Kicking Bad Habits in LD

Kicking Bad Habits in LD

Kicking the Habit: Three Bad Habits to Kick While At LD Camp

No matter which division you debate in you are going to pick up bad habits. People in the community often speak of JV as the “Land of Bad Habits” but Varsity debaters who want to be perceived as “good” or “trendy” will pick up just as many bad habits from other competitors on their circuit. The usual but forgivable suspects include things that are just awkward like saying the name of the judge more than one time in each CX, waiting for the judge to enter a room before you go in if the tournament does not require it, and shaking the judge’s hand after the debate. At national circuit tournaments these behaviors seem very dated and never seem in-step with the atmosphere created by the bid hunt. The opposite problem is also true. LD debaters often bring in things from Policy debate to seem like hot shots without thinking twice about how they apply to the world of LD. These things would include carrying tubs, rocking stickers from policy camps that you did not attend, and making arguments about why framework cards about policy debate should become the gospel truth in LD. No one should lose a debate over any of these things but these examples should make it clear that debate norms are more than just speed and evidence. Participating in some debate norms can either make you complicit in violence in debate or just look pretty silly. There has been a lot of conversation about what the material problems with debate norms are but I hope to shed some light on some of the things that just turn debate into an awkward train wreck. This list is light hearted in some ways and serious in others and should be given some consideration when you start having practice debates this summer. Your speaker points will thank us, even if you don’t.

First, you are in fact alone in a LD debate. Please act like it.

The first thing you and your friends should stop doing in LD debates is identifying as a collective. There is no “we” defending that plan. There is no “we” that has won a single argument. And again, there is no “we “ that is going for the try-or-die scenario in the 2AR. In a policy debate it makes sense that you would claim to speak for your partner in order to push up their speaker points or to help smooth out some of the wrinkles in their speech by making their flaws seem like part of a well-executed plan. It is particularly helpful when teaching policy novices about T debates because the first answer you tell them to make is, you guessed it, “We Meet.” It might be a tad bit lonely in LD without a partner messing up the 1ARs for you, but spending time learning to be competitive in this format is valuable. You’re riding solo on this one but that’s okay. Just please stop pretending that it sounds cooler when you act like there is someone else with you in the debate. The LD judge will not raise your collective points after you singularly mess up the 1AR. The only thing “we “ the judges are doing is hoping that this LD trend dies sooner rather than later.

Second, stop glaring at people while you watch them delete your files.

If you email or flash someone a document during a debate it is very uncomfortable to watch people acquiesce to your demand that you be allowed to watch them delete things from their trash bin on their personal machine because you are afraid someone will “get your case.” You don’t got the answers Sway, and no one is in line trying to get a copy of version 47.3 of the same affirmative that everyone else is reading on that topic. A lot of the things that you all are protective of like full cites and tags aren’t things that are secrets and they should be disclosed on the wiki before your next debate on that same side. If you don’t want people to have your files, read them on paper and call it a day. I get that there are folks who have a concern that, “people will read my arguments against me,” but it doesn’t hold much weight. If someone re-cuts your argument and wins against your teammate, it was because they were the better debater and you all didn’t write a Case Neg to your own Aff/ 1AR Blocks to your new Neg Strat. The moment you read an argument in a debate, other people are free to re-create it. You do not get any special privileges beyond breaking new arguments just because you did some research. Research is what you were supposed to be doing and I’m proud that you found something that makes the conversation on the topic that much better, but it doesn’t belong to you or your team.

Third, and finally, please do not pretend to be fast.

LD’s attempt to be faster has only made it slower. Many debaters engage in a pseudo-spread where they change the pitch of their voice and drone on for 7 minutes without actually going faster. There are some debaters who double breathe at the beginning, middle, and end of a sentence in a given card. The double-breather might be saying words more quickly but they are much slower than a person who doesn’t take 3-4 seconds per sentence to catch their breath. In order to be one of the fastest debaters on the circuit you have to be doing daily speaking drills that monitor your pitch, your ability to place emphasis on certain words, clarity, and volume while remaining fast. When you pretend to be fast you end up droning on for 6 minutes and panting without anything to show for your effort. It actually makes you more unclear and harder to understand. Most people just can’t reach top speeds and it is okay to not be a speed-demon. Many people that win championships are not the fastest debaters at them and they do just fine. Focus on the depth and clarity of your arguments and you will do more than fine at any given tournament.