Forget The Debaters, All That Matters Lies Within The Adjudicator

Posted on March 3, 2010


A couple of weeks ago, at the National Novice Debating Championship, a cock-faced amateur debater attempted to convince the judge that the government was in fact proposing the status quo while debating a round about football. He went about attempting this by frantically repeating his statement as if as though it was the gospel of Maradona. There were no logical reasoning and he neither bothered to give a chronological argument on how has football in this country evolved and the principles behind all those changes. And the win was awarded by the adjudicator to his opposing team. This made the cock-faced debater very furious. “But how can you give a win based on a false fact”, he repeatedly asked the adjudicator, angrily.

The adjudicator in question has no scrotum. And I’m not saying this because she’s a real girl and that the continuous angry harassment caused her to cry. It’s because she probably had zero knowledge of football. But can you blame her? – it was all about Malaysian football after all.

Like always, I’m with her on this. Assuming that the status quo is not the status quo (which she would probably did not know and gave the benefit of the doubt to the affirmative), I  personally felt that the setup was reasonable and moreover her oral adjudication and verdict was well justified. But then again, novice debaters are a very strange bunch of debaters. This is because they must, by nature, be a bit loony. It is the factor that feeds their self-esteem and gives them a sense of association, although it bellows half the people listening to them to pull out their lungs and make them into comedy shouts.

So why are adjudicators nearly always perceived as little Hitlers? This may be because our views on adjudication is wrong. The focus has been too much on the debaters and the score sheets can obviously verify that. The objective of debating is very much similar to persuasive speaking. It is to change the value systems of your audience and make them comprehend and embrace the very spirit of what you are attempting to convey. Therefore, an effective persuasive speaker is one that has successfully cultivated certain changes within an individual’s system of principles, morals and / or ethics. Understanding this basic construct of persuasion, should adjudicators be analyzing the debater (manner and matter) or should they in fact, be analyzing themselves? Shouldn’t the score sheet be designed more like a self-evaluation report?

Most debaters would argue that the context in competitive debating is not the same – adjudicators are critical audiences. I am slightly ashamed to admit that I found this quite amusing. And I went on finding it amusing for a few days. There are many laws and conventions in competitive debating. However, the arbitrary nature of the sport allows these laws and convention to be opened for interpretations. This interpretation is what is called the art of debating.

Debaters need to understand, that adjudicators serve probably one of the longest apprenticeships known and have the unenviable task of giving decisions or verdicts in an unbiased way according to the laws and conventions of the competition. If the cock-face debater is going to get all red in the face for losing a debate, imagine how would he react if he was diagnosed with losing the capacity to have an erection?


Register Now – UniKL Debate Clinic