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Debaters as Judges
We've all been talking about different systems of judge assignment (random,
MPJ, Pick X) and the issues pertaining to them for quite a while now. Seem
like a lot of the problems people have with current state of judging in
CEDA largely stems from the existence of an absolute dichotomy (at least at
the varsity level) between those who debate and those who judge. Just
wanted to toss out an idea that we used to use at summer institutes in high
school. I've discussed this particular idea with a bunch of folks,
debaters and coaches alike, and generally found people around the circuit
to be quite receptive to it but have never seen it discussed over the L:
Why not have available debaters particpate to a limited extent on elim
panels at given tournaments?
How it Might Work:
Once a sufficient number of varsity debaters were eliminated from a given
tournament, any interested debaters could make themselves available to
judge elims. The usual constraints would remain prohibiting debaters from
judging people on their own squads or former teammates. An odd number of
debaters would judge a certain round, usually 5, with their majority
decision counting as a single ballot on the usual panel of judges.
Presumably, this could be used in conjunction with 4 standard judges in
which case the group of debaters would be responsible for 1/5 of the
decision, or with only 2 such judges and their decision counting for 1/3.
Either way, the debater/judges would be capable of calling for evidence and
be expected to defend their decsion as necessary.
I'm mainly tossing this idea out for the sake of discussion, so I don't
want to be too lengthy here. Gotta take care of some quick things,
however, that I know people will be thinking.
First, "debaters are intrinsically underqualified". Seems arbitrary that
we distinguish so completely between those who have spent a few months away
from the activity and those who are currently involved in it when it comes
to judging. Most discussion on the L seems to express an underlying
respect for CEDA debaters and their critical thinking skills. There are
bad judges out there (regardless of how you define them) and that remains
true independent of age, status, expereience, etc. I don't think we need
to shudder at the thought of competitors at the varsity level having some
input into elim decisions.
Second, "those spectating are the ones least capable of making a good
decision." Been around debate for a while and haven't managed to find much
correlation between debate success and judging skill. In fact, it often
seems that those who were the best debaters are the ones least capable of
seperating themselves from debates and making a good decision (Sean
exemplifies half of this phenomenon). In any case, debaters watching elims
generally have a good feel for what's going on in the debate, are
interested in it, and are, to an extent, making a conscientious effort to
evaluate the issues even when they don't have a ballot in their hands.
Regardless of whether they have reached late elims, I think a pool of 5
varsity debaters could be trusted to offer a valuable element to any elim
panel more often than not.
Third, "allows too much bias". Really don't think so. It's clear from the
ongoing discussion that the current pool of judges isn't immune to bowing
out to the rep factor, voting on the basis of personal allegiances, ect.
In many ways, debaters are likely to be most sensitive to these issues and
be extremely vigilant in guarding against the same bad and biased decisions
which cause them such agony. Moreover, debaters who offer their decisions
have to answer their peers including those debating in front of them, those
spectating, and those judging alongside them. Think this would be a great
means of holding them accountable and enforcing proper decision making,
which is perhaps more applicable to current debaters than to coaches or
those who've already left the activity. Maybe, maybe not, but I don't
think bias would be sufficiently pervasive to corrupt the collective
decision of 5 interested debaters.
A Good Idea:
Won't be extremely comprehensive here and I leave it to others to hopefully
pick up the thread. I think having a group of debaters on elim panels does
lots of good things:
Empowers Debaters - As much as CEDA offers debaters, the one thing they are
excluded from is having a voice in who wins particular rounds at the
varsity level. Allowing them input, however limited, offers them an
unprecedented involvement in the activity, and the chance to employ
critical thinking skills at another level.
Improves Respect and Appreciation of Judges - Many debaters arguably
possess such stringent (impossible?) standards for their judges simply
because they don't understand what a difficult job it is at the varsity
level. Offering them pen, paper, and ballot in some of the tougher rounds
can only improve their understanding.
Better Debate - Being forced to adopt the perspective of judges would offer
debaters an invaluable perspective on how to debate themselves. This is
true when it comes to actually judging novice and JV rounds; just think of
the learning opportunities when it comes to varsity debates. Also think
that elim participants would feel more comfortable and relaxed knowing that
one of the relevant ballots would represent the decision of their peers.
Better Panels - Bringing debaters in would inevitably expand the pool of
available judges. Could easily have larger, more representative panels (a
seperate idea which I have seen discussed) and take care of the CEDA point
issue by removing the debaters' ballots as well as those of an additional
judge from point calculations. Also feel debaters could be trusted to make
uniquely(?) fair, balanced, well-reasoned decisions for reasons mentioned
Enfranchises Debaters - Gives lots of debaters something more to do during
elims; people are offered the chance to become actively involved in the
elim process regardless of their record at a particular tournament.
Debaters who might otherwise feel alienated from cutting-edge competition
could become active participants in even the most important debates.
Fill In the Blank - Think there are lots of these, I've only mentioned a few.
I expect that people will have some problems with the idea of having
debaters judge varsity elim rounds - just think that its worth people
talking about, and having a tournament or two give it a try and see how it
works out. Its certainly something that I and many of my peers have and
would welcome as a debaters, and an innovation that's begging to be played
with. The "LSAT" and "truth about santa" posts had me laughing so hard I
damn near cried.
- Derek Shaffer
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (email@example.com)
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