Rock On! Debate LD #8: First Round LD Toolbox with Coach Marcus Viney

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Episode 8 Resources:

Episode 8 Handout
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Episode 8 Transcription:


My name is Marcus Viney, Head Coach of Cheyenne East, and this is, Episode 8: First Round Toolbox


This episode is dedicated to the person who hasn’t been scared off yet and still might want to give this whole thing a try. We’re going to look at a few helpful materials that can get you through your first round. But the first thing we need to talk about is the fact that no one ever was ready for their first round. No matter how much you prepare, it’s still going to be a brand new experience. You have to be like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade and just take that leap of faith across the abyss. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, pause this and go watch that whole movie right now. Classic. Annnnd, now that you’re back, let’s go over the format of the round. The first speech is the Affirmative Constructive; here, the affirmative reads their case for 6 minutes and the negative flows. That’s it. Next is cross-examination, where the negative will question the affirmative for 3 minutes. So far, so good. But here’s where it starts to get tricky. The next speech is for the negative to read their case, but part of the 7 minutes needs to be saved for a rebuttal. How much to save is something you’ll grow an opinion about over the next few years. Some people say that a 4/3 split is decent, where 4 minutes is reserved for your case, and 3 for the rebuttal. Next is the 4-minute affirmative rebuttal; I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this speech is rough and will take some practice. My advice is to begin by defending the affirmative for 2-3 minutes and then attacking the negative with what you have left. Just know that even the best debaters have a tough time with this speech and disagree about how it should go. Maybe you’ll be the genius that finally cracks it. Next comes the final negative speech, where they cover all of the arguments made so far and give the final arguments about why they should win the round. And lastly, the final affirmative speech; you get the gift of speaking to the judge for 3 whole minutes without the negative getting to utter one more word. You can cover key points, but it’s perfect for a set of strong closing arguments to bring it all home.


If you’re still confused by the format, study the handout and take a look at the suggestions for when to use your prep time. However, know that the best way to learn the format of LD is to live the format of LD. No one ever learned to play Sonic the Hedgehog by reading the instruction manual (I’ll wait for you to pause this again if you haven’t done that either). Aaaand we’re back—another thing you need to live is the value/criterion debate. We can go over some basic tips, but it’s something you’ll have to develop more over time and that’s okay. To give you some starting ideas, let’s break this down. In any round, there are three basic strategies for dealing with an opponent’s value: (1) direct attack, (2) preference argument, or (3) an absorb (and, no, that’s not super technical, okay?). For reference, let’s take the current LD resolution: In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory. Let’s say your opponent says the highest value is “happiness.” For a direct attack, you might make the argument that “happiness” is the wrong value for this topic, because it’s not relevant to the issue of voting. Here you’re just shooting their value down. But imagine they offer the value of “democracy” instead (arguing something like: more people voting means more democracy) and you have the value of, say, “freedom.” Here you could make a preference argument and say that freedom is more important than democracy because the purpose of a democracy is to protect freedom in the first place. In this instance, you’re saying that the judge should prefer or value your value higher, and not necessarily saying theirs doesn’t matter. Lastly, we can imagine that their value is “the common good” (and they argue something like society will be better off if more people are involved), and you still have the value of freedom (because it’s awesome). Here you could absorb their value and argue that not only do they both matter, but you can achieve them both better than your opponent. It’s neither an attack, nor a preference, but a, well, an absorb, I just like the word “absorb.” These three basic strategies will also work on the level of the criterion: attack, preference, absorb. In future episodes, we’ll do more work with specific criterion arguments, so stay tuned.


There’s one last thing that might help in your first tournament. As a novice, it’s common to freeze up and forget who you are and where you are and wonder why are you even here on a Saturday? The two most common times for this are in CX and rebuttals. If you truly blank and can’t get back on track, it is totally fine to sit back down. The only mistake would be to apologize for doing this. Just sit down and smile. You have nothing to be sorry for because you’re a beginner. In fact, here’s a new LD rule: never apologize for your presence in a round or room ever. You are supposed to be there and you deserve to be there. Now if you feel like doing something more than just sitting down, the handout has some neat tips for what you can do if you blank.


As for this episode’s activity, honestly, the best thing you can do is complete a full practice round, even if you have to start and stop. Good luck, see you next time!