Trivium Pursuit

Homeschool Debate Email Loop

The Fallacy Detective

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(Past messages of the Homeschool Speech and Debate Discussion Loop -- there are 5 pages of archives)

Dave Morgan

Date: Thu, 31 Jul 1997

We believe that our interview with the department head of History at Cal State Fresno was our most profitable hour we've spent in our debate research. The history professor really hit on all the issues which could come up and gave us a good tip which could be a very good minor repair for the negative and a good part of our plan for the affirmative. Fresno, CA


Don Cassidy

Date: Fri, 15 Aug 1997

I have seen your requests for email debaters before. I would like to see opportunities for adults to learn and practice speech and debate skills. I imagine that there are folks like myself who never learned this, but would like to now either in preparation for teaching their children (my oldest is only 6) or with their children (if they have teens now). If you do this as an email list server, I am interested in participating. Colorado


It is unusual to have a resolutional analysis in policy debate. Most cases do not incude one. However, I think if possible, it is helpful to have one in an affirmative case, because it allows the affirmative to set the criteria for the round and to tell the judge what is important in the round. A resolutional analysis basically says, "This is what we, as the affirmative team, have to do in order to win the round, and this is how you as the judge, will know when we've won." I think the best thing to do for a resolutional analysis for this topic is to clearly define what the current U.S. policy actually is. That way, you have something to work with for the rest of the round. The resolutional analysis goes beyond what is done in the definitions to further define areas that are important to the resolution. In the tax debate, it was important to define the criteria of a tax system. In this debate, it is important to define the specifics of the current U.S. policy on foreign military intervention.


Date: Sun, 07 Sep 1997

Daniel New

This suggestion is a good one. By the time we reach the high school years a lot of parents are burned out and we tend to let slide the most critical years in terms of molding the next generation of articulate spokesmen for our own particular family values. We've withheld them from the Government Indoctrination Centers, we've taught them to read and write and cipher, and then we let them join the morass of apathy as they disappear from the scene. This is not why the hunter is given a quiver full of arrows, and it's not why parents are given children. I'm convinced that there are few activities that better prepare a young person for (1) involvement for a lifetime, and (2) the ability to research and articulate issues, than the discipline of debate. One problem is that too few HS parents know how to start. Another is that many communities have such weak support groups and small pool of students that it is nigh impossible. I suggest that debate clubs be set up by Christians, with the first goal being to provide an avenue of education to home schoolers, but with participation open to ALL students. There are many experienced speech and debate teachers or retired teachers, as well as former students of debate, in our churches. The pool for instructors and coaches and judges is large. One of the most valuable aspects of this approach is that WE get to pick the topics, locally and nationally. If we are going to shape the next generation with a goal of changing our families, our communities, and our country, this is an excellent way to go about it. Further, there are many organizations, such as Association of Conservative Texans, which could well be sponsoring debate tournaments around each state, and once functioning, it would be a short step to national tournaments. What do you think? PS. Our address for the Michael New Action Fund will remain the same (Box 927, Conroe 77305), but our personal address is to change after 1 October to: P.O. Box 100, Iredell, Texas 76649. We don't have the new phone number yet.


Date: Sat, 13 Sep 1997

We are attempting to set up a speech and debate class this year for our Junior and Senior High age students. I have been gathering notes for introducing the first class this week. Basically I will be discussing the class purpose, format, and giving some hopefully helpful suggestions for effective delivery of a speech. I am gathering my material from some old text books that I have picked up at book sales. I am looking for a source for good interpretive reading material or speeches. We have decided to have the students practice expository and persuasive speeches by finding and memorizing a speech given by someone else and then we will have them write one of each of these types on their own. Do you know of a good source of speeches, relatively short in length.

Carol Walker, Cleveland, OH


David Morgan

Date: Sun, 14 Sep 1997

We are kind of tired from our whirlwind debate prep and state contest, so I will probably send you two letters about our impressions of debate now. The main thing is that Rebekah is very excited about continuing in debate, and most every child there, even most 11 and 12 year olds were also captivated by the process. I judged alot, fancy that, but I will never forget judging one very close debate and one 12 year old said "this is really getting good". We finished in the middle of the pack. Isn't the affirmative supposed to be automatically disqualified if they aren't prima facie. Our opponents once did not present any advantages, (solvency) so we thought (from reading the handbook) that the judge should have automatically given us the win. But she did not.

