Jon Thorpe

The Year the Dam Broke: critical responses to the 2012 Stanford Invitational

Jon Thorpe
The Year the Dam Broke: critical responses to the 2012 Stanford Invitational


[A]re people seriously complaining that they weren’t prepared to extemporaneously debate topics?

Get over it. One of the points of Parliamentary Debate is developing the critical thinking skills to spontaneously debate anything. If you haven’t prepped for something, and you’re challenged to actually think of new things within your prep time, GOOD.

Also, given that there were a number of options, nobody was locked down into a Character A is better than Character B debate (as Mr. St. Amant pointed out). There were a number of good policy-based debates–I sat in on a very fun round between Valencia KP and Leland NW.


If judges and debaters are both hating on topics, you have significantly more room to parametricize. Make some interpretation of the resolution that has a definite way of viewing the round, regardless of how big of a jump you need to take to get there. You’ll win the theory debate because of the reasons stated in this thread.

That aside, there is importance in being able to debate very day-to-day concepts. It’s not every day that I get into a ‘debate’ with my friends over Pakistan’s military policies, but the Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert ‘debate’ is a classic. The problem lies within finding a way to give the judge an objective way of viewing the round (since we all have our favorites), not within the topic itself. You’ll see that APDA (a collegiate debate format practiced by Ivy League Schools, among others) uses topics that are somewhat similar to those seen here. What makes it legit is the analysis behind those debates.


To be fair though, you can’t have it both ways. Either you debate it straight up like you would in real life, in which case its not very educational, and you run into dead ends and judge biases. Or you could assume its ridiculous on face and reparametrize everything and turn it into a theory thing, and I personally think a res that necessitates theory tends not to be too educational. The only way to get anything out of it is to ignore the res and assume its allegorical for some real world issue, but then thats not fair for the neg without again risking a theory debate that derails everything. Personally, I’d rather have these kinds of debates informally without speech times and debate customs and stuff. That being said, sometimes they can be fun if you have good opponents, and theyre not in the outrounds, and you can strike them, so i dont think it detracts from the tournament much


Choosing between mud and sh*t? Wait, so the option of a policy resolution is the “mud” for you? Do you like policy resolutions or not? I don’t really understand the analogy here.

And, no, a number of authors and cultural/political analysts will tell you that there is tremendous value in arguing the cultural impact of pop-culture figures or comic book characters. If you don’t want to debate those things because they don’t fall into the categories in your briefs, that’s intellectual laziness.


Just from an overall standpoint, I think that parli debate should be a forum in which these high schoolers analyze current events and how to best solve the plethora of problems facing the world in the near future. The fact is the whole tournament had very few resolutions that really had anything to do with what’s going on in the world.

And by the way Iain, you saw the ONLY policy based debate I had seen all tournament.



I think that PD should focus on someone’s ability to spontaneously analyze a semi-common knowledge topic they’re somewhat familiar with in a new way (because the resolution challenges their analytic thinking abilities). As far as problem solving, I don’t think that policy resolutions necessarily engender more problem solving, especially when you have constructs like fiat and normal means to get around a lot of the real-world concerns.

Additionally, just about every topic I see here either directly addresses a current event or can be analyzed through the lens of current events.


Really? How does debating philosophical concepts, such as honesty and humanity, necessarily lead to a lack of intellectual vigor? You’re begging the question in a huge way here.

First, if there’s no accepted framework, it falls to the teams to create and articulate a fair framework and set of burdens. That ought to challenge them intellectually instead of letting them fall back on “NB to America.” Additionally, which team speaks better and makes better sounding arguments is a paradigm in ALL forms of debate–that’s non-unique to value/fact resolutions, and non-unique to parliamentary debate.

Second, wait, do you think lay judges are more likely to know about policy resolutions concerning Sudan than they are about pop culture? I absolutely disagree–the fact that they’re lay judges means that, by definition, they’re less familiar with debate and common topics of debate.

Third…you know what’s cool? Claims with warrants.

Parli debate will be viewed as illegit so long as participants whine about topics they don’t want to argue without giving any cohesive reasoning. At the point at which you say that debating about the nature of humanity is a waste of time, I can’t see how you can defend anything else as being intellectually worthwhile.


The strike system is currently a waste because generally there is only one serious resolution out of the three that could have potential for a decent debate. And The “funny pop culture” resolutions are, simply on the basis that they aren’t even able to be linked for the debaters who want to utilize their knowledge on pressing matters in foreign relations/policies and factions of the U.S that are being debated in the news.

Pop-culture/”fun” debates weighing mechanism generally become an inconsequential net benefit. This takes away ground to do larger impact analysis and can leave a boring debate with contentions that don’t hold weight. Yes for all forms of debate speaking stylistics play a role in judging but, joke resolutions allow the judge to vote more on stylistics because the impacts are smaller, there is less debate theory, and the weight of the entire debate is simply decreased. Pop- culture resolutions also take away from those who want to use debate theory.

