Judging Karl Popper Debate: Handbook (Complete)
Judging Karl Popper : Handbook is a wiki open space for collaborative authoring of a handbook describing the principles of judging a Karl Popper debate. The main purpose of the proposed handbook is to become a standard resource for Karl Popper judges and dispell existing myths and ambiguities. An abridged version of this Handbook is also available here.
General Guidelines : The Role of a Judge
Education and not competition define the goals of the Karl Popper Debate Program. Though debate is a competitive activity and you are expected to decide who won the debates you judge, your primary responsibility is to educate the students and help promote the development of open societies. For this reason, it is important to keep a set of general principles in mind at all times as you judge Karl Popper Debates:
- Because all students can benefit from participating in the Karl Popper Debate Program, each deserves your equal concern and respect.
- Because the Karl Popper Debate Program is committed to encouraging the highest ethical standards in debate, the judges should at all times discourage unethical behavior on the part of anyone involved in the activity.
- Because the Karl Popper Debate Program is dedicated to developing the critical thinking skill of its participants, the judge should value content above delivery in making their decisions.
- Because debaters are expected to carefully select the evidence they present in the round, the more credibly evidence should prevail over a greater quantity of evidence having less probative force.
- Because a Karl Popper debate should be accessible to the average citizen of an open society, judges should encourage debaters to speak at a reasonable pace.
- Because the audience in a Karl Popper debate is not expected to have any special of knowledge of debate, the judge should encourage debaters to avoid jargon.
- Because a vote in favor of one team does not mean acceptance of that team’s position, the winning team in any debate should be the team which did the better debating in that round. Similarly, judges are expected as much as possible to set aside their personal biases when making their decisions.
- Because the ballot is for and foremost and instrument for educating the debaters, the judge should write ballots designed to inform and educate the teams debating in that round.
- Because judges are expected to bring into the round only the knowledge of the topic a reasonably well-informed individual would be expected to have, judges are expected to ignore whatever specialized knowledge they may have of the debate topic. When rendering a decision, the judge should only weigh the evidence produced in the round.
- Because it is important to avoid the appearance of impropriety, judges shall not judge debaters or speaker where a possible conflict of interest is possible. For example:
- A judge should not judge a team from the school (in the case of a local tournament) or country (in the case of an international tournament) his or she is representing;
- A judge should not judge a team or a debater he or she has previously coached.
IDEA Judge Accreditation Standards
International Debate Education Association Judge Accreditation Standards
Not only are judges necessary for the practical functioning of any speech or debate event, but they also make invaluable contributions as educators. In interacting with judges, students become motivated to participate in speech and debate activities and to improve their speech and debate skills. A judge, therefore, should remain aware that his or her role is not simply to decide a winner or rank participants, but also to ensure that the experience is educational for all students. Accordingly, judges should be familiar with the protocol for judging particular events, and always remain cognizant of proper judging behavior. For detailed procedures regarding the judging of specific events, please refer to the sections related to those events in the IDEA Rules of Events.
I. The minimum standards for the local accreditation of judges are that they: • are listed in DebateTracker • have 10 rounds of judging experience, recorded in DebateTracker • have participated in an IDEA sanctioned training of judges • have successfully completing a training seminar which included the judging of an actual round and the offering of proper feedback to the students
II. Basic Judging Behavior During a speech or debate event, judges act as impartial observers, and as such it is essential that they practice professional conduct and maintain a dignified bearing. By the same token, judges should encourage a positive atmosphere before, during, and after a round, and should project support for all students. Overall, judges should adhere to the following basic guidelines:
A. A judge must be punctual in arriving for a round. A judge must arrive on time for the round over which he or she is to preside. He or she should be diligent in determining whether he or she appears on the schematic and should remain aware of a tournament’s schedule and rules and when rounds are to occur. A judge should know the layout of the tournament’s location so as not to arrive late to a round. A judge should determine if a tournament will provide ballots at the round, or if he or she must procure ballots before the round. In all cases, judges should be accessible between rounds, in case they are needed to judge additional events.
B. A judge must not preside over rounds in which there is a conflict of interest. Judges should not judge debaters when a possible conflict of interest could create the appearance of impropriety. Accordingly, a judge should not judge a team or student from the school (in the case of a local tournament) or country (in the case of an international tournament) that they represent. She or he should not judge a team or a student whom they have previously coached. Moreover, when interacting with students, a judge should be sensitive to appearances. While he or she should be engaging and friendly, favoring any one student in a way that may give the student the wrong impression (or discourage the student’s peers) should be avoided. Finally, in most circumstances (and particularly before elimination rounds), a judge shall not judge the same student or team twice, and should consult with tournament administrators if they are scheduled to do so.
C. A judge must facilitate a respectful atmosphere during the event they judge. All participating students have the right to a respectful, supportive environment in which they can be heard. To this end, judges should inform all audience members to remain quiet and refrain from inappropriate behavior, such as answering mobile phones, talking, or signaling teammates who are competing. If necessary, judges should reprimand anyone who is disruptive (either prior to the round or once the round has begun).
D. A judge must maintain a respectful demeanor. It is imperative that a judge maintains a respectful, attentive, and mature bearing throughout a round. Judges must demonstrate that they are fully engaged with what the students are saying, both by adopting a listening, observant posture, and by taking notes. Likewise, during a round, judges must assume an encouraging, supportive, and non-threatening manner. A judge should not compromise his or her integrity through the sending of “signals” – whether positive or negative – that unnecessarily insert the judge into the round.
E. A judge must take notes actively during the event they judge. Taking notes, or "flowing," during a round is not only an excellent way for a judge to show speakers that he or she is engaged, but is also a necessary part of making a fair decision, and can aid immensely in composing the ballot. If a judge does not take notes during a debate event, it will be difficult for him or her to keep track of arguments as they are made. Likewise, when rankings are composed at the end of a long round, noting the salient characteristics of each speaker’s performance can help a judge differentiate between speakers.
F. A judge should ensure the proper timing of a round. In order to guarantee a fair event for all participants, a judge must ensure the proper timing of the round. This is not to say that a judge must personally keep track of time; this duty may be delegated to a spectator (ideally someone not affiliated with any of the participants). Typically, the judge or timekeeper indicates the time remaining in a section by holding up the appropriate number of fingers (three fingers indicating three minutes remaining, and so forth). When 30 seconds remain in a round, the timekeeper will indicate this by closing his or her hand halfway. When time is exhausted, the timekeeper forms a fist. It is not necessary for the signal to be held aloft constantly; however, the signal should be held up until the speaker sees it. A speaker is not required to stop in mid-sentence if the stop signal is given. However, the speaker is not free to simply disregard the signal. If he or she continues excessively (in a debate event, this means beginning a new point; in a speech event, this means proceeding without closure), a judge should ignore what was said after the stop signal, and note the error on the speaker’s ballot. This error may be weighed as a factor in making a decision. Finally, if the event being judged involves the allocation of preparation time, a judge must ensure that this time is also carefully tracked and announced, either by the delegated timekeeper or by the judge.