(Here is a brief summary of the Morgan family's experience with the 1997 Homeschool debate topic.) July 15. We start doing the research. Finally we have the debate handbook. We know nothing about debate. It is a struggle all summer to get meeting times with our partner. Vacations are off set, so we are rarely both at home at the same time. July 18. We meet with the head of the history department at Fresno State. He has an interest in military history. He goes over all the issues and helps us with a plan. He really talks of nothing specific, but for novices who know nothing about military history or debate, he helps a lot. July 25. We make contact with a group of hs debaters in Visalia. They agree to meet on Sept 2 to practice debate. August 26. After dying a thousand deaths over what is topical, significant harms, and finally getting somewhat of a grasp on inherency, we meet with our partner. It seems that in debate you die 2 deaths for each step forward you make on your brief. The two girls will debate the two fathers tonight.... Rebekah finishes the 1AC after 18 minutes. We guess it IS a bit long. Two hours later we make it through the first cross examination. Not much progress with our practice debate 1 week away. Courtnie rewrites the 1AC. On our weekend practice, we work on our negative philosophy. We await the practice debate. Sept 2. The night. Everyone is nervous. We finish our 1AC in under 8 minutes. The Visalians take 25 minutes of prep time to sort out our 1AC and come up with the 1NC. We do two cross X's and after dinner the other Visalia team reads their 1AC (they are very shy and are barely audible). 30 minutes later we respond with our 1NC. Now it's 10 pm and time to leave. Next Sunday we will meet again in Fresno and debate with Visalia and a 4th team from San Jose. Sept 7. We actually make much improvement. We only use 8 minutes of prep and make it all the way through 2 debates. However the two girls argue among themselves and use up all 8 minutes of prep time as they prepare for the 1NC. The girls improve enormously between the 2 debates. We will meet one more time, then head down to Long Beach for the tournament. Courtney wants to change our whole debate when she visits our house midweek. We decide to keep the girls apart. If they can't debate another team, they seem to debate themselves. We limp into Long Beach at 10:30 pm. Car problems. We had planned to read the evidence all the way to Long Beach, but it is dark before we leave the Fresno County. More lost time. Round 1. Their opponent has no advantages. So the girls win automatically. Right? Wrong. Somehow they lose. Round 2. The girls do really well. They lose. Round 3. They face the eventual 2nd place team and don't do well. They win. Round 4. They face the champs and do pretty well. The judge does not think Rebekah and Courtnie's plan limits military intervention. They lose. Round 5 and 6. One win and one loss. But we have lots of fun. Make some good friends. We don't get our judge's sheet (we really never knew who won or lost until the tournament was over). We talk about debate all the way home (4 hours), make a wrong turn (because we are talking about debate) and make plans for next year.

They did enjoy it. They enjoyed it very much. It was very exciting for them. Rebekah is very anxious to get going on debate again and is very much looking forward to future tournaments. And Jeff can't wait until he is old enough. I figured and was cautioned that debate would kind of demand quite a bit of time. Jennifer found it very nerve wracking to watch the girls during the tournament. And Rebekah was more nervous when I was in the room watching. I only watched them twice because I had to judge so much. Other mothers had to stand out in the hall way. They were too nervous to watch their children. Most home schoolers were able to hang in there and do a good job of maintaining clash with the other team. Although there was considerable competition pressure, these were homeschoolers, so the atmosphere was much more accepting than I suppose is the case in public school debate. But even in public schools, there is even a camaraderie and acceptance among debaters from what I can gather. Probably the best policy is to let the students debate and have the parents not watch so much. They usually need parents to judge other students anyhow. All l can say is that we trained with a quiet 10th grader from another city, and as I watched him through the tournament he grew and grew in boldness from one debate to the next. He was barely audible during the very first practice debate in late August. He was bright but shy. He REALLY ENJOYED debating. By Friday afternoon, when we all went out to dinner together, he was really enjoying the process and very anxious for debate to resume on Saturday. That's one strong point for debate. The person who organized the tournament did several things to make it more enjoyable for the home schoolers. 1. No results of individual rounds were ever posted. 2. Team letter designations did not start with "A". So never did a "J" team face the "A" team. 3. Only positive comments from the judges were requested for this first tournament. 4. Most teams were able to fill up their time for their speeches. 5. The lady who organized the tournament personally never saw her son debate. She figured it was his tournament and she did not want to put any undue pressure on him. Now a word about my wife, Jennifer. She was very upset when I was even considering teaching debate. She said I was too busy to undertake this. She was right. She said I had no experience. She was right. She said this was way too much work for me and the girls to undertake in the summer. She was very right about that. Then she could hardly watch Rebekah during the debate rounds. It rattled her nerves worse than watching Jeff (our son) pitch in Little League. But when the semifinals were on, and Rebekah was sitting out, Jennifer grew entranced. The home schoolers could really do this, and to watch them speak and think and be serious for two whole days. It was a wondrous thing to behold! There are no losers in debate! You won't be ready for your first debate. It will be confusing preparing your brief and you negative philosophy. But they will do alright, they WILL figure it out, if they stick with the process. They will succeed in the end. This summer learning debate was one of the best experiences of our family, except maybe for Latin, and certainly except for "Bob, Son of Battle". By the way "Assiduous usus usi rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit" Constant practice devoted to one subject often outdoes both intelligence and skill (the orator Cicero).


