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Resources for CARD Critics

Successful communication requires an audience. Successful learning requires prepared educators. CARD critics are both! Read on for resources and information concerning your role as a CARD critic. 

CARD events share common traits of several debate events. An individual debate occurs between two 2-person teams (the affirmative and negative) in front of an assigned adjudicator, or critic. Every student delivers a constructive, a rebuttal, and participates in cross-examination, citing and quoting evidence throughout to support their points. 

Those participating as critics should familiarize themselves with more than the speech times and order, however. All critics are expected to work to uphold CARD's norms and philosophy and take their role as an argument critic and educator seriously. The following elements are drawn from the CARD event philosophy to provide guidance on how to prepare for your task as a CARD critic.

We also recommend this short "quick guide" to keep on hand if you are new to CARD.

What are my responsibilities as a critic?

CARD programs respect the adjudication norms, expectations, vocabularies, and experiences of all collegiate debate formats but insist that educators adjudicating in CARD evaluate debaters and their arguments according to the goals and expectations of the format. CARD critics play the challenging dual role of audience and educator. Their responsibility is to simultaneously inform competitors about the soundness of their arguments and advocacy while providing instruction on how they can improve their arguments and advocacy. CARD critics are also expected to help build a welcoming and enriching learning environment. A CARD critic should help students understand where their arguments and advocacy are effective (and why), and where and how they can and should improve, while also building confidence that it is in the student’s capacity to make those improvements for future debates and to develop powerful capabilities they can use in their academic and post-graduation lives. The CARD philosophy and judging norms document is not intended to be a code to police or punish competitors. It provides instead a benchmark for all participants. Critics especially should call upon this format philosophy as they articulate their approach to evaluating CARD debates and should align their feedback with event goals. Everyone should appreciate that mastering a new format is unavoidably challenging. All participants are engaged in learning. Performances that fall short of these standards should invite constructive feedback and appropriate ratings (whether wins, losses, or individual ratings) to help students understand areas where improvement is needed and how they can improve. It is also vital that students are encouraged to appreciate their capacity to improve.

How does CARD define "public communication"?

All stakeholders in CARD, whether debater, critic, coach, assistant, or director, must embrace the format’s orientation toward public communication. CARD does not understand “public” to mean that only simplistic or “safe” ideas are engaged. Nor does the format assume “public” refers solely to speaking pace and style. Strategies for effective public communication are as varied and diverse as our society, and there is no single acceptable means of public communication. CARD grounds its understanding of public communication in the foundational terms of Collegiate Advocacy, Research, and Debate. Debate and forensics at the collegiate level should align with higher education’s core goals and CARD locates debate as a classroom where students develop and hone capabilities vital to participating in contemporary society. This core premise is reflected in each of the activity’s key terms. Collegiate Advocacy should intentionally develop and reinforce the aptitudes and experiences that help students increase their capacity to lead change in their communities. This shared responsibility extends from the preparation and oral presentation of arguments by students to the feedback and instruction students receive from educators. Collegiate debate must reflect higher education’s commitment to challenging intellectual inquiry and remain open to a wide spectrum of ideological viewpoints and values. However, all arguments and communication strategies should align with the learning goals of the format and affirm the dignity and respect owed to all participants. Emphasizing advocacy requires that all participants acknowledge that debate is not a detached simulation or strategy game; participants should act in good faith and represent with care the issues and communities connected to a debate. Participants should respect their opponents and the ideas and perspectives they bring to debates. This requires listening to others because effective advocacy is more than the mere expression of one’s own ideas but also requires engaging and persuading others, including opponents and critics. Collegiate Research plays a significant (although not exclusive) role in ensuring CARD debate hones information literacy proficiency, including sophisticated research skills. In analyzing and synthesizing the arguments developed by experts for their own purposes, students are exposed to powerful models of scholarly argument and opportunities to learn how to utilize expertise to support their own arguments. CARD is unique in its goal of teaching debaters how to communicate evidence. The community library includes complicated, dense, and controversial ideas. Participants should work to ensure that their arguments are understandable for a diversity of audiences. CARD critics should provide constructive feedback helping students translate ideas from technical or expert arenas and circulate them effectively across wider spheres. Collegiate Debate provides a format that both constrains and empowers participants. The two-sided affirmative/negative structure requires that communication between debaters be accessible and transparent. Participants must also be mindful to ensure their arguments, interactions, and feedback invite (or at least acknowledge the need for) engagement and refutation. Participants should embrace a growth-oriented mindset acknowledging that everyone is engaged in the process of learning.

What is the core focus of a CARD round?

The primary question in CARD is whether the affirmative team has successfully discharged their burden of proof through an advocacy in favor of the proposition. The “burden of proof” is the obligation to prove with clear and convincing arguments that an advocacy is a necessary and sufficient response to the problems outlined by those advocating change. Negative teams bear the “burden of rejoinder”, where their primary responsibility is to refute and undermine the specific arguments offered by the affirmative. Negative teams may introduce their own change advocacy, accepting the burden of proof for those arguments as competitive tests of affirmative advocacy. CARD features a “community library” as the sole source of directly quotable material in the debate. When evidence from the library is used, students should provide a clear oral debate citation that identifies the author and their relevant qualifications. Ideas, concepts, and examples that do not come directly from the community library may be used throughout the debate, but debaters must accept responsibility for communicating them to critics without authoritative evidence, including the risk that a critic may not understand or believe complicated ideas or obscure examples unsupported by scholarship. The community library should be informed by the interests and aspirations of students.