G. If appropriate to the tournament and event, a judge should provide a brief judging philosophy and judge consistently with it.
III. Making Decisions, Writing Ballots, and Offering Commentary The process by which a judge arrives at a decision must be unbiased, reasonable, and fair. Moreover, the judge is obligated to explain his or her decision clearly and in a fashion that benefits all participants. Judges must adhere closely to the criteria associated with the category they are judging. In all competitions, other than those using World University Debate Championship rules, judges must reach their decisions independently, without any discussion with other panel judges or the debaters themselves.
A. A judge must strive to make a fair and unbiased decision. A judge’s decision-making process is twofold: 1. A judge must evaluate a round based upon the rules specific to that event (see IDEA Rules for Events). Some events -- particularly speech events -- mandate penalties for certain rule violations, and these should be taken into account (ballots may include reference lists of these penalties). 2. A judge must exercise critical judgment in evaluating a round on its own terms. In making a decision, a judge must endeavor not to privilege his or her own personal tastes or special knowledge, or his or her impressions of participants from other rounds.
B. A judge must compose a ballot that justifies his or her decision and offers each participant clear and constructive criticism. Through the writing of ballots, judges have the opportunity both to explain the reasoning in their decisions, and to offer informative, thoughtful critiques that provide students with a foundation for improvement. Consequently, judges must be diligent and thorough in completing their ballots. It is not enough to merely indicate the "winner." Following a debate, for example, a judge should elaborate upon what he or she viewed as the central issues, pointing out how and why the winning case was more persuasive, and identifying the shortcomings of the losing side. Likewise, in judging a speech event, judges should explain to each participant why they were ranked as they were, highlighting points of missed emphasis, or ways in which the student failed to produce an intended effect in a given instance. Judges should attempt to accompany criticism with positive, constructive feedback – even when writing a losing ballot, and should always avoid patronizing tones or language. In the end, a judge should appreciate and consider the courage displayed by all debaters, each of whom must express him or herself in front of an audience while engaging in complicated and contentious ideas. A judge's ballot is a valuable resource for student participants, coaches, and entire teams; when students do not know why they have won or lost, they have little opportunity to learn from the experience, and their faith in the activity suffers. The insights gleaned from a judge's ballot can thus give participants a chance to address numerous matters of style and performance (e.g., speaker was inaudible, overly aggressive, or made poor use of hand gestures) that may need improvement. Ballots should be accessible and clearly written, as some participants may read them hours or even days after a round has occurred. To this end, judges should reference specific occurrences in the round to provide substance to the critique. Judges should ensure that their handwriting is legible, since ballots are often photocopied multiple times, and may deteriorate. Finally, judges should return ballots to the tab room promptly.
C. If appropriate to the tournament and event, a judge should offer a verbal critique that incorporates meaningful criticism. After their decision has been rendered, judges should take the opportunity to talk with the participants (if the tournament staff has determined that this type of commentary is permitted at the event). Such discussions can be very helpful to students, insofar as they allow judges to explain complicated issues at some length. Alternatively, a judge may use this occasion to deal with certain pressing issues before debaters precede any further in the tournament. It is important to note that verbal comments should be used to amplify written ballots – not to replace them. Indeed, because comments are useful not only to the debaters themselves, but to the coaches who have prepared the debaters (and who are often not present during rounds), a written record on the ballot is essential. In all circumstances, judges should determine through the tournament staff whether the disclosure of decisions is permitted. If this type of critique is not permitted, judges should merely raise issues in their discussions with participants, without explicitly stating the outcome of their deliberations. Judges can become inactive but once they are accredited, they will always be accredited. Judges can become inactive because of inactivity. Inactivity will be determined based on data entered into DebateTracker, the IDEA online database. An accredited judge can remain active by judging 10 rounds a year.
Karl Popper Rules
Format of a Karl Popper Debate
|Affirmative Constructive||A1||6 minutes|
|First Negative Cross : Examination||N3 and A1||3 minutes|
|Negative Constructive||N1||6 minutes|
|First Affirmative Cross: Examination||A3 and N1||3 minutes|
|First Affirmative Rebuttal||A2||5 minutes|
|Second Negative Cross : Examination||N1 and A2||3 minutes|
|First Negative Rebuttal||N2||5 minutes|
|Second Affirmative Cross : Examination||A1 and N2||3 minutes|
|Second Affirmative Rebuttal||A3||5 minutes|
|Second Negative Rebuttal||N3||5 minutes|
Both Sides Have 8 Minutes of Preparation Time.
While you will, on your ballot, rank the individual speakers, it is important when deciding which team won the debate to look at the performance of the team as a whole. The Karl Popper Debate format was intentionally designed to foster a cooperative environment in which students would need to work together to achieve success.
When judging a Karl Popper debate, it is worth keeping in mind what a Karl Popper debate is not.
First, a Karl Popper Debate ought not to be confused with a trial; a team of Karl Popper Debaters should not be though of as a team of lawyers. There are three important differences between a trial and a Karl Popper Debate.
- First, in a trial, one side, usually the side representing the accused, is presumed to be right. Where the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, no such presumption exists in Karl Popper Debate. At the start of a Karl Popper Debate, neither side is thought of as having right on its side. Instead, both sides are thought of as being under and equal obligation to show that theirs is the strongest position.
- Second, in a trial, the attorneys representing each side side take an adversarial position towards one another and use whatever legal means available to sway the judge or jury. In a Karl Popper debate, on the other hand, the debaters are discouraged from viewing themselves as engaged in a winner take all struggle like a court proceeding. Though only one side can win a debate just as only one side can win in a trial, Karl Popper debaters are discouraged from viewing winning and losing in the same way that an attorney might be. Unlike opposing attorneys, Karl Popper debaters are encouraged to work cooperatively with their opponents to test and challenge each other’s opinions in an open, honest, and friendly manner.
- Finally, the outcome of a trial is meant to resolve or settle a controversy. A Karl Popper Debate is meant to do no such thing. As a judge you should not view your vote for one side or another as indicating your belief in the truth of that side. As a judge of a Karl Popper Debate, you should not confuse the outcome of the debate with the outcome of a trial. A judge in a trial attempts to ascertain whether the accused is in fact guilty. The judge of a Karl Popper Debate is only asked to decide which team did the better debating in that round. Deciding that the affirmative team won a debate round is not the same thing as deciding that the resolution being debated is in fact true.
It is also important not to confuse a Karl Popper Debate with a debate that may take place in a house of parliament. Just as Karl Popper Debaters should not be mistaken for attorneys, they should also not be thought of as politicians. To begin with, in a house of parliament the status quo receives a privileged position in that if a proposal does not win the approval of the majority of the house, the status quo remains unchanged. It is the job of the side proposing a change to convince the majority to accept it. In a Karl Popper Debate, the status quo is not privileged in this way. One of the goals of the Karl Popper Debate program is to raise the level of political discourse in democratic societies. Ideally, the Karl Popper Debate Program will help train citizens to better participate in democratic politics by encouraging them to avoid many of the demagogic practices that are often used by politicans today. Rather than putting either their cause or their own personal interest ahead of all else, the Karl Popper Debater is encouraged to discuss questions of political consequence with an open-minded and levelheaded manner.
