Theory and practice in academic debate


Published on


Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Theory and practice in academic debate

  1. 1. Jons introduction:David Snowball was, until his relatively recent retirement from college debate, one of the smartest, funniest,and most pleasant people to be around. David very generously agreed to allow me to make this public and hisonly concern was that in its current form it may be somewhat dated. This is a text that was last revised in 1994,and since debate texts go out of date faster than computer hardware (I remember how cool my 486 machineseemed in 1994), David is probably right that some of the information here may seem a little archaic.Nonetheless, I include this as a valued companion (if not superior) volume to the Debate Bible, since this bookdoes a much better job of dwelling on some of the basics that I raced right past. You may view this as a textmore appropriate for novices trying to get a firmer grasp on the basics of kritiks and such and the Debate Bibleas a text for students with some experience trying to make the jump to varsity levels. Or, alternatively, you mayview my work as that of a young punk and Davids as that of a wizened veteran.If you are reading this text because I referred you to it for an argument class, chapters 4 and 7 are the mostpertinent.Thanks again to David for supporting debate at all places and all levels. THEORY AND PRACTICE IN ACADEMIC DEBATE A Reference Guide Third Edition, 1994 David Snowball Augustana College Rock Island, Illinois TABLE OF CONTENTSPREFACE1. DEBATING THEORYThe Importance of PerceptionBefore the RoundDuring the RoundAfter the Round2. JUDGING PARADIGMSDefinitionImportance
  2. 2. Stock Issues Policy-making Hypothesis-testing Tabula Rasa Argument CriticismThe Ugly Truth of the Matter3. PROPOSITIONAL & LINGUISTIC ARGUMENTSDebate Resolutions Bi-directional Resolutions Topicality Extratopicality Definitions Strictness of Definitions Functions of the Resolution Counterwarrants Fiat Critiques/Kritiks4. CORE ISSUESCase Writing Plan Writing Presumption/Burden of Proof Significance Inherency Solvency Disadvantages5. COUNTERPLANSTypes Non-topicality
  3. 3. Competition Added AdvantagesJustification Arguments6. DEBATE GAMESSpreading Two-constructive Arguments Burying Cross-applications Generic Arguments Conditional Arguments7. DEBATE SKILLSResearch Computerized Research Cross-examination FlowingBIBLIOGRAPHYABOUT AUGUSTANA COLLEGE PREFACEI designed this third edition of Theory and Practice in Academic Debate (TPAD3) to provide debaters and coaches with abrief and summary introduction to some of the theoretical and practical issues currently receiving attention in competitivedebate. In its sections on theoretical matters, I strive to inform you about the genesis and elements of controversies. I amnot, as a general matter, advocating one side and I certainly dont claim to present a resolution to these problems. I firmlybelieve that debaters and coaches need to think clearly about these issues and to decide which side has the greatermerit, rather than relying on an outsider to give them a set of the "right" opinions. In this spirit, the TPAD3 was designed toprovoke thought and highlight issues, not to provide evidence for use in debate rounds. When the subjects are morepractical (for example, flow-sheeting or plan construction), I will offer some suggestions which have worked for mydebaters over the past fifteen years. This is not an attempt to defend "The One True Way," but merely to point out oneworkable way to approach a problem.Remember: that TPAD3 is a review of arguments offered by the proponents and opponents of various views. The qualityof the arguments used ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime; there are many arguments mentioned in this bookletwhich are (in my opinion) pretty silly.I recognize my great debt to the scholars of debate (from Aristotle to Zarefsky) who were responsible for the ideas whichhe is attempting to present. Whether we ultimately judge their positions to have been right or wrong, we still have gained
  4. 4. from their willingness to share insights and to enter, forthrightly and thoughtfully, the marketplace of ideas. It is my hopethat, following their example rather than mimicking their words, you choose to do likewise. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSI would like to recognize the contributions made to TPAD3 by two sets of readers. First and foremost, I have learned agreat deal from the debaters and coaches at Augustana College and I appreciate both their support and their questions. Inaddition, a number of wise and generous outsiders have read and commented upon the drafts of this work. Primus interpares is Nicholas Burnett, the Director of Debate at the California State University - Sacramento. Nick, a fine writer in hisown right, read and critiqued a number of drafts of this book. The arguments I am presenting are far clearer because ofhis help. Other friends and colleagues who have contributed to TPAD3 include: Dr. Heather Aldridge, Director of Debateat Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD; Dr. Stephen Anderson of the University of Alabama; Dr. Arnie Madsen of theUniversity of Northern Iowa; Dr. Star Muir, Director of Debate at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA; Seth Northrop,varsity debater at Millard-North High School in Omaha; and, Dr. George Ziegelmueller, Director of Debate at Wayne StateUniversity in Detroit.The support of Augustana Colleges administration was crucial in the creation of this text. I would like to thank ArneSelbyg, Dean of the College, for the grant and the encouragement which made its production possible. TPAD3 has, inaddition, benefitted greatly from the skill and thoughtfulness of the professionals in Augustanas Office of Publications:Barbara Bradac and Beth Roberts.A Note on AbbreviationsI will try to illustrate as many concepts as I can by offering examples from real and hypothetical debates. These additionsto the text may be preceded by "i.e." (from the Latin phrase, "id est," which stands for "that is") or by "e.g." (from the Latin,"exempli gratia," which stands for "for example").CHAPTER ONE:DEBATING ABOUT THEORYMany judges (including most college debate judges) are willing to accept the premise that all issues in the round (withexceptions such as the order of speeches, penalties for evidence fabrication, and so on) are debatable. This opennessgives debaters a great deal of leeway in formulating "the rules of the game". Since, moreover, theory arguments are oneof the last areas of debate where analysis is still more important than evidence, any debater who is interested in debatetheory and willing to reflect upon the implications of his or her arguments is capable of helping to shape the rules in therounds. We will start with the suggestions about the general practice of debating theory. In later sections of TPAD3, wewill look at the debates surrounding specific theories.The Importance of PerceptionJudges are not willing to consider theory arguments if they perceive the arguments as being cheap tricks presented bydesperate children. To be taken seriously, you need to create legitimacy and respect for yourself and for your arguments.This requires, at a minimum, that:1. You prove that you are capable of winning rounds on substantive issues (for example, after two years of conventionalsuccess, a University of Massachusetts debater won thirty-five debates as a junior with the argument that specified
  5. 5. funding for a plan was extra-topical and should result in a negative ballot). If youre viewed as a loser when it comes tonon-theory debating, its unlikely that judges will give great weight to your opinions on theoretical matters.2. You prove that your arguments meet reasonable burdens (i.e., theyre fair to both sides, they enhance the educationalcontent of the activity, they produce "good" debates).3. You present your arguments seriously (as opposed to tossing them off as one of many bad arguments in a speech).4. You have your arguments briefed (with implies foresight and planning), rather than advancing made-up standardsproduced in the heat of a round.While these suggestions wont guarantee you success with your theory argument, they will increase your chances ofbeing taken seriously.Before the Round1. Read other peoples thoughts on debate theory. Professional journals (e.g., Argumentation and Advocacy which usedto be called JAFA or The Journal of the American Forensic Association, The Forensic, The Forensic Educator, Speakerand Gavel, Debate Issues, National Forensic League Journal), textbooks (for example, Ziegelmuellers Argumentation:Inquiry and Advocacy), some debate evidence handbooks (e.g., the Debaters Research Guide from Wake Forest) andcollections of papers (the many Summer Conferences on Argumentation and the book Advanced Debate are examples)are all fruitful sources of information.2. Maintain a file of particularly useful articles.3. Consider and discuss both theoretical and meta- theoretical issues with other debaters and coaches. Theoretical issues("Is topicality a voting issue?") ask questions about how the debate round should proceed, while meta-theoretical issues("What is the best basis for evaluating a new theory?") try to help us understand how we should go about judging thevalidity of competing theory issues. As with any other issue, you have little chance of winning if the other team has takenthe time to work out reasonable arguments for which you have not chosen to prepare.4. Write theory blocks. The most effective use of any blocked argument is as a supplement, rather than a substitute, forthought during the debate. If, during the course of pre-round discussions, you come up with five reasons for why debateshould focus on the resolution (rather than specific affirmative plans) then you should write them down to avoid forgettingthem. Each block should clearly state your argument, explain why the argument should be used as a judging criterion, andwhat the implications of your argument are for the round. This will greatly improve your chances of constructing clear andreasonable positions in any given round.5. Rewrite theory blocks. Most active programs have a rich backfile of theory blocks (some dating back to the Dark Agesof typewriter and ditto). These old arguments should not be blindly reread, year after year. Often the written argumentswere designed to be supplemented by extemporized analysis; students not involved in the construction or refinement ofthe blocks are, generally, incapable of providing the supporting analysis which makes these claims persuasive. Only byrewriting, rearguing and reinterpreting these arguments will you gain the insight and polish necessary to control them.During the Round1. Get the best possible "flow" of your opponents theory argument. Whether or not you win this particular round, a goodoutline of the argument will increase your ability to examine and criticize the argument after the tournament and will,consequently, improve your chances of beating it the next time. One of the commonest failings of unsuccessful debatersis a tendency to panic (or freeze) when confronted with new and unusual positions; they frequently have only a hazy ideaof what hit them, no notes to refer to and little chance to prepare a successful defense for the next round. Stay cool,concentrate and think.2. Use cross-ex to its greatest possible advantage. If it looks like a theory argument may be a major factor in the round,devote time in cross-ex to setting up your response. You should have three basic goals in mind:
  6. 6. - be absolutely certain that you understand the premise or claim of the argument and do not be ashamed to admit that youare unclear about its implications--this is a lot less embarrassing than trying to explain the loss to your coach;- be sure you understand the effect your opponents claim the theory will have on the round (is it an independent votingissue? does it allow them to drop arguments? does it de-legitimize "turn-arounds"?); and,- explore the implications of the theory by constructing hypothetical examples and asking what implications the theorywould have for them (this helps in your constructive by giving you a set of examples to draw on when explaining why youobject to the theory). One example of this latter type of question would be: "using your theory, then, the negative wouldhave the option of running as many counterplans as they could fit into one speech and they could concede some, all, ornone of them without penalty?"Remember to check the section on cross-examination for tips on how to ask good questions.While this particular question is a bit long, it illustrates the type of concern that a thinking debater might focus on duringrounds.3. Be as clear as possible. Many theory debates feature a proliferation of dozens of murky claims and "this will destroydebate" conclusions; this makes these debates abysmally difficult to judge. A debaters best chance often comes inexploiting the murkiness or novelty of a theory by grounding his or her refutation on a limited number of arguments whichare simply structured, clearly labeled, and directly addressed to the implications of an opponents position.4. Keep your strategic options open. It is entirely possible that your opponents will pull any number of bizarre implicationsof their theory; this often occurs in the rebuttals. To protect yourself against the ugly possibility of losing in this fashion,you should probably make a clear statement in your constructive that you reserve the right to make additional responses ifthe other team substantially alters the focus of the theory argument in rebuttals. This claim is premised on the fact that, byconstructing many new implications in rebuttals which were not explicated in constructives, the other team has de factochosen to run new arguments of their own.After the Round1. Review the flows and ballots to determine what role theory arguments played in your wins and losses.Remember: you should keep your flows from each tournament.2. Discuss any new theory arguments which you might have encountered and draw up blocks of responses to them.3. Update and revise your own blocks. It is foolish to assume that the theory blocks you write at one point in the year willremain adequate throughout; inevitably, you will think of new arguments, some older arguments will prove to be unclear orunpersuasive, and your opponents will become more adept at beating the arguments previously used against them. Inresponse to these developments, you must be always improving the quality and clarity of your own arguments.In summary, then, debating about theory can be an interesting and stimulating undertaking open to all debaters; you needneither evidence cards nor hundreds of rounds of experience to participate. You do need to listen closely to other peoplesarguments, to take the time to explore their implications and to prepare your responses. If you do this, you will have addeda powerful tool to your repertoire.
  7. 7. CHAPTER TWO:JUDGING PARADIGMS "Paradigm" definedA paradigm (pronounced "para - dime") is a set of assumptions governing the process of the debate, arising from a single,coherent core assumption. These assumptions generally establish some analog (judge as scientist, as legislator, as policyanalyst, and so on) to help the debate judge understand how to resolve arguments in the round. Most debate scholars,when writing about paradigms, refer to the works of Thomas Kuhn. Kuhn, a historian of science, was interested in theprocess whereby a field of science substitutes one set of core assumptions with another, contradictory set (for example,changing the assumptions of astronomy from the earth at the center of the solar system to the sun at the center). As such,paradigms help to define the appropriate problems, standards and methods for research. The (Limited) Importance of ParadigmsThe key function of a judging paradigm is to help judges sort through the strategic intricacies of each round. A judgeschoice of paradigm helps resolve questions such as: can I vote for an affirmative who has no case significance but whohas "turned" a disadvantage? can I vote for a disadvantage which applies to the resolution in general but not to thespecific plan? can the negative disown a counterplan which has been shown to be disadvantageous?The importance of paradigms has always been greater in the minds of debaters than in the minds of judges. This is anunderstandable bias, since debaters are always looking for ways of increasing their chances of winning andunderstanding a judges paradigm seemed to offer one such way.For debate scholars, the significance of judging paradigms is somewhat problematic. Some claim that "the choice ofparadigms is now the dominant theoretical issue in debate," while other (equally respected) teachers allege "thatparadigms are dead". These views (drawn, respectively, from Professors Rob Rowland of Kansas and Tom Goodnight ofNorthwestern) are indicative of the ongoing uncertainty among debate critics of how they can make the best and fairestdecisions. Rowlands argument for the primacy of paradigms is that:Not only do disputes over debate theory increasingly focus on the contest among debate paradigms, but specific debatetheories and tactics are often understandable only within the frame of reference provided by a paradigm. And in manycases, the justification for a theory or tactic comes from a paradigm or model of debate.For example, he explains, if an affirmative team is challenged to explain the motives behind the structures of theirinherency, the importance of the challenge is determined by the paradigm applied: stock issues judges would see aninteresting but non-crucial request for information, policy-making judges would see an irrelevant "press" which did not alterthe nature of the policies defended, but the hypothesis-testing judge would see a key question which the affirmative mustanswer in order to claim inherency. Similarly, a justification argument (the negative challenge that the affirmative mustshow why, for example, their plan must be adopted at the federal level) is largely irrelevant to a policy-making judge sincethe question does not define a negative policy system, yet could well be a voting issue for a hypothesis tester whorequires the affirmative to justify acceptance of the entire resolution.Judges on the other side of the dispute, however, claim that paradigm issues do not serve a true organizing function indebate but rather are mere elements in a strategic game. These judges believe that a negative does not choose to defendhypothesis testing because of the greater integrity and rigor of its method, but rather because it will allow them to run tenhypothetical counterplans and to concede nine. Unwilling to commit themselves to the consistent application of a singleparadigm, these critics proclaim their willingness to evaluate all arguments in the round (including paradigmatic -
  8. 8. pronounced "para-dig-matic" - ones) on the basis of a number of argumentative presumptions: they seek argumentswhich are clear, intelligent and well-defended, regardless of their particular labels.Surveys conducted in 1974, 1976, 1983 and 1994 give some indication of the frequencies with which particular paradigmsoccur. The percentages of coaches who could be classified by paradigm break down this way: 1974 1976 1983 1994 Policy-maker 43% 46 38 64 Hypothesis-tester 4 10 4 2 Stock Issues 32 14 8 3 Tabula Rasa 6 9 3 0 Argument Critic 15 10 31 19 Unclassifiable 16 11While the results of one study may not be directly comparable to the others (since the authors may "code" responsessomewhat differently and since the 1974, 1983 and 1984 surveys were of the N.D.T. only while the 1976 survey focusedon four major tournaments), they do roughly reveal the continued dominance of the policy-making paradigm, thecomparatively small number of adherents to the next three paradigms and the prominence of those who espouse a "criticof argument" perspective.Which paradigm is the best? This question may never be answered since we may never reach unanimity on the corollaryquery: the best at what? Little agreement exists as to the concrete goals of competitive debate beyond the hopelesslyvague claim of "training students". Some perspectives which might be useful to you will, however, be offered. A set offunctional standards for paradigm evaluation has been offered by Dr. Rowland. His claim is that a paradigm should meetfive standards:1. the paradigm should be clear and consistent; 2. the paradigm should be fair to both sides; 3. the paradigm should helpthe debaters focus more effectively on the substantive issues entailed by the resolution (as compared to the effectivenessof competing paradigms); 4. the paradigm should promote high-quality arguments; and, 5. the paradigm should work wellwithin the constraints of academic debate.A debate on the validity of each of these criteria occurred in the pages of JAFA, the citation for which is in thebibliography. Fortunately, the differences in paradigms mask underlying agreement between most judges. In proposingfive hypothetical situations to judges representing various paradigms, Matlon and Cross found a high degree ofagreement as to the outcome of the round. Their conclusion:the majority of judges in the academic debate community view debates with extraordinary consensus regardless of theirstated judging philosophies.