Many parent judges are more likely to be unaware of the pop culture resolutions we are debating since, the resolutions are created in the mindset of “what are teens know/ interested in”. Most parents watch the news or read the newspaper giving some sense of what the policy resolutions are about. Having the joke resolutions is what makes Parli Debate seem illegitimate because we don’t need to exercise and push our knowledge in controversial topics that challenge our intelligence. The challenging political issues that we debate is what makes debate impressive, not batman vs spiderman.


^ Completely agreed ^

On that note, the reason why “philosophical” or “moral” resolutions make for a TERRIBLE debate is because almost no one in parliamentary debate is well-versed in any kind of philosophy or moral theory of any kind.

Even the basic deontology vs consequentialism is lost on most debaters and parents, testament to how sad parli debate has become. No one can decently debate values like in LD.


I think that the strike system works better than providing only one resolution, as it allows for the debaters to better select topics they know about, which increases education in round because arguments are developed. I do agree that the flight where there were 2 ‘fun’ topics could have been a problem, but the tournament shouldn’t be criticized for one flight.

I know many debaters who enjoy a silly discussion, but I agree with Rohit. I also think that pop culture topics are too heavily related to background/culture, meaning they generate large amounts of judge bias.

As for what Ian said, I think that topics judges aren’t fully educated on help to create more blank slate/ fair rounds. It should be the debaters’ job to fact check other teams.


I thought the metaphorical resolutions were absolutely ridiculous as well. Parli shouldn’t be about being able to debate on the spot about random things. It just turns into a bullshit fest. There should be some level of predictability in topics as well as room for research. When we debate about ‘batman vs spiderman’ or ‘love is foolish’, every other event just laughs at us. It takes the legitimacy and educational benefits away from parli.



Saying that you can’t have a decent debate with a non-serious topic absolutely begs the question. What do you mean by decent debate? If a decent debate involves fluent speaking, entertaining rhetoric, structure, logical analysis, and informative contentions, then you can absolutely have a decent debate with a non-serious (read: non-policy) topic.

As far as analysis of Jon Stewart, for example, there’s a BUNCH of material to immerse oneself in. Studying it starts bringing up questions about the nature of the public figure. That’s definitely worth debating–

Parli isn’t about what the debaters WANT to debate any more than Impromptu is about the speakers wanting to speak on something unrelated to the topic they’re given. It’s your job as a debater to deal with any topic that comes your way. On that note, what does “weight” mean?

Next, how often do you think the vast majority of parli judges actually vote on line-by-line impact analysis, anyway, especially given the prevalence of theory debate? This paragraph I’m referring to is begging the question ALL over the place.

Furthermore, if these parents watch the news or actually do read the newspaper, they’re likely to see articles on these topics if they flip to the entertainment section. However, I do not think that most lay judges are educated on foreign policy debate, and I think they’re REALLY uneducated on T/K debate.

As far as pushing our minds debating controversial topics, are you saying that you can’t push your mind trying to debate human nature, or the relative worth of political figures? I still don’t get this argument. It doesn’t make sense on face.

To put this in terms you’d understand–I can’t flow anything you typed, because you’re just giving me claims with no warrants and undefined impacts.


Then doesn’t it seem logical that Parli debaters educate themselves more? On face, Parli is about having the ability to prepare for 20 minutes to debate on any common knowledge topic. If having topics that stretch debaters’ knowledge increases the prevalence of people knowing how to debate values and facts, then we should definitely keep them around.


Yup, agreed.


Bumjin Park:

Wait, you’re supposed to be able to predict value debates and fact debates because they’re part of the CHSSA Rules concerning Parliamentary Debate. If the tournament you’re going to doesn’t release topic areas, you have to prepare for any common knowledge debate about a given policy, value, or fact. You shouldn’t be able to predict the exact resolutions you’ll find at a tournament because that harms the extemporaneous nature of PD.

And are you saying that we can’t research arguments regarding Batman and Spiderman? That no such research exists online? That’s absurd. More importantly, are you saying that there is NO research available concerning the philosophical value of the concept of love? Again, ridiculous. The examples you cite as “laughable” meet the standards you tout in the same post.


After 3 years of competing at the Stanford Debate invitational I am sad to say that I have lost all respect for the tournament.

But before anyone comments on my post please allow me to explain.

Parliamentary debate does indeed require quick and spontaneous argumentation. But a certain standard of reasonability should be applied to all debate topics even the ones we deem as silly. What we find ourselves is a series of resolutions that are poorly written leading to a poor debate. Now you might say you can strike those, but what if you find yourself in the position where all three topics are bad (One about batman, one about darth vader, and so on). What does one do then, especially if the other team strikes the serious resolution? Now you might say that you can still have good debates on those topics but here is the problem. When you have a debate about Spiderman and Batman you do either one of two things, both of which lead to poor quality debates.

The first option is that you debate it as is. This is inherently flawed in that though parli debaters should be well versed in a variety of subject matters it is a bit unfair to someone who doesn’t read any comics or see the movies. So what then…BS? That doesn’t mean good argumentation. And sure, you could say the same about a policy resolution regarding Iran but you can at least debate generalities and philosophical principles which don’t apply in the fictional realm. This is coming from someone who debated and won a debate against a top ranked team here about why Batman is better than Spiderman man using 10 contentions each with strong warrants (and I am indeed a major Batman fanatic). Yes, I said 10. And even I am saying that although it was a fun debate it was not a fulfilling debate. Not to mention the inherent bias embedded in each of these topics.

