Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Proposed 2019-20 LD Resolutions

I can never resist commenting on the upcoming LD rezzes. 
Resolved: Predictive policing is unjust.
I have mixed feelings on this one. It’s about data analysis, making it wonky at best and not uninteresting, but I fear that in rounds it can be easily defined as a version of hi-tech racial profiling, veering away completely from an arguable issue. Flip neg at your own peril.
Resolved: The United States ought to grant legal personhood to natural ecosystems.
Sort of interesting, the more I think about it. Should require a lot of good educational research. But in the end, flip neg at your own peril.
Resolved: Japan ought to amend Article 9 of its constitution to allow for offensive military capabilities.
Here’s where the PF committee came into the room by mistake and someone forgot to erase their resolution from the board. I’m betting that for someone on the wording committee this was a pet idea that the rest could not shake. 
Resolved: The United States ought to legalize adult sex work.
Can I come on parents’ night when you explain to them why you’re doing this? This will be voted on only by the coaches who really want to discuss and direct research about adult sex work with non-adult high school students. Probably not the largest number of teachers out there… 
Resolved: The intergenerational accumulation of wealth is antithetical to democracy.
If you’re judging this, your head will spin, but you will never actually get to hear whether or not the intergenerational accumulation of wealth is antithetical to democracy, two ideas that are mental ships passing in the argumentation night.
Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.
Not only relevant and timely, but meaty and interesting. Solid!
Resolved: States ought to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
A classic, of course. With lots of modern issues to chew on. 
Resolved: The United States ought to act as the employer of last resort.
I like this. I always like questioning what the purpose of government is beyond the theoreticals of the social contract. What are the responsibilities of big government in the 21stCentury?
Resolved: A just nation ought not use offensive cyber operations to target civilian infrastructure.
This is no different from a rez saying the military should not attack civilians. Plus, as far as I understand things, it’s a completely wrongheaded approach to the very important subject of cyber warfare. A great subject, but this isn’t the resolution for it. 
Resolved: The United States ought to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.
Sort of a bread-and-butter topic, if perhaps way better for policy than LD. People will probably vote for it, and then complain that they couldn’t keep their eyes open during the rounds. 
Order of preference:
Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.
Resolved: The United States ought to act as the employer of last resort.
Resolved: States ought to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. (I'm thinking of this as a Nationals topic.)
Resolved: The United States ought to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.
Resolved: The United States ought to grant legal personhood to natural ecosystems.
Resolved: Predictive policing is unjust.
Resolved: The intergenerational accumulation of wealth is antithetical to democracy.
Resolved: Japan ought to amend Article 9 of its constitution to allow for offensive military capabilities.
Resolved: A just nation ought not use offensive cyber operations to target civilian infrastructure.
Resolved: The United States ought to legalize adult sex work.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Student judging

I’ve always been a big proponent of student judging. I believe that, for debaters, seeing a round from the perspective of the back of the room is a good experience that will improve their own debating skills. I also always felt it important to train my student judges to be good at what they do. They needed to perform as educators pro tem, and they needed to make judgments on a round that transcended their own feelings on a resolution or an argument. They needed to be as objective in their judgments as we expect any judge to be objective, to decide a round based not on their personal preferences but on the actual debating that has taken place. 

For the most part, student judges are placed into novice or middle school pools. In my region, we also have JV divisions, where student judges are also acceptable, although I question their validity in college JV divisions, where you might have juniors judging sophomores in a fairly serious venue. I accept it more at our local one-dayers, where it is the norm, but only because it is the norm, and allows those divisions to exist in the first place. For that matter, the use of student judges often has to be seen in the light of making novice (and some JV) divisions happen in the first place. If we disallowed student judging, we’d lose an awful lot of debating opportunities for younger students.

I have seen serious abuses at all levels of judging. Novice judging is not unique in that. But lately I saw a team go so far in abuses that I was tempted to disqualify them as a group. A student who had never debated, but who had a younger sibling on the team, was entered as a judge in the novice division. The couple of (relatively illiterate) ballots this person wrote clearly demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the event, and probably a total lack of training on the part of that team. Worse, because this person was so at sea, one of the novices on the team who was competing at the tournament started not only shadowing this judge and providing advice when not debating themselves, but eventually writing that judge’s ballots. In other words, a competitor was judging their competition. Needless to say, once we found out about this, we put a stop to it and kicked out the judge (and brought in the team’s chaperone that day and explained in no uncertain terms our feelings on the subject), but because this person had now judged 4 double-flights, we had no choice but to double-bye all their decisions. For all practical purposes, this one person had made the division of the tournament almost a complete blowout.

