Zach Schneider Judging Philosophy


Hi! I’m Zach. I debated for 5 years of NPDA/NPTE parli (4 at Cedarville University and 1 at SIU) and this is my fourth year coaching/judging.

I used to have a much longer philosophy, but I deleted most of it. The vast majority of my specific argumentative thoughts reflect who I was as a debater, not who I am as a judge. As a judge, I’ve really stopped caring about most ideological preferences; I mostly just want to see you excel at whatever it is you do best. I also keep a Google doc of stats about my decisions if you want to find out how I historically have evaluated arguments in your preferred genre.

With that said, here’s what I think is the foundation of how I structurally understand/evaluate debates:

  • I fundamentally believe that the aff team should defend the topic (or some advocacy, anyway) and the neg team should say that the aff is bad. I am very unlikely to vote negative if the neg does not have links to the aff, even if the neg also has good arguments or is “more correct” in the abstract. This also means I think the aff always gets a perm, even in a “methods debate” (I also think every debate is about methods).
  • I think that the rotating topic is one of the best things about parli, so I am somewhat inclined to think aff teams should defend the topic (or at least adapt their K aff to the topic). I still vote for plenty of untopical aff teams, but I also end up voting for framework a fair amount.
  • I generally think that every high-level debate is won on warrant depth/comparison and impact calculus – whether it’s a policy debate, K debate, framework or T, etc. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rebuttal with too much impact calculus. In any good debate, both sides will be winning a lot of arguments; the next-level teams are the ones that can then compare those arguments and tell me why their winning set is more important.
  • When I split with other judges on panels in high-level rounds, it’s usually because I am very technical as a judge. I keep a tight flow and I am most likely to vote for the team that is correctly identifying and leveraging the arguments they’ve won on the flow (even if I think the other team is correct on some deeper level or outside the context of debate). This is the best way I’ve found to remove my biases and make myself predictable as a judge: if your flow has the same arguments as mine (and the same extensions/comparisons) then you should rarely be surprised by my decision.
  • I cannot evaluate arguments that I don’t flow (literally; I have ADHD and I’ve long forgotten them by the end of the debate). I’m happy to listen to your speech in whatever form it takes, but if you don’t want it flowed and you also care about competitive success, it’s in both of our best interests that you strike me.
  • I respect and appreciate teams that are willing to stake out their argument and defend it, pretty much regardless of what that argument is. I love courageous, gutsy, nuanced arguments. In contrast, I am usually annoyed by arguments that I perceive to be running away from the substance of the debate (such as generic spec or random nitpicky theory arguments).

If you’re reading my philosophy to find out whether you should read argument X, you should probably assume I’m ambivalent towards it, and in general I’d rather you think “what do we want to read” or “what is strategic in this debate” not “what is Zach’s favorite argument.” I think I’m a competent judge in just about any debate and I’m happy to watch you do whatever it is you do best.

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