Productive debaters cultivate broad, working knowledge across a wide range of issues. Part of this is research. Creating a comprehensive evidence bank is the first step. By this I mean knowing the US policy towards the Arizonan Toad, the consequences of that policy, how that policy compares to other Toad policies in the US and internationally. Having a brief for every potential case and a few cards for each potential issue demonstrates you know something. But more important is real knowledge, the kind that connects the issues and cases into an intelligent frame of reference. By this I mean being able to place ‘toad policies’ into the larger sphere of environmental policy as a whole and understanding how that set of policies works in the US as compared to other sets of policy issues. Having broad knowledge means knowing what the Toad means to Arizonans.
Broad knowledge will make you a better debater. Most judges have no idea what the Toad means, even though you’ve been debating it all year. Communicating the big picture along with the pertinent details will increase your credibility and make your arguments convincing. Broad knowledge helps you in the real world. Five years down the road, when you’ve forgotten all the details of Toad Policy, you’ll be able to converse about the Arizonan environment with the prospective client that happened to live there–you’ve just closed the deal.
Take Action: Analyze your case and evidence briefs, plot out the groups of facts you regularly reference in rounds (or practice rounds). Think of ways to back away from the details and connect your groups of facts to what normal people talk and care about. Connecting tools: analogies, comparisons, stories, etc. If you’re having trouble, your ‘fact groups’ may be too specific, too broad, or unfilled. Try ‘zooming in’ and ‘zooming out’ until something works, or add facts that give you a clearer picture.