The Role of the Judge By David Branse (Part One)

The Role of the Judge

By David Branse

1) Introduction

This paper offers an interpretation of the correct role of the judge. My claim is that educational appeals should not play a role in the judge’s decision calculus. This applies to both critical roles of the ballot and theory voters.

To clarify, my view allows for the judge to foster education out of round. In fact, it is probably preferable to have judges motivate students to pursue the educational opportunities that debate offers.

My ultimate view is that the role of the judge and ballot is to vote for the debater who best defends the truth or falsity of the resolution. The aff burden is to prove the resolution true; the neg’s burden is to prove it false. This certainly doesn’t forbid judges from voting on education voters in theory shells or K roles of the ballot. The judge can still be tab. I argue just that the right answer to the question “should the judge vote on education impacts?” is no. Debaters can certainly be winning the opposite though.

My claim is that the judge does not have the jurisdiction to reject an argument proving the truth of the resolution for its lack of critical education nor to prioritize a set of arguments for their educational value. I will refer to this as the truth-testing paradigm.

The judge is given one explicit obligation: vote for the better debater (or, on some ballots, the “winner”). This article tries to establish what that means.

2) Establishing the Importance of Rules

To determine who is better at something requires normative assessments about the rules of the activity – the winner of a competitive activity is the one who follows the rules and procedures to victory. The better soccer team is the team that scores more goals according to the rules of soccer and the better chess player is the person who achieves checkmate by moving their pieces in accordance with the rules of chess. Any competitive activity’s evaluation of the “better participant” is constrained by the rules that govern the activity.

The constraining role of an activity’s rules can answer a couple of common claims for education’s value and the judge as an educator.

First, a common reason to view education as “a voter” is a combination of the following:

Argument 1: A) education is valuable, and B) debate is a unique space to provide that education.

To see how this claim is mistaken consider the follow example:

It seems apparent that two claims are true: 1) exercise is valuable, and 2) soccer is an activity structured in such a way that can easily facilitate exercise. This, however, does not seem to be a strong enough reason to make the claim that: “the referee should be a facilitator of exercise”. Intuitively, if one team scored more goals than another team that happened to hustle far more, the proper response is to reward the goal-scoring team the win. There doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to promote exercise just because exercise can easily be promoted.

This is because pragmatic benefits are constrained by the rules of the activity. Exercise or education should not be promoted at the expense of the rules since the rules are what define the activity. LD is only LD because of the rules governing it – if we changed the activity to promoting practical values, then it would cease to be what it is. As soon as referees reward teams that hustle more with the win, the game is no longer soccer, but some new sport that rewards hustle rather than goal scoring.

At best, the claim in Argument 1 merely justifies why the rules of debate should change; however, that does not bear any claim to who should win a round.

A much stronger claim made for education is as follows:

Argument 2: Debate was designed to be educational

At first glance, this argument seems intuitive. If debate was designed to be educational, then surely our rules should just be to promote that educational objective. This, however, incorrectly understands the nature of activities. Once again, an example will help illustrate this problem:

Although the rules of chess were probably designed to provide an intellectually stimulating game (and for the sake of argument, let’s assume they were), this does not tell you how to play the game. Imagine that a player makes an illegal move and argues that it should be allowed because it will make the resulting position more intellectually challenging. The proper response is to forbid it. Internal rules of an activity are absolute. From the perspective of the players, the authority of the rules are non-optional. The argument the player made could only be a reason to reform the rules outside the round.[1]

Even if debate was designed to be educational, if the rules of debate don’t mandate voting on education, then the judge does not have the jurisdiction to do it. In fact, rules probably shouldn’t exclusively actualize the reason for their instantiation. If chess rules said, “be intellectually stimulating” instead of “move pieces certain ways”, the resulting game would end up being less intellectually stimulating. In the same way, if debate should be educational, a rule of “promoting (or voting on) education” is probably counter-productive. The process of saying something is educational so we should be bound to talking about it limits the range of arguments available. Education arises after the fact: the process itself provides education; we receive value from truth testing. I will elaborate on this argument in more detail in later sections.

