Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.

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Resolved: In the United States, colleges and universities ought not consider standardized tests in undergraduate admissions decisions.

FIrst topic of the year! And wow is it trash. Not only is the topic phrasing awful, but I also don’t understand why it’s an LD topic at all. This topic doesn’t pose interesting clash, and it’s phrased in such a way as to have an agent of action that is incredibly difficult to evaluate as a moral agent. Not only that, we’re skirting around the actual issue of whether or not we should have standardized tests at all. It’s awful, but I suppose it’s what we have to work with. So let’s get to it.

Definitions

Standardized Tests – We all know what standardized tests are. They’re tests given to all students to measure their educational progress. The tests are all the same, with the same questions, given to each member of a particular subset of students. There’s no reason to get caught up in any sort of nuance here.

Every other term in the resolution doesn’t really merit definition. We all know what colleges and universities are. Don’t get caught up in the distinction between public and private institutions; it ultimately doesn’t matter to the moral question, in fact now a days there’s a lot of options, there are even online colleges for military available.

Your key focus here should be determining how we evaluate what colleges and universities should do. In particular, you need to explain how we determine what factors these institutions should take into account for undergraduate school admissions. Unlike government, the moral imperatives of educational institutions are not well elucidated. Importantly, I don’t think most students will have a preliminary understanding of the philosophy of education, unlike they do with social contract philosophy, for example. I would recommending reading this entry for some background.

Case Positions

Affirmative

  1. Distributive Justice – Research widely suggests that standardized tests have socioeconomic and racial biases. This is to say that people who are poorer and people of color consistently perform worse on these tests than their wealthy white counterparts. Not only that, the entire industry is being shown to be less about evaluating students’ actual competency and instead about corporations making money. Since the first virtue of any social institution is to uphold/promote justice, colleges should do that which promotes justice. Using standardized tests as criteria in admissions directly violates principles of distributive because of the above points. Since colleges are social institutions, this would violate their primary directive. Many different justice theorists like Aristotle and John Rawls can be useful for this position.
  2. Autonomy – One of the most widely accepted theories on the purpose of education is that it is supposed to equip people for becoming autonomously functioning human beings. Standardized tests are the exact opposite; they seek to rob individuals of autonomy by evaluating everyone against the same standards. Since the purpose of education is to promote autonomy, colleges should reject anything to do with standardized tests altogether.

Negative

  1. Economics – Colleges are primarily economic institutions. Their goal is to create individuals who can best contribute to society and its economic welfare and productivity. As such, standardized tests should be a primary criteria for admissions decisions because they are a strong indication of an applicant’s economic viability. If a student has high standardized test scores, they are likely to continue having high test scores throughout college. This is economically beneficial and also a strong indication that the student will have a positive economic contribution once they graduate. Importantly, the most economically productive countries like China and Japan have doubled down on standardized testing, having even more rigorous examinations than the United States.
  2. Justice – The first virtue of any social institution, including colleges, is fairness. Standardized testing is the most fair way we can have of evaluating students. Importantly, upholding the importance of standardized tests sets an objective universal standard of educational justice for the entire system to uphold. This encourages every level of the system to eliminate barriers to students succeeding on standardized tests, which improves fairness across the board.

Well, that’s it for now. Good luck! And don’t forget to check out the Debate Academy if you’re looking for private coaching.

Resolved: The United Nations should grant India permanent membership on the Security Council.

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Resolved: The United Nations should grant India permanent membership on the Security Council.

This is an interesting resolution. Ultimately, it’s not one which has huge impact points one or the other, but it’s interesting to consider how the UN should make decisions. To that point, it’s important to remember that that is the central question of the resolution. How does the UN determine what it should do?

Definitions

You don’t really need to define anything for this resolution as all the terms are pretty self explanatory. What you do need to make sure you do, though, is have a framework which explains how the UN should make its decisions. Then you need to apply that framework through your contentions to address the resolution.