1. What is a reasonable age to expect/require young people to study S and D?

You could start out by having the very young ones (ages 4 or so and up) memorize short Bible verses or poems and recite them in front of the family. As they get older you can discuss with them such things as articulation, inflection, gestures, and proper breathing. When they are able to read properly they can begin oral interpretation, the reading aloud of longer passages of Scripture or poetry or prose. These can be performed in the safe confines of the family circle until the child matures enough to want to perform these recitations in front of others. I suggest that you and your young children (ages 10 and up) attend as many speech and debate tournaments and practice sessions as you can. Just observe and absorb. This will allow you to become familiar with the procedures and terminology and will get the children excited about actually participating. At home you will want to discuss these debates, suggesting strengths and weaknesses in the arguments you heard. At age 13 you might want to have your child study a course in formal logic. This will be very valuable in debate. Age 13 seems to be a good age to start the study of speech. We have been using Speak Out! by Wendy Collins. It is an excellent introductory speech course that can easily be used in a homeschool situation. Or perhaps you can find a homeschool speech class for your child to attend. The formal study of debate could be started at age 14. The ideal situation would be to have your child attend a local homeschool debate class led by a someone who has studied debate. If this is not possible:

Some suggestions for studying debate until the debate resolution is announced: 1. Read Christy Farris's debate book, An Introduction to Argumentation and Debate. You can obtain this book from HSLDA. Read this book through twice, taking notes. 2. View the video tapes that accompany this book. The first time you watch these videos you might feel overwhelmed. That's OK. Most of us do. The second and third time you view them, especially if you have read the book, you will absorb more and more of the information. Don't think you have to understand everything there is to know about debate right away. It takes awhile for the mind to assimilate new information. And debate is certainly new! From all the letters I've been getting concerning debate it is very evident that we are all in the same boat. Most of us know very little about the subject. We are learning it along with our children. 3. Read another book on the subject of debate. Strategic Debate is good. Check out our web page for a bibliography on debate.


As a father of a debate student in high school please include me in your mailing list. Years ago I debated about home schooling my son Andrew but decided against it. Instead, I decided on a rich diet of public school, home schooling, summer enrichment classes, and college correspondence classes would be more effective. Eventually, I enrolled Andrew in a private academic high school (The College Preparatory School) in part because of the strong debate program there. I coaxed, Andrew to take debate. The good news was he really bit "the hook." Starting his third year, not a night goes by where he doesn't "cut" evidence card or practice reading his cards. The bad news is paying for it. Just for this fall semester, Andrew will be going to eight tournaments, two out of state tournaments, 3 in state tournaments but 400+ miles away, and 3 major nation tournaments which are fortunately held locally at Stanford and UC Berkeley. I have not counted any of the local high school league debates that he occasionally goes to to warm up. The full cost for tournaments can easily run to $3000 or so. Then there is debate summer camp. There are a number of two week debate camps students go to during the summer which run about $1500 for room and board not including air fare. Some students might go to 2-3 camps.

Eric Leong

What does it mean to cut a card?

Cutting a card is debate slang for preparing evidence on 8.5 by 11 inch paper. A small piece of an article would be pasted with comments to be possibly read during a debate. During a debate each side will pull segments of cards to either support their argument or counter the argument of the the other side. When going to a tournament it is typical for a debate policy pair to carry a couple of tubs (filing cabinets).


There are two newsgroups on the subject of speech and debate:



Most of the information on these newsgroups is for government schooled students and their current debate topic, but some of the messages can be useful to us in understanding the terminology of debate.