The second option is to frame the resolution within a policy or philosophical sense. In other words a topic about Jason Bourne and James Bond turns into that of American and British international politics or the philosophical values of justice and honor. I say that does indeed make for a great debate which is why I ask the question then why didn’t the resolution writers make it explicit to begin with. What was the point of saying James Bond when the resolution could have just stated the value or policy to begin with? And mind you only about 5 percent of teams did this second option which also has the additional harm of abuse. If I am negation, how does James Bond equal all of current British economic policy in any reasonable way? At best you could link Bond to MI-6 or spies in general.

Now of course there are some good ambiguous resolutions, but they unfairly burden the affirmation. Let me explain. Say you had the resolution “greed is good.” A fact debate might be okay but then it becomes a race to how many examples a team can give. A smarter approach done by great and top ranked teams is to put it in a value or policy perspective. In other words they would frame it as a debate about the success of American capitalism or the net benefits of global or local economies. But then you have negation teams that run tracheotomy saying it is a fact debate and that the topic did not ask for a value or policy. And many experienced and lay judges buy that it is abuse even though it is not.

I will explain to everyone why there is no such thing as trichotomy. There is no such thing as a separation of fact, values, and policies. Facts are observations we take for granted as human beings. As individuals we have opinions based on these facts meaning that all values have embedded facts in them. And we make actions of policies based upon these decision, values, and facts. So the affirmation team in order to provide the most ground might take a resolution like “China is a ripe for a revolution” that seems like what you people call a “fact debate” and turn that into a philosophical question of whether or not it is good for the Chinese to have a revolution. But bad judging and dumb teams will call abuse and say that you have to show how China is ripe, in other words how China will physically revolt. First of all if the negation really wants a fact debate the affirmation team doesn’t have to provide solvency anyway. But anyways…It becomes abusive to the aff. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO FUTURE FEAT A PHILOSPHICAL OR FACT BASED DEBATE. No one can predict the future. How does any team show that an action will occur in the future? You can’t. Yes there is fiat but that is in policy debates and according to your logic you can’t fiat the future in a fact debate. How does the aff side show that China will actually revolt in the status quo? The answer is they don’t. No one knows. We are only human. 5 years ago if the resolution said “the Middle East is ripe for revolution” and an aff team tried to explain that massive revolutions would occur in the Middle east everyone would laugh at them and they would get the loss. Guess who is laughing now. So in that case in order to provide the fairest and most educational debate any good team would argue the fundamental value behind it – not if China will revolt, but whether or not a revolution in China would be a good thing. I lost this round as the aff trying to defend the fundamental idea that a revolution would be a good thing. Sure I am upset but I also hope this helps change the bad judging, bad resolutions, and bad debating. I am sorry but I can’t predict whether or not any revolution can occur in the future but I can argue the value and or policies behind a revolution. And this is a systemic problem that affects multiple teams at multiple tournaments at multiple rounds not just silly old me.

That is why policy debate topics such as “The USFG should increase the tax” or “TH would kill the master” are better resolutions. Not because they are better than facts or values, but because they avoid judges and debaters that don’t understand how what would seem like a fact resolution like “greed is good” can become an awesome debate about human dignity vs. economic progress or about whether or not a policy on investing in other countries has a net benefit.

Of course there is another problem at Stanford and that is bad judging. You would think at the very least that the out rounds would have experienced judging but no. Come on guys. To be fair college judges are not perfect judges either. No one is. But college judges that think it is all about technicalities and hitting everything on the flow are stupid. Debate originated as formal argumentation. It is about providing the best argumentation not winning on T, or tricot, or not hitting one stupid disadvantage. One really solid argument should outweigh 5 bad ones if executed correctly but not all judges see it that way. And I have seen too many fantastic teams across the state getting cheated here, at other tournaments, and even at state championships themselves (especially the one that get screwed in the quals.)

It’s funny how we always complain about getting screwed over by bad judging and bad resolution yet do nothing about it. I hope this expression of my disappointment of not only this tournament but what parliamentary debate has become helps to make it better. This is coming from someone who went undefeated in prelims here and was one of the top speakers. I sincerely lost all respect for this tournament. If some bad judge or bad resolution screws me over so be it. But when parliamentary debate is slowly degrading I want to save it especially when the people I love and respect the most in debate all over the state and world constantly get screwed over.

BUT THERE IS HOPE. The best round I have ever had in my entire four years of parliamentary debate so far has been at this tournament (surprising given my criticism) against Leland NW (Nguyen & Wu). You know why it is amazing – because it was all about argumentation. We had a qualified judge and a well written policy resolution. There was no bs. There was no topicality and no tricot or any other technicality. IT was Mano-a-mano argumentation. Each team threw argument after argument and it was a back and forth 5 star boxing match. WOW! I finished that round thinking we might have lost. IT was a 50-50 chance. If that round had played over 1000 times each team would have won 500 times. We just happened this time to win, but wow! Leland NW could have just has easily taken it. Congrats guys for a fan-f**kingtastic debate. If we had more rounds like this parli would have ultimate respect. A good judge, a good topic, and solid arguments from both sides – that is what parli is supposed to be about.