  9. 9. This, of course, highlights the importance of using high quality, intelligent arguments regardless of the announcedpredispositions of the judge.Finally, most judges view paradigms as debatable issues. In each survey, virtually all of the judges showed a willingnessto suspend their predispositions in favor of the paradigm which could be settled during the course of the round; at the1983 N.D.T., for example, only one out of 110 judges announced his unwillingness to adapt his judging paradigm to thearguments made in the round (and, by 1994, even he surrendered on this issue). Stock Issues ParadigmNature of the Stock Issues ParadigmStock issues analysis represents the oldest and most venerable of the debate paradigms; its roots extend back to thestasis (or status) doctrine in Roman law during Ciceros time. As a judicial matter, they were a series of questions to beaddressed to determine the innocence or guilt of a defendant. In the debate setting, the resolution serves as an indictmentagainst the status quo whose innocence is presumed. In contemporary practice, the four traditional stock issues (ill,blame, cure, cost) are represented by significance/harm, inherency, solvency and disadvantages. The debate becomes aquasi-mechanical application of this checklist; failure of the affirmative to meet every one leads to a loss.While the four stock issues are present in each paradigm, their use in the stock issues paradigm is special. Under stockissues, the affirmative needed first to provide "a compelling need". Because presumption is strongly in favor of the presentsystem, neither small harms nor minor comparative advantages suffice to demonstrate compelling need. In addition, thestock issues judge does not normally consider "turn-arounds" on disadvantages to be a voting issue since the harm issuestill would not have been proven. The second responsibility is to establish the inherent responsibility of the system for theharm. The stock issues judge requires both that the affirmative identify the structural cause of the ill and then prove thatthe present system will remain incapable correcting it. To merely identify one of many causes of a problem is consideredargumentatively inadequate since ignorance of the prime cause of a problem implies ignorance of our ability to cope withit. The solvency issue is generally addressed with reference to the influence of the plan on the structural source of ill; ifyou can prove that "X" causes the ill and you eliminate "X", then the ill likewise will be eliminated. Disadvantages are thenegative analog to the harm argument and must meet the same burdens of causality that the affirmative meets. Under thestock issues paradigm, precedence goes to case arguments since a well-defended minor repair is as likely to win as adisadvantage.Criticisms of the Stock Issues ParadigmA number of criticisms seem to have led to the decline of stock issues judging. One problem lies in the ambiguity of keyterms, such as compelling need and structural barrier. For example, while a law is clearly a structural barrier, it is farharder to say whether an administrative ruling and executive order is one. With increasingly sophisticated analysis,debaters came to realize that inaction or inattentiveness (the so-called "structural gaps") within a system were the sourceof as much ill as bad actions already undertaken; unfortunately, stock issues analysis had no place for theseobservations. As judges sought to allow for these new insights, their paradigms were subtly altered to becomeindistinguishable from the policy-makers.Another problem is a bias against the affirmative, since the affirmatives are required to produce proof beyond areasonable doubt on each and every stock issue. In addition, the affirmatives must be prepared to defend their plansagainst an array of minor administrative or funding changes.Finally, stock issues does not allow debaters to address problems which lack a single, structural cause. In those instanceswhere many causes exist, where cause is indistinct but effect is clear or where only a probabilistic assessment ofsolvency can occur, the stock issues paradigm is incapable of functioning.
  10. 10. Matlon and Cross found that, in practice, stock-issues judges functioned as policy-making judges with a conservative (ornegative) bias: they prefer the negative to defend a policy, allow presumption to shift, make on-balance judgments, oftenaccept effect-oriented solutions, listen to counterplans and even to conditional argumentation. Policy-making ParadigmNature of the Policy-making ParadigmThe policy makers live in a world of constant change, a world in which problems are always being perceived andresponded to. From their perspective, the question to be addressed is never "should we respond to this situation?" butinstead is "how best can we respond to this situation?" The policy-maker believes that the best possible way to answerthat question is to let each team define and defend what they believe is the best possible answer to that question, thenallow the judge (or audience) to decide which team presented the better solution. These solutions are offered in the formof policy systems, which Allan Lichtman and Daniel Rohrer (policy-makings original advocates) defined as:complex, multi-faceted entities consisting of a set of ends or goals, means designed to achieve those ends, and checksand balances designed to maintain optimal relationships between means and ends...all elements in a policy systeminteract, so that the system forms an organized whole that is not merely the sum of its individual parts. A change in anyone aspect of a policy system may trigger changes in any or all other aspects of the system.This paradigm is grounded on the assumption that we are able to predict, with a fair degree of confidence, the likelyrepercussions of our actions; hence, it is sensible to believe that if debaters provide the best possible arguments for theirpolicies, then a debate judge should be able to assess which of them is likely to produce the greatest future gain. Whilesome policy-makers pretend to be administrators, legislators, judges or committee chairs, the dominant view is that of thesystems analyst. Through the application of sophisticated decision technologies (cost-benefit analysis, computermodeling, econometric forecasting, etc.), systems analysts believes themselves capable of making predictive statementsabout the probable consequences of competing systems.A number of implications flow from this view. First, each team needs a policy. Since systems are presumed to be neithergood nor bad (rather, more or less effective in dealing with a problem), the judge must necessarily compare the availablealternatives. If a negative team fails to offer a policy for comparison (or offers many or contradictory policies), the judgewill almost always vote affirmative. This is so because, even if the affirmative policy is deeply flawed, it would beimpossible to determine whether a less-flawed alternative exists. For example, even if the affirmative plan increases therisk of nuclear war, it is possible that all responses to a given problem also entail this risk; unless the negative defends apolicy which engenders less risk of war, the judge has no basis for comparison and will (in theory) ignore thedisadvantage.Second, consistent advocacy is essential. For the policy-maker, conditional arguments are to be discouraged since theycreate confusion about what system the negative will defend and reduce the time available to discuss core issues.Third, inherency is future-oriented. The policy-maker requires affirmatives to describe the system which they are indictingand then to prove that the system will be incapable in the future of dealing with the problems under discussion. Thenegative may either accept this definition of the system and argue that it will adapt to meet evolving difficulties or they mayoffer another, non-resolutional alternative to the system described; these strategies focus, respectively, on incrementalism(the beloved "dynamic status quo") and on counterplans. Questions of underlying attitudes are largely irrelevant.Finally, presumption is viewed in comparative perspective. Presumption represents a recognition that change entails riskand that not all risks can be foreseen; as such, presumption tends to lie with the system in which change is small,consistent, reversible and predictable. In comparing a plan with a counterplan, presumption would lie against whicheversystem was responsible for large, drastic, permanent or unprecedented changes since these changes would representthe greatest disruption in pre-existing interrelationships. As such, presumption does not always lie against the affirmativeand may change from one team to another during the course of a debate.