Thus, from an internal perspective – the perspective of an agent involved in the activity – rules are more important than the purpose of creating the rules in the first place. Within the debate, the judge is bound by the established rules. If the rules are failing their function, that can be a reason to change the rules outside of the round. However, in round acts are out of the judge’s jurisdiction.

In fact, I also disagree with Argument 2 since debate was probably created just as a competitive activity. Soccer provides exercise, but schools fund it simply because it is a fun, competitive activity. I view debate in a similar way. This, however, is not relevant to my final argument.

3) The Rules of the Game

With the importance of rules established, the question arises: what are the rules of the game?

There are of course no natural rules of debate. There is nothing analytically contained within the concept of debate that dictates that certain specific rules must be attached to the activity. There are, however, rules that we have chosen in setting up this debate activity in particular ways. These rules – however arbitrary – govern debate.

There are three features of debate that I think are truly constitutive of our current model of debate – three features that define the fundamental rules we have chosen for Lincoln-Douglas Debate.

  • Speech times
  • A resolution
  • An “affirmative” and a “negative”

I think these rules (rules 2 and 3 specifically) make the case for the judge’s decision calculus being “truth testing” rather than “educational value”.

First, the resolution delineates a topic for discussion. A truth-testing model coheres with this view of a resolution: the resolution is the rule that sets the grounds for the adjudication of truth and falsity claims. In contrast, educational claims seem unable to explain this feature of debate.

Of course, advocates of education could claim that the resolution is a starting point for critical discussion. This, I think, does not go far enough. The role of the judge as an educator seems to regard the resolution as merely a helpful tool not a constitutive feature. If the educational potential of the round could be improved by shifting away from the resolution, the education view would say to shift away. The role of the judge as an educator renders evaluative words like ought and justice irrelevant. In fact, education could potentially dictate disregarding the resolution all together (anything is possible when the round is guided by a practical consideration); however, everybody believes that the resolution is at least significant for the debate. The resolution, in fact, offers one of the only constitutive guidelines for debate. Most tournament invitations put a sentence in the rules along the lines of, “we will be using [X Resolution].” Thus, discussion confined to the resolution is non-optional.

I don’t believe that this is the strongest argument in favor of the truth-testing model, but I think it does offer at least a persuasive reason to adopt it. Common usage seems at least a reason to err on the side of truth testing when viewing what debate means; however, I think the second argument is much more compelling.

Second, the delineation of an “affirmative” and a “negative” establishes a compelling case for a truth testing model. These titles establish unique rules for the debaters receiving them. The roles of these debaters are not to be abstract “debaters” or “advocates”, but to be an aff and a neg. Their obligations are contextualized by their roles.

  • “affirm”[2] is defined as “to prove true”
  • “negate”[3] is defined as “to deny the truth of”

Thus, the burden of the debaters in the round are contextualized clearly within the scheme of truth testing. They are not educator one and educator two, or advocate one and advocate two, but two debaters constrained by the rules of their assignment – to uphold or deny the truth of the resolution. Thus, the “better debater” can only be defined in terms of the duty of the debaters. As I established before, the standard of assessment is contextualized by the role. A trumpet player would not be the better trumpet player for playing the flute and a soccer player would not be better at soccer for scoring a touchdown. Thus, judging the quality of the debaters requires a reference to their roles. The better aff is the debater who is better at proving the resolution true. The better neg is the debater who is better at denying the truth of the resolution. The ballot requests an answer to “who did a comparatively better job fulfilling their role”, and since debaters’ roles dictate a truth-testing model, the judge ought to adjudicate the round under a truth testing model of debate. The judge does not have the jurisdiction to vote on education rather than truth testing.