Very much agreed. Another very important point that I was wondering is that why is it that the judges are not ranked before hand? I mean there were rounds when the most qualified judges (Debate coaches, college debaters, and judges that were being PAID to be there) were not being used!!! I was sitting in the judging room watching a judge that was being paid to be there not get a single ballot for round 1,2 and 4! Why are the most qualified judges not being used every round? The most qualified judges should be put in the most important rounds!!! It would not take a lot of effort to rank the judges based on experience and then put them in the rounds corresponding to importance.


Research in debate has a far greater value than the extemporaneous nature of parli.

And how the hell do you evaluate ‘love’? The idea of love is so subjective and vague in terms of a debate. There’s no framework to look at ‘love’, debate it, and receive some form of educational benefit from it.

The debate between Spiderman and Batman has literature, but it sounds more like something two angry comic-con attendants would fight about. Moreover, how are parents from other countries supposed to care about spiderman and batman, let alone watch four teenagers in suits debate it.

At the end of the day, I felt none of the participants in my rounds received any form of mileage.


In my opinion parliamentary debate should stick to its roots founded from the British Parliament discussing the complexities of important issues that were pressing to the government whether it was dealing with science, religion or politics. When parliament was in session, it was not the time to debate their favorite super-heroes or “pop-culture” views. They had a clear goal to debate the pressing issues of their time to find solutions to better their sovereignty. When you start adding these joke debates in to tournaments it takes away from the intellect of the title “Parliamentary Debate”. If you like those kinds of resolutions and topics then run all the rounds you want of them in practice, don’t derogate the parli forum. If we to consistently have these topics, the prestige of the debate forum will disintegrate and continued to be called illegitimate. Colleges don’t care that you know how debate about crazy bananas, werewolf’s and vampires, those are common conversations that happen on a casual level with friends. The joke resolution rounds can be built on lies because there is no factual evidence for those kinds of resolutions. It is impressive when a teenager can have have a conversation on health care, immigration and foreign relations from the knowledge they gained from debate.

I never said we could not debate the worth of a political figure, those resolutions are topical. I think that the moral aspect can fit in to policy debates.

Don’t close the “educated judges” idea of to just foreign policy. Most of the policy resolutions that we get are on topics that are front line in the newspapers, or on the nightly news and radio. If you are a good debater you should be able to target you judge; if you think they are not going to understand your foreign policy case it is still your burden to make it comprehendible to the common person. Part of politics is being able to communicate and convey your ideas to the common citizen at every intellect level. You can’t even give an accurate assessment of the tournament since you aren’t a high school debater. This year there has been a large increase in the joke/crap resolutions.


Yo, A Philosopher. I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish but Parli has the best debates of all time. Of all time.

Briefing following the actual purpose of this post, I’d like to congratulate Adam and Christina. They are excellent debaters, and I’m totally sure they earned it. How?

Well, seamlessly transitioning back into Kanye allegory (more or less), the best teams aren’t the ones that’ve heard of tricot, or can fluidly debate about it. I’m sure they can, but the teams that everyone in the room can tolerate, appreciate, and-dare I say it-like by the end of the rounds are the ones that only use the word “Topicality” when they absolutely have to. Christina and Adam come to mind.

Your main critique of Parli, A Philosopher, seems to be that it gets bad resolutions sometimes. Abso-effing-lutely. So does Pofo (“Resolved: High School Debaters should not debate about sensitive religious issues”), so does LD, so does Policy. That’s not a problem with Parli; that’s a problem with the tab room, or whoever runs these things. That doesn’t require fundamental altering of Parli. That requires a better topic writer.

That being said, having read through the topics for this tournament, I don’t see any problems with them. They don’t require bullshitting. They require you to step outside of your well-briefed comfort zone and try to think outside the box you, or your coach, has so thoroughly built around you. I’ve had a Parli round about raising income taxes in Middle Earth to finance the war against Sauron. It was brilliant, I had an immense amount of fun, we lost, and my opponents didn’t say “Topicality” once. There were solid arguments-good “argumentation”, by any standard. I’d have that kind of debate again any time of the day.

My Freshman year, I qualified for State in Policy. My Sophomore year, I went 4-2 in Pofo at Berkeley, and 1-2 at Nat Quals in LD (not impressive, I know, but it was my first LD tournament ever.) I’ve sampled every kind of debate, and I love Parli more than all of them combined. You passionately and ungrammatically rant that: “WE CAN CHANGE PARLI. WE CAN MAKE IT AMAZING.” It is pretty damn amazing, and you concede how great it can be with the “WOW!” exclamation summarizing your round against Leland. Parli itself doesn’t need to be changed. That was the same Parli debate that you loved participating in against Leland, and it’s the same Parli debate when you’re debating about Batman.