  11. 11. Criticisms of the Policy-making ParadigmCritics of policy-making view it as being the rigid application of an unrealistic paradigm whose real-world analog has failedmiserably. First, critics claim that restricting the negative to a single alternative is an inferior process. Critics claim thatreal-world policy analysts often examine multiple options for addressing the same problem, since it is possible that anyone of several alternatives might ultimately prove preferable. Critics are also somewhat upset by the inconsistency ofpolicy-making theory on this point, since policy theorists have shown a disconcerting tendency to switch from demandingone to permitting several options and then back again.Second, critics claim that policy-making tends to encourage unrealistic argumentation and an over-reliance onquantification since both of these tactics improves a teams position in the cost-benefit calculus that a judge conducts atthe end of the round. For example, several years ago a team argued that better funding for symphony orchestras wouldincrease the risk of nuclear war; their reasoning was that (1) better symphonies improved the livability of the cities inwhich they were located, which (2) encouraged people to move back to the cities, which (3) increased urban growth,which (4) has been historically associated with the rise of broad-based, right-wing movements, which (5) tend to berepresented in national legislatures, which (6) decreases the likelihood of arms control and increases the risk ofconfrontative policies, which (7) increase the risk of a general nuclear war which could kill 350,000,000 people. A policy-maker, doing a risk-analysis, might say that there is one chance in ten that the first link is true, one in a hundred of thesecond, one in ten of the third, one in a hundred of the fourth, one in a hundred of the fifth, one in ten of the sixth and onein one thousand of the seventh. The net risk of the disadvantage leading to war might be one in tens of millions, but thepolicy-maker will almost always assign some level of risk to each event. So, even if the risk is one in ten million, in anygiven year the disadvantage would be assigned a weight of thirty-five lives (one-ten millionth of the possible impact). And,it is entirely possible that a judge will not feel that the aesthetic gain from better symphonies (which cannot be assigned alife-value) is worth thirty-five deaths. Hence, values-based arguments are downplayed while low-probability, high-impactargumentation is encouraged. Critics claims that policy-making, thus, lacks any basis for evaluating good from badarguments and leads to unrealistic debates grounded in fantastic premises.Finally, critics claim that systems analysis has been a miserable failure in the real world. Attempts to project programoutcomes, budgetary requirements and to simulate battle conditions have all failed when attempted. For example, aRAND Corporation study of 325 federally-funded education innovation programs revealed a complete inability to predictthe outcomes of any program or programs or to replicate the success of one program in another setting. Despite theavailability of large amounts of money and sophisticated technology, RAND found themselves unable to define a policysystem well enough to make any rational predictions about its results.The Cross and Matlon survey revealed this about policy-makers judging practices: most required a negative policy(although a significant minority did not have a firm requirement), they felt presumption rests with the status quo but couldshift, they made on-balance judgments and often voted for very small advantages, and they were unconcerned withunderlying motives; a small but growing number were willing to accept (albeit reluctantly) conditional argumentation. Hypothesis-testing ParadigmNature of the Hypothesis-testing ParadigmThe hypothesis tester believes that the purpose of debate is to determine the probable truth or falsity of the debateresolution, in much the same way that a critical philosopher or research scientist would apply the scientific method to anyother hypothesis. David Zarefsky, the original author of hypothesis-testing as a debate paradigm, writes thatTo extend the analogy, the argumentative encounter is the counterpart of the scientific procedure or logical deduction.The proposition being argued is the counterpart of the scientists or philosophers hypothesis and placing presumptionagainst the proposition is the means of providing for a rigorous test of the proposition. Finally, the judge of argument is thecounterpart of the scientist; his goal is to test the hypothesis to determine whether it is probably true.The hypothesis tester believes that a resolution is judged correct only if it is a necessary and sufficient condition to solvingthe problem stipulated; that is, if there is any other possible way of solving the problem or if the resolution containsintrinsic flaws which necessarily overcome its proven advantages, then the resolution is negated. Since the hypothesistester does not assume that any action results from his or her decision (that is, they recognize debate as a contest of
  12. 12. words which does not really result in the adoption of a policy), the negative is given the latitude to select as many differenttests of the necessary truth of the resolution as they choose. For example, against a federal guaranteed income proposal,a negative might offer a federal "in-kind" benefits program and/or a federal workfare program and/or a state guaranteedincome program. If any one of the three proved to be as efficacious as the affirmative plan, the judge would vote negativesince the plan was proven unnecessary to solving the problem. Although it is probably true that each of the threealternatives involves different (and possibly contradictory) premises, the conflict is irrelevant since they are offered merelyto disprove the probable truth of the resolution rather than to exist as independent policies.The hypothesis-testing paradigm carries a number of important implications. First, the role of the affirmative plan is de-emphasized in favor of the words of the resolution. The only function of the affirmative plan in a hypothesis testing debateis to serve as a means operationalizing key aspects of the resolution. There is no pretense made that the plan will comeinto operation. For this reason, the notion of "fiat power" is virtually non-existent, as are the disadvantages associated withthe various schools of fiat. Moreover, the specific words of the plan are not very important since objections againstspecific wording would not represent an objection intrinsic to the resolution (i.e., an unfair enforcement provision would notbe a negative voting issue unless the negative could prove that the inequity was a necessary concomitant of theresolution).Second, as previously mentioned, hypothesis-testing encourages conditional argumentation as a way of most thoroughlytesting the truth-claim inherent in the resolution. The hypo-tester may deny the affirmatives harm, defend the presentsystem, minor repair some aspects of the system and counterplan two or three times. So long as each of the arguments isintelligently defended, the hypothesis-testing judge should be willing to listen to each.Third, inherency becomes more clearly oriented toward the motives which underlie structures. Believing that it isimpossible to solve a problem without understanding why it exists, the hypothesis-testing judge asks, "why do thepresumably good people in the status quo allow this evil to exist?" The affirmative which is unable to answer this questioncannot then prove the sufficiency of the resolution in solving the specified problem, hence the negative wins.Finally, presumption is strongly and permanently against the resolution; hypothesis testers do this to guard against thepossibility of mistakenly accepting an unproven hypothesis. Much like the rigor of scientists who goes to great lengths todisprove they own hypotheses (since an, affirmed hypothesis could be used as an axiom in later experiments and falseaffirmation would cripple those later applications), the hypo-tester does not accept a resolution as true unless provenbeyond a reasonable doubt. So long as reasonable doubt exists that the resolution is both necessary and sufficient to dealwith the problem, the resolution is rejected.Criticism of the Hypothesis-testing ParadigmCritics accuse hypothesis-testing of fostering irresponsible, shallow arguments based on a grievous distortion of thescientific method. First, hypothesis testing is alleged to cause irresponsible argumentation by encouraging a negative toadopt a number of inconsistent, contradictory positions and then to jettison any or all, as dictated by strategic concerns.For example, a negative team might oppose a federal action because the act is tyrannical (and counterplan with lessdrastic federal action) but might additionally oppose the same act because it is federal (and counterplan with the sametyrannical action at the state level). While the premises of the counterplans contradict, the hypothesis-tester would seeeach as a valid test of the resolution. Critics claim that one important function of debate training is to teach responsibleadvocacy; that is, to analyze a problem, come up with a logically consistent position with relation to the problem and thento defend ones position as well as it possible.Second, critics charge that hypothesis testing encourages the proliferation of many, half-developed positions; asubstitution of breadth of argument for depth of analysis. By sanctioning multiple positions and not penalizing thejettisoning of counterplans, hypothesis testing encourages debaters to multiply their chances of winning by a proliferationof arguments. By doing so, the validity of any single test of the resolution is weakened since the time available to respondto it is minimized by the need to cover many arguments.Finally, hypothesis testing is said to distort violently the nature of the scientific method. Critics claim that even a cursoryreading of the actual, scientific requirements of hypothesis testing or an examination of the history of science reveals vastflaws in the model. A representative selection includes the fact that scientists test a null hypothesis rather than a researchhypothesis (i.e., the resolution should have a counterpart which is negatively phrased and this negative analog is whatshould be tested), that scientists now recognize an often unfair burden is placed on the null hypothesis, that (in the caseof Kuhns revolutionary science) a hypothesis is tested against a single alternative, that the tests of a hypothesis occur
  13. 13. serially rather than simultaneously (that is, the hypothesis would be subjected to only one test per round or experiment),that artificial limits in the contest debate setting bias the outcome of the experiment and that many theories become widelyaccepted before they can be scientifically proven (e.g., atomic theory was accepted based on inference and deductionlong before it could be actually tested). In short, hypothesis testers are accused of forcing an unrealistic and idealizedview of the scientific method into a setting which is utterly inconsistent with the paradigm.The Matlon and Cross survey reveals that much of the theory is translated into practice: hypo-testers do not require anegative policy, rarely make on-balance judgements, support well-defined conditional arguments and do require proof of acore motive; however, they neither accept contradictions nor vote on presumption more frequently than their colleagueswho accept other paradigms. Tabula Rasa ParadigmNature of the Tabula Rasa ParadigmTabula rasa (Latin for "blank slate") means that a judge enters a round with no personal preferences or prejudgments;supposedly he or she will vote for whatever paradigm the debaters establish in the round. (In at least one case, thisinvolved an assessment of which team was funniest in constructives.) This view is designed to avoid discouragingdebaters by rejecting perspectives based on the judges biases; ideally, it is the least subject to distortions caused by thejudges intervention.Criticisms of the Tabula Rasa ParadigmUnfortunately, the paradigm has nothing to say in rounds where the debaters do not attempt to establish a decision rule;for example, the tabula rasa judge should have no idea how to handle contradictory counterplans if neither teamadvances paradigm rules by which to resolve them. Since some judgment must, ultimately, be made (after all, a judgemust write something on the bottom of the ballot) the tabula rasa judge must frequently violate his or her own ethos inorder to impose some standard on the round. Argument Criticism ParadigmNature of the Argument Criticism ParadigmLike tabula rasa, this paradigm is difficult to define because argument critics profess a willingness to accept whateverparadigm is defended in the round. Discouraged by or despairing of the validity of more structured paradigms, theargument critic claims to listen to the arguments in a round and then to perform an intelligent criticism upon them. Thismeans that the critic attempts to go beyond labels and claims in order to examine the validity of the proof which underliesthem; this professed willingness to interject personal standards for what is "good" or "bad" argument distinguishes theargument critic from the tabula rasa judge. Operationally, this implies a degree of intervention into the debate (e.g., if apiece of evidence does not clearly support a claim, an argument critic would feel free to reject the claim even if the otherteam did not raise the challenge). Ideally, the argument critic operates from a stock of fairly clear argumentativerequirements (is the evidence from an authoritative source? are there important implied qualifiers? is the claim consistentwith other things we believe to be true? does the claim correspond with the underlying support? is the causal chaincomplete?) which are applied impartially to evaluate each significant issue in a debate. This paradigm grows from theargumentative and rhetorical training of most college-level judges and its successful application presupposes a highdegree of judicial objectivity and openness. The claimed advantage of this paradigm is its ability to improve the quality ofargument through a refusal to sanction victory based solely on the inability of one team to "cover the spread" of anotherteam or to win through the deliberate creation of confusion.Criticism of the Argument Criticism Paradigm
