Jun 18, 2010

National Forensic League debate finals

Saw the LD and Public Forum finals at the Expo Center today. They were decent rounds, for different reasons.

I thought the LD round was full of missed opportunities. The Aff misconstrued the Neg's anti-discrimination argument, while the Neg missed the chance to point out that the Aff had by definition narrowed the debate to criminal justice concerns, forgetting the breadth of the "any" in the resolution. (What if government has a compelling medical interest in, say, mandating DNA be kept in a database for vaccination purposes?)

The debate showed several interesting contrasts. The Aff was deliberate and generally focused, while the Neg was speedy and line-by-line. The Aff was as moderate and reasonable in tone as the Neg was impassioned. The Aff offered a deontological argument to counter the Neg's utilitarian approach--and the two hinged on a disagreement over the definition of respecting "rights for all individuals," which the Aff viewed aggregately (each individual as an individual) and the Neg viewed conglomerately (each individual as a part of the group).

All in all, an interesting debate, and, in my view, a narrow win for the Aff.

Public Forum was a little chippy at times--artful interruption wasn't either team's strong suit--but at least it wasn't dull. The Pro's case boiled down to partisanship, lobbying, and media bias; nothing terribly original, but well-evidenced. The Con went with the fairly common "technology makes us smarter and more likely to participate," as well as an argument I hadn't heard in elimination rounds: that increasing use of initiatives has given the people more direct control of their lives, through a Brandeis-ian "laboratories of democracy" approach.

In the end, the Con dropped the polarization argument, which was probably enough for many to vote Pro, especially with the strongest Con offense--the initiative contention--only halfheartedly defended in the Final Focus.

Which brings me to my next point: fixing Public Forum. One minute wasn't enough, so the NFL provided two, which is too much. My perfect solution: make it a minute point five, and take the extra minute saved (both FF discounts combined) and add it on to the Grand Crossfire, which always seems too short.

Let's do this, NFL.

If you saw either round, feel free to comment and disagree. I have to be brief because I'm poaching airport wireless, and my battery is about to die. An outlet, an outlet, my kingdom for an outlet.


Immanuel Kant said...

It's interesting to read your analysis of the LD round, since I've debated the aff debater multiple times, and am pretty good friends with him. I also agree with nearly everything you've said, and feel that because of the contrasting styles of the debaters, there wasn't as much clash as I would have liked. And I found the humor an interesting facet of the round.

James B. said...

Can't wait for your analysis of the topic list, Jim!

Jim Anderson said...

Mr. Kant, it really was a clash of worldviews, and I think the Aff needed to more compellingly and coherently show the danger in the utilitarian perspective--not just concerning DNA databases, but as a wider attack on individual rights.
I also agree about the humor; the Neg's "I hope that someday, all of you will have your DNA in a government database" was pretty funny.

James B., it's coming soon--as soon as Finals and grading are done. Should be no later than Wednesday.

Sona Jain said...

i'd vote Neg for the LD final round any day. Not only did his observations, which were dropped by the aff, directly spike out the affirmative case, but when it came to the v/c, the aff simply tried to counter his opponent's v/c without extending any links back to his own. In terms of presentation, both were speaking slowly and understandably. Beyond that, I wouldn't outweigh a loss on the flow with a passionate voice. Additionaly, I counted more than 2 new arguments brought up in 2AR. They would have been great args to bring up in the 1AR but since they weren't brought up, they didn't carry any weight in the round. Those were things the affirmative really needed to address earlier on in the debate. The limitation to forensics, in my opinion, only strengthened the neg's stance in the round because the justice system in particular is a place where we want to avoid discrimination on any level. Furthermore, most of the impact analysis on the neg still linked back to criminal justice. Finally, deont vs util frameworks definitely took place in this debate, and even though the aff could have countered the util with deont, it simply didn't. It only had ONE argument, whereas the neg had more than 2 that cross applied to the affs single argument.

I think it was a pretty bad debate on both sides. Both the aff and the neg missed out crucial arguments and obvious refutations that many in the audience were shocked to see did not become a part of the debate. But given that they both had their flaws, the debate came down to a "who wasn't worse" debate, and I would definitely vote for the Neg in that regard.