I've been calling around trying to find someone near us who would be willing to tutor us in debate. Only 2 government schools near us have speech/debate teams, and I called their speech/debate coaches thinking that perhaps I could hire one of them as a tutor. But neither of these coaches has ever debated! I called a local lawyer who was recommended to me, but he can't spare the time to help us. We could get some help with speech at the local Toastmasters Club (see our web page for more info on this), but we really need help with debate, not speech. Next, I will check out the debate team at the University of Iowa (near us) to see if they have anyone who would be willing to tutor us.


LuAnn Elsinger

The Stevens Point (WI) Area Home-School Debate Club had its first meeting on Tuesday, October 14th. We are comprised of twelve students along with myself and my husband. We will be using Christy Farris's book "An Introduction to Argumentation and Debate" to learn basic debate terminology and technique. At our first meeting we went over a hand-out that I had put together defining what debate is, benefits from debate and basic terms. Our next meeting will be on November 18th. At that meeting I want to finish going over terms and to get into what research is and how to go about gathering evidence. Along with Christy's book I also have the book "Strategic Debate" by Roy Wood and Lynn Goodnight that I will be using to get additional information from. We probably won't even get to discussing the resolution until our December meeting. Since all of us are new to debate I felt we needed to cover some of the basics first. I'd like to see a dialog of what approach other debate clubs are taking.


David Morgan

Date: Wed, 15 Oct 1997

We participated in the first Home school debate contest. Our debate "club" consisted of just 2 girls one of which was my daughter. So we could be very flexible and learn on the go together. I think teaching just one team is the best way to go if you don't know anything about debate (and I didn't). The "club" in the next city had two teams. The parents also knew nothing about debate. They met every week and went through one chapter of Christy Farris' book a week. They gathered evidence when they did not meet. We didn't start debating until 2 weeks before the state final. That was as early as we could write the affirmatives. My advice is to learn how to do research and hit the library. Type the debate resolution or portions of it in an internet search and see what comes up. Not much came up when I tried it, though. A lot came up on the defense resolution. Practice debating with other groups as soon as you can. Even debate if you only have one harm. You can learn what holes you have to fill much quicker and you will learn what you really NEED to do research on. On our second meeting (tomorrow) we tried to arrange for a guest speaker (a college econ prof who supported the affirmative) but he can't make it. Then I hope/wish to get our congressman or one of his assistants to talk about the negative side. Tomorrow we will brainstorm about the resolution and come up with some ideas about negative philosophy as well as affirmative ideas. Then we will arrange to spend 8 hours in the library over the next month. Luckily we will have a debate camp here in California in January. We will take however much of our affirmative we have written and try it out at the camp. After they get their feet wet they will be much more able to absorb more about debate. It seems VERY confusing until you actually debate once or twice. Fresno, CA


The following is a response I received from something I posted on a newsgroup. It concerns the difference between Lincoln-Douglas (LD) Debate and Policy Debate (which is what we are doing now, the current homeschool debate topic is policy debate). See our web page for more info on LD Debate. Perhaps in a couple years the National Homeschool Debate Tournament can expand to include LD Debate, along with speech competitions and policy debate.

Date: Thu, 16 Oct 1997

Newsgroups: alt.speech.misc

I've been involved in speech and debate now for eight years and though I have never done LD, I can give two reasons as to why LD is better than policy. LD debate is more one on one, a lot of people like it because you are on your own and there is not a partner who will use you as a "crutch." Also, because you have two debaters debating each other, the topic becomes more narrow and the issues become finely tuned. Second, LD deals more with the "value" rather than policy. This involves more thought being put into the argument. It is natural that policy debaters simple spread as much evidence as they can and then not back it up with a concise thought. LDers will have to use value (which to me is more real life) to win their side of the case. I hope this helps you in your dealings. Good luck to you and your children as you explore debate.


I have a question concerning evidence in debate. How is it that a quote from a staff writer of US News and World Report or Time Magazine is proof for anything? For one thing these magazines are quite liberal and definitely have a bias, and how would a staff writer be an expert on anything? Or let's say you have a great quote supporting your position from the PhD head of some department at Harvard, an expert in his particular field. Is that considered evidence even though Harvard probably only hires liberals? It seems to me that the credibility of the source is quite important. What makes a source credible? In debates, is the credibility of the source very often questioned?