All too often politicians today substitute empty rhetoric for substatial discussion of the issues before them. Karl Popper Debaters are encouraged at all time to offer only the strongest arguments they can find in support of their position. Further, when a House of parliament votes for or against a proposal, the membrs are not limited in making their decision to using those facts and arguments brought up in the debate before the house. Similarly, depending on your point of view, members of parliament are sometimes expected to vote with their party and gainst their better judgement while at other times they are expected to support whatever position they most believe or to vote their conscious. As the judge of a Karl Popper Debate, you should always keep in mind that you are only deciding who did the best debating in the round and should try when making your decision to ignore whatever particular knowledge you may have of the topic being debated. Further, just as the debaters are not expected to necessarily believe in the truth of the position they are taking, neither is the judge. That is, the judge is not asked to decide which way the would vote were their decision binding on all of society.
Rather than comparing a Karl Popper Debate to either a trial or a parliamentary proceeding and Karl Popper Debaters to attorneys, advocates, or politicians, it may be more useful to think of the debate as an experiment and the debaters as scientists. In many ways, this is very much in keeping with the ideals of Popper himself. While Popper believed in the existence of objective truth, he was very wary of anyone who claimed to be in secure possession of it. For Popper, human knowledge progressed through a series of incremental steps: theories are developed, criticized, and then improved upon. Theories are improved upon by being exposed to critical discussion. Tracing the story of critical debate back to Ancient Greece, Popper described the invention of critical argument as being an important step in the development of mankind:
- "It was a momentous innovation. It meant a break with the dogmatic tradition which permits only one school doctrine, and the introduction of a tradition that admits a plurality of doctrines which all try to approach the truth by means of critical discussion. It thus leads, almost by necessity, to the realization that our attempt to see and find the truth are not final, but open to improvement; that our knowledge, is conjectural; that it consists of guesses, of hypotheses, rather than of final and certain truths; and that criticism and critical discussion are our only means of getting nearer to the truth."
It is because Popper’s method was a scientific one that you may find it helpful to consider the debates you judge as experiments. Karl Popper debaters should be seen as collaboratively testing their own theories and beliefs. Even when the debaters are arguing against the position they may, in reality, believe in, they are doing so only to better test and strengthen their beliefs. As Popper saw it, only be continually testing ones beliefs by continually testing and arguing against them, could their truth be known. Moreover, while it is possible to argue against oneself and not to publicly argue against cherished belief, Popper himself emphasized the social aspect of argument:
- "A Robinson Crusoe (marooned in early childhood) might be clever enough to master many difficult situations; but he would invent neither language nor the art of argumentation. Admittedly, we often argue with ourselves; but we are accustomed to do so only because we have learned to argue with others, and because we have learned in this way that the argument counts..."
The goal of a Karl Popper debate, is to help develop in both those engaged in the debate and those witnessing it an attitude necessary for life in an open society. This is an attitude Popper describe as being fundamentally an attitude of admitting that ‘I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth. It is an attitude that does no lightly give up hope that by such means as argument and careful observation, people may reach some kind of agreement on many problems of importance; and that, even where their demands and their interests clash, it is often possible to argue about the various demands and proposals, and to reach—perhaps by arbitration—a compromise which, because it its equity, is acceptable to.
The Objectivity versus the Subjectivity of Judging
While we expect judging to be unbiased and objective, it is important to recognize that all judging experiences have a certain level of bias. After all, the 'tabula rasa' principle works better in theory than in practice. In judging, one of the best way to deal with personal bias is to list it in one's judging philosophy. Thus, if a judge is particularly well-versed in a particular field such as law, it is important that debaters are aware of that, since arguments pertaining to that particular field are likely to be examined differently by people who are experts in it. A judge that comes from a Parliamentary or Lincoln Douglas background might expect the speeches to be more formal, while a judge from a Policy background might want to hear certain types of arguments addressed by specific names (topicality, counterplan etc.) Listing your background and expectations as a judge in your judging philosophy is one way of dealing with bias. Another is maintaining a level of consistency in terms of what influences your decision: the types of arguments you are more likely to accept or not - some judges are more likely to consider topicality arguments than others - whether you ever give low point wins or not, whether you prefer debaters to be more formal or not, whether you put more emphasis on style than argumentation, etc. The objectivity of judging is most often questioned come decision time. While we tell judges that in most instances there is no right or wrong decision, it is important that each judge is able to defend his/her position in light of the rules of the particular debate format, the tournament and the general set of expectations from debaters. A well justified decision will, more often than not, be considered to be an objective decision, independent of whether other judges voted similarly or not. In conclusion, the best way to deal with bias and maintaining a certain level of objectivity in a round is to be very specific in your judging philosophy about your experience and expectations as a judge, be consistent in your stand on particular issues related to debate and be able to justify your decisions properly.
Speaker Responsibilities : How to Follow and Evaluate Them?
Designed to promote teamwork, the three-on-three style of the Karl Popper Debate, encourages debaters to work together both before and during their debates. While individual excellence is not to be discouraged, success in debate should be measured based on how well a team works together. In making your decision, you should consider the quality of the team as a whole. At the same time, each member of the team does have certain unique responsibilities.
The First Affirmative Speaker should present the whole of the affirmative case. All the arguments that the affirmative team would like to make in support of their side of the resolution are to be offered in this speech. Since no new constructive arguments are permitted in the first and second affirmative rebuttals, it is imperative that the First Affirmative present the affirmative case in its entirety.
Because it is the First Affirmative’s responsibility to set the parameters for the debate, it is customary for this speaker to offer definitions of the terms of the resolutions. You should probably note these definitions down on your flow paper. Keep in mind that while a definition from a credible source is often useful, the definition that the affirmative offers need not come from a dictionary. The definitions that the affirmative offers must be fair. That means they ought to be relatively unbiased, generally conform to the ordinary meaning of the words, and be sensitive to the spirit of the resolution. For instance, suppose the teams debating the resolution that “euthanasia is justifed”, the affirmative should not be defining the word euthanasia in such a way that the negative would be asked to argue against a farmer putting to death an old and sickly livestock. For this resolution to be debatable, it must be assumed that the resolution is asking about the mercy killing of humans and not some flea bitten old cow suffering from mad cow disease. Even though a farmer putting a lunatic cow out of its misery is euthanasia, the resolution clearly was not designed to encourage students to debate whether insane cows ought to be put to a merciful death.
