BY MATT VASSAR
I read every word of Armand’s post, and I agree with just about every word of it (except for one little nit, which I’ll pick below).
I think one big problem (which Armand and others may or may not be aware of) is that Stanford’s team does not practice NPDA-style parli at all. They do almost entirely APDA-style, with a little bit of BP-style parli mixed in.
I realize not everybody may have a background or understanding in each of the formats I mentioned above, but here’s all you need to know: NPDA-style parli is closest in format to CHSAA (high school) parli, and Stanford doesn’t participate in this format. The two formats they do participate in (APDA and BP) have wildly different practices and rules governing them.
I’m not too surprised, then, that weird topics are written at Stanford as a result of this, or that the tournament has a fondness of metaphorical resolutions (APDA-style parli actually has NO resolutions at all and AFF/GOV teams can run whatever they want to each round, so in a sense, metaphors are most similar to the style of debate that Stanford debaters participate in, a style of debate where there’s a total absence of topics altogether).
I think Armand’s suggestion is wise to suggest to Stanford that they should get somebody more involved in the debate community working on the topics, and devising the best practices for the tournament. I certainly hope that they pay attention to your remarks, and follow through on them.
By the way, I mentioned at the top that there was one small thing that I disagreed with Armand on, so here it is: I’d advise judges to give BOTH oral and written ballots to debaters. Oral RFDs can be substantially longer and more detailed than written RFDs, but both should be included to some extent.
I’m not surprised, Armand, that no debater has ever complained to you about oral RFDs. But as someone who used to serve as Tournament Director of some of the largest parli tournaments, I can certainly tell you that coaches complain about the absence of written RFDs long after the judges have left the tournament. Since coaches cannot simultaneously sit in on every single one of their debaters’ rounds, they have no insight on the round at all except what they’re told. And if there’s nothing written on the ballot at all except “O.C.”, you can imagine how some coaches might be frustrated (and why they might complain to tournament directors later on about the practice, even if the judge who did it is now long gone and unaware that anything went awry).
Anyway, long story short: both written and oral feedback are valuable.
And everything Armand said is valuable, too. I certainly hope that others in the debate community will seriously deliberate on these issues, decide what’s best for them, and then are moved to action. Armand’s started you off in the right direction.
Matt Vassar is a lecturer in the Oral Communication Program at Stanford University. He served as director of parliamentary debate at the Stanford National Forensic Institute from 2007-2011.