These roles of debate are also unique to Lincoln-Douglas, not required parts of “debate”. For example, American Parliamentary Debate (APDA) lacks the features necessary to derive truth testing. Parliamentary debate uses “Prime Minister” and “Leader of the Opposition.” These roles are divorced from the debaters’ attitudes towards a given proposition. A good Leader of the Opposition does not intrinsically have to prove a certain proposition false. In addition, a resolution is not constitutive. In APDA, the PMC picks the topic, which is contestable through a formal, in-round mechanism. These restrictions aren’t universal – the point of our restrictions is to define OUR activity.

Practical disadvantages to a truth-testing paradigm miss the point. Nothing established so far is in tension with those arguments. My argument is only that from the internal perspective, the perspective of a judge in a round, the judge is constrained by the few practice rules given to us.

Perhaps soccer would be better served as an activity where goals are less important than hustling – that is fine. My point is only that to adopt that perspective requires changing the rules. Maybe the role of the judge should be to be an educator, but until the rules are changed externally, that is irrelevant to a judge in-round.

4) The Perspective of the Judge

Throughout the article I have made reference to the fact that if the rules of debate should be changed to enforce education, then that can only motivate out-of-round behavior not in-round behavior. In this section, I intend to further flesh out that distinction – both by summarizing arguments from previous sections and by explaining some new ones.

Imagine a judge watching a round where the aff is decisively proving the resolution true, but the neg is engaged in far more educational practices. Also, imagine that this judge reaches a decisive conclusion in round – he or she comes to truly believe that the rules of debate should be educational, and that we should reform our current model of debate. The judge believes that there is true tension between what the rules of debate explicitly advocate and what they ought to advocate. This judge should still not vote for the neg for jurisdictional reasons.

There are two preliminary reasons I find this view persuasive:

First, bindingness: the practice rules argument I’ve sketched out illustrates this point. Once a judge commits to a round in accordance with a set of rules, the reasons within the round are different – the rules are absolute and non-optional. When a person signs a contract, if they come to regard the terms of the contract as problematic, this is not a reason to disregard the contract. It might only be a reason to try to renegotiate it. A decision about the practicality of the contract cannot, in itself, generate a reason to disobey the terms of the agreement.

Second, arbitrariness: A maxim that provides the judge with the authority to vote on their perceived assessment of the activity’s goals seems to only emphasize the arbitrary, subjective elements of debate. There would be something deeply objectionable about the referee deciding to declare the better exerciser winner. Impositions of practical judgments seem to just be unfair ex post facto rules that step outside the judge’s jurisdiction.

This is especially true with debate – education claims may seem somewhat intuitive, but there is no reason imposing practical judgments ends there. For example, one judge could come to believe that debate is a unique space to construct value judgments, and therefore the best debater is the one who best establishes a philosophy to win the round. Even though debate is a unique space for philosophical argumentation, no debater would feel comfortable for a judge voting on the AC framework when the neg won contention level offense beneath that framework.

Every judge will have different value judgments, and so the role of the judge in each round would oscillate. This emphasizes judge intervention, and destroys the chance for debaters to predict each other’s arguments and thus engage with them. Very few people are comfortable viewing debate as an activity with oscillating rules where judges cannot be held to any predictable standard.

In that case, how should the judge act if they have reached a conclusion about debate’s practical purpose? The answer can only be action outside the round. Judges should advocate for changing the rules of debate. One potential option is for tournaments to explicitly include that judges should take the perspective of educators and then explain how they can provide education to give debaters a chance to engage. Perhaps tournament rules should write a section about a threshold for education or a description of how judges can intervene. Or they could describe the extent education can play in a critical role. This will solve the aforementioned issues with education because it will give the judges the jurisdiction to act on educational issues in a predictable way.

I, however, do not defend this approach. I believe that education should not become a rule for debate. This argument is independent and will be clarified in the next two sections.

[1] Example used from: Terry Nardin “International Ethics and International Law”. Review of International Studies, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Jan., 1992), published by Cambridge University Press

[2] Variations of: Dictionary.com – maintain as true, Merriam Webster – to say that something is true, Vocabulary.com – to affirm something is to confirm that it is true, Oxford dictionaries – accept the validity of, Thefreedictionary – assert to be true

[3] Variations of: Dictionary.com – deny the truth of, Merriam Webster – deny the truth of, Vocabulary.com – deny the truth of, TheFreeDictionary – to deny the truth of

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  • Ben Koh

    I’m likely going to write a longer response to this in article form potentially with others.

