Technical Difficulties

What are the qualifications for a good CA of a tournament?

I think most people would say that a good CA is someone who "understands debate." They "get it." They know what must be done when, and how to do it.  They know what makes a good debating speech and they know how to tell others what that looks like.

Some people might equate competitive success as proof that someone can CA effectively. It seems to make sense that if someone does well at debate, they understand the principles of a good debate and therefore can run a good tournament.

I wonder if this trend of selecting someone who either "understands debate" or shows competitive success are good standards for selecting the person who is most directly responsible for normalizing the judge pool at any tournament. I think that if we are not careful, we can end up substituting the good work a CA is supposed to do with technical prowess.

Before you get too critical, I am totally willing to concede that someone who is technically proficient at debating can also do a great job at being a CA. There are numerous examples from the year. I'm not really interested in playing the numbers game anyway. What I am more interested in is aims, goals and purpose - three key things that should always drive competitive educational activity.

One of the risks of encouraging a technical understanding of debate is the unfortunate discounting of arguments that would persuade the average person. If the team making these persuasive arguments was suspected of violating the technical requirements of their role, and another team made tepid arguments, but were well within the technical limitations, a panel might very well choose the tepid team. A CA briefing that is focused on the importance of tick-box rules might be cited in such an adjudication where judges might be less likely to go with what they felt was persuasive.

All of this stems from the briefing, which I think should not only highlight some of the rules, but also provide some perspective on what the purpose of the competition is. What are we preparing for by engaging in this contest? What do we hope to gain? What is the role of the adjudicator in this? These questions should be thought through by the CA and spoken about to the judges to help them keep some perspective during the tournament.

The choice of many teams to move away from a rather intense and interesting argument that might risk violating a rule is symptomatic of where we might be headed in how debates are judged. There is a place for admiring technical competence, but I think it must be evaluated along side the rhetorical elements of emotional appeal, and arguments that work in the moment.

I think that instead of wins - or technical competence - perhaps the following issues could be considered for conveners to consider or ask CAs when they invite them to serve:

DCAs - What is their function, and what qualities should they possess? How many will actually be needed to do this work? Should they all be people who are competitively successful, respected by the community, or would you consider other qualifications for DCAs?

Breaking Judges -  What will be the specific qualities that will be looked for in chairs? How much weight will feedback forms from debaters have? Is there a justification in breaking someone who has a slim debate resume over someone who has quite a long one?

The Bubble - How much, if any direct hand should the CA or Adjudication team have in setting the judging panels for rounds on the cusp of the break? Should software trump human judgment or not?

The Briefing - If there will not be an adjudication test, how will judging be normalized for the tournament? What will the briefing look like? How would you propose to explain the importance of an extension to a group of people who may have never seen a BP round before?

The Purpose -  What is it as CA that you wish to achieve? What do you think is best about debate tournaments?

These are just suggestions of how to proceed, and I think that perhaps most CA-ships are privately solicited things that are then announced later after the person agrees to it. Again, it's not to knock the job that current CAs are doing - I have not one complaint or specific issue that I could list here even if I really wanted to - it's more to alter the automatically replicating frame or truism facing the format - that competitive success is the only route toward understanding debate or serving it well, which could, given time and a dash of ignorance, push BP into a technical abyss that might take years to climb out of once it's recognized.