OPINION Crossing the Judge and Student Divide:
A Plea for Post-Round Disclosure by David Weston
recently attended a local tournament where we participated in three events: Policy, LincolnDouglas, and Public Forum. The kids were excited about their rounds and, as is customary, all of them believed that they won every debate. One Public Forum team was convinced that they had outwitted all the teams they’d competed against. When it came time for awards, these students sat expecting to hear their names announced to the crowded cafeteria. To their surprise, they were not mentioned. Befuddled, they said to our coaching staff, “We don’t understand! We thought we were doing so well!” It became apparent that a push for disclosure was needed. Post-round disclosure is somewhat taboo in various parts of the country. It also varies by event. Some concerns are purely pragmatic—the desire to keep tournaments running on time being chief among them. Other reasons are more philosophical in nature, such as wanting to keep teams in suspense until the final awards and ballots are handed out. I can understand that. I remember vividly waiting in a packed auditorium for a local coach to announce who would qualify to a national championship. The anticipation would build. Students were on their toes hoping to hear their names called. It was exciting! There was something
ROSTRUM | SPRING 2017
Disclosure tells students that while the ballot might determine a win or a loss, the most important part of the round is reflecting on its substance.
emotional and memorable about those experiences. However, if debate is to reflect its most important values, we need to embrace post-round disclosure in all events as a best practice. In most academic environments, students are taught to refine their work before submitting it for evaluation. Most of us probably do this with case writing. Students write cases, they have peers review them, coaches evaluate the merits, and practice debates take place. We encourage our students to
grow in their argumentation, reasoning, quality of evidence, and rhetorical strategies. In English classes, teachers give feedback on rough drafts before final edits are done for a research paper. Math teachers comment on the use of formulas prior to the big exam. Shouldn’t we extend this logic to tournaments, as well? Debaters don’t really know what a judge is going to think about a case until they deploy it in a competitive round. They don’t know how other teams will respond to arguments until the speeches are given. One of the values in debating is that students interact with a diverse group of competitors and argue in front of various judges with different perspectives. This forces students to think on their feet, evaluate competing claims, ask questions, employ reason, and articulate comparisons. Sometimes debaters are wildly successful at this. Other times they are not. Most of the time, they are somewhere in between. The moment immediately following the round is the ideal time for constructive conversations. The debate is still salient in the minds of our students. Judges have an opportunity to point out ways that debaters excelled and places for improvement. Students can take notes on why they won or lost. When it comes to their next round, they can reflect on these comments
Volume 91 Issue 4