Date: Sat, 18 Oct 1997

From: Eric Leong

One source of coaches and judges are students from the local colleges who were either past high school debaters and might even be college debaters. In many regional and national NFL (National Forensic League) tournaments college students are hired to judge. Also, some college students coach the debate teams at the local high schools. The cost for help for 4+ students should be very nominal.


Date: Sat, 18 Oct 1997

I am homeschooling my 5 kids and we are currently studying speech and debate. The homeschool debate topic for this year is a policy topic. But after looking at LD debate it seems to me that this would be a more interesting kind of debate. Why do you all choose LD debate instead of policy debate?

I choose L-D (and I have done both), because of a few reasons. 1. There is logic behind it. 2. It seems to be more relevant topics. 3. The purpose isn't to spew out as many pieces of evidence that supports your side, it is more real life with communication. The logic isn't simple, you have to learn about philosophies like "The Social Contract" by John Locke, or "Utilitarianism" by John Stuart Mill. And then make up to date relevant ideas on topics like human rights, discrimination, and how business' treat society.(all were topics in the NFL L-D last year) The policy topic for the NFL this year is if we need renewable energy. And to defend values such as Liberty and freedom against a value like justice. The purpose of policy debate is to defend ideas by spewing out as much evidence about your position as possible. Most people now win rounds by talking as fast as they can and trying to make as many pieces of evidence which in policy debate is an argument so that the other side drops the arguments which make you win. Rather in L-D you are communicating more like an attorney where you have to prove logical arguments. You still have to site evidence that supports your side, but the purpose isn't to site evidence as arguments. For communication you try to persuade a judge to vote for your side.


Regarding LD debate verses policy debate: It is true that in most college and high school debate associations, policy debate has degenerated into a kind of speed debate in which the debaters rely upon throwing as much evidence as possible in a limited amount of time and winning on technicalities.

However, the HSLDA National Home School Debate is structured to PREVENT this type of policy debate from happening. At the national tournament, the debaters spoke clearly and communicated their ideas in ways that any person off the street could understand. They used evidence to support their logic. Without evidence, a debate round simply becomes my word against your word. Debaters need to use evidence in order to support their claims with statistics or expert witnesses. Policy debate is based upon the principles of logic and requires debaters to logically analyze their opponent's arguments and formulate a logical response that is supported with evidence. This type of debate is extremely practical since it prepares people to enter into the public arena armed with the skills to research an issue, find evidence and statistics that support your position, and communicate your position in a logical, understandable way.

Also, the advantage of team debate is that it requires two people to work together. One of the hardest things to learn in team debate is not to repeat your partner. When debaters learn to make new arguments or extend arguments made by their partner with new applications or new evidence, they learn how to broaden and deepen other people's ideas.


I'm a high school senior with experience in Original Oratory and Oral Interpretation (Prose & Poetry). From what I've been told many schools (colleges) w/ speech & debate/forensics teams will practically grant admissions to high school debaters who wish to continue to do debate.  This is probably due to the fact that so few students go on to do debate in college.  Is there any truth to this myth?

Absolutely! Many colleges grant generous scholarships to high school competitors who wish to compete on a collegiate level. Check into it. You won't be disappointed. That is how much of my college education is currently paid for.


We were very excited and proud of our girls at the National Competition in Boston. Thank you for mentioning that on your website. I thought you might like to know of an interesting comment made by one of the judges, DeWitt Jones, who is the Dean of Speech and Debate for Bob Jones University. They are one of the foremost universities in the area of speech and debate. Needless to say he has judged many, many contests. His comment was that this was the BEST high school debate he has ever heard. We were all blessed to hear that. God Bless you, Betty May for HOPE For Texas


Here is a question I posted on the CX-L (policy debate for government school/private school students) listserv:

How do most debaters keep track of their research? Are 3x5 (or 4x6) cards used or is it better to put everything on sheets of regular paper?

And the answers I received:

8.5 x 11 paper, no question. Helps with filing...too.

No one uses 3x5 or 4x6 cards. Nearly everyone puts the cut evidence on regular blank sheets of paper and labels the brief with a general heading.

Matthew Williams, Bonneville Debate, Idaho Falls, Idaho

I am a high school debate coach. When I began teaching, I had students keep their evidence on 4x6 note cards. The problem with this method is the fact that, if the file box is dropped, the cards scatter. If this is just prior to a round, it can be catastrophic. For the past twelve or so years, I have them keep their evidence on paper as a block. There is a title at the top of the page, "tagging" what that block pertains to. Then, each card,or piece of evidence, has a summary "tag".