  14. 14. Critics of argument criticism claim that the paradigm is apt to become both subjective and punitive because of its approvalof considerable judicial intervention into the round. Rather than looking at how well the negative did against theaffirmatives strategy, the judge looks at the affirmatives strategy. If the judge believes the affirmative was unfair, tricky ormerely too unorthodox, the judge might be justified in voting negative. Critics of argument criticism fear that debaters willsoon need to cater to the prejudices and idiosyncracies of each judge and to answer arguments which might appearnowhere but in the judges head.The Ugly Truth of the MatterThere are three factors which are, probably, more important than paradigms in determining a judges actions in a round:1. Most judges want to vote for high quality arguments;2. Most judges reason holistically (a notion discussed at greater length in Chapter 7, in the section entitled "ThePsychology of Cross-Examination"); and,3. Most judges flow no better than most debaters.Unless debaters can accommodate themselves to these three factors, a thorough understanding of paradigms is unlikelyto help them.CHAPTER THREE:PROPOSITIONAL & LINGUISTIC ARGUMENTIn this section, we will discuss issues concerning the debate resolution and its role. Debate ResolutionsResolutions generally are declarative statements with policy implications (specifying either an effect to be achieved or apolicy to be undertaken), which are worded more-or-less broadly and which generally deal with actions that are unlikely tobe taken soon. A resolution is generally thought to limit discussion to a particular topic area and to provide "fair warning"to all debaters concerning the issues on which they need to prepare. One traditional way of expressing the function of theresolution is to discuss "affirmative land" and "negative land." Affirmative land is defined by all of the possibilities offeredby the resolution, the affirmative is called upon to define and defend a position which lies somewhere in affirmative land.The negative gets access to all of the arguments which lay outside of affirmative land.Topics are selected differently in debates different leagues. The National Debate Tournament resolution is a policy-oriented resolution selected by vote of all of the member debate programs. The Cross Examination Debate Association(CEDA) resolution is, by tradition, a value-oriented statement (for example, "violence is a justified response to politicaloppression") which often has policy implications. Unlike the NDT, CEDA debates different resolutions in the first and
  15. 15. second semesters. The second semesters resolution also serves as the resolution for Nationals. As with the NDT, theCEDA resolution is selected by vote of the member schools. For the National Forensic League, one of three problemareas is selected by national vote; each problem area contains three specific resolutions, of which one is chosen as thetopic for the national tournament.Bi-directional ResolutionsThese are resolutions which do not require that the affirmative "increase" or "decrease" something (for example,assistance or commitments), but merely that they "change" them. In this case, affirmatives could either increasecommitments or do the exact opposite and still be topical. This innovation has greatly inconvenienced negatives sincethere is no longer a clear "negative land" for them to defend. One negative response to this development has beendefense of topical counterplans. The negative will advocate a policy directly opposed to the affirmatives (for example,under a resolution calling for a change in U.S. policy toward Russia, the affirmative might offer more aid to Russia whilethe negative bans all aid to Russia). The negative would then argue that they are offering a clear contrast to theaffirmative, that the need to be competitive eliminates the risk that the negative will be abusive and that this strategyrestores fairness to the debate by recreating ground which the negative can defend. TopicalityThe requirement that the affirmative operationalize the terms of the resolution is called "topicality". An affirmative team isnon-topical when their plan does not take the action or achieve the effect specified in the topic; an example might be ateam called upon to regulate the power of labor unions which ends up regulating professional associations instead.Professors Patterson and Zarefsky claim a case may be judged non-topical through any one of three means: 1) they maycommit an error of fact (e.g., attempting to regulate a power which the unions do not have); 2) they may incorrectly definekey terms (e.g., confusing the concepts "regulate" and "abolish"); or, 3) they may fail to advocate key terms in theresolution (e.g., regulating the unions but not regulating their power). In any of these cases, the affirmative has failed tojustify the resolution and will lose the debate. Extra-topicalityAt times, an affirmative will gain its advantages from actions which exceed those authorized by the resolution; in this case,they are judged to be extratopical. For example, an affirmative may have a topic calling for air pollution control but a plancalling for both air and water pollution control; advantages from water pollution control are extra-topical in that gainingthem does not require us to support the resolution. Unlike the non-topical plan, there is no question that the extra-topicalone does affirm the resolution (i.e., the negative would grant that the affirmative did control air pollution). There isdisagreement about both the nature and the implications of extra-topical provisions. Some advocates claim that everyplan contains many extra-topical provisions (e.g., funding, enforcement and intent planks whose presence is not specifiedby the resolution); they use this precedent to justify the inclusion of plan "spikes", which are additional planks designed topreempt disadvantages and/or solvency arguments. The responding position is that the additional planks (funding...) mustrepresent minimal additions necessary to the administrative existence of the policy called for by the resolution and mustnot themselves be the source of the affirmative advantage.A second controversy concerns the implications of extra-topical provisions; specifically, what is the appropriate responseto an extra-topical provision? One side advocates severing the extra-topical elements and then voting on the basis of theremaining, topical provisions. Their claim is that this eliminates any advantage gained from the extra-topical provision, yetis not punitive in nature. Those who reject severability claim that the best response is to immediately vote negative. Theymake two sorts of arguments. One sort of argument draws from a legislative analogy: they claim that a poorly worded billhas to be "sent back to committee" for rewriting and clarification before a vote is taken on it. By analogy, they argue that ajudge votes for the whole plan or none of it; if part of this indivisible whole is flawed, the whole thing must be rejected andrewritten. The other claim advanced by the opponents of severing is that the extra-topical provisions distort the debate (byforcing the negative either to avoid running arguments to which "spikes" apply or by forcing them to devote considerableattention to debating the extra-topicality of the "spikes") and that the fairest response is to vote against the affirmative nowin hopes of deterring them from the continued use of such provisions.
  16. 16. DefinitionsA central concept in communications is that meaning is not self-evident; that is, to refer to "military intervention" does notimmediately call the same, concrete image to the minds of all hearers. In order to overcome the effects of this incongruity,debaters resort to external definitions of key terms. Definitions may be classified as:Common-person definitions. These represent the generally understood, non-technical meanings of words which would befamiliar to the lay person. The advantage of such definitions is that they ground discussion in everyday reality and theygive a high degree of fair warning. The drawbacks are that some terms have no readily-recognized definition, that somecommon definitions are ill-informed (changes in the nature of a phenomenon may occur years before they are reflected incommon definitions, as with burgeoning conceptions of "discrimination") and that common definitions unnecessarilyconstrict debates between un-commonly well-informed advocates.Lexical definitions. These represent dictionary listings, which are themselves merely compendia of the ways in whichwords have been used in the past. The advantages of dictionary definitions are their clarity and wide availability. Thelimitations of dictionary definitions are that they do not consider the interplay of words (for example, merely combining thefirst definitions of "military" and "intervention" does not capture the complete or specific meanings of "militaryintervention"), that advocates free to choose among many definitions may construct bizarre interpretations of a topic (forexample, since one definition of "rape" is "to despoil", a case banning strip mining of coal might be within the ambit of afelony crimes topic) and that dictionaries have a conservative bias toward merely reporting past uses of a word (whichmight inadequately reflect current reality).Contextual definitions. These specify the ways in which experts in a given field use a term; they are generally recordedeither in books on the subject at hand (for example, many books on labor relations will provide specific definitions of "laborunion") or in specialized reference works (e.g., The Dictionary of Labor Relations). The advantages of contextualdefinitions are that they tend to be more focussed on the problem area under discussion and tend to give a betterunderstanding of the way experts who are being quoted mean to be understood. Their drawbacks are their occasionallyexcessive specificity, the fact of frequent disagreement among experts (especially the field involves on-going changes andhighly emotional issues), and the difficulty of locating contextual definitions for some terms.Operational definitions. An operational definition tells a person what is being discussed by stipulating functional features;for example, one affirmative might define "living in poverty" as an income of less than $4800 for a family of four, while asecond might decide it means needing to spend more than half of ones income to obtain adequate housing and a thirdmight make reference to the ability to achieve certain dietary levels. While none of these teams provides the specificmeaning of the term "poverty" (e.g. "the state of being poor or indigent"), each identifies essential and concrete elementsby which poverty status may be determined. The advantage is the flexibility and specificity which such definitions grant tothe affirmative, while the disadvantage is the potential for abuse by an affirmative which might choose to stipulate