Every style of policy debate operates from different and sometimes competing preconceptions and assumptions. At Ethos Debate, we run off several well-worn and sometimes overused phrases. One of those, we proudly tout, is that we teach debaters how to think, not what to think.
As such, our mid-season update (and our prior sourcebooks) may look different than other source texts. One of the primary reasons we decided to link up with COG debate this past year was because they have a history of operating from the same premises that Ethos does (when it comes to researching and writing evidence for policy debate).
At Ethos, we try to walk the brightline of quality and quantity. However – in doing so there are a few things that the debater must understand.
Rule #1: The best briefs, the briefs with the highest win rate, the killer takedowns, are the briefs that YOU write for yourself. Out of 8 years of high school and college debate, I have only kept one negative brief file on my computer. It’s my proverbial Mona Lisa. 90 pages drawn from 6 sourcebooks, hand sorted by me.* I probably spent 25 hours compiling and formatting that sucker.
Rule #2: Ethos Sourcebooks are resources, not weapons. When Ethos authors write a brief, they are instructed to include DA’s that have multiple different points of attack. We include links with differing language and insinuations.
Bottom line, we are not going to include an argument that tells you WHAT to run and WHAT to say. We want your own creative and intelligent mind to look at the evidence, judge what is best for the case, and use the evidence you like the most or are most comfortable with.
Rule #3: Spend time manicuring and maintaining your negative briefs. If you show your neg files love, they will love you in return. If you are reading a brief for the first time, during the round, you are lowering your chances of winning that same round.
“But I need evidence that is round-ready, neat and easily usable!” you exclaim.
Fair enough! But let us for one moment take that utility-oriented point of view to its logical conclusion. Humor me.
If you only view briefs and evidence as what is best for in-round access, how does that help you grow intellectually? Sure – you are able to use evidence other people wrote, and perfectly parrot away the arguments that someone else told you to run.
Rather – if you dig through an Ethos brief and choose the best link from the four we provided, you are growing your critical thinking skills! If you just run what is given to you, you tend to not think about that same evidence critically, because it’s all you have. If you are forced to choose between 4 good pieces of evidence, you naturally start looking for weaknesses, so you can choose the best one. This is called growing your critical mind, and Ethos is all about it.
To close, Ethos evidence is created to give the debater the most potential. We aren’t going to write out your speeches, or even tell you how to run your own evidence. Strategy Notes are included in most of our briefs for those debaters who may need a jumpstart to understand everything we included.
Send us your thoughts! We had a lot of problems with the sourcebook that we are working out, and hopefully will have fixed for our mid-season update. Send us briefs you would like to see in the mid-season, and positive or negative reviews that you had of the sourcebook: firstname.lastname@example.org
* A word on that 90-page beauty. It was meant for the case that the (then) top team in the nation was running. I faced off against them 3 times that year, and lost all 3 times. But later in semi-finals at nats, I handed the 90-page binder dejectedly to my club mate, who was facing this team in semi-finals. They ended up winning based on the evidence I had sorted. Turns out I was the weakest link in my own strategy to win.