I can’t do much about what happened, but I can offer a preventative for it happening again, to wit, a standard wording of what is required of a student judge. I offer this: Student judges in the novice division must be at least in their junior year with two years of debating experience. 

I could go on with all sorts of other requirements for judging in any and all divisions, but the further you get from the simplest measurement—either you’re a junior debater with two year’s experience or you’re not—the harder it is to enforce. This basic requirement can be easily adjusted for JV divisions and the like, if necessary. I will be proposing something like it as a rule clarification for our local CFL, where we regularly have novice and JV debate divisions. And I will be adding it as a rider to invitationals where we have novice and JV divisions. 

It is a shame that we have to belabor the obvious like this. But as long as there are teams that fail at the most basic level to provide judging for a tournament commensurate with the judging they expect for themselves, we have no choice. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

In which who are we to blow against the wind

I have finally outlined the whole too-many-emails business, with a document on perfecting the tournament email located on the Toolkit site:

I've also posted notice of it on the Toolkit Facebook page.

And now I can move on. I've got some emails to read.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

In which we ramble

Is it only me, or is the MacOS Photos app totally crap?

I remembered over the weekend that I had a version of Civ on my Mac Mini. Best computer game ever? Yesterday I retired in infamy for the first time in ages. Ahhhh!

Come to think of it, maybe it's just my Mac Mini that's crapping out. Spotify plays, but it doesn't show the playlists. Or anything else. Time to upgrade? Meanwhile, I really like my light little MacBook. Sitting around waiting for a computer to do something? Not in 2019. Maybe I should just retire the mini to special projects. Like Civ.

I watched half an hour of the new Blade Runner movie in complete boredom. Overwrought nonsense. Turns out it's got nothing but great reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Then again, I didn't like the original movie much either. What do I know?

I've been trying to put Lakeland together. I gather Kaz and I will handle LD and Policy in the high school, with everything else at the Middle School, but this is conjecture on our part. I have to admit, there's pretty good registration for a tournament with no invitation.

I've been working on a memo about sending emails for big tournaments, because everyone says I sent too many for Penn. Then again, two or three people seemed to find them entertaining. Can you get too much of a good thing? Define good thing, I guess.

Monday, February 18, 2019

In which we roam the green hills of Delbarton

The Delbarton JV tournament is a one-day affair with a bunch of speech events, congress, and PF and LD. It's on the same weekend as Harvard, and given the choice, who would pick Harvard? I mean, it does sound good saying that you're going to go to Harvard (although you're really not), and it sounds even better to say you won Harvard (although even that won't get you into the real Harvard), but actually having to endure the Harvard tournament, an exercise in capitalistic greed that no course at the university could begin to explain better, is something else. Just for starters, 386 VPF teams? Breaking to triples? After 6 rounds? According to my handy dandy pyramid program, there's 133 4-2s or better. Which means that roughly half the 4-2s don't break. At $150 per team, that's a gross of $57,900. Harvard has an endowment of $39,200,000,000.

I have always said that you have to be really good to do well at Harvard. But when fields have no limit, being really good doesn't mean you will do well. It just means you have a chance. Add to this 441 judges? This is why we used to run Penn against Harvard. (And to be honest, I never did understand why they moved to a week earlier, although it has worked out fine now a couple of times.)  Anyhow, I don't know why anyone would send teams to Harvard unless, because of the nature of the school, there is an expectation that the team compete at Ivies. I mean, if you send your spawn to a prep school that costs $50K a year, I guess that's part of the perceived package. Mostly it's just throwing away money to impress non-debate people. Who really believes that Harvard is a meaningful test of debate? Seriously now.