Saying Parli should be remade because you get bad judges and resolutions sometimes is a lot like saying your parents should buy a new car because it’s got a crack in the windshield.


if someone is into critical theory and Zizek, they can make a pop culture round educational. But pop culture resolutions are uniquely not suited for the format of parli.

Granted, parli is spontaneous, but debaters and judges still need to have a general idea of what the resolution is about in order to have a good debate. This means that parli still needs pre-tournament preparation.
With current events, everyone is more or less on the same page about what the major news are. If a debater hasn’t heard of the uprising in Syria, that’s really her fault.
With pop culture, there is no generally agreed upon set of knowledge that everyone is expected to be familiar with. This means that debaters are likely to have no clue what the resolution is about through no fault of their own. Which translates to five people wasting 55 minutes of their lives. You shouldn’t punish a debater for not watching the Colbert Report.
If you want to have pop culture debates, you need to announce topic areas ahead of time.

And in terms of philosophical resolutions, I think those are great. But anyone who’s taken a philosophy class will tell you that “TH prefers being beautiful over being clever” isn’t a philosophical resolution, it’s just dumb.


I think that there should be more input by other coaches and debate coordinates on creating the resolutions,rather than just having what Bruce [Jordan] wants and believes is a good Parliamentary Debate resolution.

I would have like to see more topics related to gay marriage laws, Syria, church and contraception, austerity measures for Greece. Issues that are currently being talked about.


@BumjinPark: For debating ‘Love is foolish,’ there are lots of possible interpretations:

1) Love (the biological phenomenon) is foolish, literally. Not great.
2) Valentine’s Day (an embodiment of ‘love’) is foolishly overcommercialized.
3) Someone with the last name of Love is foolish. For example, Courtney Love is foolish for marrying Kurt Cobain (since y’all love pop culture so much).
4) State governments should stop recognizing marriages, and only offer civil unions (love is foolish, so the government shouldn’t deal with it).



Cool. How do you think we should fix Parli, given those pages of bad things in the status quo?

Bumjin Park:

I don’t deny that research in debate is important, and I think it should be valued. However, if we valued one thing (research) over others (extemporaneia) 100% of the time, why would we even have multiple categories of debate? As far as Parli goes, I think there’s something to be said for having to think and organize on the fly.

Regarding love, that’s a good question! One might even say it’s debatable. Maybe researching different philosophers, and their views on what love is, could be educational.

Just because angry comic-con attendants would fight about something, that means it can’t be an engaging topic for debate?

Parents are supposed to care about these topics based on the speakers’ abilities to prove how important they are.

I’m sorry that you didn’t have an educational experience, but I think many other people did (or have, with similar resolutions at previous tournaments).


Oh, boy. There’s so much to talk about.

On your first paragraph:

First, there is a pretty big distinction between the British Parliament and Parliamentary Debate. High school PD is derived in great part from APDA and NPDA. APDA, in particular, has been focusing on pop culture topics for a long, long time. Go to, and look at some final rounds—they’re debating about Faust as much as they’re debating about Afghanistan. In other words, to give you some perspective, there hasn’t suddenly been a silly-topic paradigm shift. Stanford and Logan have been using these “silly topics” for years, as have a multitude of invitational and EVERY APDA tournament. Bishop O’Dowd tried to have an only-joke-resolution tournament just last year!

Second, learning to debate about values and facts doesn’t “derogate the parli forum.” Ad hominem attacks and claims without warrants do. If you want to make a point here, by all means, prove it. But don’t keep giving us claims and impacts without links and warrants. For example—“If we to consistently have these topics, the prestige of the debate forum will disintegrate and continued to be called illegitimate.” What? First, we’ve consistently had these topics anyway. But second, this is an egregiously bad slippery slope argument.

Third, regarding how impressive it is that you can debate on a variety of topics, your logic doesn’t make sense to me. Isn’t it more impressive to colleges that someone is able to understand both pop culture and politics, instead of only policies? Christina, Ben and a variety of others here find educational value concerning debating the current news media. A number of careers are open to savvy and articulate pop-culture analysts. Moreover, colleges (having been accepted to a few) actually might just care about your ability to analyze these kinds of topics. When it comes to college interviews, college essays, and college debate scholarships, the ability to break apart these topics can be invaluable.

To your next paragraph/pair of sentences:

Okay, it’s nice that you’re fine debating about Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. What’s the brightline between those individuals and Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart?

To your third paragraph:

I…agree with a lot of what you’re saying, but I think you’re missing my point. I think the average lay judge is just as likely to be uneducated about foreign affairs as they are regarding domestic affairs and popular culture. In every instance, it falls to the debater to deal with it. That’s pretty much what I’m saying: Parli should be spontaneous, and debaters should have to work to be good at it without expecting policy resolutions all of the time.

Wait, whoa, I can’t know what this year’s resolutions are because I don’t compete? That’s funny—this site’s job is to compile every resolution from years past and present. Additionally, as a coach, I see a pretty fair number of rounds. Ad hominems aren’t persuasive.

And speaking of ad hominems, your last paragraph!

A word of advice to you, I mean, since I guess being patronizing is the way to go. If you’re going to argue on the internet, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

First, only argue on a site about arguing. You’ve got that covered.