    There seems to be some strange divide between the ideas that are justified and the worlds in which they create; it’s this notion that we can separate ourselves from the types of actions that are created via those ideas. This seems to be the fundamental divide between like Anti/ Pro-kritik based forms of thinking (a binary that seems vacuous and a corrosive fiction at best).

    I’ll minimize my comments for sake of better explanation once I get to sleep on this- but do I want to participate in a form of debate where the fairly good constraints of education are divorced from the activity? I don’t.

    It’s the chance to give youth access to discussions of violence, their personhood, their social experiences that is what appeals to me. That we can learn from one another and create a forum where I can discuss ideas that affect me and my life in the day to day. This reminds me much of my experience debating when my stutter was at its worse- where every round was a collision with a myriad of theory args intentionally read because I couldn’t answer them all on the line by line. K debate was a strategic answer, but also an ideological answer.

    I’m a debate coach. I’m an educator, and those two things aren’t going to be separated despite the pulls and chisel of the flow.

    • Rebar Niemi

      Ben and I will very likely be releasing a more thorough response. I look forward to future parts of this series.

  • Rodrigo Paramo

    Couple of questions –

    1) “There are three features of debate that I think are truly constitutive of our current model of debate – three features that define the fundamental rules we have chosen for Lincoln-Douglas Debate.

    Speech times
    A resolution
    An “affirmative” and a “negative””

    These 3 features seem to also be constitutive of policy debate.
    However, that activity has decisively rejected a truth-testing model – what do you think accounts for that?
    What rule do you think exists in LD that does /not/ exist in policy that means truth-testing is the necessary model of debate?

    2) “Once a judge commits to a round in accordance with a set of rules, the reasons within the round are different – the rules are absolute and non-optional. When a person signs a contract, if they come to regard the terms of the contract as problematic, this is not a reason to disregard the contract. It might only be a reason to try to renegotiate it. A decision about the practicality of the contract cannot, in itself, generate a reason to disobey the terms of the agreement.”

    What contract do you think judges sign before judging debate rounds ? You’re correct that most tournament invitations include a sentence like “The LD topic will be the September/October NSDA topic,” but where does an agreement to that also entail that judges only evaluate questions of truth? I’m confused about what exactly you think is so binding about agreeing to judge a debate round.

    3) Why is comparing debate to soccer a productive simile to engage in? The two activities are pretty distinct, a point I think Rebar really hits home, which makes it confusing to try to derive rules from them – what are the similarities between the two past the competitive element you seem to think is constitutive of debate ?

    4) How do we determine rules for debate? NSDA has a rule book sure, but so do most state debate associations, and how do we resolve a disagreement between those two? The notion that objective rules exist in an activity like this is largely incoherent to me.

    5) Let’s say that after Round 1 of Greenhill a “judge reaches a decisive conclusion in round – he or she comes to truly believe that the rules of debate should be educational, and that we should reform our current model of debate.” What happens in Round 2? Do they go back to thinking education doesn’t matter or at that point does it become okay to evaluate the education impacts?
    This I think is central to your advocacy in the argument and in a lot of ways renders it incoherent? I’d love to hear you explain how you resolve that issue.

    6) “The judge can still be tab. I argue just that the right answer to the question “should the judge vote on education impacts?” is no.”

    I don’t understand how a “tab” judge can exist in your world if they’re also supposed to presuppose that education isn’t a voting issue?