Pro

1. India is a super power – Security council seats should be determined by a country’s influence on global security. India is a nation that has a dramatic influence on global security. Not only has it been involved in repeated military conflicts with Pakistan, but it’s geographic location in South Asia puts it right between China and the Middle East. It is a necessary cross through for trans-Asian trade and military movements.

2. Military strength and contributions – Few nations contribute more “peace keepers” to the UN than India does. Additionally, India is a nuclear power, which immediately puts it into contention for the security council seat. FDR’s original intent for the security council was to be a police force for the different regions of the world. South Asia and the Middle East lack a representative warden on the council. India is the best candidate for the seat.

**Note: I will make an additional point here that affirming the resolution doesn’t mean other countries should be excluded. You’ll get a lot of, “Why not Japan, Germany, or Brazil?” And you should be comfortable saying, “Sure, give them seats as well.” The same criteria apply to those countries too.

Con

1. The UN Security Council should be dissolved – This resolution affords a great opportunity for a counter plan or kritik (in PF, I know right?!). We can argue that the UNSC is an outdated body that might have made sense after WWII to address fears of another Hitler, but it is actually a barrier now that the political landscape has change. The allied empires are long gone, and though Russia and China might have helped the allies in WWII, their political growth has been dramatically opposed to democratic ideals. Ultimately, the result is that India should not be granted a permanent seat, nobody should. The UNSC should just go away.

2. India has a bad track record – India does not have a good record of security. Terrorist attacks, military conflicts, and even genocide are present within the country’s recent history. Seats are limited, so a country like Germany or Japan will be much better suited to take one of the permanent seats. While their histories may be similarly negative, they have made great strides and progress in changing, while India has not.

Like I said, ultimately this is a low impact theoretical discussion, but hopefully these points help you get started. Good luck!

Resolved: The United States should promote the development of market rate housing in urban neighborhoods.

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Resolved: The United States should promote the development of market rate housing in urban neighborhoods.

Oof, what is it with these terrible topics? I don’t understand what people are thinking anymore. What is there even to debate here? So little research has been done, and available data is so limited, that the debates on this are going to devolve into emotion battles about which side the judge feels is right. On the bright side, you’ll probably learn things you didn’t know before, but the resolution is worded so poorly that all of that will probably be lost. But alas, it is what we are given, so let’s do the best we can.

Definitions

Market rate housing – This is housing that is build without rent restrictions. Often, in urban neighborhoods, rent restrictions will be put on housing construction. The owner can only rent it for so much. This has historically been one solution to creating affordable housing.

Urban Neighborhoods – The word “urban” here doesn’t necessarily mean within a big city. Rather, it refers to poor, often minority, neighborhoods within any greater metropolitan area. It will be important to define this properly to prevent bad debate.

The most important part of your definitions is going to be determining how we determine what the U.S. should do. The trouble here is that there isn’t a clear agent of action. The government can enact policies, sure, but the U.S. contains many more actors like housing developers and citizens. They are also relevant. Your framework will need to clearly define an agent of action and then explain how we determine what that agent of action should do. The easiest agent of action to talk about is the government, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.

Pro

1. Societal Welfare – The government’s entire purpose is to promote societal welfare. If it fails to do that, then what’s the point of having one? Market rate housing promotes welfare. Areas where there are market rate developments fare better economically than areas with rent controls. Additionally, market rate housing attracts developers to build more because they can more easily sent rents. Urban neighborhoods have severe housing shortages, and this will promote new construction to end those shortages.

2. Progress – How do we make things better than they are now? Market rate housing will help urban neighborhoods accelerate their development. A society is marked by how well it provides for the least advantaged members of its society, so the U.S. should promote market rate housing in the least advantaged neighborhoods.

Con

1. Market rate housing promotes poverty – Rent controls don’t just appear out of thin air. They appear because landlords charge exorbitant rents to exploit the citizens in an area, particularly in areas with housing shortages. Remarkably, there is no shortage of housing for people who have money. The shortage exists for those people who don’t. Instead, the government should invest in affordable housing initiatives. Developers aren’t attracted to urban neighborhoods anyway, and market rate housing won’t solve that. After all, not every urban neighborhood has rent controls, but new construction is still sparse.