If the affirmative team offers definitions that you feel are unreasonable and unfair, you should note this on your ballot but keep in mind when making your decision that it’s negative job to challenge affirmative’s definitions and to offer new ones. Unless the negative team challenges them, the definitions offered by the first affirmative speaker should be accepted by you when making your decision. When negative challenges the affirmative’s definitions, then the definitions will become a debatable issue in the round. In those instances, it is worth keeping in mind that it is the reasonableness and not the source of the definition that determines it suitability for the debate. Given that some words and phrases take on a more specific meaning when presented in the form of sentence, it will often happen that a definition drawn from a dictionary or encyclopedia will prove less reasonable than one that a team prepares itself.
In a Karl Popper Debate, the affirmative team might be said to have a “right of defintion”. This means that if the affirmative team offers fair and reasonable definitions, that these are the definitions that ought to be used by both sides in the round. What this implies is that the negative team, if it wishes to introduce new definitions into the round, has the burden of proving the affirmative’s definitions to be unfair or unreasonable.
The affirmative may also offer a “criterion” for the round. The criterion should be noted on your flow as it may become the subject of debate. As you will soon discover, the criterion can be many things. Some affirmatives will offer you a measure against which you ought to judge the round. For instance, a team may offer that you decide who won the round by determining which team best promotes equality. In these cases, unless negative were to challenge the criterion, you ought to accept it. In those cases where the negative team challenges the affirmative’s criterion, it will be up to you to decide whether the negative’s arguments against the criterion make sense. For instance, negative may challenge the ideal of promoting equality and argue instead that the side that wins ought to be the side that best promotes individual liberties. At this point, it will be up to you to decide which team has best defended the criterion they have offered. Sometimes the teams may agree on the ultimate goal to be achieved, but not on the best means of achieving it. For instance, affirmative may propose that the side which wins be the side who best upholds democracy and claim that the best indication of the health of democracy is to measure the number of people who vote in a given election. Negative may rightly challenge this criterion by arguing that while democracy is noble ideal, it means more than just casting a vote. Instead, negative may offer that the health of a democracy be measured by considering the protection of minority rights and interests. If the teams disagree on the criterion for a round, it will be up to you to decide which of the two teams have offered a more reasonable criterion for the round.
After presenting the affirmative’s definition and criterion, the First Affirmative will usually present the various arguments that the affirmative team wishes to offer in defense of the resolution. You should note each argument on your flow paper. The quantity and quality of the arguments presented will vary, but in the end the First Speaker’s main responsibility is to present you with sufficient reason to accept the resolution as true pending negative’s attempt to show why it is not. At the same time, it is affirmative’s responsibility in constructing their case to insure that they leave room for debate. Consider, once again, our poor demented cow. In arguing in support of the resolution “euthanasia is justified”, it is important the affirmative offer arguments that prove more than that one sick cow ought to be put to death. The affirmative’s responsibility is to show us why we ought to affirm the resolution in its entirety, not just some small part of it. That a single act of euthanasia may be justified does not prove that euthanasia is on balance justified. It is crucial that the affirmative team accepts the burden of attempting to defend a controversial position. However, while the affirmative team must interpret and support a position that is truly debatable, it is up to the negative to challenge an interpretation of the resolution that they find to be unworkable. For instance, suppose a negative team decided to argue that rather than euthanize lunatic old cows that, instead, that society should instead let lunatic cows live for the sake of entertaining those who find the exploits of insane cows amusing. While you would want write on the ballot your why affirmative’s interpretation of the resolution was skewed and question the negative’s strategy, in the end the winning team would be the team who in your opinion best decided the fate of our sick cow.
One last thing to keep in mind is that because the First Affirmative begins the round, the First Speaker will often rely more on notes and previously prepared material than the other speakers in the round. Because the Karl Popper Debate program is committed to promoting critical and independent thinking, it is expected that the material presented by the debaters be prepared the debaters working together as a team. It is the debaters and not the coaches who ought to have prepared the arguments for the round. As a judge, if you suspect that the First Affirmative is not familiar with the ideas and arguments offered, you should not that on the ballot. However, even if you suspect that a team is working with material prepared by others, you should refrain from penalizing the debaters. Debaters usually struggle to defend cases they have not prepared themselves and often fail in rebuttal to adequately rebuild their cases. Also, teams often work together with other members of their club and, for that reason, teams from the same club may have similar cases. Since the program encourages cooperation among club members, teams who may present similar cases should not be penalized.
First Negative Cross : Examination
After the First Affirmative has presented the affirmative constructive, the Third Negative speaker gets to ask questions for three minutes. The Negative team may want to take some of their preparation time before asking questions. It is perfectly acceptable and even expected that the team members will speak with one another and exchange ideas.
The line of questioning that the negative may wish to pursue is entirely up to them. The only requirement is that respect be shown for the First Affirmative. The Third Negative should not ask questions in a belligerent manner or ask obviously inappropriate questions.
The Negative should not prevent the Affirmative from fully answering the question being asked. For instance, the Negative may not insist that the affirmative only respond with “yes” or “no” to a question. At the same time, affirmative should not try to waste the negative’s Cross-examination time by giving unnecessarily long answers to relatively simple questions. The Affirmative should try to the best of her ability to answer the questions asked clearly and precisely. You should count it against the affirmative team if the First Affirmative debater refuses to answer what you believe are perfectly reasonable questions.
The questions asked in the Cross-examination generally have one of three different purposes. First, the questions may just be meant to help clarify for the negative what exactly the affirmative is saying. For instance, the negative may ask the affirmative to clarify an argument that the negative team had trouble understanding. The negative may also ask the affirmative to repeat a definition or an argument. Second, the negative may attempt to ask question which will help the negative team refute the affirmative’s case. Finally, the negative may ask questions which are designed to help lay the foundations for negative’s own case.
Because the negative may choose to use their Cross-examination time to set up their case, the questions that the Negative asks need not be limited to the Affirmative case. For instance, the Negative may wish to present a hypothetical situation and ask the Affirmative what they believe ought to done in that situation.
In general, teams should be held accountable for the concessions they make under Cross-examination. That is, if negative pursue a line of questioning that reveals a weakness in the affirmative’s case and the First Affirmative answers in a way that hurts their positions, you ought to count this against the affirmative when making your decision. At the same time, it the opposing teams responsibility to capitalize on the questions answers they get in cross. If the First Negative does not bring up the issues discussed in Cross-examination, they should not weigh too heavily in your decision.
Normally, you will not flow the Cross-examination since it is the cross examining team’s responsibility to explain the importance of concessions made by their opposition during the speech that follows the Cross-examination. You may, however, want to take notes of important points raised in the Cross-examination.
After the Cross-examination is complete, the negative team is free to use more of their preparation time if they so choose. Don’t forget to keep a running total of the time that the team has used.
Like the First Affirmative, the First Negative should present the whole of the negative case. However, besides offering all the arguments that the negative wants to make against the resolution, the First Negative must also offer the all the arguments that the negative team would like to make against the affirmative’s case. Since no new constructive arguments are permitted in rebuttals, it is imperative that the First Negative present both the negative’s case against the resolution as well as address all of the affirmative’s arguments in favor of the resolution. After the First Negative, the entire negative strategy should have been made clear to both you and the affirmative.