    • Jason Smith

      Re 1: First, I don’t think that you’re using truth-testing in the way that David at least claims to be using it – “the judge does not have the jurisdiction to reject an argument proving the truth of the resolution for its lack of critical education nor to prioritize a set of arguments for their educational value.” I don’t think LD or policy consensus currently agrees with that, but I know both LDers and policy debaters that do. Second, even if there is a difference, it seems pretty easy to just say policy is wrong on this, similarly to how the vast majority of LDers (with good reason, I think) believe that the current lack of non-consequentialist analytic philosophy in policy is a problem with the format. Third, even if there is disagreement, it doesn’t really provide evidence for one side being right or wrong – it probably gets into some fairly irrelevant sociological factors, just like the inclusion vs exclusion of non-consequentialist analytic philosophy.

      Re 4: I’m fairly sure both from discussions with him and from the article (which limits rules to time limits and the topic) that David thinks that the only rules that really matter are tournament rules, though this article doesn’t really get into that.

      I share your concerns on 5 and 6, and think that requires more explanation.

  • Shmant the Warrior for Justice and Morality

    I’m inclined to agree with everything cookie person said. People are going to card this and it’s going to be even worse than Nebel T.
    More importantly, though, I have a lot of problems with some of the ideas in this article. I guess the first is more of a question–what if someone were to say something really offensive in the round? Can the judge vote against them? It seems like the obvious answer is yes, but if all the judge cares about is the truth/falsity of the resolution, then there would be no problem with what happened in the round. I think that’s the overarching problem with this position, but there also seem to be a few issues with the individual arguments you make.

    You say the argument that education is valuable + debate uniquely provides it isn’t sufficient to override rules in debate. However, the argument isn’t just that debate is one way to provide education, the argument is that it’s the only way or the best way to provide a certain form of education (e.g. research, advocacy skills, etc.) That doesn’t apply to your examples like sports because we could always just run around or lift weights or whatever to get that exercise, but if debate really does provide education in some unique way that other activities don’t achieve, then its seems that we probably should try to protect that either in or out of round.
    Another response to the idea that we should just follow the rules of debate seems to be—who cares? Unlike soccer, debate doesn’t really have any rules that are set in stone. Maybe the NSDA rules are a good starting point, but following those rules to the letter seems pretty impractical, especially with the current norms in national circuit debate. It seems that instead, we should try to shape rules that are more educational—we should place constraints on ways to achieve truth/falsity of the resolution (if truth-testing is right), so that we can have better debates.
    I think this also takes out your responses to the second argument for education. Another response to that point, however, seems pretty simple. Chess (your example) is designed to be intellectually stimulating and the rules are made such that it is. We can probably agree chess is intellectually stimulating. If, however, the rules they made for chess were really bad and didn’t cause intellectual stimulation (not sure if that’s worded right but whatever), then we would probably change them, or people would play chess by different rules so that they could achieve the goal of chess (intellectual stimulation). In the same way, if the rules we have in debate now are really bad for education (which is pretty clearly the end goal of debate), then we should probably change them. There’s no clear out-of-round way to do that, so in-round arguments about education seem like a good way to go about it. Until there’s a rulebook that ensures debate is educational (which will never happen), in-round checks are necessary.

    Now, onto your arguments in section 3.
    1] I wholeheartedly disagree with the things you outline as “constitutive” of debate. It seems like 3 random things that sort of justify truth-testing were chosen. Yes, debates have speech times, resolutions, and an aff and a neg, but it also seems like you could add “advocacies” to being constitutive of debate and suddenly it would justify comparative worlds. That’s a more minor issue, though
    2] You say truth-testing coheres with the resolution being central for discussion. This seems really silly. It wouldn’t exclude comparative worlds, first, because that still uses the resolution as the center for discussion, just as a comparison of advocacies and not trolly semantic debates about truth/falsity. Additionally, I think educational claims can explain that part of debate—we use a resolution because it’s an educational stasis point, because clash and predictability are good for education. Also, you say things like the educator view “seems to regard the resolution as merely a helpful tool not a constitutive feature”. What’s the difference? Can’t the resolution being “constitutive” just mean that it’s constitutive in the sense that it is a helpful tool. It’s constitutive of debate that it may somehow be related to the resolution, but that doesn’t seem to bind people to defending its truth/falsity independently absent some external claim about why it’s fair or educational.
    3] You say the definitions of aff and neg (too lazy to type the whole thing every time) justify truth-testing. My question is simple—what if we called the two sides shaff and shmeg? This time, we define shaff as someone who advocates an instance of the resolution (or critical interpretation of it) and shmeg as someone that contests that advocacy. What’s so special about calling it affirmative and negative that’s significant enough to make us ignore educational claims, which probably have at least some value in the real world. It seems like if we created “Shmincoln-Shmouglas debate” with the “shmaff” and “shmeg”, all of your justifications for truth-testing would collapse. In short, this argument is similar to David Enoch’s objection to constitutivism in ethics. Even if it’s constitutive, why is that enough to make us care? Why can’t we just redefine aff and neg in a specific context (debate) to be more useful? It seems that all of the justifications you use beg the question.
    4] Pretty sure you’re just wrong on the issue that this would only apply to LD. Policy has aff and neg too. It would be absurd for all of policy debate to suddenly decide to debate the truth/falsity of the res instead of whether a specific plan was a good idea or not.