If you get into note cards you are going to have so much more than you can handle. It is insane to try and use note cards. USE REGULAR PAPER. you will eventually acquire a lot of evidence and it is impossible to keep track of it all on note cards. I have 4 tubs of ev and its hard to keep track of it all on paper, I can't even imagine note cards.

Rachel Wilsey, Bear Creek High School, Colorado

It is a lot more efficient to have your evidence on letter-sized paper. As far as I know, it is the standard in debate today.

Does anyone have a different opinion concerning the "notecards vs paper" debate?


Here is another question I posted on the cx-l listserv:

I have a question concerning evidence in debate. How is it that a quote from a staff writer of US News and World Report or Time Magazine is proof for anything? How would a staff writer be an expert on anything? Or, let's say you have a great quote supporting your position from the PhD head of some department at Harvard, an expert in his particular field. Is that considered evidence even though this expert is quite biased? It seems to me that the credibility of the source is important. In debates, is the credibility of the source very often questioned?


You are absolutely right that sources do vary on credibility and it ought to count in the evaluation. Typically it is not questioned, since it usually is a negative tradeoff of time and value in the debate's resolution. It ought to be questioned a great deal more. Usually finding a more generic criticism, e.g., that Aff. authors hold a particular bias, like getting funding, is how it is done. Specific questioning of sources is best but time consuming, and hard to win, given 1) ones own sources are sometimes suspect, 2) debaters love the most extreme of sources, to get the "best quotes," and 3) sometimes the evidence reported by the staff writer is credible, albeit secondary.

Allan D. Louden, Director of Debate, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC 27109

You have asked an interesting question about proof in a debate round. The key question in debate is never whether the affirmative team or the negative team has proven their point; the question is whether one team did a better job than the other. Accordingly, a staff writer for US News will probably win the day if it is opposed by nothing more than an assertion from the other team. If, however, the other team counters the US News evidence with a quotation from a Harvard professor (all other things, such as date, and reasoning contained in the evidence being equal), the Harvard professor evidence will probably carry the day for the team quoting that evidence. While staff writer evidence is not the best, it is superior to an assertion. Furthermore, a staff writer carries only the credibility of the publication source. For example, a staff writer for the New York Times, is pretty credible, given the standards for publication applied by the Times. A staff writer for the National Enquirer, however, carries no credibility at all. A debater does best to assume that all evidence is biased in one way or another; the important question is determining which biases are most troublesome.

Rich Edwards, Baylor University,

It seems to me that evidence is often just a tool for backing up assertions. It definitely helps if you're debating something that isn't based on "duh" logic to have a good card; qualified sources are obviously better than stupid ones. My concern is: if I make an assertion without any evidence and my logic is better than that of any card the other team reads it, should a judge vote for the card on the basis that it was written? I wish that were not the case. Besides, I could stand up and say that all religions deserve equal rights. Hitler wrote a book that disagrees... does that mean that a judge should vote for a team that says all religions are not equal because they have it on paper? What if an MIT math professor wrote an article that says he thinks 2 + 2 = 5. Are you going to vote for that piece of evidence if I say 2 + 2 = 4? Unfortunately, I'm about the only one who feels this way. In debate, you better have some darn good evidence. (Especially for stats and studies, empirical proof, etc.)

In debate we usually refer to "primary" versus "secondary" sources. A primary source is one with specific expertise/training on an issue or one who is in a position to make independent evaluations on the event. A secondary source is one which gathers information from others and reports that information. In general, staff writers from news magazines would be "secondary" sources. There are exceptions, of course...staff writers who do a great deal of reporting in a specific field tend to develop expertise as a result of their experiences, for example. Primary sources are generally considered more acceptable and thus more persuasive than secondary sources. This is an argument that debaters must make within the round and not expect that the judge will make those evaluations for them. Also, the type of quotation affects the equation; if the statement is backed up by empirical data, then the gap between primary & secondary credibility narrows (i.e. a statement "Energy prices are considerably lower in the US than in other countries; gasoline prices in the US average $1.25 per gallon versus $3.50 per gallon throughout Europe" would be accepted from virtually any source) but an evaluation/analysis quotation would seem to demand a more primary source. I firmly believe that debating the qualifications of authors is one of the most overlooked but also most important parts of what we teach in debate.