somestrange manifestation (e.g., defining military marriages as a type of U.S. military commitment).Generally, statements which derive from an authoritative source, which help limit discussion to the topic area, whichprovide fair warning for all advocates and which represent a serious intent to define a term (as opposed to an off-hand,passing or metaphorical reference) are the best sources of definition. You should guard against teams who merely findthe words of the resolution used in a sentence and who, then, claim that this is a contextual definition. The problem withsuch statements is that they are not definitions: they do not "convey the fundamental character" of the idea, they merelyillustrate one persons use (or misuse) of the term. Strictness of DefinitionA controversy of some intensity revolves around whether an affirmative must provide just "a reasonable" definition of itsterms or whether it must provide "the most reasonable" definition in the round. Advocates of the "better definition" or "mostreasonable definition" standard claim that it is virtually impossible to prove that a definition is unreasonable since there areno standards by which reasonability can be measured (e.g., many affirmatives claim that anything which is "not absurd" is"reasonable"), that reasonability standards excessively broaden the resolution (by allowing inclusion of many marginalphenomena) and that definitions should be subject to the same "better debating" standard as all other issues (e.g., ajudge does not award the harm issue to affirmatives merely because they have harm evidence, rather the judge comparesthe affirmative with the negative argument in order to determine who has the more reasonable position). Advocates of"reasonability" counter by arguing that there are no standards for determining what constitutes the "best" definition, thatstandards for "reasonability" do exist, that the "better definition" standard is likely to narrow the topic too much and lead to
  17. 17. boredom and that topicality is a unique issue which ought not be compared with others (an argument which proceeds fromthe premise that being "sort of" topical justifies debate as thoroughly as being "sort of" sick justifies treatment). Functions of the ResolutionA final, major theoretical issue involving the proposition concerns the specific role played by the resolution. Hypothesistesters and others view the resolution as a logical statement to which the judge is asked to give assent; as such, the judgewill either affirm or reject the whole resolution at the end of the debate. Policy-makers, on the other hand, view theresolution as nothing more than a device for indicating the area to be discussed; at the end of policy debates, the judgeevaluates the merit of the affirmative plan rather than of the entire resolution.The view that a critic accepts on this issue makes a vast difference in issue resolution. Resolutional argumentation forcesthe affirmative to justify each major term in the resolution, de-emphasizes the role of specific provisions within theaffirmative plan and allows for counter-resolutional arguments (that is, arguments which may apply to the resolution as awhole though not to a specific affirmative example). Advocates claim that resolutional debate heightens clash by forcingteams to deal with the essence of a resolution rather than "squirrelly" examples and that it divorces debate from thedelusion that some action will really take place at the close of the round.Opponents of resolutional debate claim that focus on the resolution destroys the affirmatives ability to set the grounds forthe debate (which is the traditional counter-weight to their burden of proof), that debate resolutions are too ambiguouslyworded to merit complete assent (e.g., a team seeking to "strengthen U.S. foreign military commitments" might eithergreatly increase armaments or greatly decrease them, since one action strengthens our NATO commitment while theother strengthens our commitment to the U.N. Charter), that effects-oriented resolutions cannot be affirmed or rejectedexcept on the merits of specific, limited examples of how the effect might be achieved, that ability to focus on policiesserve as a safeguard against the possibility of a very poorly-worded topic and that resolutional argument leads tooverreliance on a few broad, generic arguments on each side. Proponents claim that virtually all of these problems can bealleviated thorough careful wording of debate resolutions, which they view as a likely outcome of more resolutional focus. Counter-warrantsCounter-warrants grow from the resolutional view of debate. Their claim is that the affirmative is trying to gain assent forthe resolution by providing a representative example to be tested; if the representative example is true, then the resolutionas a whole is probably true. Counter-warrants were designed for use against a team which chose to advance anunrepresentative example of the resolution (for example, debating about space aliens on an immigration reform topic),whose acceptance might lead us to incorrectly assume that the resolution as a whole ought to be accepted. To guardagainst this "hasty generalization", the concept of counter-warrants was advanced. A counter-warrant is an objectionfocussing on essential features of the resolution; the negative claim is that since the affirmative has failed to focus oncentral issues in the resolution, that the negative should have the right to initiate the debate by defining and attackingessential elements. This will supposedly decrease the value of "squirrel" or surprise cases and increase clash.Opponents to counter-warrants claim that debate does not/ought not focus on the level of the resolution (which isdiscussed above in the section on "Functions of the Resolution"), that the negative often prepares its disadvantageagainst a particularly repugnant (though possible) interpretation of the resolution, that an almost infinite number ofwarrants (cases) and counter-warrants (disadvantages) exist so that it is virtually meaningless to shift focus from theaffirmative example and that counter-warrant debates involve too many issues to clearly and intelligently decide on any ofthem within the time limits required for debate. FiatFiat (from the Latin for "let it be done") is a debate convention designed to focus attention on the substance of aresolution, rather than on questions of its political feasibility. Operating through the word "should" in the resolution, fiat
  18. 18. represents a willing suspension of disbelief which allows us to pretend that the plan advocated by the affirmative team isalready in operation. This requires a suspension of disbelief both because the affirmative has no "power" to actually bringtheir proposal into operation and because the affirmative is required (by way of inherency) to prove that their plan cannotor will not come into being within the present system. Without the concept of fiat, all debate would come to a screechinghalt as the negative team simply shrugged their shoulders, pointed to the inherency contention, and commented "well, itjust aint gonna happen!"Fiat becomes the source of abuse and sterile, frustrating arguments when debaters view it as a "power" of one team orthe other and make it the basis for their arguments. Negatives, upon hearing an affirmative team urge that their proposalbe adopted "by any and all Constitutional means", assume that this means that the affirmative claims for itself the powerto unilaterally amend the Constitution so as to include the affirmative plan; thereupon, the negatives often run adisadvantage on destruction of the Constitution based on this unprecedented power. It should be clear from the precedinganalysis, however, that the affirmative claims no such power; rather, the claim is that if all the agents involved were tohear the arguments, they would give their rational assent to act. A similar analysis helps to explain why "plan repeal"arguments are illegitimate. Negatives frequently claim that even if the affirmative "fiated their plan past Congress",Congress would repeal it tomorrow. Again, the actual claim is that a rational policy-maker (on hearing the argument)would agree that the affirmative plan was desirable. While this view of fiat assumes a world of rational actors, abandoningfiat would be tantamount to abandoning policy-oriented debate and viewing fiat as an active force (a "magic wand"), whichwould strain the activity beyond any reasonable bounds.A related controversy centers on the extent to which disbelief should be suspended; that is, to whom should we pretendfiat applies. The most conservative view is that fiat applies only to the actor specified in the resolution (generally, thefederal government); the rationale is that to allow the negative to call upon other actors (e.g., state governments acting inunison) will place the debaters on a "slippery slope". The argument is that if we now permit fiat against state-level actors,there is no reason why we cannot also fiat at the level of the local government, private organization, family or individual.Critics claim that the logical result will be an affirmative trying to deal with the child abuse problem through federaleducation programs while a negative might claim the ability to counterplan with personal restraint at the individual level.Rather than risk reductio ad absurdum, these advocates claim that the best course is to debate only the agent specified.The most radical view totally rejects this concern and claims that a debate about the proper agent is often as importantand appropriate as a debate about the proper action. Consequently, their view of fiat is extremely broad. One middleinterpretation would limit fiat to constituted agents already possessing the authority to act. Thus, an organization wouldrequire a pre-existing constitution which would serve as the source of its authority to act. This would eliminate both theindividual and the as-yet unconstituted agent (e.g., a world government) from the realm of debate, while preserving thepower to look at the appropriateness of action at various real-world levels.Critique/Kritik ArgumentsKritiks (both spellings are pronounced "kri-teeks") are language based arguments which emerged in college debate in theearly 1990s. A kritik is an objection to the language used by a team and by the authors of its evidence, rather than anobjection to a specific policy. These arguments may object to sexist or racist language (either in the cards or in spokenarguments) or to specific "loaded" concepts drawn from the individual topic area. Kritik debaters generally proceed fromtwo assumptions: first, academic debate is not the "real-world," its an educational activity. No policies change as a resultof voting for one team or the other. The only real outcome of the round is that four students learn that certain arguments(or words or ideas) were considered to be more powerful (or persuasive or legitimate) than others. As a result, thequestion "what will my decision teach these debaters" should be central to the judges decision. Second, language is anactive, rather than a passive, force. If language is passive, its only effect will be to hold a mirror up to reflect whatever is"really" there. People who say that language is active believe that we react to the symbols (or words) used to describe athing more than we react to the thing itself. So, for example, you might not feel insulted by a statement until a friend tellsyou that the statement was an insult. One scholars phrase is that "a choice of words is a choice of worlds."This situation would be disturbing enough if we actually understood what we are, at any given moment, saying. Kritikdebaters deny that this is true by adopting the perspective of scholars who are called "deconstructionists."Deconstructionists claim that language carries hidden implications which are not, normally, understood by the people whoare using the language. This becomes a part of academic debate when kritik debaters argue that we need to identify,analyze and critique the hidden meanings (or underlying assumptions) of the words used by their opponents. Thesedebaters argue that permitting the use of "bad" language miseducates debaters and must, as a result, be rejected. Theytend to point to examples of "bad" language used by their opponents and claim that the offending team needs to lose thedebate. They will argue, in particular, that the kritik is a priori; that is, the judge must resolve this issue before consideringanything else in the round. This can be argued as a parallel case to an ethics challenge: when there is a question about afundamental issue of fair and appropriate behavior, we resolve that issue first and we do it without considering the policyquestions debated in the round.