    My guess is that if you respond, you’ll say that changes should happen in round instead of out of round. I don’t think that really works. First, why would we go about playing a game with literally no point when we could enforce one in-round that is educational/actually valuable? The “shmaff/shmeg” objection also deals with your argument about out-of-round change since if the constitutive feature isn’t enough to make us follow those rules (without some reason grounded in education, for example), then in-round change is also justified.
    You say the judge shouldn’t intervene for the more educational practice. I agree with that—judges should probably be tab to a certain extent and avoid intervention in instances where it’s close since that would be arbitrary/generally bad. However, I think (as i talked about at the top) that judges should absolutely intervene in instances where the debate is clearly unsafe or where someone says something really offensive. I can’t imagine why we would ever value the constitutive rules (or whatever bs we’re calling it) over the safety of kids.

    There’s just a few more things I want to point out.
    1] You single out education in this article for some reason (maybe youre just a hater idk) but this clearly takes out fairness too. If the ONLY thing that matters is the constitutive role, then all that matters isn’t the better debater even, but the truth/falsity. Who cares if you prove the resolution true in a way that’s unfair? It’s constitutive of debate!!!1111!!1!! no just no
    2] Even within this article, I think you make a fairly clear appeal to education. “This emphasizes judge intervention, and destroys the chance for debaters to predict each other’s arguments and thus engage with them. Very few people are comfortable viewing debate as an activity with oscillating rules where judges cannot be held to any predictable standard.” I wonder why things like engagement might be good. Perhaps because it’s good for education? Because that’s how we learn from debate? Hmm yes I think that’s it. Point is, even your justifications for why judges shouldn’t intervene and should 100% just do what’s constitutive of debate appeal to something outside of what’s constitutive of debate, which means the judge would have to (in some sense) intervene to decide not to intervene. At least under your interpretation, they would.

    tl;dr this article doesn’t really make sense

  • Rebar Niemi

    Oh hell yes I wanna throw down on this.

    You first seem to have an extremely impoverished view of education. My position is that in voting for the better debater, we reinforce some conception of what “better debating” is. If this is not the case, then we are likely not voting for the better debater. Moreover, that in and of itself is educational (through losing people become better debaters by learning what they should not do). So in that case, a discussion of what debate should be is fundamental to voting for the better debater. I find it hard to believe that better debaters could say, be racists. Racists seem like worse debaters. Similarly, I find it hard to see how better debaters could be exclusively male. Gender bias seems to not select the better debater. Granted my views here are politically and culturally influenced – perhaps that’s why the notion of better debating itself (and therefore the “rules” of the activity) need to be up for debate. Up for debate by the participants themselves, not a proxy, overlord, or boss. Each debater should have the opportunity to define what it means to be a good debater for them. If they can convince a judge that their definition of better debating is the one that should be used in a round, who is the judge to disagree? My answer would be simple: a judge who intervenes in favor of their own personal beliefs.

    You use soccer to explain why something is true in debate… perhaps debate and soccer are different?