Second, if you do argue on such a site, make sure your arguments make sense. Otherwise, people will look at your posts and either think that your position is incorrect or you’re not doing a good job of defending it. Neither thing makes you look good. In technical terms, add some warrants and links.

Third, if you do argue on such a site, absolutely never presume something about someone who disagrees with you and/or insult him/her directly. There are a few reasons for this…
1) If you’re trying to convince debaters you’re right, they’ll groan and think, “Well, that wasn’t a smart thing to say. That’s a logical fallacy.”
2) If you’re trying to convince casual readers you’re right, they’ll think that you’re being mean.
3) If you’re trying to convince people who know me in this community you’re right, they’ll think that you’re factually misinformed. Maybe you could have asked my girlfriend if you ran into us at Stanford.
4) Finally, if you open your post with why we shouldn’t derogate the parli forum, ending your post with insults looks hypocritical.


Props to the complaints above about the judging pool at this tournament. We did NOT spend thousands of dollars on this tournament, only for our teams to receive three incompetent judges in elims. I personally watched one of our out rounds. One judge sat there with his chin on his hand throughout the entire debate with not even the slightest attempt to follow the arguments being made. The second judge spent a good quarter of her time checking her cell phone messages. The third, although lay, made a good attempt to follow the debate. To sum it up, the judging at this tournament was ridiculous. If you can afford to give JV debaters flow judges for every one of their rounds, you could at least have the decency to put real judges in varsity PD.


I think pop culture topics have their value and I absolutely loved my Darth VadEr round–props to Lynbrook on that one. The difficult thing, however, is finding an appropriate weighing calculus. For example, how do you weigh out religion as an impact? The impact religion has on a pastor is most likely more than the impact it has on a 5 year old going to Sunday School, but still how do you weigh that against certain truths or facts? Round two for my partner and I as well as many other value rounds (idealism v pragmatism) seem to end up with millions of examples where the value was present but no way to measure it out. I think thats why, on the surface, policy seems for debatable than value or fact. Policy has clear links to net benefits. I am in no way rejecting value rounds; I think they’re great, but if parli were to be radically changed as the philosopher advocated, I believe the simple fix is the creation of a fair weighing calculus. Fact rounds are pretty easy to weigh out, the value rounds are the tough ones. Without a proper judging criteria, it becomes unfair to both the judge and debaters when a decision is reached, founded on opinion.

As far as pop culture topics go. I think we should definitely debate them, because Santorum, Colbert, music, love, star wars, etc. are just as prevalent and impactful in society as regular policy…in fact maybe more prevalent given that politicians and their constituents are becoming more and more stratified. AND, they’re fun. When I POI with, “does the affirmation believe there is a difference between Queen Amidalla and Padme” I can only look back and smile.


A tournament isn’t ever going to be able to provide all flow judges, have completely fair resolutions, and run on time.

I’ve had great experiences at the Stanford Invite. I feel as though people here are blaming how they did on the tournament itself. It’s important to accept that randomness-which can result in unfair situations- is an element of debate that all of us should have come to accept by now. Experienced debaters should know how to appeal to lay judges or figure out how to make a ‘sillly’ topic more interesting.

I think it’s important to recognize that the tournament doesn’t aim to create bad rounds, and it has a strike system (unique to hs debate) to give debaters a voice in the process of choosing resolutions. In addition, a strong majority of my judges have been coaches/former debaters every year I’ve attended. Furthermore, Stanford instructed lay judges to give philosophies (I know this happened last year, and I’m assuming it did again this year) so that debaters can appeal to them and be made aware of inherent biases. Finally, I love the fact that Stanford ran on time, and even early.


I’m sorry, political savant, but that was totally NOT a hollow victory. Christina amd Adam are excellent, as well as Keizra and Jeff and Natalie and Audrey and many others who debated in out rounds. Adaption is key. They adapted and excelled. Lay judge or not. Adapt. When we approach a lay judge, we don’t call topicality a “T shell”, we dont use the word fiat, and explain what net benefits even means. There is value in neophyte judges…they are just as human and just as persuadable, if thats a word.


Today was the first time I ever heard a parli round that involved deontological ethics. Keizra and Christina debated it beautifully, and I was thoroughly impressed by their knowledge of moral philosophy. To me this is something that the parli authorities of California could definitely learn from. Considering the topic, we could have even gone deeper into it; Adam Smith for example was a moral philosopher. Marx’s writings were a direct response to capitalism’s injustices in the Industrial Revolution period. I think that if we have more parli debates like this, the event will hugely benefit from it and will gain more respect in the HS debate community Having kids who can debate theory and pragmatism is what is going to get this thing turned into a national event, in my opinion.

As for the topic selection, I believe it absolutely needs to be revisted. When it comes to stuff like “keep it simple”, it makes prep time laughable for the Neg. Moreover, these dumb superhero topics make not only for rounds that are repetitive in nature, but also makes judges feel that they just wasted 2 hours.

Anyway, I kind of agree with Interested. I was in the Varsity LD pool, and the judges were much, much more well versed on debate than the Parli judges as a whole. The parli pool was moms and dads with the exception of a few outrounds I guess.


