Sierra Maciorowski

Why We Need a Non-Technical National Championship Tournament

Sierra Maciorowski
Why We Need a Non-Technical National Championship Tournament

Many students enjoy technical debate — spreading/hyper-fast speaking, kritiks, and arguments that favor debate theory over real world knowledge. For these debaters, the existing TOC serves their interests effectively. But other students prefer a style of debate that is more accessible, focusing on general persuasiveness — with arguments, speed, and language that are understandable by normal, engaged listeners. For those students, the current TOC does not serve their needs and interests.

Many top teams do not attend the current TOC because they believe their debating style is incompatible with the speed and theory specialization that the TOC values. At this year's Ashland, Oregon TOC, over 40% of teams that qualified chose not to attend. And in a post-TOC survey, 57% of teams who did attend the tournament said that they couldn't engage / didn't feel included in at least some of the rounds. 

Many students want a national championship which doesn't reward fast, theory-heavy technical debate. We believe it is time to create a year-end championship tournament that focuses on:

  • Overall real-world persuasiveness.

  • Non-technical, resolution-centric debate that engages directly with the topic.

  • Clear and logical presentation with an emphasis on rhetoric and public speaking (vs. technical debating where speaking/delivery can sometimes sound like speed reading)

  • Quick thinking and adaptation, as opposed to emphasis on pre-prepared arguments and theory shells.

  • Judges who are smart, thoughtful, and careful listeners — but who aren't familiar with theory and jargon.

Reasonable people can have diverging preferences and views, and we agree with the sentiment that no one owns parli: we aren't saying that our preferred style of debate is better than technical debate. We just want an additional year-end tournament that is much different than the one that exists now.

We believe that it's difficult to create a tournament that includes both technical and non-technical debate. Technical debaters and judges strongly prefer their style — which we respect — and frankly many technical debaters and judges don't appreciate non-technical style, which is often derisively considered “lay.” Combining the two formats puts non-technical debaters at a disadvantage, which is why so many people who qualify for the existing TOC simply don't attend. And while we respect that some debaters excel at both technical and non-technical styles, we think there should be a championship for debaters who aren't interested in refining their theory and spreading capabilities.

This post is intended to be the next step of a broader discussion that begun at the recent General Assembly in Ashland. We welcome feedback and thoughts from the entire parli community.

East Coast Authors: Radhika Mehta, Hart Rapaport, Kyle Hietala, Will Golub, Amanda Piasecki, Julia Robbins

West Coast Authors: Maya Bodnick, Akshar Ramkumar, Logan Wilson, Andrew Fahey, Sathvik Nori, Chris Ikonomou, Alex Waitz, Harrison Kepner