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March 4, 2013 / compassioninpolitics

How to get better at running the K OR eight ways to get better at running the critique in debate.

I ran the K fairly successfully (before they became uber popular) and coached people running the K…..likewise fairly successfully at the college level.

Yes you have to understand it. You will get schooled if you don’t. And this isn’t always reading tons and tons of books.

Its about how the critique applies in specific instances & how to answer arguments in the debate context (not necessarily with cards).

Writing frontlines to arguments is fairly analogous to individual pages in a playbook. Write frontlines. Be prepared.

You spend more time on
1) what they are likely to go for
2) what generates offense for you versus what generates offense for them (risk versus reward or kind of an understanding of the concept of SWOT)

Make good arguments and then time doesn’t matter as much.

Efficiency trumps time soooooooo much.

I kind of think you are asking the wrong question.

How do you get better at running the K:
1) Reading & reflecting
2) Writing frontlines to specific arguments (both analytical & cards). Also writing word efficient overviews.
3) High quality debates at tournaments.
4) Practice debates….
5) Wathcing great debaters. Borrowing on what they do best.
6) Good intell
7) Getting a mentor/asking questions of people who you know who understand the argument better than you (either the K more broadly or the specific K you are dealing with)
8) isolating why you are losing K debates (ie asking & reflecting)…..and figuring out how to fix it…..and actually fixing it. This strategy can’t help but make you better….especially when combined with say 3 or 4 of the other strategies.

The best debaters are probably doing all 8…..if you want to keep up… should expect to do all 8. Failure to do all 8 is a metaphorically hole in your strategy or a hole in your bucket.

Here’s the thing….people expect to get better by debating terrible teams and hoping they will be unprepared and getting an insta-win. Those wins don’t help you. Or they help you very little.

Practice debates don’t intrinsically help you. Competitive practice debates where both teams are prepared do probably help you……especially if you are getting quality feedback from an “expert” or someone who is similar to your judging pool.

Your questions might include:
1. How do you answer the permutation. How does the perm interact with the rest of the debate?
2. How do you answer impact turns to the K?
3. What separates good K debaters from K debaters other than just knowing the literature?
4. How do I fix X problem? How do I answer Y argument?
5. How do I win the K in front of lay judges?
6. How do I win the K in front of circuit judges?


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  1. compassioninpolitics / Mar 4 2013 10:10 pm

    This is a continuation of the stuff above:
    I think there are 4 take aways here:
    1. The value of finding a quality mentor to help you understand both debate and the K
    2. Being creative about integrating Ks & philosophy.
    3. Preparation, preparation, preparation (reading, reflecting, writing blocks) (re-reading sources & getting feedback from top-level K debaters, etc..)
    4. Integrating the philosophy into the debate context. This is particularly key in the case of the critique. Much of critique debate is what you make of it…..not necessarily tied down by the authors exact philosophy.

    In terms of getting creative….generally I see the other philosophy integrated as doing one of two things:
    1. critiquing at a different level (for instance adding the level of ontology or whatever)
    2. being able to answer more advantages
    3. being able to answer some of the offense of one argument….with the other. when you do #1, this can put you in a position to do so.

    Part of this means mastering analytics. Not being afraid to answer with analytic arguments to enhance your argument.

    I think there are 5 key skills that early K debates pick up:
    1. ability to debate the perm/answer the perm
    2. ability to answer framework
    3. ability to see cards in the 1AC as links
    4. picking strategic alternatives. If you are going to either do one of the two following–solve the aff or deal with impact turns (which sooner or later you will have to do)
    5. implications which function on multiple levels

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