Gregg Hartney, Coach, Charles Page HS, Oklahoma

Credibility is important, but so is the source. On credibility, 10 times out of 10, a card from a professor writing in their field will beat a card from a staff writer in any given newspaper or periodical. However, the source is as important as the source. If this Harvard professor writes an article about renewable energy resources, but can only get it published in Newsweek, you may question just how good this person's ideas are. But if the article is in a top rate environmental journal, then that is a flamingcard.

On your bias point, I think it is irrelevant. Anyone who has an opinion on something and writes it down is a biased writer. If an article for renewable, ecofriendly resources comes out of the journal Save The World, then that is a biased source. So what? If cards are limited to the unbiased staff writer, then the quality of debate goes down the tubes (what tubes you may ask....sorry, I just listened to George Carlin). Gone from debates then are the in depth theories and analytics and here come the superficial Pat Shmo stories about simply what is going on and duhhh, It good/bad. As a judge, if I hear a response against a card saying it taken from a biased source and written by a biased writer, I will flow it, but I will not allow it to take out the card or position.

I have never heard a good debate on credibility. I have heard good debates on who's source is better. Too often credibility debates become:

1NC: source isn't credible

2AC: is too

2NC: is not

1NR: is not

1AR: is too

2NR: is not

2AR: is too.

This is not a debate; it is a whining match. However, debating on why my source is better than your source is filled with responses like my author has more analytics, my author is a Nobel Lauriate (SP??) etc. Hope this helps.

Peace, Chris Rutledge

The credibility of evidence is an oft attacked issue in policy debates. The issue of evidence qualification is essentially divided into two divisions: the authors qualifications and the internal logic/coherence of the card. An authors qualifications are semi-important so we have a reason to believe (or disbelieve) an author. But, the logic and coherence of the card itself is also very important (more important in my mind, but not by a great measure). If a Ph.D. is writing articles that make no sense and contradict, there is no reason to accept the evidence as "proof." On the other hand, there is the argument that although a staff writer may not be the biggest expert in the field, the logic and coherence of the article is sufficient as "proof."

Matthew Williams, Bonneville Debate, Idaho Falls, Idaho


We (the Bluedorns) finally found a debate tutor. I called the University of Iowa, asked for the debate coach, and through him was recommended a senior at the university. We met with this young lady last week for 2 hours (in the university debate squad room). She charged us $25, which I understand is the going rate for tutoring. The time we spent with her was VERY useful and profitable. She taught us a lot about debate and research skills, and was able to answer all our questions. I'm going to try and find a least one other family to participate in the tutoring with us to make it less expensive for us. If two families go together we can split the cost. I would like to meet with the tutor twice a month.


It is pretty easy to log onto (at home) the card catalogs of many of the larger university libraries. But does anyone know how to log onto (at home) any of the large periodical indexes such as WLS1, WLS2, PERI, ERIC, etc? I believe you have to be a student or faculty at one of these universities, with an ID number, in order to log on.

We will be using some books in our debate research, but mostly we will be using periodicals and newspapers and government documents, which is why using these periodical indexes is important. You can obtain brochures on what all the different indexes are and how to use them at any college or university library. Or, if you live a long distance from one of these institutions, ask them to mail you these brochures. Learning to do research at a large library, and especially learning to use their computers, is very important to debate.


Date: Tue, 5 May 1998

I was wondering where other LD debates are taking place. I am from Texas, and I participated in a policy debate last year with HOPE. Is there anything like an LD debate that has national competitions or something to that effect?

Leah Puryear


Date: Fri, 8 May 1998

Subject: Debate

Do any of the homeschool debate teams you work with or know of compete with or on private/public school teams on the more traditional circuit of high school debate tournaments? Or do they stick with the homeschool competitons? Please share your view on the pros and cons of each approach.

Kathy Pollack

Slowly learning about debate in Arkansas. :-)


Date: Mon, 11 May 1998

From: Alan Pernick

Subject: Topicality

My name is Joanna Pernick, and my partner, Rae Adams, and I are the lone NJ debate team. We have been somewhat handicapped by the infrequency of meeting and the few people involved, so we've come up with these questions rather late in the year. I'm sorry about that. I've sent these to Christy Farris, since they're about a certain part in her book, but I thought it would be good to send them to you too. Perhaps you could help too. In Christy Farris' book, under the section on the 2NC in ch. 7, she says that "the negative team must ask for a ruling on the topicality issue after the cross-examination of the 2NC". We were wondering, if the judge rules that the affirmative is non-topical, what do we debate about during the rebuttals?