Getting back to Delbarton, it was a lot of work. The good news was that I didn't have to do much of it. Catholic Charlie spent a few hours placing the speech judges Friday night, and that was the real toil. I had to hit some buttons now and then on Saturday on the debate rounds, and enter speech results, and—oh, the horror—staple speech ballots before the rounds, but I managed to survive unscathed. Mostly it was a chance to hang out with the Paginator for the last time before he heads off into the land of politics. The good news is, given the nature of social media, I know we won't lose touch with him (unless he turns MAGA on us, in which case all bets are off). Unfortunately I wasn't able to convince him to join us this year at WDW, but, well, they don't give it away and he might not be employed, or he might be too employed. It depends. We'll miss having a Disney virgin with us. So it goes. Speaking of which, I just made the dinner rezzes this morning, 180 days out. I'll start packing any day now.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Ghost Debaters

This is sort of huge.

At Penn, there were two schools with changes that were reported after the tournament began. That in itself is no big deal, but then again, when it happens it’s usually because someone got sick and we’re now putting in a maverick or two. I’ve been known to create a mixed-school team when two debaters managed to get sick at the same time. In an event where the goal is getting rounds/experience, there’s little reason not to do this, and it has no affect on much of anything. 

In the case at hand, students had been subbed in before the tournament started, and it was oversight that it wasn’t corrected at the table (although, as you’ll see, that might have nevertheless created the same problem). Early on, seeing that their names were wrong, the teams went to the table and reported the problem.

And there’s the rub. As far as we can tell, instead of using the handy-dandy pulldown boxes on the bottom right of the page to switch teams, the table simply went to the top of the page and replaced the name of the missing debater with the name of the new debater. Predictably, chaos ensued. While the names of the debaters were correct on the ballots, the team codes had not been changed. More importantly, at the end of the tournament, the new debaters were not listed in the record of speaker points, presumably because they weren’t on their school’s rosters. That is, entering Joe McDoakes in the little box on the top did not connect to Joe McDoakes in the pull down menu of the team roster. They were, in some ways, invisible to the tournament. In one of these cases, with a team that went into elims, a speaker award was not noted. We also believe that these teams might now have an extra Joe McDoakes on each of their rosters, but this is just conjecture on our part. 

Obviously the solution is not to screw this up in the first place, and henceforth we’ll make sure that tables are better instructed. Whether there’s a bug in tabroom around this is arguable, but it has been brought to their attention. In any case, don’t let it happen to you. The last thing you want at your tournament is ghost debaters, which is what we ended up with. Schools that are careful about their NSDA points would not be happy about this. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

In which the actor's tombstone does not read: "Here lies W.C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia."

Another Penn is in the can. I would have written about it yesterday but I spent the day sort of zoned out. I watched Solo, a movie with nothing to zone in on. It’s nice to have a day off after a nonstop weekend. 

First of all, the staggered schedule worked like a charm. People knew that we were depending on them, and they rose to the occasion. 40 rooms, going to PF at 8:00, 21 and 19 going to Policy and LD at 10:00, then back to PF at 12:00, etc., etc., for the rest of the day. It was a gamble, but we pulled it off. My unspoken backup if things went south was flight one of the last PF on Sat and flight two on Sunday, but that didn’t have to happen. 


There were incidents, but not many. A couple of times people questioned decisions, and we got in touch with the judges who verified what they had written, and there you are. There was a suggestion that the judge in one case was wrong, a suggestion that makes one wonder A) how could a judge ever be wrong, and B) how can that particular genius kid ever lose. The answer is, ) did you ever hear of a 2-1 decision, and B) your particular genius kid isn’t quite the ball of fire you thought. So it goes.

Meanwhile, there were lots of emails from very few people. Almost all of the emails were dumb stuff that had already been answered. We had much discussion in tab about my 10K emails. The theory was that too many emails don’t get read, which countered my theory that too long emails don’t get read, which is why I wrote so many in the first place. I have some ideas on this that I’ll be parsing over the next few days. The goal is to get information to people. The best way to do it is the best way people absorb information. There’s a lot to think about in this. 

There was one tabroom mystery I’m still working on, where a student wasn’t correctly credited in the rounds. More on that TK. 

I did notice fewer issues with hitting Start. Are people finally getting the message? Given that if they don’t hit start we send endless messages to them, their coaches, their next of kin and their family lawyer, maybe they’re beginning to believe that we mean it, and they want those bugging messages to end. I assure you, we don’t send them to people who start their rounds in a timely manner. Maybe we really are evolving into an e-tournament universe. We did e-ballots in all divisions, including speech and congress. In a world where everyone is staring at their phones every waking hour, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that sooner or later they’d adapt. 

Welcome to 2019.