Sorry it's taken me a while to response; it's been the week of Christmas and that means traveling, festivities, and laziness.
It seems that the responses or counterpoints to my OP points are such:
1. "I don't run topicality so often because parent judges have preconceived notions of it being silly and time-wasting."
2. "I don't run topicality because, in the grand scheme of things, it is silly."
3. "I would run topicality more, but oftentimes I don't know where to draw the line insofar as when to run topicality and when not to."
Firstly, I want to make a prelude point:
1. (When I say "you," I mean each debater; I am not thinking of any person and when a point/sentence uses "you" it may not even apply to you.) You must develop a firm set of BLs for each resolution. You've got to be thinking critically through a carefully developed personal interpretation of the resolution. It's a heck of a lot harder to run topicality well and a heck of a lot easier to write topicality off when you don't even have a personal conviction based off of research & data of what the resolution means. I'm going to call this your personal, researchered, nuanced interp (PRNI). This is very important.
My responses to each:
a. This may be a regional thing, but I would be willing to say it actually isn't as widespread of a problem with parents as some say it is. Usually, I run topicality much of the time at qualifiers and opens, less at regionals, and sparsely at nationals. This is because the non-topical cases (or at least the cases that lose some of the time on topicality) are either dropped early on or don't make it to regionals/nationals. In my experience (which is a good bit), I have only once come across a judge that has said they don't vote on topicality (and I didn't run it that time). A couple times I have had a judge note either before the round or on the ballot that they don't prefer topicality, but will still vote on it; I've still come out with good speaks and a win in those rounds after running topicality.
b. There are reasons why some judges think topicality is silly. In reality, I think it's really only one reason: they have seen topicality run poorly too many times.
c. In order to get parents back on the right track, you need to start running topicality well. In home school leagues you've got it pretty easy. I would say that less than 1% of parents would disregard a topicality argument on the grounds of not liking topicality in general. This means that if you can get a good grip on topicality, you have a lot of benefits to gain.
a. Running topicality well requires a good amount of talent in many instances. When the case is not apparently non-topical to the layman (read: parents who haven't spent a lot of time--if any time--developing their PRNI of the resolution like you have), it can be very difficult and even artful to lay out your interp (which, remember, you believe is right beforehand based off of your PNRI) and then persuade a judge of the violation. You might say, "Well if it's so difficult, then why would I waste my time trying to nitpick my way to a win that I could have had more easily if I just ran policy arguments?" Good question, here are the reasons: i) You've gotta believe it! If you have a PRNI, then you'll enjoy persuading judges to adopt it for themselves. ii) You're actually not nit-picking if you have a PRNI. I've run the "this topicality press being run against me is stupid and violates the purpose of debate/topicality, so throw it away" argument myself before (and won with it many times), so I know that there are such things as stupid t-presses, but that's why you've got to develop your PRNI.
b) Topicality teaches you standards, violations, and impacts. This is a great, I repeat, great method for formulating other arguments. I really only fully grasped this last year. Running topicality is a good starting point for understanding this method, because topicality tends to be more cut-and-dry when you start out and allows a steady progression for introducing a larger variety of arguments which allows one to begin using the s/v/i method for other arguments in debate. Isaiah McPeak taught me this way of thinking and if you check his posts and the [url=ethosdebate.com/blog]Ethos blog[/url], he may have written about it.
c) Topicality is good practice for the real world and especially for law. See Dr. Srader's quotation in MSD's post.
d) If you are very good at running topicality, you should win with it when you run it 95% of the time. If you are very good at running other arguments (really when you guys say "policy arguments," you guys are talking about DAs, solvency, and CPs), you will win most of the time, but you will probably have less of a guaranteed win than running topicality very well. This is to say, topicality level 1000 is better than policy arguments level 1000. Why? Because at the end of the day, policy is subjective. You will get judges that disagree with you. Topicality, by nature, is less subjective, because it is rule (boundary) based. Granted, running topicality every round is not going to help you win all of those rounds. Develop your PRNI and then run topicality when a case doesn't fit inside your PRNI. If you get very good at running topicality, then you have a pretty good chance of winning when you're using your PRNI as a guide for when to run topicality or not.
e) If you have a PRNI, then you should believe that every case that doesn't jive with your PRNI should not be allowed to be run. The best way to stop non-topical cases from being run (and maybe beating teams and winning tournaments) is to run topicality well. A lot of times you hear teams pull out the "precedent" impact for t-presses saying that if a judge votes for a non-topical cases it will encourage other teams to run non-topical cases. This is usually blown up to absurd proportions, but it's not without warrant. To realize, you have to get out of your mind that every non-topical case is blatantly non-topical at first glance--that's not true at all, not even a bit. When topicality is not run and PRNIs are not developed, league-wide (and definitely region-wide) interps take the role of what should be a PRNI. This allows teams to run cases that are slightly non-topical and then, over time, develop a new region-wide or league-wide standard. Case in point was CAF last year; ask any criminal lawyer and they would essentially say it's not topical, but most NCFCA debaters thought it was, because topicality was not run well enough, frequently enough against CAF.
a. Develop your PRNI, then run topicality whenever a case doesn't fit inside your PRNI.
4. "I keep running topicality and I keep losing with it--judges don't buy my presses." // "This case never loses on topicality, but I don't think it's topical. Do I still run topicality even though the empirical evidence is against me?"
a. Your PRNI conclusion may be right. You may be right in saying that a case is not topical. The problem is that just because a terminal conclusion is right, it doesn't mean the path to that end was convincing. For example, I could have a conclusion that the flu is going around my community, but what if my support was a single case-study and it was me! I could be right, and the flu could have hit my whole community, but unless I've got some convincing data to back up my conclusion, no one will bet on me being right. The same goes for topicality and the way to get the convincing data (translated, standards) is to brainstorm with other debaters, research the topic, talk to experts, analyze the grammar, investigate contexts, and so on. In other words, and to use a now-cliché, you have to continue to work on your PRNI.
I hope that some of that is helpful.