2. Market Freedom – The U.S. government should not interrupt the free market. Let the market decide what rent should be and where development should occur. That will result in the best situation for everyone.

3. U.S. Constitution – This type of economic regulation is beyond the constitutionally permitted powers of the U.S. government. It is not an exercise necessary to regulate interstate commerce, and therefore, should not be permitted. It is a violation of property rights and economic freedom.

There you go. That’s a start at least. Good luck!
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Resolved: The illegal use of drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice.

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Resolved: The illegal use of drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice.

This topic is a load of hot garbage, legitimately one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I get where it was trying to go, but the wording is so poor, that debate on the actual topic will effectively be non-existent. It also does not belong in LD, at all. Nevertheless, we have to do what we have to do, so let’s get to it.

Definitions – You fortunately don’t really need to define terms per se. However, you will need to utilize the entirety of your case to define what it means to treat something as a matter of public health vs. a matter of criminal justice. Ostensibly, the resolution wants you to debate things like punishment vs. rehabilitation. The problem, however, is that’s a false dichotomy. There’s no reason there can’t be both. And some public health/mental health issues are actually addressed through imprisonment. It will be a challenge to navigate these things, and you’ll need to make sure your framework is tight.

Affirmative

1. Utilitarianism – This is a pretty basic position you can run on this topic. Basically, when we treat illegal drug use as a matter of criminal justice, everyone suffers. Drug users stay addicted, taxpayers pay for them to be in jail, and drugs keep being bought/sold on the illegal market. When we look at the cost/benefit of it all, it clearly harms way more people. Treating it as a public health issues allows for the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

2. False Dichotomy Kritik – I almost never advocate for Ks, but in this case, I actually think it’s really powerful, even on the Affirmative. You can argue that the resolution poses a false dichotomy between punishment and rehabilitation that doesn’t exist. No substantive debate can actually occur when the world created by the resolution is one of fantasy. Therefore, you pose an alternative resolution which says that drug addiction is effectively treated when approached from a perspective of public health. That affirmative is really easy to prove. And importantly, it also has impacts to the actual resolution if your judge is a toolbox and doesn’t buy the K.

3. Veil of Ignorance – This is also a very powerful position for this case. Imagine if you woke up the next day and were a drug addict. You wouldn’t want to just be locked up without any treatment or consideration. Similarly, you wouldn’t want to pay taxes for someone to be imprisoned in a similar fashion. It’s clear that from behind the veil, we would want to treat drug use as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue.

Negative

1. False Dichotomy K – I actually think this is the most powerful position on this resolution. The resolution should be negated not because drug use shouldn’t be a public health issue, but because that doesn’t mean it isn’t also treated as an issue of criminal justice. The two are not mutually exclusive. People can be treated while also paying penance for the crimes they’ve committed.

2. Fear – There are many philosophers who argue that fear is the most effective/only deterrent against crime. If we begin treating drug use as a public health issue, then that deterrent is eliminated. People will more readily try drugs and become addicted because they know that it isn’t so bad on the other end. Fear maintains law and order, and the government should prioritize that.

3. Doctrine of the Mean – Similar to the K, but not structured as such, the virtue position argues that we don’t need to fall on one extreme. We need the help of the law to deal with drug lords and cartels, but we can also provide better for the public health by helping addicts get the treatment they need. Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean would espouse taking such a middle ground.

Well, there you go. Hopefully this helps you navigate this garbage topic. And don’t forget to visit the Academy if you want private coaching or to purchase briefs.

Resolved: The United States should end its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

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Resolved: The United States should end its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Hey! Here’s a topic that’s interesting and politically relevant. It creates some good direct clash, so let’s talk about it!

