbiter of legitimacy. Obviously in parli, this isn’t possible. If the debate is going to be centered on questions of CP theory, then they should happen slower than most other debates. Like with topicality, interpretations should be read slowly twice to ensure precision.
Good case debate is (I think) the most enjoyable type of debate to watch. If the negative has sweet, specific answers to the aff and a DA with good link evidence, they will likely win. Defending the status quo is a good idea. Anyone that tells you that the negative needs a counterplan to win is just straight up wrong.
Offense wins debates. I can’t deny this. That said, smart defense is better than stupid offense. I think your defense will legitimize your offense. It makes your offensive claims more appealing, and provides weight they might not otherwise have. I often reward debaters who make smart, defensive arguments an integral part of their strategy. I am quite willing to assess zero risk of something.
[CENTER][B][U]A WORD ABOUT SPEAKER POINTS[/U][/B][/CENTER]
I haven’t done my due diligence in running down everyone’s speaks yet, but my guess is that I’m sitting slightly below average in speaker-point distribution. To this point, I’ve started from the assumption that an average speaker clocked in at 27.5, and have scaled up and down from that starting place in tenth-point increments. It seems that community norms have an average speaker earning slightly higher points than this. While I think this is just evidence that we ought to use some weighted system for in-bracket seeding and speaker-award distribution, I think it’s clear I’ve lost that battle. Because I don’t want to give the teams debating in front of me an unfair disadvantage, I will make an effort to find the community median, and adapt to it. Again, I do not promise precision or perfection, but I promise to try real hard.