It is the responsibilty of the negative to argue with the affirmative team. A debate would be a rather dull affair if no one disagreed with anyone. In a Karl Popper Debate, the burden of establishing clash rests with the negative team. As mentioned above, the responsibility of the affirmative team is to take a controversial position and defend it. It is negative’s obligation to dispute the affirmative’s position. The negative must attempt to refute the affirmative case. Now, this does not mean that the negative must challenge each and every argument that the affirmtive has offered. In fact, there may be some instances where this is impossible. For instance, in a case where the negative feels that the affirmative has offered unfair definitions and based their whole case on those definitions, all negative really can do is argue against the affirmative’s definitions. What the negative would have to point out, in this case, is how the affirmative case rested on these definition and how those definitions were unworkable or unfair. Needless to say, these can be very boring debates since there may end up being very little for you to do other than to act as a dictionary. However, what you need to keep in mind in judging the negative team is that while it must negate the resolution, it must do so, in part, by refuting the affirmative case. In deciding which team wins the round, one thing you will need to determine is whether the negative has, in fact, adequately accepted this burden of refutation.
In a Karl Popper Debate, negative must show why the resolution should be rejected. To do this, the negative should refute the affirmative case in support of the resolution and offer arguments against the resolution. Sometimes the arguments negative offers against the affirmative case will be the same as those that it offers against the resolution itself; sometimes the negative will offer arguments against the resolution independent of the arguments offered in response to the affirmative case. It is important to keep in mind that, logically, there is no reason to assume that just because the negative team has refuted the affirmative’s case that it has necessarily negated the resolution. Of course, more often than not, if negative successfully refutes each of the affirmative’s argument, it will prove the better team in the round. However, there is no reason to presume that just because the affirmative has not convinced you to affirm the resolution that you must necessarily negate it. It is for this reason, that you should expect the First Negative to offer a set of arguments designed to explain to you why, regardless of what the affirmative may have said, the resolution ought to be negated.
The negative, if it wishes to challenge the affirmative’s definitions or criterion ought to do so at the beginning of the First Negative Constructive. If the First Negative does not challenge them at all, they are to be taken as given for the remainder of the round.
It is also important that the First Negative introduce into the round whatever information the negative feels to have been important from the First Negative Cross-examination.
The negative is not obligated to refute each and every argument that the affirmative presents in the Affirmative Constructive. The negative’s responsibility is to refute the affirmative case as a whole, not each and every individual point that the affirmative makes. There may be times when the negative may choose to concede some part of the affirmative’s case or to question its relevance. The affirmative may prefer not to waste its time attempting to argue against the affirmative on some given point and instead concede. However, once an argument has been conceded or ignored by the First Negative, neither the Second nor Third Negative may then go back and argue against it. The time for negative to decide its strategy is before the First Negative offers the Negative Constructive. If negative chooses either to concede or ignore an argument, it should be accepted as true for the remainder of the round.
The affirmative team may choose to take some preparation time before the first affirmative cross examination in order to decide on their best course of action.
First Affirmative Cross : Examination
There is not much of a difference between this cross-examination and the first negative cross-examination. Since after the negative constructive the affirmative should be aware of negative’s strategy for refuting the affirmative case, the Third Affirmative may pose questions designed to help reestablish the affirmative case.
Once again, it is important that the cross-examination be conducted in a civil manner. It is easy for debaters, in the heat of dispute, to forget that they must show respect for their opponents. It is your job to remind them of this fact if they forget.
First Affirmative Rebuttal
This may be the most difficult speech in the round. The Second Affirmative must not only reestablish the affirmative’s case but also offer all of the affirmative’s refutations of the negatives case. It is important the the Second Affirmative try to extend the logic of the affirmative case and not to contradict it. You should not, when listening to the Second Affirmative, be wondering if the Second Affirmative had ever made the acquaintance of the First Affirmative. While it is reasonable for the Second Affirmative to try to shift the focus of the round away from some arguments in the round, the Second Affirmative cannot start the round anew. No new construtive arguments are allowed in rebuttal and the Second Affirmative ought not contradict the arguments made by the First Affirmative. Once again, you should keep in mind at all times that you are judging a team of debaters and not three individual speakers.
The Second Affirmative should address each argument the First Negative made in the negative constructive and attempt to reestablish the affirmative case. Not only should the Second Affirmative address each of the arguments in the negative case, the Second Affirmative should also address each of the arguments that the negative has offered in response to the affirmative case. If the Second Affirmative does not respond to an argument in this speech, these arguments are effectively conceded to the negative team.
As mentioned above, the Second Affirmative may not offer new constructive arguments. You should consider a new constructive argument any argument not introduced in the affirmative constructive and not made directly in response to an argument presented in the negative constructive. If you feel that one of the Second Affirmative’s arguments is a new one, you should not note it on your flow or consider it when making your decision. You should also note on your ballot that you discounted the argument because you believed it to be a new argument. Since by offering a new argument the Second Affirmative wasted precious time, there is no need to further penalize the affirmative team any further than this.
While the Second Affirmative may not offer any new constructive arguments, the Second Affirmative may offer new evidence, examples, analogies or narratives. That is, the Second Affirmative may attempt to better illuminate and support the arguments already introduced into the round by the First Affirmative.
Because so much needs to be done in the first affirmative rebuttal, the Second Affirmative may rush. However, it is the speaker’s responsibility not to speak more quickly than you can listen. While you should make every reasonable attempt to follow the speakers, it is important that the debaters keep in mind the need not to leave their audience behind.
Along the same lines, it is important that points made in the First Affirmative rebuttal are not presented in such an abbreviated fashion that the negative not have any reasonable ability to respond to them. That is, the Second Affirmative cannot just mention a point in passing with the expectation that the Third Negative will explain the point so that it makes sense. It is not fair for the Second Affirmative to try to introduce a point into the round in the first affirmative rebuttal simply so that the Third Affirmative can develop it to the affirmative’s advantage in the second affirmative rebuttal. The Second Negative should have the ability to address all the key arguments in the round.
Like the First Negative, the Second Affirmative need not attempt to refute every argument that the negative team has offered. Similarly, there may be arguments in the affirmative case that the Second Affirmative may be decide to abandon. For instance, the affirmative may have offered an argument in the affirmative constructive that the negative sucessfully refutes in the negative constructive. The affirmative team may recognzie that attempting to rebuild this point is an exercise in futility and simply admit the error of their ways. What they might try to do, instead, is shift the focus of the debate away from the arguments they have lost. What they will try to show is that even though they may have lost this one argument, that you should still vote affirmative because their other, stronger, arguments are sufficient to justify you siding with them.
While it is the Second Affirmative’s responsibility to address each issue on the flow, by the end of the first affirmative rebuttal you should already be able to identify the key issues in the round. In choosing which points to emphasize and which points to spend less time, the Second Affirmative implicitly begins a process of narrowing the debate. As this rebuttal draws to a close, the speaker may even decide to offer a conclusion that more explicitly identifies the key issues in the round. since it is the quality and not the quantity of arguments that in the end should determine the winner of the debate, the Second Affirmtive should try to make clear to you those issues on the flow which you should give the most weight to.
