Oftentimes, people who think differently from the mainstream position are criticized for their views.
For instance, the founding of the United States of America and the freedom for which it stands only came about because certain people were bold enough to be different, regardless of the consequences. The entire reason we understand that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around is because one man decided to be bold and be different, even though he knew everyone would hate him for it. We now have planes because in 1903, the Wright brothers decided to ignore the smartest man in the world at the time (Thomas Edison) and be different and create one.
These three examples highlight a very fascinating and unfortunate truth in our current world: sometimes the best of ideas are criticized by the majority of people before they become heavily adopted.
I believe that this history teaches us an excellent lesson that we can all learn from, and is exactly why you shouldn’t be afraid to be a different debater, and instead embrace your views in kindness and love — however different they might be from those around you. Thus, today, we’ll be going over why being a different debater is not only totally okay but more memorable in the eyes of your judge and highly innovative.
Point 1: It’s Totally Okay
Before we get any further, I want to reassure you that being different in debate is totally okay. Just make sure that you are always genuine, true, and ethical in your views and that you always present them in a loving and kind way — i.e, don’t be a jerk when you disagree with people, instead, be Christ-like and loving in all your disagreements. (People who disagree with you are not evil! They just believe in something different than you and that’s totally fine. Differences of opinion are all about what this article is about.)
This would actually be a good place to stress that there’s no “one right” way of debate. In fact, debate coaches such as myself, Noah Howard, the founder of NCFCA Christy Shipe, and more all argue that the debate itself actually has no rules. There are no rules on what you or can’t argue in a round! Obviously, you must follow league rules (such as on ethicality for instance) as well as other common-sense rules such as not punching your opponent in the face (please don’t do that!). But in terms of how you run an argument in a round, there’s no standard or rules there and that’s completely up to you.
Often times, there’s a bit of negativity towards debaters who choose to run arguments such as topicality or other procedurals often or who disagree with the perception that stock issues are the only weighing mechanism “allowed.” (Feel free to read my thoughts on why stock issues are not a required burden.)
In my senior year, however, I managed to run many of these arguments and more and win off them in the majority of cases. I explained part of the reason I was able to do that in my last article, but the TLDR is that judges are actually not against these arguments! Rather, they’re against debaters who don’t run them right or effectively. If you can just restructure your argument, then you should be all good to go.
Point 2: It’s More Memorable
Being different is more memorable. Being more memorable directly correlates with your chances of winning the round.
Why is being different more memorable? Well, imagine the most common judges you’re going to get in the homeschool debate leagues. They’re most likely going to be parent judges who are trying to honor their required rounds and thinking about what they’re going to eat for lunch afterward. These parent judges have probably judged tons of other rounds that tournament or even that season. They’ve seen it all. Most debate teams tend to blend together to them because they’re the same.
But now, let’s say that you come along and run arguments differently and believe in different debate theories than the mainstream view. While it’s true that you might annoy a judge or two, the vast majority of your judges are going to find your views more memorable and that’s going to make you stick out in their minds. Most judges tend to vote for the debaters that are in their mind the most, so this will end up helping you a lot.
Now, I should state a very important caveat here. The judge will ONLY be impressed with your difference ONLY if you’re more persuasive with it. I.e, only if your warrants and impacts on that argument are good and convincing. If not, then the judge won’t be persuaded towards your side and you’ll end up hearing comments from the judge about your arguments not being good.
If this happens to you, don’t give up! Instead, learn from your mistakes. Just practice getting more persuasive with your argument and explaining it better — perhaps using stories and examples to illustrate why you believe should be allowed to be different from the mainstream in the round.
Point 3: It’s More Innovative
This point is pretty self-explanatory. Being different leads to an increase of innovation — and even if it doesn’t, it at least leads to a conversation that innovates the mainstream position.
I’d like to turn you back to the opener of this article. Remember all those examples where innovators in history were criticized for being different from the mainstream, yet their ideas were adopted by the majority?
It’s true that you might be criticized for your views, but ultimately, your views and who you are building a better and more educational debate league! In fact, in many cases, criticism of your views might even mean that you’re on the right path to innovation.
Regardless of whether your views are good or not, however, ALWAYS let conversations and debates about your views happen as much as possible (as long as they are done in kindness and love, not bitterness and vengeance). The more you talk and debate your views with others, the more you’ll be able to improve and change your own views and ultimately make them better. The same goes for whoever you have the debate with.
At the end of the day, don’t be afraid to be you! Don’t be afraid to be different. You are what makes you special and you should never feel as if you need to fit into a specific box shape to be a debater.
Debate has no “one size fits all” cookie cutter. Instead, debate is about being free-ing. It’s about being able to make arguments in any way, shape, or form (while staying ethical obviously) to however you’d like. With debater, you’re the expert crafter or the expert baker who’s making something special for your judge.
Lastly, I do want to stress that you should always be kind and courteous whenever you disagree. Not only will this help you in debate rounds (no one wants to listen to someone who disagrees with someone else when they have the wrong attitude), but it will also help you in general in real life. Being able to disagree kindly is probably one of the best skills that will enable you to get through your career and life as a whole.
Go out there and honor God and have fun!
Justin is a three-year alumnus of NCFCA and an honors student at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. Currently a senior, he hopes to receive his degree in computer science with a concentration in cyber security and minors in criminal justice and math. In his senior year of high school debate, Justin went from never competing in a single outround to averaging semis or quarters at every national open, including 4th place at the 2021 NCFCA nationals, as well as averaging finals at regional tournaments. His philosophy is that debate is a game. Providing one is ethical, the most persuasive argument flies. At the end of the day, Justin argues you should honor God & have fun! Debate is not all about winning, it’s about how you win and the skills you foster in the process.
You can learn more about Justin by reading his bio, and you can book coaching with him over here. You can also catch more content from Justin by checking out his personal website and blog as well as subscribing to his YouTube channel.