Far too often I see debaters treat every argument the same. They fight tooth and nail for every single little point, not seeing the forest for the trees. Not every argument is equal, no matter what you think.
You work hard on your debate arguments. Maybe you found that super clever card at the end of a grueling research session. Maybe you have a particular twist on a popular idea that you think will catch people off guard. Some arguments are powerful and you’ll want to win them every round you have the opportunity to do so. But many arguments are small. Maybe they have little impact, or they were designed to test out a potential weakness in a case. Some argument are just flat out beat by your opponent.
Far too often I see debaters treat every argument the same. They fight tooth and nail for every single little point, not seeing the forest for the trees. Not every argument is equal, no matter what you think. Throughout your prep and throughout each debate round you need to take on the role of cynic. Ask yourself “so what?” Why does this argument matter to the judge’s decision? If you can’t find a sufficient answer, drop it. If the answer is relatively inconsequential, put that argument on the bottom of the priority list. If you find that your time would be better spent on arguments that actually matter, toss it to the curb.
Dropping arguments isn’t a sin. In fact, strategically dropping can be the correct move. In other debate leagues it’s commonplace to drop all but a couple of your arguments by the rebuttals. In some cases I think that’s a bit too extreme, but our league can learn from it.
Once you start thinking “so what?” about your own arguments you start seeing the round more from the judge’s perspective. NCFCA students often take a defeatist attitude towards judges, perceiving them as frequently inscrutable. Debaters treat them like black boxes they shovel arguments into and get a decision out of without understanding the thought process behind it.
I won’t tell you the lie that “the judge is always right” (though what the judge says goes). Sometimes judges do make baffling decisions, but debaters don’t take on nearly enough responsibility for their own losses. Start thinking like a judge. If you were evaluating this round, what would you truly, honestly think was important? Now communicate those issues to the judge, and tell them why the arguments are important. Tell the judge why they’re more important than your opponent’s arguments. Prep for this before the tournament.
All arguments aren’t equal.