Second Negative Cross : Examination
There is no difference between this cross-examination and those that preceded it.
First Negative Rebuttal
The Second Negative should, like the Second Affirmative, address each and every issue on the flow. Once again, however, addressing every argument does not have to mean refuting every argument. It is perfectly reasonable for the Second Negative to decide that an argument offered by the First Negative is no longer relevant and concede it to the affirmative team. Of course, once an argument is conceded by the Second Negative, this is done once and for all.
Because the First Negative had the oppoetunity to refute the affirmative case, the Second Negative may not introduce any new arguments in the first affirmative rebuttal. Where the Second Affirmative is the first member of the Affirmative team can offer new rebuttal arguments in the first affirmative rebuttal, the Second Negative may not offer any new arugments whatsoever. Instead, the Second Negative should address each point on the flow and extend the arguments presented in the negative constructive. Like the Second Affirmative, the Second Affirmative may offer new evidence, examples, analogies or narratives.
Other than this, there is no difference between the responsibilities of the Second Speakers on both sides of the resolution.
Second Affirmative Cross : Examination
There is no difference between this cross-examination and those that preceded it.
Second Affirmative Rebuttal
The goal of the Third Speaker is to guide you in your decision making process. Unlike the Second Affirmative, who wants to address each and every argument on the flow, the Third Affirmative may choose to be a bit more selective. Because the Third Affirmative can offer no new arguments, what this speaker should try to do is assist you in a process of weighing the various arguments that have been presented. Like the Second Speakers, the Third Affirmative may offer new evidence, examples, analogies or narratives. However, what the Third Affirmative should be most interested in doing is helping you to identify the key issues in the round and trying to show you how these arguments were won by the affirmative team.
Because the second rebuttal is a summarizing speech, the Third Affirmative may choose to address only a selected number of key argument and identify those as the main “voting issues” in the round. It will be up to the negative team to decide whether to accept the issues that the affirmative team offers as key voting issues. They may choose to do so and argue that their position on these issues is stronger or they may argue that affirmative has misidentified the key voting issues.
There is no cross examination following this speech.
Second Negative Rebuttal
Like the Third Affirmative, the Third Negative should attempt to help you weigh the key issues in the round. The only significant difference between the second affirmative and second negative rebuttal is that the Third Negative needs to respond to the affirmative teams representation of the key issues in the round.
It will often happen that the negative team will offer different voting issues than the ones that the negative team offered. This is bound to make you job a little more difficult as it will be you who, in the end, will have to decide which side in right in this regard. At the same time, you should keep in mind that if the negative does not accept the voting issues that the affirmative has offered you, the Third Negative should offer you some good reasons for rejecting or adding to those voting issues. On the other hand, your job is made much easier if both sides agree on the key issues in the round and all you must do is decide which of the teams won these issues. You should try to decide the round based on the voting issues offered by the two teams. Even if you happen to think that there was some other point in the round that was more important than any that either of the two teams identified as being key, in making your decision you should limit yourself to the voting issues presented by both sides. Of course, on your ballot, you might want to explain to both teams why you thought they both were mistaken in identifying the more important issues in the round.
Unfortunatley, there will be times when neither side give you a clear set of voting issues and you will be left to your own devices in deciding who won. In those cases, you should probably focus your attention on the issues the two sides spent the most time arguing.
Making a Decision
Take a few minutes to reach your decision, without discussing it with others. You are to judge by the content of the debate and by how each of the teams did their job. Each team must win the arguments that support their side of the resolution. There will be times when one team will be better organized, better speakers, etc., while the other side may present the more decisive arguments. Vote for the team that had the best arguments, unless their lack of presentation skills prevented you from understanding their arguments, eg. that they were disorganized, or spoke too quickly, or didn’t follow through on good arguments. There is no list, no set of stock issues. There is no one correct way to reach a decision. The flowsheet is a crucial tool for recording and keeping track of the arguments in the debate.
Write down your initial impression, which team you felt won the debate. Then, identify the major points of ‘clash’ in the debate, which arguments were most significant or most contested in the debate. Determine the winner for each of these arguments, which team was most persuasive on each of these issues, based on the evidence and reasoning presented and the responses to these arguments. Look for important arguments that were ‘dropped’ by either side, and how they may effect other arguments. Determine if each team met their burdens, presenting independent arguments in support of or against the resolution, and offering refutation of the opponents’ arguments.
Evaluate the quality of the arguments won by each team, weighing whether they have met their burdens. Taking everything into account, who won the debate? This should correspond to your initial impression; if not, you should follow your second impression. Usually this will correspond to your initial impression. If not, you need to make a difficult choice. Has your reconstruction of arguments required too much ‘intervention’? Have you done the debating for the debaters? In writing down the initial impression, the judge can identify the most persuasive team, in terms of clarity of argument and speaking style. In analysing each argument more carefully, the judge can combine considerations of content and persuasive style.
Considering key questions, or ‘stock issues.’ Has the affirmative presented a prima facie (at first sight, before close inspection) case, and met their burden? Has the affirmative provided a topical case, providing clear and fair definitions for the terms of the resolution? Has the affirmative justified and met their criterion where necessary? Has the negative presented their position clearly, meeting their burden of refutation? Did both teams provide adequate evidence to support their claims? Which team was more persuasive? In the clarity and manner of their presentation? In the effective use of argument and reasoning? Remember that the judge’s decision must be based on content, not speaking style, preference or personal opinion.
Following an Argument throughout the Debate
The best way to follow an argument throughout a debate is to take detailed notes and keep them organized. The very best judges often keep impeccable flow sheets with arguments clearly labeled and arrows helping to guide them from argument to answer. In a messy debate, it is a real skill to be able to label arguments correctly and tag them with the appropriate answers. While keeping an organized flow sheet is key to identifying key arguments and following them throughout the round, evaluating those arguments in relation to the topic and other key arguments in the round requires a separate set of skills. While the last two speakers in a debate are expected to walk you through the debate and identify, connect and weight the key issues, that is not always the case. It is in these instances of messy debates that bias is most often introduced, with the judge often left to connect and weight the arguments himself/herself based on criteria that is not always evident and sometimes randomly chosen, is neither team sets up clear standards against which their arguments should be judged.
