David Altman Reviews APDA Summer 2011

Link to round: http://videos.apdaweb.org/?p=509

This is a pretty simple round with two clear advocacies and a few core arguments on each side. All of the speeches have strengths, but it is by no means the highest caliber round out there. It is, however, both easy to follow and provides a good opportunity to consider APDA structure and strategy in a general sense. First, I’ll note some positive elements that can be copied. Then, I’ll outline what I perceive as some weaknesses that can be learned from and, hopefully, avoided. Overall, I’m less concerned with the substance of the round and merits of the particular arguments here and more concerned with structure, style, and responsiveness. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or want to talk more: daltman0@gmail.com.

Some select strengths:

  • Following POC’s, the debate and case are pretty clear (and interesting + fair in my opinion). The few caveats present are highly reasonable and exist to clarify the round and distinguish the two sides, not complicate matters or try to insert hidden tricks that make things easier for Gov.
  • From the beginning of LOC, Opp implicitly establishes two independent paths to winning the debate. They can win by proving either of the following: (1) Gov’s ideal world in which nobody believes in anything supernatural is a bad/undesirable one; (2) Even if that’s preferable to the status quo, the transition costs/path to get there is sufficiently undesirable that trying isn’t worth the cost.
    • This is a good strategy to use because it makes it easier for Opp to win by diversifying their options. It’s also just true that proving either one of these potential RFD’s could win the round, so Opp has done a good job of identifying some natural Gov burdens.
  • The MG is clever to point out that the second, third, and fourth independent points off-case provided by the LO (‘moral nihilism’, ‘religion as a check on science’, and ‘charity’) are branches of the same tree and all rely upon Opp proving that a secular morality won’t easily replace or be preferable to the religious form that exists.
    • This is effective because it both weakens the Opp case in general and makes it much easier to attack. A few well-developed responses can be applied to all three of those arguments, which saves time as opposed to having to respond to each one independently.
  • Stylistically, the MG does a good job in replying to the second independent point off-case (moral nihilism) by giving an efficient three part response. Having multiple response to an argument (especially an important one like this) can seem effective as long as the responses are each decent and distinct. Here, the substance of argumentation isn’t stellar, but it’s very well presented and serves as a good example of how one can structure and layer responses.
  • The MO does a good job of framing the debate from a perspective that is both reasonable on face and strategic for his team – which is exactly what all MO’s and rebuttal speeches need to do.
    • The MO does this by reinforcing Opp’s claim that the world is already naturally heading in the direction that Gov thinks is desirable and that this round is really about how it should get there and not if.
  • The LOR frames the round nicely (especially at the end) and hits all of the arguments that it needs to in a summary and weighing fashion without sounding like a member speech.

Areas for improvement:

  • In PMC, the third independent point (‘it’s bad to make people live a lie’) needs some better impacting and explanation of why it really matters and how it should be weighed in the round. I think the first two points could also have been presented a little more effectively as offense.
  • In LOC, I did not find the third point off-case (‘science needs to be checked by religion’) very persuasive or thoroughly impacted/explained. The LO’s POI about divorce during the MG also wasn’t very shrewd and was well responded to by the MG.
  • The MG has some stylistic challenges and could have been presented more smoothly and systematically instead of in the somewhat scattered fashion that it appeared. Good debaters use the flow to their advantage, rather than letting it totally dictate their speech by just struggling to hit each point. Good framing and what happens between the points is just as important. Again, Gov. needed to explain why lying to people is so problematic during the third point on-case.
  • The MO struggles a bit with time management and loses a little bit of steam as it goes on. The argument at the very bottom of the off-case about how Gov’s advocacy coming to fruition would significantly harm access to education in the developing world was good but should have been expanded a little more.
  • In LOR, I personally think that the argumentation offered about how implementing Gov’s side of the case would re-ignite a war between science and religion because people would resist this irrefutable evidence is more or less excluded by the case caveats about people accepting it. I know the LO asks in POC’s if it’s okay to argue about how people will react, but it seemed slightly beyond the scope and spirit of the round. This is a pretty minor point, though.
  • PMR needed to have a better structure that accomplished the following things:
    • Better organize arguments thematically in a way that is strategically advantageous for Gov.
    • Discusses what the burdens for each respective side were and why Gov. should win under that weighing analysis.
    • Provides a narrative and framework for the round that, if the judge accepts, can constitute an RFD. Opp did this by contextualizing its advocacy and arguing that we are already heading towards Gov’s world and ought not artificially speed up the process through this mechanism. Gov lacked that kind of narrative/frame.
  • The beginning part of PMR (discussing why religion is obsolete) was largely pre-empted by Opp when they functionally concede that premise and argue that the means towards an atheistic society is what matters most.
    • PMR should have been focused upon either disputing that claim or showing why their mechanism is, indeed, a good one for the task rather than emphasizing the more fundamental argument about religion being obsolete that was less contentious and failed to create an RFD.