    You presume that we should maintain LD as whatever it is. I personally am unsure what it is in the status quo, I was unsure about exactly what it was 10+ years ago when I started debating, and I hope to continue to be unsure about what it is. Why should we preserve “what LD is?” Couldn’t we say… improve LD? Perhaps this is some ship of theseus ish.

    Later you compare debate to chess. But debate isn’t chess, unless I’m mistaken? Last time I checked players do not write into existence out of thin air their pawns, rooks, queens, etc. (much less the function of their pieces). Debate is precisely different from chess in the ways that you seem to disagree with it being.

    In the rules section you talk about affirmative/negative + object of debate (resolution) = truth testing. You have an impoverished view of what affirmation or negation are or could be. The philosophical literature is on my side. You would rather use a SINGLE DICTIONARY’S DEFINITIONS? These are not settled and limited scope concepts.

    Further, an anti-topical position (one that still takes the resolution as a jumping off point but opposes endorsing/denying it) seems clearly to “use” the resolution. It just uses it in a way you don’t agree with.

    And another thing, if you google the first definition of affirmative is “agreement” – typically agreement is considered opinion AKA LACKING TRUTH VALUE. I’m not anti-truth testing necessarily but I don’t think the dictionary route is particularly persuasive.

    Again and again you assert things about debate that are clearly open to contestation. I fundamentally do not understand why one would want to foreclose actually having that debate in round in favor of totalizing assertions. If your position is so self-evidently true, then it would win in an impartial adjudication in round enough times to eliminate its competition from the set of viable arguments. Thus far, it has failed to eliminate countervailing positions and actually seems to be losing ground to them in the hands-on laboratory of the round.

    On your jurisdiction arguments.

    1. Judges don’t sign contracts that specify terms of adjudication. JUDGES DON’T EVEN SIGN ANTI-HARASSMENT AGREEMENTS.
    2. You assume many things about the nature of rules, our obligation to obey them, and even what “rules” exist. The rules you defend only exist based on your arguments for them. They are not codified laws.
    3. If evaluating in round arguments is “arbitrary [and] subjective” then count me in the camp of arbitrariness and subjective judgment. You want me to punish debaters by excluding their arguments in favor of other arguments you think are better. Any judge that puts this kind of thing in their paradigm is the height of arbitrary, subjective, and interventionist. If your arguments are better, debaters can make and win them in front of me or anyone else.

    Few debaters may be comfortable admitting that debate is a place with “oscillating rules where judges cannot be held to any predictable standard…” but that is most certainly the place that we compete and reside. I strongly recommend you, and anyone else reading this, concede that the chaos and change of debate are likely permanent features and should be seen as opportunities to envision new ways of engagement/discussion/debate rather than some threat to an established order. In point of fact, if the status quo in debate is a threat to some established order, I sincerely hope it goes further in that direction and ultimately overthrows said order.

    I’m particularly confused why the arguments about having to establish norms outside of rounds (in tournament rules or what have you) don’t apply to fairness or truth testing for that matter. Yes, it is certainly the case that if we all wanted to play dictator or Judge Taney with tournament rules we could do so. I do not understand in the slightest how that would lead to better debaters winning or better debate.

    I would like to see you make the arguments you have made here without recourse to similes/metaphors that reference activities that are completely different from debate. You seem to think that an argument (a collection of words in a particular order representing a concept) is a soccer ball, or a chess piece. While I agree that arguments are material in that they can change the world, I have yet to see an argument take such a static form in all my years in debate.

    As a final note, I feel that pretending to objective evaluation of rounds or a fantasy of debate in which there are “right answers to hard questions” is probably the most dangerous and interventionist belief a judge could hold. I also will say that I am fundamentally opposed to the separation of the judge and educator roles. If you intend to judge and not educate, please, get out of the activity.

    • Jason Smith

      I’m undecided on this issue, and I disagree with some of your post and agree with some of it, but I’d just like to point out some apparent misunderstandings. Apologies if I’m misinterpreting you or David.