  19. 19. An example will make this argument clearer: lets suppose that an affirmative team wanted to decrease the rate of growthin the global population by funding development assistance in the form of fertility control for less-developed nations. Thenegative kritik might focus on the words "development" and "developed." The negative would argue that "development" isa term borrowed from biology to describe a process in which immature juvenile organisms grow into mature ones. Thisterm is treacherous when used to describe the economic and social status of different societies because it immediatelylabels their society as "immature and juvenile," it labels our society as "mature and whole," and it implies that the onenatural course to follow is movement from their condition to our condition (since baby squirrels dont get to pick whatspecies they want to belong to when they grow up). The negative would argue that such assumptions are ethnocentric,racist and wrong. The affirmative should, as a result, lose.Affirmatives pursue a number of options in responding to such arguments. First, they seek to exploit the fact that judgesdislike voting for kritiks. As an example, one judging philosophy from the 1994 N.D.T. referred to most critique positions as"some kind of incoherent philo-psycho-babble." Second, they argue that the kritik is based on the false assumption thatlanguage controls reality (a claim denied by cognitive scientists such as Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct, 1994).Third, they argue that academic debates are the wrong forum for discussing these matters; time constraints and policy-oriented training make in-round discussions of linguistic philosophy pointless. Fourth, they issue counter-kritiks by arguingthat the negative is just as abusive in some of their language choices. Fifth, they may seek to punish the negative forinternal inconsistencies. This occurs when the negative runs a kritik (for example, against "national security" andmilitarism) and then also runs a disadvantage which claims war as an impact. The affirmative would argue that, to theextent that the negative claims we need to avoid perceiving the world through a militarist mind-set, the negative should bepunished for contradicting their own philosophy. Sixth, affirmatives argue that kritiks are not "voting issues." In saying this,they mean that they should not lose even if the kritik is upheld. The affirmative argument is that the act of discussing thelanguage in question had an educational value and that its not necessary to vote against them to teach them a lesson.Finally, affirmatives argue it is unjust to punish them for the word choices of topic writers and debate authors.CHAPTER FOUR:CORE ISSUESAs with a defendant in a criminal trial, the present system in a policy debate is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Theindictment against the system is initiated in the first affirmative constructive with the presentation of a prima facie case. Aprima facie case (from the Latin for "at first sight") is a logically complete argument which, absent negative response,would overcome presumption and convince a rational listener to affirm the resolution. Conventionally, such a logicallycomplete case must prove that a reason for action exists (significance/harm), that affirmation of the resolution isnecessary to solve the problem (inherency) and that affirmation of the resolution is sufficient to solve the problem (planand solvency) without incurring disproportionate costs (disadvantages).Case ConstructionWhile affirmative cases may be organized and labeled in many different fashions (need-plan, comparative advantage,goals-criteria, etc.), these fundamental burdens do not change from format to format. Experienced debaters will normallypick whichever format they feel will make for the most clear and compelling presentation. The choice of case structureshould therefore reflect the nature of the problem discussed (if, for example, you have found a problem growing entirelyfrom a single cause and you can eradicate that cause, then a need-plan format might be most appropriate; if you areengaged in a largely philosophical discussion, then you might use a goals case; if you must treat the effects of some
  20. 20. problem with only probabilistic solvency, then you might choose a comparative advantage case), although there areadditional considerations in the building of a clear and effective first affirmative:Avoid unnecessary structure. Many debaters become so involved in substructuring their cases that both fluency andclarity are compromised; inject no more labeled structure than is necessary to allow for a logically complete outline of theargument.Avoid grand language. Too many debaters try to impress the world with their vocabularies (or thesauruses) by filling thefirst affirmative with half-understood allusions to great philosophers, convoluted sentences, obscure words and overblownclaims. Very often these detract from the persuasive power of the speech and lower ones credibility with a judge. A plainand explanatory style will probably work better.Avoid over-qualifying evidence. Each source used should be named, qualified and dated but article titles and pagenumber are rarely necessary in the spoken address. Even organizations which require complete qualification stipulate thatthe complete information is necessary only for the first card read from a particular source. In addition, these organizationsgenerally do not require page or volume numbers. Complete bibliographic information for each source must, of course, beavailable upon request.Do not fear change. Very few teams can win by changing their affirmative area after each tournament (or each round), butthis does not mean that a case written in August or September should not be improved. By reading ballots, listening toother teams and keeping research current, a good affirmative finds ways to strengthen the case.As you become more adept at case debating, you will be able to introduce innovations and refinements of your own; untilthen, these suggestions may enable you to put together somewhat stronger cases.Plan ConstructionTraditionally, most plans have contained a number of provisions:An enabling phrase. This short introductory sentence usually specifies what level of government will act, by what meansand what time (the phase-in).The mandate, which is the detailed statement of resolutional action designed to bring about the advantage.Administration, which specifies the name and powers of the administering agent, in the case that a plan is not self-administering (e.g., a ban on capital punishment would be self-administering but a hazardous waste policy overseen by aspecial board would not be).Funding, which stipulates the availability of funds (generally from "normal means," occasionally from specified cuts inother programs or increases in specific taxes).Enforcement, which explains the agent responsible for enforcing plan provisions, the available legal remedies and thenature of checks on administrative action.Intent, which explains the role played by the various speeches in the debate with reference to how a court might use themto better understand the plan in the case of court challenges.There may be "spikes" grafted on to any of these planks; these are additional, often extratopical provisions which specifymeans by which to avoid or ameliorate plan objections (for example, an immigration reform plan might contain a ban onhandguns to get around a crime disadvantage). The role and limits of these provisions are discussed earlier in the sectionon extratopicality.Some teams are adopting more streamlined plans: in place of the page-long, multi-plank plans of the past, they substitutetwo sentences. The first sentence contains a statement of the mandate and the second sentence stipulates that funding,enforcement and so on will be through "normal means." For example:We urge adoption of the following plan: the U.S. Border Patrol will be increased by 50%. Funding, enforcement andadministration will be through normal means.
  21. 21. This simplified wording has two advantages: first, it decreases the number of targets an affirmative presents. Since thenegative might link disadvantages to any plank of the plan (for example, arguing that your funding mechanism will causeeconomic chaos or that your administrative board will become tyrannical), the affirmative benefits from being specific onlyabout those actions which directly involve the resolution. Second, it increases the affirmatives flexibility in answeringcounterplans since the phrase "normal means" subsumes a lot. Against a studies counterplan, an affirmative might arguethat studies are part of the "normal means" of implementation. Against a referendums counterplan, they would argue thatreferenda are normal means.Other, more controversial questions exist about plan operation. First, there is the question of whether it is legitimate tosever planks from the plan. There are instances in which the negative premises disadvantages on specific words in theplan; the affirmative may then seek to remove these words from the plan, so as to render the objection irrelevant.Hypothesis-testers would support the affirmative if the dropped portions were non-resolutional, since objections to theseprovisions would not be tests to the resolution. Other supporters could make reference to the judicial analogy, wherebyjudges are permitted to strike out portions of a law so as to increase its benefits or to harmonize it with the Constitution.Policy-makers would claim that an advocate is responsible for the specifics of a policy, so that the provisions would beviewed as a legitimate source of argument. Others would object to the drop because it violates the advocacy function ofdebate; their perspective is that debaters are being trained as public advocates and that, as such, they should be willing tolive or die with the consequences of the positions they choose to defend. Both sides, however, agree that the affirmativesdo not have the ability to re-write the plan (substitute one provision for another) or to sever the topical portions of it.A second, related question involves the implication of plan wording flaws. At least one affirmative has lost the out-roundsof a major national tournament based on a plan adoption date of February 30th. In addition, some people believe that apoorly or vaguely worded proposal should be rejected out-of-hand, usually with references to "sending it back tocommittee for re-wording"; others claim that precise word use should be an educational goal and that imprecise usewarrants a punitive ballot. Opponents claim that this sort of debate is irrelevant to the topic, that it does not test theresolution, that many laws are poorly worded by legislatures then refined by courts, and that punitiveness is a pooreducational tool. Presumption/Burden of ProofThe general notion of presumption lies in an opposition to unjustified change, since any change entails risk and no oneincurs risks without offsetting benefits. It is also a tenet of conservative thought that the unintended consequences ofchange will generally outnumber the intended consequences by 10:1 and will probably be adverse (a fear supported bygeneticists findings that almost all random mutations decrease an organisms chances for survival). Some types ofunanticipated consequences include a premature commitment to one solution (i.e., after we have found a "solution" tosome problem, we no longer search for better policies), disruptions in value systems (i.e., the inherency explains why thecurrent system acts as it does and violating these systemic judgments by acting on different values may call a whole valuehierarchy into question or provoke a backlash), the establishment of an unintended precedent (i.e., the affirmative logicmay energize an entire generation of new policy commitments) and the triggering of consequences through unrecognizedchains of causality (e.g., the construction of new fresh water reservoirs might change either the micro-climate or the globalclimate through a series of events which we do not have adequate understanding to predict). Additionally, there is thesimple risk that we might just be wrong and will affirm the resolution in error. All of these considerations serve to undergirdthe notion that the affirmative carries a burden of proof; they have the responsibility to prove the validity of their particularchange. Affirmatives may do this either by defending their product or their process. A "product defense" relies on apreponderance of evidence suggesting that it is highly probable that a particular action will generate a particular, desirablestate of events. A "process defense" holds that, while the particular outcome cannot be guaranteed, the processesinstitutionalized by the plan (or the resolution) carry a higher probability of minimizing risk and maximizing benefit than theprocesses currently shaping policies. SignificanceThe proof that a problem justifies change is provided in the significance contention. In order to prove significance, theaffirmative must establish that some important value is being infringed upon and must then indicate the magnitude of theinfringement. Some values are considered largely self-evident (the sanctity of life), others are weighed as parts of related
