Jan 21, 2014

do the rules of LD actually matter?

This post is aimed at my Washington state colleagues, but you're welcome to read it, too. It's about something I first considered three years ago, when invited to Washington state's premier progressive debate tournament. Since then, the past has become the present, and the present keeps scrolling down to the future.

Where are we now?

We're at the point, when responding to a resolutional analysis based on interpretations of the NFL's Competition Events Guide--parallel burdens, burden of clash, burden of resolutionality, fairly banal, but necessary in these random times--a judge writes on the ballot, "I don't care about the LD rule book."

Now, I'm guessing this judge was oversimplifying for the sake of clarity, and wasn't advocating total adjudicative anarchy. The LD rule book, after all, is why we have prescribed times, and I haven't heard of any judges allowing Aff or Neg filibusters.

But... then... why not? If debate is about "fairness," defined nebulously and warranted empirically, and ultimately up to the interpretation of a judge with a 4000-word paradigm (no offense, Matt Z, just giving an example), and if the time skew is real, why not call for any given judge to throw out the standard times as a micropolitical solution?

The fact is, in varsity LD in these parts, the rules are becoming obsolete. (At least, until debate hipsters make the old school cool again.) At worst, they are unknown; at best, unenforced. Consider some of the rules for Washington State LD. For instance, when was the last time you heard a debater give a proper source citation?
b. The first time a particular piece of evidence or source is used, the speaker must give the author, publication, date of publication, and pages. Once the source/author is used in the round, then the citation may be shortened to author, page, and year.
Or did you know that...
Lincoln-Douglas debating encourages the development of a direct and communicative delivery style. Emphasis is placed upon the issues involved rather than strategy in developing the case. The statement of the topic is a RESOLUTION OF VALUE rather than of policy. This results in emphasizing logic, theory, and philosophy while eliminating "plan" arguments.
At the Puget Sound invitational, I was mildly surprised to hear a debater run "plans required" theory, which is about as opposite to their elimination as you can get. Never mind "tradition" or "ethos;" any time a Washington State judge votes for an LD plan, an angel gets its wings clipped.

Oh, and spreading? The WSFA isn't going to have it:
Because of the time limits, a wealth of evidence cannot be used, but research by good background reading is necessary.
No brightline, I know, but a principle that is as trendy as parachute pants.

My point isn't to defend the utility or justice of these particular rules, but to point out that they are actually rules.

That is, if we're going to enforce them.

We have two choices: we take the rules seriously and educate judges who don't know them or don't care about them, or we change the rules to fit the evolving event. As a coach concerned with educating his students and preparing them for success in LD, I'll adapt to either scenario. But both require change and commitment. We can't accept the status quo.

We have to care about the rule book.

1 comment:

Jay said...

Hi Jim,

I thought this was a very good read. I judge in WA from time to time(I'm a second year out), and I'm always unsure how to describe the judging to the kids I know who are travelling to tournaments like UPS/FedWay from outside WA. Whatever the case, I think it's very clear LD debate is not where the framers wanted it(debatable whether or not that's good).

The real tell is this. Either A) the NFL doesn't know that the entirety of circuit debate and large portions of local debate don't care about their rules or B) they do care and have no solutions(that anyone likes). In both cases, I happily let the community shape their activity in the ways they see fit.