Jeff, I can promise you that my bitching does not come from being angry at the results of my team’s performance. It comes from the frustration of not being able to help these debaters become better via my feedback when the debate itself was so devolved as a result of the resolution. I mean the reason that I enjoy judging myself is because it gives me an opportunity to help high school debaters get better and give some of the things I myself have learned from advanced level coaching and debating. But when resolutions like Bourne vs. Bond become a wash on the flow, there is no weighing mechanism to decide the victor and there is ABSOLUTELY no way to give feedback that will help them in the future.

Also, I think the most frustrating part as a judge was the flood of fact type debates that gave very little clash and had little to know substance. Isnt the point of debating to learn and discuss important issues? I fail to see how discussing Batman and Spiderman is going to help any of these debaters.


Give the [non-English speaking] judges rounds with two 0-4′s hitting. Give the bubble rounds to judges who take extensive notes and know what’s going on. It’s what Mutually Preferred Judging software does, but more importantly, it just makes sense.


I was just about to say, Mutually Preferred Judging sounds like the answer! I feel like its a hassle in tab so they only do it for policy (plus a hassle for everyone turning in pref sheets) but it’s quite important. However, it’s a bit more difficult in parli than policy to fill out pref sheets because the debaters don’t know all of the judges they way they do in policy. I mean, if someone gave me a list of all the judges in parli, I’d probably only recognize 3 or 4 names tops. Tab would need to figure out which judges are qualified.


There’s also some more philosophical complaints about MPJ. A common one is that it makes debate more insular and less about adaptation. There are some articles about this in the Rostrum, if you want to take a look.

Personally, I just think that judges should be listed on the postings with paradigms available during prep time. It’s what we do at CalCup, it’s how LD (and maybe policy?) is run at Nationals, and it protects adaptation without running the risk of preparing incorrectly (too lay/too technical) for debate.


Remember, it only takes 5 friends to have a Parli round anyway you want it.


i agree with jason; while many a good team has gotten screwed at some stage of the stanford tournament, it would be incredibly unlikely for a bad team to get lucky enough in 6 prelims and 5 out rounds….


About judging, I happened to hear Gunn NO was rather upset at my RFD in their quarterfinal round claiming I did unnecessary work on the flow.

Their confusion at this was partially my fault. When giving my RFD I started with the actual RFD. Most of the flow was a wash because it basically broke down both sides saying that their side was better without any real link or analysis, so I voted on the one unique benefit that aff held. After giving my RFD I gave both team some pointers. Most of this feedback was directed towards how the aff could have won easily with a little bit more economic knowledge. I can understand how this feedback made it appear like I gave the aff arguments on the flow. While this may not account for a large amount of seemingly flawed judging decisions, it may be a factor, and people must realize that sometimes the losers will just be mad.

Also I don’t know where it is but I thought I read something about how the round should be awarded to a team if they win significantly more points than the other team. This is absolutely absurd. Impact calculus is vital to judging policy rounds, and if you think otherwise you are a fool. I’m not going to vote for you if you plant flowers and give benefits to a small portion of americans if your plan eventually leads to the destruction of america’s ability to compete in the global market.


Judge master counts is correct.

if you run 8 arguments about improving the taste of school lunches, making gardens prettier, getting playground balls to bounce higher, etc and the other side doesn’t defeat a single one, you will still lose if they win a single argument proving a significant likely loss of human life or some other hard-hitting impact.


To address the concerns of that who responded to my original post I will clarify certain points.

It seems first off that my original point must have struck a chord for all those responses to flood in. I hope it acts as a talking point for where to take the event. I love being described as “radical” but I will take it because perhaps radical is what we all need. And it seems many in the parli community from competitors to experienced judges and coaches seem to be on board with what I am saying.

If you haven’t not read my first post I suggest you do so and I humbly ask that you also read the entirety of this post

Of Course Parliamentary debate is and can be amazing. I was simply pointing out its flaws to make it even better and keep the heart.

To address the concerns of Mr. Ballmer,

Yes, of course actual good teams go far in parli. What I was saying is that too often many of these high caliber teams don’t make it and the bad quality of teams does. I loved your response to my point that bad resolutions lead to bad debates. Yes they do happen in different types of debates and that is why indeed it should be written with a better topic writer. You only prove my point good sir. And furthermore at the very least there is at least time in policy, LD, and Pofo to prepare in advance for what would be considered “bad resolutions” in those types of debate. And the resolution you pointed out, “High School Debaters should not debate about sensitive religious issues” seems like it could be an excellent debate about the values of privacy vs. seeking truth and the dilemma of a Faustian bargain. And in those debates you have the additional bonus of not having to deal with the problems of Topicality, tricot, and other technicalities that do albeit appear in those events but nowhere near as often as in parliamentary debate. And yes I have experience in each type of debate.