Secondly, when she says "Isolate the points that will make or break the debate round and structure your speech around these points. If the negative wins these points, you win the round. If the affirmative wins these points, they win the round," what if the affirmative doesn't agree with these points? What if the affirmative thinks that different points are important? What do they do? I really appreciate your taking the time to read this. Thanks, and sorry again it's so late in the year. We have our first tournament in Arlington this weekend!


Joanna Pernick


Date: Tue, 12 May 1998

From: William Van Loon

Question for those "in the loop":

I am considering putting together a class for some of our local homeschoolers next fall that would teach expository and research style writing. Forming a debate group seems like a logical springboard off of the writing and researching projects, and would give the kids a chance to apply and test their knowledge. I can write, but know nothing about debate. Can anyone recommend some books or other resources on this topic?

In Him, Michelle Van Loon


Date: Tue, 12 May 1998

From: "Christina Lynn Farris"

Subject: Re: Topicality

Dear Joanna,

On page 56 of the debate textbook, it says: "Because topicality is a voting issue, in some tournaments, the judge is required to vote on topicality after the constructive speeches. The negative has to present their topicality argument at the beginning of the 1NC. The affirmative must defend themselves against the negative's topicalityattack in the 2AC. In such debates, the negative team would ask the judge for an immediate ruling on topicality at the end of the 2NC (and after cross-x) before continuing the debate into the rebuttal speeches. If the judge rules in favor of the negative's topicality argument and agrees that the affirmative is non-topical, the debate round ends without rebuttals, and the negative wins the round. If the judge rules that the affirmative is topical, the debate continues through all the rebuttal speeches. This does not mean the negative loses the round. The negative can still win the round on solvency, inherency, or significance, but the judge cannot rule in favor of the negative on topicality at the end of the rebuttal speeches after he or she has already made the topicality ruling in favor of the affirmative after the constructive speeches."

This is how it works in HSLDA debate. The judge can make an immediate topicality ruling after all of the constructive speeches and the final cross-examination. If he rules for the negative, the round ends. If he rules for the affirmative, the round continues to the end.

As to your second question: The negative and affirmative teams often disagree on the voting issues in the round. Each team should define the voting issues as they see them and argue that they have won. If you disagree with the other team's evaluation of the round, say why you disagree and present your own evaluation. If you don't have a lot of time, just ignore the other team's criteria, present your own, and show how you've won those points. Of course, you're also going to have to convince the judge that your list of voting issues are, in fact, the most crucial issues in the round. In the end, it is up to the judge to decide what the voting issues are and who won them.

Christy Farris


From: "Lisa Kanak"

Subject: Homeschool Debate

Date: Thu, 30 Apr 1998

I was wondering how I could find out who was interested in Debate in Arkansas. I am a former homeschooler, college debater and NDT coach who recently moved to Arkansas. I have a group of 10+ homeschoolers who are interested in debating, and we would like to find out if there is any other interest in the state. We are also very close (across the river) from Oklahoma, so Oklahoma would also provide competitive opportunities.

Lisa Kanak

Ft. Smith, AR


Date: Fri, 22 May 1998

From: Shawn Rampy

Subject: HSLDA Debate vs Others

We will begin our families' involvement in Debate this coming year. Before we begin, however, I would ask your advice as to best use the time we spend in debate preparation. Specifically, should we plan on debating the '98-'99 HSLDA resolution or would it make more sense to research/debate the resolution that is adopted by virtually all the public and private schools nationally and participate in these NFL(?) events? Adopting the latter course, it seems to me, would provide us with numerous opportunities to actually debate while the former would, in essence, limit us to participating in 1 event in May. Am I missing something here?

Shawn Rampy


It's hard for a homeschooled student to participate in NFL tournaments. You will have to provide judges just like all the schools do, which means you will be required to pay out alot of money. You will have to hire your judges.

Government schools debate differently than homeschoolers. They do the fast talking, they have different judging criteria. I suggest going to one or two government school debates to observe. One will probably be enough to convince you. And then there is the socialization issue. I would also suggest subscribing to the government school debate email loop. That will for sure convince you.

There will be a great increase in interest in homeschool debate over the next 1-2 years. We will have lots more practice debates throughout all the states. We hope to have lots of tournaments involving more than one state throughout the year.

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