By Srdjan Miletic
Overall the 2015 WUDC debating manual is amazing. It’s comprehensible, comprehensive and a commendable achievement. That being said I disagree with it’s stance on rebuttal. Specifically:
“2.3 Rebuttal, Engagement, and Comparisons
If speakers make arguments and supporting reasons that are not wildly implausible or
contradictory, they are at least somewhat persuasive and should be credited by judges
unless they are successfully rebutted”
WUDC speaking and Judging Manual, 2015, pg 17, section 2.3: Rebuttal
As I’ve argued before, that idea that we should judge a debate based on what arguments are left standing at the end, essentially meaning we should ignore arguments which have been successfully rebutted, seems to me to be unfair and a poor way to judge. This is because it ignores the contribution teams bring to a debate, leading to incredibly unintuitive results and hence to unfair situations where worse teams who bring less to the debate can win over better teams. For example, say 1st gov brings two very persuasive arguments, which a brilliant 1st opp convincingly takes down, while 2nd gov brings only one somewhat weak argument. If a judge were to ignore arguments which were successfully rebutted, as the manual advises, they would need to place second Gov, which brought weaker arguments and contributed less to the debate, above first gov. This is unintuitive, as a team which has bought less persuasive material is awarded a higher position, and unfair as a the respective positions of teams on the same bench can be determined not by their own actions and interactions but by who opposing teams choose to rebut.
A better way of judging rebuttal is to use the movement model and reward teams which successfully rebut an argument with the same amount of credit they would have received had they made that argument. Hence rebutting a very persuasive argument is rewarded a great deal and rebutting a weak argument is rewarded less. This approach is simple and usable but, by virtue of not ignoring teams contributions to the debate when those contribution are rebutted, it does not lead to unintuitive and unfair results.
Coach, Rhetorica Debating Society Maastricht