  22. 22. constellations of concerns (freedom of speech), while others may require very explicit defenses (economic efficiency).Regardless of the type of value considered, the affirmative carries the best chance of succeeding when they are able torelate the infringement to some human consequence since some ideals are so peripheral that they may not even justifydiverting a policymakers limited time and energy for their consideration. If, for example, some phenomenon costs one lifeevery century, it is entirely possible that a policy maker would not find the issue sufficiently pressing to attend a debate onthe subject; similarly, isolated deviations from some abstract theory of government may not warrant attention.In addition to locating a problem, the affirmative needs to consider the extent of the problem. This may occur throughquantitative estimates (in terms of lives lost, injuries caused, percentage changes in unemployment, etc.) or through somequalitative judgment by an authoritative source ("a potentially catastrophic infringement" or "the most serious threat") orboth.The "bottom line" on significance is determined by two factors: 1) is the problem serious enough to create a prima faciecase -- would a reasonable person even care enough to stay around for the debate? 2) is the problem serious enough towarrant the risks entailed by the plan? Some teams try to "beef up" their significance through wildly exaggerated claimsand "end of the world" impact evidence; this temptation should be overcome since such arguments may destroy onescredibility with a judge by making it appear that the debater is incapable of assessing reality and may serve to lendcredibility to "meatball" disadvantages (since larger changes normally entail greater numbers of repercussions and greaterrisks). InherencyInherency is the explanation for why (absent affirmative action) the problem isolated under "significance" will continue toexist. While some debaters believe that the existence of a problem implies its continuance (so-called "existentialinherency"), there are many reasons which explain why a problem has not yet been resolved: the phenomenon is notrecognized as a problem, the phenomenon is recognized as a problem but not as one serious enough to warrant action,the problem is recognized as serious but the costs of cure are believed to be too high, the problem is recognized asserious but no cure is known, the problem is recognized and cures are being studied, cures have been undertaken but arenot yet effective, and/or some barrier prevents the cure from occurring. In analyzing inherency, the affirmative should tryto explain the core features of the relevant systems or institutions and should then prove a causal connection between thecore and the continuance of the problem. By doing so, they avoid selecting problems which are noninherent (e.g.,solutions are or soon will be underway) or insoluble (i.e., where no solution exists).In describing the core of an inherency, one of several terms may be used. We may refer to a structural inherency, bywhich we mean the existence of laws or institutions which preclude effective action and which can be circumvented onlythrough resolutional action (for example, laws banning heroin would be an inherent reason that it could not be used totreat cancer). A second type of inherency is known as a structural gap, in which no mechanism exists by which a problemcan be addressed. For example, a lack of federal jurisdiction in dealing with certain crimes would provide an inherentreason why the F.B.I. cannot act with respect to those crimes; this inherency is structural in the sense that a structural(legal/institutional) change is required to permit action to be taken. A third form of inherency is attitudinal inherency, whichfunctions to explain why a system will not be likely to respond to a problem in the near future. For example, conservativesupport for free-market policies might serve as an inherent explanation for why wage and price controls are unlikely to beimposed to control inflation. It is extremely important for affirmatives and negatives to have a clear sense of inherency,since it is virtually impossible to prove that a problem can be solved by one system (the affirmative) if we do not knowwhat prevented its solution by another (the present system).One must also guard against certain common misconceptions over inherency. First, the existence of a problem does notnecessarily imply its continuance. As the list of questions in the first paragraph (above) illustrates, there may be manyproblems which either will soon be solved without resolutional action or which are (essentially) insoluble. Second,inherency does not require an affirmative to prove what first caused a problem. Understanding the origins of racialdiscrimination, for example, might require an analysis of five centuries of social and political philosophy; this undertakingmight be interesting, but is not best undertaken in the course of one debate. The most realistic burden is future-oriented;that is, the affirmative need only prove that our most probable future scenario does not include a significant (or sufficient)reduction in discrimination. Third, the affirmative does not need to explain why their plan has not yet been passed. Thisessentially-sterile inquiry is probably impossible to complete for most programs and would not significantly further onesunderstanding of why the problem continues.
  23. 23. SolvencyOnce an affirmative has proven that it has located a problem that requires resolutional action, they must then prove thatthe resolution is sufficient to eliminate the problem (or a fair portion of it). Affirmatives can do this in several ways:Logical necessity. Some problems flow from a single, discrete cause and an affirmative may need only to prove that theyeliminate the cause. For example, ones problem may be that people are being shot by some nut on a rooftop; a planwhich sends a policeman in a bullet-proof outfit to arrest the person will necessarily solve the problem. In such (rare)instances, the affirmatives greatest burden is to prove the workability of their solution (e.g., the availability of a protectedpoliceman) but the central logic is unchallenged.Historical precedent. Some affirmatives may advocate policies which had been relied on at some point in the past (e.g.,capital punishment, tax cuts, wage/price controls). The specific affirmative burdens under this type of argumentation are toprove that the policies had succeeded in the past and that present conditions are similar enough to allow for a repetition ofthat success. Negatives will generally focus on this second assumption, arguing that conditions have changed toodrastically to allow the repetition of past successes.Successful experiments. Some plans have been tried either in laboratory settings (certain air pollution systems) or inlimited settings (for example, a pilot program or a law adopted in only one state) and teams may try to extrapolate fromsuccess in these settings to a national outcome. These extrapolations are extremely problematic, since the successreported in these experiments is often due to the maintenance of ideal conditions, the availability of unlimited funding, thepresence of highly trained experts to oversee the experiment, widespread news media coverage, an operations staffwhich is thoroughly committed to the program and/or unique local conditions. All of these factors bias the programsoutcome toward success, but may not be replicable in other settings (as budgets become tight, the original staff isreplaced by bureaucrats, and so on).Analogous operations. Affirmatives may try to argue from the success of actions which are related to the one which theypropose; for example, an affirmative advocating the ban of one chemical may make reference to the experience ofbanning others (e.g., Red Dye #2, cyclamates, etc.). These comparisons are valid only if the situations are closelyanalogous and are invalid when the circumstances surrounding the two products are substantially different (e.g., thebanning of cyclamates would produce comparatively little insight into the effects of banning meat or tobacco).International examples. Affirmatives may try to argue that the experience of other nations in adopting analogs of theaffirmative plan can lead us to understand the implications of acting here. For example, heroin legalization and handgunbans have both been adopted in other nations (Great Britain and Japan, respectively). Again, the conditions in thesecountries may be so vastly different as to make comparisons impossible; this is true even when two countries aregenerally similar, since comparatively few changes in the relevant portion of the society are necessary to invalidate thecomparison.Negative responses should not be limited to straight refutation of these arguments, but may also draw upon types of proofnot utilized by the affirmative; for example, if the affirmative uses historical precedent to prove their plan will work then thenegative should deny the validity of the precedent and offer examples of failure in analogous operations. DisadvantagesDisadvantages explain the repercussions of a policy and highlight the ways in which costs of change outweigh benefits. Inorder to be legitimate, a disadvantage must be causally connected to the affirmative position, must prove the existence ofa particular undesirable outcome and must prove that the plan alone will cause or heighten the problem (the concept ofuniqueness). In short, the negative must prove that the affirmative action is a necessary and sufficient condition togenerate a great evil. In a policymaking debate, the causal link specifies some element of the affirmative plan which isresponsible for the wrong; in hypothesis-testing, the disadvantage must flow only from resolutional portions of the plansince objections to any other part would not be intrinsic to the resolution being examined (for example, it would beillegitimate to object to a funding mechanism, since that particular funding source is not an intrinsic element of theresolution).A key controversy in this area surrounds the question of degrees of causation. Since innumerable factors may play on thestrengthening or weakening of a phenomenon (e.g., inflation) and since we can never predict the outcomes of our actionswith 100% certainty, we can only make more-or-less certain predictions of probable results. We might, for example, be