How does CARD approach debate theory and procedure?

Disputes may arise over whether a particular argument is permitted. While such “procedural” questions may emerge during a CARD debate, they do not supersede the primary obligations of either team. Disputes about procedure or debate theory must be resolved in line with the larger substance of a debate. “Debates about debate” should thus adhere to the following norms. First, the team initiating a dispute should commit to it as a sustained line of advocacy, not a peripheral distraction. Second, procedural arguments are treated as narrow questions of fact. For example, rather than a debate about whether an entire class of counterplans is competitive/fair, debaters should focus on whether the counterplan at hand is competitive or fair. Third, the implication of procedural arguments should be connected to fundamental burdens of proof and rejoinder. In other words, debaters should argue (and critics should adjudicate) how the procedural question affects the larger substance of the debate. Rather than rejecting a team entirely on a procedural technicality, critics should seek to provide a holistic evaluation of the debate. Topicality: Affirmative teams must be firmly within the scope of the CARD topic to satisfy their burden of proof. Whether the affirmative needs to be topical is not open to debate. Questions can arise as to whether the affirmative is topical. Disputes over whether the affirmative is topical are treated as narrow questions of fact, rather than a larger debate about the best way to interpret the topic. If the affirmative team convincingly demonstrates that their advocacy is within the scope of the topic, they satisfy a threshold burden and may win the debate on merits. Conditionality: CARD discourages conditional and intentionally contradictory argumentation. The format emphasizes the development of argumentation skills grounded in principles of advocacy. All participants should seek to maintain worldview consistency and make strategic decisions about which arguments to initiate and defend throughout a debate. Although debaters are not expected to only voice ideas or opinions they believe, they are expected to serve as faithful advocates of arguments they decide to advance. Fiat: CARD utilizes a theory of fiat that is limited and reciprocal. Rather than operating as a magic wand debaters wield to enact policies, fiat in CARD is the assumption that practical or timely obstacles to enacting the affirmative’s advocacy (such as a lack of support within political institutions or a legal barrier) are set aside for the purposes of the debate. The use of fiat is constrained by two factors. First, the affirmative is limited to fiat pertaining to the topic; they are afforded a sufficient level of fiat necessary for upholding their burden of proof. Second, the assumption of fiat is limited to the agency – scope of potential action - of the topic’s relevant actor established through the presentation of a solvency advocate. Finally, fiat in CARD is reciprocal. Limitations on the scope of fiat apply equally to the affirmative and negative.

What norms should I support regarding use of evidence?

Orally citing evidence in a speech incurs the responsibility to ensure that each student and critic can understand enough about the cited evidence to efficiently locate the document in the community library. It should be performed such that students and critics clearly appreciate the argument(s) the evidence is supporting, the author(s) of the quoted passage and their expertise, and the content of the quoted passage. These three elements – (1) argument claim, (2) author(s) and their qualifications, and (3) clearly identified cited passage - together constitute the act of “citing evidence” appropriately in CARD. Students are encouraged to prepare evidence blocks of text quoted from documents in the library in their speeches. Although there are numerous ways to deploy and use “evidence cards” the following standards help preserve the original context of the article and promote critical evidence analysis: Cited evidence must provide a full citation that includes the author name(s), author qualification(s), and specific source information. At minimum, an evidence card should convey a complete argument by the source author. A good heuristic is that a card should be at least 1 paragraph and at maximum 3 paragraphs to ensure consistency with the author’s intended meaning and purpose. Debaters can select specific sections of a card to quote during their speech; they do not need to orally read the entire text. However, the full text of each paragraph should be retained and made available to the opponent for review. Also, debaters should select at least full sentences for oral quotation and clearly indicate such portions by underlining or highlighting the quoted portion. Fabricated or distorted evidence Students are prohibited from using fabricated or distorted evidence. "Evidence" is defined as quoted material which is represented as published fact or opinion testimony offered in support of a debater's claim and drawn from documents in the community library. "Fabricated" evidence refers to the citing of a fact or opinion that is either from a source not included in the community library or not contained in a document in the community library. "Distorted" evidence refers to the misrepresentation of the actual or implied content of factual or opinion evidence. Misrepresentations may include but are not limited to quoting text from a document in the community library in such a way that the claim made is clearly inconsistent with the author's intended meaning and viewpoint as manifest in the document from which the quotation is drawn, when that document is taken as a whole. Fabricated and distorted evidence are so defined without reference to whether the student using it is the person responsible for the initial misrepresentation. Students must permit judges and opponents to examine evidence on request and will provide sufficient information for others to quickly locate the original document in the community library.

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