Its debatable…Speak Up!

November 26, 2007

Get your students judging!

I am a staunch believer in the power of judging as an educational tool!  This weekend CSU Chico will be holding its Rookie Tournament and everyone on the team is required to judge.  In addition, I strongly encourage my students to judge high school speech and debate competitions whenever possible.  The p0wer of perspective can truly take a comeptitor from an “okay” speaker/debater to an “outstanding” speaker/debater.  They begin to see what its like to sit in the back of the room and have to try to decipher what is being argued and against which arguments.  They begin to see what type of argument sounds more persuasive than others.  They begin to see what works in cross examination, and what fails miserably.  And they finally begin to see the WHOLE debate, instead of just their side of it.   In individual events, competitors begin to see what a difference a well-placed gesture makes, how a speech with organization and transitions can truly stand out, and how much the judge sees from the time you walk in a room to the time you leave.  In my experience, it has been a truly eye-opening experience for all competitors. 

I remember when I was debating, the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo tournament had “peer-judging” in elimination rounds.  Each outround panel was comprised of two regular judges and a student who had been eliminated in the previous round.  I remember having to judge that first elim round and how much I learned from those two teams.  I wish that more tournaments would consider doing this.  I think its a great experience for debaters to be able to use some of their knowledge and to see debate from a whole different perspective.  I’m not sure how useful it would be for IEs, but with debate, so much of what you need to do to be successful is encapsulated in those outrounds that it can really make a difference.  And somehow, judging is much different than just watching and flowing. 

In addition to the benefit that your students can gain from these experiences, there are numerous high school students out there who work hard to produce well-written speeches and well-researched debate arguments, only to find a distracted, if not totally disinterested, person in the back of the room on competition day.  These students would love to have college competitors who have experience and insight in the back of the room.  And it provides a great opportunity for mentoring and recruiting. 

I strongly encourage you to check online for your local league activities (and larger invitational tournaments).  You can find contact information for National Forensic League local districts here.  Although some local districts are friendlier to college competitors than others, it is worth checking out!


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