Dealing with Evidence
Judges from different backgrounds tend to deal with evidence presented in a round very differently. While judges from a Policy debate background generally expect most arguments to be supported by evidence and the round to hinge upon the type of evidence that is being presented, others are more likely to treat evidence as a less essential part of argumentation, with logic taking precedence over particular pieces of evidence. Assessing evidence in a round can prove to be particularly difficult when debaters do not know how to present it and use it properly. One of the most common problems in a debate is that citations are not properly introduced, thus making it difficult to assess the source of the evidence and the time at which it was produced. Another problem is failing to connect a particular piece of evidence with a larger argument in the round or properly examine its implications for the case, refutation or rebuttal. In cases like this, judges are often left to decide for themselves what role that particular piece of evidence plays and how it should be assessed in the round. Some judges are perfectly comfortable with this, often asking the debaters to present their evidence at the end of the round for a closer assessment (we do not encourage this) while others simply dismiss it if neither team tells them what to do with it in the round. Most judges will choose the middle ground. While there are few specific rules when it comes to dealing with evidence as a judge, here are a number of thumb rules:
1. New evidence will not be considered in the last two speeches of the round. The 2 Aff. and 2 Neg. are the last speakers to introduce new evidence in a round.
2. When presented, each piece of evidence should start with a proper citation: author, date, source. Remind debaters before the round that this is important. When no proper citation is presented at any point during the round, it is at the discretion of the judge whether he/she will consider this particular piece of evidence.
3. When dealing with two contradictory pieces of evidence on the same point, it is the job of the debaters to convince you that one piece of evidence is better than another. If they fail to do so, you may disregard those particular pieces of evidence.
4. If you think that a particular piece of evidence is false and neither team points it out during the round, you may choose whether to consider it or not, but should double check at the end of the round. If it turns out that the piece of evidence has been fabricated - willfully changed, the issue should be raised with the tournament director.
5. If one of the teams questions a particular piece of evidence and it becomes an essential issue in the round, the judge can request the see the evidence at the end of the round and evaluate it for himself/herself. This however should be an exceptional circumstance as opposed to a common request.
Deciding on and Weighing Important Arguments
Generally speaking, the main arguments in the round are the ones that both teams spent most of their time presenting, responding to and weighing at the end of the round. Dropped arguments that neither team picks up throughout the debate, are generally considered to be marginal arguments and should not weigh heavily in the final decision. Once major arguments and areas of clash are identified, judges should go back to their flow sheet and follow them through from the first to the last speeches, assessing the strength of each argument in light of refutations, rebuttals and pieces of evidence presented. Arguments should always be assessed against the criteria presented by each team as well as against the topic at hand. Votes should go to the most convincing arguments that clearly support that particular position under the resolution. In instances when debaters spend too much time on an argument that the judge considers to be largely irrelevant for the topic or their particular interpretation, a note should be made on the ballot as to why the judge did not consider this as a major argument in the round and did not weigh it as such. The weighing process generally involves a close assessment of the logic, explanation and evidence that accompanies each major argument (and responses to those arguments) followed by an assessment process of the specific role that the argument plays in the round. While the weighing should ideally be done for you by the third speakers in each round, oftentimes, this does not happen, and judges are left to do the weighing for themselves. In these instances, judges should pay particular attention to weighing only arguments that were actually presented in the round as opposed to introducing their own opinions, personal knowledge and bias.
Grounds for Disqualifying a Team
While the decision of whether a team should be disqualified or not lies with the Tournament Director, here are some grounds on which such a decision could be based. It is the job of the judges to bring some of these issues to the attention of the Tournament Director.
1. Intellectual dishonesty
2. Fabricated evidence
3. Discriminatory comments during the round
4. Physical or psychological harassment
5. Mean and inappropriate behavior towards members of your own team or the opposite team
In panel judging, split decisions are very common. In particularly close rounds, judges can generally justify a vote for either team. A 3-4 or a 4-5 decision is less likely to be questioned than a 4-1 or 6-1 decision, where the minority judge often feels pressured to present a very good justification for his/her decision. New judges are more at threat of being intimidated when in a minority position, questioning their decisions and risking to loose their confidence. It is important that other judges on the panel do not corner the minority judge and refrain from any gestures that show a clear disagreement with the decision. Debaters are free to question decisions after the oral comments have been presented and the round officially declared closed, and judges should be available to answer their questions, as long as time allows it. If debaters are too aggressive in their questioning, judges should feel free to end the conversation. Once made, decisions cannot be changed under any circumstances, even in the unlikely case that a judge changes his/her mind after the round.
Giving a Low Point Win [LPW]
Low point wins should be the exception rather than the rule. IDEA tournaments accept low-point wins, yet the reason for such a decision should be clearly justified in the individual comments as well as the main points of clash. A low point win is generally awarded in instances when a particularly weak speaker brings down the overall points of the team, yet the rest of the team is able to come back and win the round. This is more likely to happen during a mixed team tournament, where speakers are at very different levels of experience, and stronger speakers may be able to compensate for weaker speakers. An unexpected failing of an otherwise really good second speaker to address a particularly important argument, could also result in a low point win. It is important that judges clearly check the low point win check box on the ballot when awarding one.
Carefully compose the reasons for your decision on the ballot. Written comments will be useful for the students and for their coach, who may not have had an opportunity to see the debate first hand. Someone reading your notes should be able to figure out what happened during the debate, what were the important arguments and how well they were argued. Usually, a ballot form will have two columns, as if on either side of an up-turned T, one for comments for the Affirmative team, one for comments for the Negative team, and a space below, for your reasons for the decision. If the columns are for addressing comments to each team specifically, the space below is for an explicit contrast of the two teams on a set of the important issues in the debate.
- Example: "Aff wins the ... argument, because they convinced me that..., while Neg wins the ... argument...".
The ballot should be read by students and coaches. It should communicate criticisms, tempering criticisms with positive encouragement. This is especially important for less experienced students. Points and ranks are not objective. The judge’s ballot is an instructional tool for the debaters to improve their performance; write a thorough critique of the debate, outlining the main contested arguments; offering overall comments on the team and for the speakers is also important.
Be detailed, avoid vague. Detail is very important, especially for coaches; describe contradictions as precisely as possible. Focus on the arguments, not the debaters; dampen critical comments, a mild rebuke will be misinterpreted as a significant censure; often soften your critical statements. Instead of writing "this argument makes no sense", write, "it’s difficult for me to accept the reasoning behind this argument"; and be as specific as possible, outlining the weaknesses, etc. Indirection or dilution of comments often prevents students from misperceiving criticisms.
Conclude with positive feedback. Include as much positive feedback and comments about performance as possible. Your comments should be encouraging for future performance.
Giving a Constructive Critique
Once your ballot is completed and your decision made, you may call in the debaters to review the debate with them; give constructive comments, without disclosing decision. Often there is a period of oral criticism that follows the debate. This is a formal opportunity for you to communicate your comments to the students directly. An oral critique is meant to supplement, but does not substitute for, written comments on the ballot.
This is an opportunity to talk with students directly, offering suggestions for future debates. Also, it is sometimes helpful for others, including other judges, to hear how you reached your decision.
Oral criticisms should be optional, and you should not feel obligated to offer one; many judges feel uncomfortable articulating why they voted the way they did, immediately after a debate, in a crowded room, in a language they may be uncomfortable speaking; you may simply want time to compose your thoughts more carefully on the ballot, and talk to teams afterward.
Criticism presented in an informal discussion with students and coaches may be more relaxed after the debate. Often students are more receptive to comments when they have some distance from the debate.
