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Ted Cruz goes off on far-left student debate judges: 'This has me horrified'

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called out high school debate judges for promoting "indoctrination" over "debate" on his podcast "Verdict with Ted Cruz."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sounded the alarm on student debate judges "indoctrinating" participants and "destroying" the institution after a former high school debater exposed the left-wing agendas of members of the country's largest interscholastic debate organization.

Cruz addressed the issue on his podcast "Verdict with Ted Cruz" Wednesday after an essay penned by Incubate Debate founder James Fishback drew attention to the radical public profiles of some National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA) judges.

"That is so destructive to the very essence of debate, and it's destroying what is an incredible teaching experience for college kids," said Cruz, a former standout debater at Princeton University. "I gotta admit, this story has me horrified."


One judge describes herself as "a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist" who "cannot check the revolutionary proletarian science at the door" when judging high school students. The judge also identified arguments she will never accept from students: "fascism good, capitalism good, imperialist war good, neoliberalism good, defenses of US or otherwise bourgeois nationalism, Zionism or normalizing Israel, colonialism good, US white fascist policing good, etc." 

"That is astonishing," Cruz remarked.

"Unless you argue for communism, you will lose... That's not debate. That is indoctrination."

Another NSDA judge’s profile reads," "If you are discussing immigrants in a round and describe the person as ‘illegal,’ I will immediately stop the round, give you the loss with low speaks", which means low speaker points, "give you a stern lecture, and then talk to your coach." 

Cruz shot back, arguing the term "illegal alien" is in federal law. 

"It is United States law, and the fact that you are a little Marxist doesn't change reality," he said.

Cruz credited debate as an enormous part of his learning experience in college, including debating positions he didn't agree with.

"In many ways you learn more debating a proposition you disagree with than you learned debating something you agree strongly with," he said.


Fishback's essay quickly went viral online, picking up responses and shares from Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, Babylon Bee founder Seth Dillon and Rep. Jim Banks, among others. 

The NSDA released a statement last week on Twitter, stating in part: "Our judge training materials in partnership with the National Federation of State High School Associations provide best practices for adjudicating speech and debate, such as ‘Judges should decide the round as it is debated, not based on their personal beliefs.’... is a project of the National Speech & Debate Association, and its purpose is to provide a tournament management system for debate and speech tournaments worldwide. The 47,000 judge paradigms housed therein represent the opinions and viewpoints of the individual paradigm authors. Schools or other organizations that use to hire judges are free to evaluate those paradigms before engaging their services."

A high school sophomore told Fox News Tuesday she will no longer participate in NSDA tournaments after a judge "warned" her not to bring up former President Trump because it would be "inappropriate."

"We were debating President Biden's former foreign affairs track record, and my judge warned me not to bring up President Trump as she deemed it inappropriate," Briana Whatley told "America's Newsroom." "If a student like me who was going into debate to have free and open conversations is being censored in this way, that is no longer debate. The NSDA must be recognized as an organization that is not allowing students like myself to express openly." 

Fishback abandoned coaching under the NSDA in 2019 and founded his own debate organization.

"We recruit elected officials, members of the armed forces, business executives, faith-based leaders, and others. At the 18 no-cost tournaments we’ve hosted this year, thousands of students have come together to debate, have fun, and learn from each other," he said.

Fox News' Jeffrey Clark contributed to this report.

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