As for your point about having fun debates about Lord of the Rings it doesn’t really prove much. Many in the community, including Mr. Fauss and Mr. Artem himself seem to advocate the elimination of pop culture resolutions. Just as you said yourself I did indeed have fun debating about Batman, but there was an even greater injustice. Once you deal with the fictional realm argumentation can be good (if lucky) but it is based on a lack of reasonability and a reality principle. Should someone really not get the chance to break at Stanford or go to states because they didn’t see Lord of the Rings or know anything about Spiderman? Not to mention when you mix reality (the Middle East) and fiction (LOTR) you lose total access to the distinction between fact and fiction which means all of the arguments made even though logical have no warrants or links because fact no longer exists. There also isn’t a clear criterion other than a race to see how many examples you can list. Sure at league and other minor tournaments and at practices at your school I am proud of you for having fun because that is what joining debate is all about, but this leads to heartbreak and tragedy when the silliness reaches the highest levels of competition. The whole point of debate is to learn something. Perhaps I might be thrown a bone in learning about Sauron but real understanding and the betterment of me and other debaters come from analyzing deep values of dignity, economic progress, etc, and how plans play out in the world. That is where the roots of parli come from – British Parliament which I doubt ever debated about Jason Bourne. The round I had against Leland for clarification was a policy parli round about the Sudan and the most fulfilling debates that anyone can have are about tangible values and policies and their effects in the real world – these are the debates that make mankind better.

Let it be known though that I respect you Mr. Ballmer immensely and you may be surprised to find out that I know you a lot better than you think.

To address what was discussed by Mr. Rich Boltizar,

It seems like all of this parliamentary debate controversy in both the context of the Stanford Invitational and the high school debate form itself boils down to 2 things – judges and resolutions

Let’s talk about the first. I think everyone in the community can agree that experienced judges should be used for all of the out rounds. Mr. Boltizar mentioned a shortage that should be addressed and fixed as soon as possible. Also note that as Mr. Corley stated, experienced judges were not being used in the prelim rounds. I was very disappointed by this as much as many others in the community. When experienced judges like Mr. Corley and Mr. Kouyoumdjian have to literally steal ballots to judge it is clear there is a serious problem and unfortunately this is a problem that occurs too frequently and at too many places and yet it is a problem that can easily be avoided. And is it really impossible to get qualified judges when many smaller tournaments can? To be fair Mr. Boltizar does bring up a valid point that we are the ones bringing bad judges. This is partially true. That is why there should be some sort of reasonable entry cap to avoid this issue. There is a cap you say – well then why was it such a problem. Schools should be forced to bring qualified judges like in LD and Policy. What, is parli just a money making event at Stanford? We need more respect. Mr. Corley and others in the community have suggested a solution known as mutually preferred judging. Though this “mpj” is bound to have its flaws it should at least be tried and tested given the many complaints about bad judging EVERY YEAR. If a school brings an actual experienced judge they deserve the respect of receiving one as well.

Let’s then talk about the resolutions. Now I haven’t seen the resolutions of this tournament over a half decade ago but it is reported by Mr. Boltizar that they were policy based. My guess is that this is close to the inception of real high school parli. Things have certainly changed. I advocate for policy and value debates. I think fact resolutions make for poor debates and I will explain why in the next paragraph or so. Policy and value debates automatically have facts in them. It’s always a great debate when you can get into heated discussions about the morality of capitalism or increasing the capital gains tax but debating whether or not the Republican Party is better than the Republican Party leads to bad debate.

Let me explain why fact resolutions like “TH prefers the Republican Party over the Democratic party” are bad. First off there are subject to the most amount of bias. Yes ,yes there is bias in every round but none can really compare to the bias in fact debates like this. Fact debates then become a race to the bottom to list as many examples as possible. Facts in themselves are important and should be utilized in value and policy rounds but do not deserve a round to themselves. There are also facts debates about the future like I mentioned in my original post about “China is ripe for revolution.” Fact debates about what will happen in the future are unwise because no one can predict the future and it also becomes a race to the bottom. Now you can say why don’t you change the interpretation of the resolution. Mind you I did when I was debating this resolution but then again you run into topicality and tricot claims by the negation. For more on this tricot read my original post. Plus if the only way to make an educational round is to alter the resolution to become a value or policy that begs the questions why didn’t you make it explicit to begin with? Why bother giving a crappy resolution and hope the aff not only interprets it in a fair way but doesn’t run into a neg team that calls out tricot or topicality (which they will). Avoid the confusion and just make it a non-pop culture value or policy to begin with.

To Conclude
And finally, I LOVE PARLI. Some act as though I want to completely change parliamentary debate. No I don’t. I was pointing out flaws so that it can become better. And when I see bad judging and bad resolutions and bad argumentation occurring everywhere from local tournaments to state and national championships themselves is it so wrong to want to change it? To fix it? When the best of the best do not even get to go to states or break at a high stakes invitational. Sure, nothing is perfect. But we should strive to make it as best as possible which is not occurring right now.

Mr. Corley, Mr. Artem Raskin, Mr. Fauss, Mr. Park as well as others bring up valid points. And I hope that my original post acts as a template for us to start making parli amazing as much as we can. Not to completely change it, but to fix the broken door (or in Mr. Ballmer’s case the broken windshield which stops us from seeing clearly) so that we can step into progress and hope.