Overall Comments vs. Individual Comments
We generally recommend that judges should not spend more than 5 minutes each on their oral comments. Given this time constraint, judges should focus on the one hand on clearly justifying the reason for their decision and on the other hand on giving the team and each of the speakers constructive criticism that they will be able to apply in future rounds. We recommend that judges start with the justification for their decision (overall comments) and only afterwards, if time allows it, focus on individual comments. Individual comments generally focus on both style/delivery as well as the handling of arguments. Thus, individual comments may recommend that a debater speak louder or softer, face the judges, make eye contact with the opposite team, read less, ask more focused questions, or acknowledge arguments dropped by the other team, organize a speech better, or handle a specific argument differently.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can the judge ask to see a piece of evidence of the case from either team?
- Yes, in some cases, but only after the debate. The judge may ask for the material, but rarely is this necessary; only if it is an essential issue in the debate.
Can the judge ask a member of the audience to leave the room?
- Yes. If a member of the audience disrupts the debate, even after several requests by the judge, the judge has the responsibility to ask the person to leave the room. Audience members should be prepared to stay for the duration of the debate.
Can the judge interrupt the debate to ask a question or request clarification?
- No. The judge should not interrupt the flow of the debate. If an argument is unclear to the judge, it is the responsibility of the debater to clarify; the judge may indicate confusion by offering a quizzical look. But the judge should not interrupt during prep-time, constructive or rebuttal speeches, or during cross-examination. If the point is not clarified, the judge must make the decision based on the available information. However, if the judge cannot understand the speaker because he or she is speaking too quickly or too softely, they may politely request that they alter their style. Be careful, though, to weigh this against making students uncomfortable.
Can I stop the debate to correct a mistake?
- Stopping students in the middle of a debate to correct them would seem almost always inappropriate. Naturally, there might be exceptions. But make a comment on the ballot rather than interrupt a debate. Some countries have rules that allow a judge to stop a debate if something is not being done correctly. This may only apply to questions of format, i.e. if the wrong person stands up for cross-examination. But not if there is a new argument, etc. The decision to stop a debate in the middle of an already stressful activity must be weighed against the trauma to the student and the educational benefits of stopping.
Is it appropriate for the judge to translate a word if the students do not understand it?
- Sometimes. The judge may translate a word from a foreign to a native language if one of the debaters does not understand. However, the judge may not define the word, explaining what it means. The focus should be on arguments, not language.
Is it appropriate for the judge to explain an argument to a competitor during a debate?
- No. A judge should not assist the competitors in their understanding of arguments during a debate. The judge should should not offer assistance that would unfairly benefit one team.
Why are judges’ evaluations so different?
- In an ideal world, this wouldn’t happen. Intelligent judges applying the same standards would arrive at the same decision. Sometimes judges look for different things based on different backgrounds or their conception of the resolution (the motion). Some are persuaded by smooth delivery others by the simple quality of the arguments. Despite our best attempts to be "objective", it’s hard to keep our personal preferences from influencing our decisions. I think it’s important for judges to discipline themselves to be fair to both debaters – to really listen to what they are saying and not to prejudge their arguments, and to be clear about the standards agreed upon to judge the round. This last part is particularly important at the early stages of a debate program. Judges need to talk about how they decide rounds.
How important is cross-examination? How do judges evaluate it?
- Cross-examination is very important. Some debaters tend to minimize it because they are not very good at it. The best debaters are excellent cross-examiners. They will skillfully expose the weaknesses of their opponent’s case – either in logical or evidentiary terms. They will also ask questions which set up their own case. Cross-examination allows the judge to evaluate a debater’s understanding of the key issues of the round. Good judges listen to constructives and form questions in their own mind, hoping that the cross-examiner will ask the same questions. A judge will also evaluate how successfully a debater uses what they’ve elicited in cross-examination in their rebuttals. It’s amazing how many debaters will get a damaging admission in cross-examination only to fail to follow-up on it in rebuttal.
Is it allowed to have so many arguments that the opposing team cannot manage to refute all of them during the limited time?
- It’s allowed, but unwise. Some debaters think it is a good strategy to bombard the other side with arguments, so as to overwhelm them. But they also risk overwhelming the judge. Furthermore, it also raises serious questions about the quality of these arguments. How persuasive are arguments that are merely asserted or poorly substantiated? How difficult is it for your opponents to refute them? One is better off developing strong arguments with ample evidence.
Should judges always analyze the debate?
- Yes, of course, that's their job. They're supposed to analyze the arguments of both debaters, not only as they are presented in their opening speeches but as they are developed in the round. They are also supposed to evaluate how effectively a debater "clashes" with his or her opponent's case, being especially attentive to how well arguments are recast in light of new challenges, including new evidence.
- But I also think your question is hinting at something else - should the judges do the debating for thedebater - what we call "intervention?" The answer is no. As a educator, a judge should always comment on the merits of the cases before him or her, even if they go uncontested. Just because the other debater missed the weaknesses, doesn't mean they didn't exist. However, in deciding who should win the round, a judge should only rely on what's actually transpired in the round, not on what he or she would've have done. I don't know how many times I've written a ballot that "this doesn't make sense" or "that's incomplete" or "why didn't you pursue this line of reasoning?" only to have to decide for that debater because his or her opponent failed to identify these weaknesses or had too many of his own. Deciding a round is always a relative judgment - someone has to win.
- On the other hand in a really good round, it's unfortunate that someone has to lose.
- But there can be no 'ties'.
Debate Transcripts and Decisions
Example Flow Sheet Jeanne Chen, a trainer at IDEA Youth Forums was nice enough to share with us one of her flow sheets on the following topic: 'Resolved that it is better to focus on a harm reduction strategy than a law enforcement strategy when dealing with drug abuse.'
Example Flow Sheet 2 Jeanne Chen, a trainer at IDEA Youth Forums was nice enough to share with us one of her flow sheets on the following topic: 'Resolved that a policy should be adopted to promote global compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.'
Demo Debate Flow Sheet Youth Forum 2007 Kenda Cunningham, a trainer at the 2007 Youth Forum was kind enough to share with us her flow sheet from the Demo Debate. The topic discussed was: 'Bottled water leaves us thirsty.'
Notes From the Youth Forum
Questions brought up during Judges Lab
1. How much time should a judge spend on giving oral comments?
2. When should decisions be disclosed or not?
3. Should judged be allowed to consult/discuss with other judges on their panel before reaching their decision?
4. How should a judge evaluate different criteria? On what grounds is one criteria better than another?
5. When is it ok to give a low point win?
6. Does the negative team need to offer a case of its own in Karl Popper Format?
7. How should a judge evaluate a value-based case vs. a policy-oriented case?
8. What kind of information can be used during a limited preparation round?
9. How should a judge deal with debaters that do no respect their specific roles during Q/A: such as asking questions when they are supposed to answer?
10. Should a judge penalize a debater for accepting additional questions from his teammates while in the middle of his Q/A?