Polar Bear Open
2022 — Des Moines, IA/US
Saturday Congress Paradigm ListAll Paradigms: Show Hide
I try to follow the NSDA's judging guidelines found here: Judge Training | National Speech & Debate Association (speechanddebate.org). Please take particular note of the videos on how to judge.
Notes on specific events:
Dramatic Interpretation: While interpretive events are judged to the best of my ability on their cutting, blocking, and characterization, I believe that depictions of violence against children are inappropriate in much that same manner that scatological or pornographic depictions would be inappropriate. Please try to avoid denigrating people with mental illness by stereotyping their behavior. I would really like to see some non-negative drama.
Public Forum: I need to be able to track your arguments if I'm going to give you credit for them. Signposting is essential in verbal speech. As it says in the video, an argument is not established without at least a warrant and impact, and arguments are given more weight when opponents fail to respond to them. Effective rebuttals are as important as strong arguments.
About me: I generally judge Congress, speech, and sometimes PF. In high school, I primarily did extemp (mostly international) and congress at the local, state, and national level.
In college/graduate school I studied political science and philosophy and I currently work in editing/journalism. When they come up, I can handle more theoretical/philosophical arguments, especially if they're more in the domain of political theory or IR theory. That being said I do like debating the intricacies of policy as well. This paradigm is generally tailored to Congress (which I judge most of the time) but much of it can be applied to extemp and PF.
Things I like:
- Clash is great. Call people out! Don't be afraid to get a bit aggressive especially if someone tries to pull a stunt but don't veer over into sheer meanness. Direct refutation is especially preferred, particularly if you can point out how someone misread an article by telling me what it actually says.
- Sources sources sources. Especially interesting or underutilized sources like think tanks that aren't Brookings, AEI, CFR, etc. Or interesting news sites like The Intercept or foreign news like Rudaw. Or interesting journals. One time someone cited the American Journal of Potato Research in a round and I almost died from happiness. Doing some digging for something off the beaten path a) shows you care enough to do deep research and b) leads into my next point...
- ...interesting and unique points! Don't let debate get repetitious and show me some interesting and unique ways that a bill may affect something that is unexpected. An example: did you know that investing in infrastructure in Afghanistan like highways or public transit may actually let rural terrorism become more mobile and nationwide in urban areas? Or that Tibetan freedom activists are trying to improve their cybersecurity efforts to remove an epidemic of Chinese malware? Stuff like that is great.
- Extemporaneity is also really good. I hate canned speeches because they really reduce the possibilities of debate and the ability to directly refute arguments. And it allows you to be a more dynamic and engaging speaker. I prefer when people speak with notes in Congress and PF -- it's more natural than a memorized speech.
- Impacts!!!! Lots of Congress I have seen lacks direct impacts and linking sources/arguments to them. Tell me why something matters as well as how it matters. Ultimately this is a DEBATE event, and you should reflect that in your rhetoric.
- Enunciation. Don't slur your words together. I understand speaking fast but you can do that without letting speech get mushy. Be crisp.
- POs: I love when POs have personalities even if they are kind of supposed to fade into the background. Make some puns and some observations! This goes for everyone else. I love a good joke or witty statement.
- Pronouns: This should definitely be a norm in speech and debate at this point. If you're in congress, give them while you're walking up to speak. If in PF/speech, give them to me/the team before round. I.e. "That's Representative Maxwell Fenton, school code JD. I use he/him/his pronouns."
Things I don't like:
- Don't be racist, sexist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, classist etc. etc. Particularly avoid using slurs. If you get really offensive or get into a direct personal attack on someone I have no hesitation about ranking you the lowest possible score and if I know you, informing your coach of what you said.
- I hate when people judge or mention clothing on ballots and I won't dock you for not wearing a suit or whatever. I think people that do judge based on this are fundamentally classist (and maybe worse). That being said you should tuck in your shirt.
- If someone doesn't want to speak whatsoever don't push them to do it. They made the choice to show up and hang out for three hours while everyone else participated. Don't edit the docket because of this.
- Don't speak from your computer. Use a legal pad or notebook. It's super unwieldy and I'm always afraid someone will drop one.
- "Legislation" is a mass noun. There's no such thing as "a legislation," but there are such things as "pieces of legislation." Same with the word "economist" -- it's pronounced ee-KON-oh-mist, not the dreaded "eh-kon-OMM-ist." I have other word pet peeves like this but these are the big two I've seen in Congress/debate more generally.
- "Basic economics" is not evidence. Neither is "logic." Both of those things require sources and people disagree what they mean and how they matter.
- Repetition. One time I saw a Congress round where 10 people from the same school gave the same canned speeches on the No Child Left Behind Act with the same points, same sources, and same text. You will be ranked down if you rehash the same points over and over and over and over. See above for my love of interesting arguments and sources.
- Don't just sit there, particularly if you're in Congress. You're here for three hours. Give a speech or at least ask some questions.
- Disorganization. Give me a roadmap and an intro, and do the "walk" to split up your points visually as well as rhetorically.
- For intros, don't just say the subject and then move into the speech: i.e. "The national debt. I don't like it because...."
- If you're texting or Facebook messaging in round there's no way you're getting a decent rank. If you're using your phone to access sources because of a broken computer or something please tell me beforehand.
- "Are you aware...?" questions are loaded and stupid and demeans the intelligence of the speaker. Don't ask them. Same with questions that are essentially extended comments -- your statement should easily end in a question mark.
If you have any questions, just ask me when you get to round!
Last updated April 2023.
Pronouns: she / her
Style: I respond negatively to speakers who are rude, inappropriate/disrespectful, and grandstanding (my def = talking just to talk / pontificate).
Background: I have been teaching for 24 years in Iowa and Texas, and I am a debate coach. I also have legal assistant training; this, too, informs my perspective as a judge.
While I am relatively new to NSDA, don’t underestimate me; I teach speech, argumentation, and persuasion daily – same concepts, different venue.
I’m here because I prize lifelong learning, and I find these experiences are fun, rewarding, and add insight into my classroom teaching. I hope you, too, find these experiences fun and rewarding and that you learn and improve from each interaction… even if you don't win your round. :)
What I look for in a round:
I view my role in the round mainly as a trained observer and judge as teams do their work; I prefer teams to time themselves (and report the time) and I will rarely interrupt, direct, or ask for a card. However, I will note called cards and how they are subsequently used. If cards aren’t called or if points are left unchallenged, my assumption is your team agrees to their use – barring fundamentally untrue things ("racism good"). Note also that teams should extend the card’s argument and not just shorthand the author’s name.
Teams should independently, explicitly, at the beginning, address and agree upon how the round should be weighed; if not, my assumption is cost-benefit analysis.
I like roadmaps and prefer clear signposting throughout the round as these features allow all parties to be on the same page.
I can follow moderate speed – especially if it’s because you truly have a lot of strong links and evidence to present -- but if you go so fast that I miss your point, that’s on you. Same if you’re spreading or spending a lot of time talking but not actually saying anything, such as entire rounds spent on agreeing on definitions or other minutia.
Additionally, jargon doesn’t impress me; I spend my days breaking down jargon and complex topics for students, so I expect you to practice this real-world skill as well. Seeing your ability to adapt, contextualize, and show mastery without needing to resort to jargon is key for me.
During cross, ask questions to which you legitimately want answers and don't steamroll your opponents by interjecting so they can’t respond.
In your final focus, I prefer the focus to be on your case -- what are the main voters in the round and why your evidence should be preferred, why your impacts outweigh, why you should win, etc. – instead of your opponent’s case.