      First, you write:

      You presume that we should maintain LD as whatever it is. I personally am unsure what it is in the status quo, I was unsure about exactly what it was 10+ years ago when I started debating, and I hope to continue to be unsure about what it is. Why should we preserve “what LD is?” Couldn’t we say… improve LD? Perhaps this is some ship of theseus ish.

      Section 3 more or less concedes that the status quo rules of LD are constructed and arbitrary, not inherent to debate. Presumably, if the rules changed, then David would think that the proper role of the judge would change as well – he explicitly says this:

      Perhaps soccer would be better served as an activity where goals are less important than hustling – that is fine. My point is only that to adopt that perspective requires changing the rules. Maybe the role of the judge should be to be an educator, but until the rules are changed externally, that is irrelevant to a judge in-round.

      I don’t think it’s a problem for articles to have limited scopes, and I think the external question of whether “we should maintain LD or whatever it is” is fairly clearly not part of the scope of this one.

      Also, this part:

      I fundamentally do not understand why one would want to foreclose actually having that debate in round in favor of totalizing assertions. If your position is so self-evidently true, then it would win in an impartial adjudication in round enough times to eliminate its competition from the set of viable arguments. Thus far, it has failed to eliminate countervailing positions and actually seems to be losing ground to them in the hands-on laboratory of the round.

      Seems to miss this part of David’s article:

      This certainly doesn’t forbid judges from voting on education voters in theory shells or K roles of the ballot. The judge can still be tab. I argue just that the right answer to the question “should the judge vote on education impacts?” is no. Debaters can certainly be winning the opposite though.

      I’m not sure whether a judge who accepts this article can still be tab and vote on education voters and be consistent, but David obviously thinks that judges can still be tab, so no foreclosure of contestation would occur under his vision for debate. I also feel that it’s fairly obvious that the claim that bad arguments lose a lot and die out is wrong, but that’s besides my main point.

      • Rebar Niemi

        Jason, most importantly I am not tab. I do not believe tab exists. I do not advocate tab debate. I advocate some form of least intervention. These are distinct.

        If your point about scope is correct, then the premises that David is using fall outside the scope of his article. In that case, this is a series of assertions. That is my point.

        In order to justify his jurisdictional arguments, he has to actually forward a positive conception of debate that supports and defines jurisdiction and what it entails. That means engaging the “external question” of what debate is/what it should be.

        Your second point is likely a misunderstanding on both sides. My argument is not “judges will vote on education.” I think David and I agree that it is possible and happens. My argument is that claims like David’s have been tried by fire in debates and sometimes win and sometimes lose. I see no reason to decide on them one way or the other outside the round and end what I think is a valuable and important aspect of debate. I didn’t mean to imply only true args win.

    • Dan Alessandro

      Big +1 to the first paragraph, this line especially hit the nail on the head “in voting for the better debater, we reinforce some conception of what “better debating” is”. The article spends a long time justifying why the way we should decide debates is through who is a better debater, without having a robust defense of why truth-testing is the best model for deciding what makes a better debater. Even if the judge isn’t voting for somebody simply because they are “more educational”, the judge needs to make a normative judgment about what makes a good debater in order to determine who is doing better debating and therefore achieving this ideal of the good debater.

      The soccer analogy actually proves this point. Although we don’t vote for the person who hustles the most in soccer, the winner of a soccer match is decided based on who achieves the *good* objective of scoring goals. That objective of kicking a ball through two posts was originally chosen because it’s a good objective in that it promotes hustle and exercise.

      Like Rebar says, surely racist argumentation isn’t “good debating”, so part of our calculus for who did the better debating has to include who engaged in bad debate, such as discriminatory argumentation.

    • damerdji

      I feel like floyd mayweather is an awful person, so in the same odd sense of the phrase, he’s a worse boxer for it. Nevertheless he still won the match against pacquiao.

  • Anon

    “Judges shouldn’t be allowed to vote on education, but they totally can if a debater tells them to.”

    ^seems contradictory