Definitions

Not much to define here; you pretty know what all the terms in the resolution are. Arms sales are the sale of any military arms. Other than that, the most important word in the resolution is “should.” You’ll need to establish a framework that explains how we determine what a government should or should not do, then use that framework to evaluate the resolution.

Case Positions

Pro

1. National Security – Saudi Arabia is a known state sponsor of terror and demonstrably had a hand in 9/11. Selling arms to the Saudi regime not only arms a regime which is clearly antagonistic towards the U.S. but also inserts dangerous arms into a region of the world where terrorists could easily gain access to them. Historically, such arms deals have only armed those who harm the U.S. later.

2. Democratic Ideals – The United States should carry out actions which promote democratic ideals across the world. Saudi Arabia oppresses its people, suppresses basic human rights, and is rife with corruption and violence. Selling arms to a regime like this allows them to stay in power and carry out genocidal military actions like the attacks on Yemen. The U.S. should not enable such things to happen.

3. Arms sales come at the opportunity cost of energy independence – Arms sales with Saudi Arabia allows the relationship between the two countries to continue to exist. A part of this relationship is the oil the U.S. purchases. A conflict limiting the supply of oil would push the U.S. toward energy independence out of necessity. This is the direction the country should be moving anyway, so it would be for the best if the U.S. began severing its ties with Saudi Arabia.

Con

1. National Security – Arms deals with Saudi Arabia help protect U.S. interests in the Middle East. It ensures the maintenance of a cooperative military partner and bolsters a relationship that maintains U.S. access to critical oil. Despite the Saudi regime’s history, it’s better for U.S. security interests to continue arms deals.

2. Economics – The U.S. should make decisions that promote economic welfare for is own citizens. Saudi arms deals provide a large source of income and promote U.S. trade and influence in the Middle East. They are economically better for the country and should therefore continue.

Alright, that’s what we’ve got for now. The con side is going to be a little more difficult for this resolution, but it’s still doable. I hope this helps. Good luck, and please post your comments and questions below!

Resolved: The United States federal government should prioritize reducing the federal debt over promoting economic growth.

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Resolved: The United States federal government should prioritize reducing the federal debt over promoting economic growth.

This is a pretty annoying topic. It lends itself to a lot of speculative analysis that it will be difficult to find evidence to support. It also poses a false dichotomy. More often than not, reducing the federal debt and promoting economic growth are not mutually exclusive. Let’s get into it and see what we can come up with.

Definitions – We don’t really need to define anything for this topic. It’s all pretty straightforward. The important thing to note, though, is that the resolution is only concerned with situations in which promoting economic growth and reducing the federal debt are in conflict, meaning that you must pick one over the other. What should the government do when it has to pick?

Case Positions

Pro

1. Must prioritize debt to prioritize economic growth – In order to promote the greatest economic growth, the U.S. must prioritize reducing the federal debt. Interest payments continue to rise, drastically reducing the capital the U.S. government has available to spend on economic growth initiatives. In a strange twist, ignoring the national debt will prevent the U.S. from being able to promote economic growth moving forward.

2. National Security – A government’s first priority is to protect its citizens. That’s why government is created in the first place. A high federal debt is a national security risk, particularly since other competing world powers hold the majority of the debt. It threatens the ability of the U.S. to protect itself from threats should the debt be called.

3. Impending Economic Collapse – A growing U.S. debt balance threatens the stability of the global economy, and the U.S. is in no position to withstand a global collapse since it is not longer primarily a producer. A country like China, because of its continued industrial production infrastructure, can certainly withstand such a collapse. Global markets rely on trust and solvency of the U.S., and a growing national debt threatens both of those.

Con

1. National Debt is Meaningless – There is no such thing as “too much federal debt,” since the debt is essentially meaningless. No global power would call on the U.S. debt, and the U.S. would not fail to make interest payments. The debt can continue to grow or remain steady, and it won’t be an issue. The notion that other countries will stop buying U.S. debt anywhere in the near future is spurious.

2. Economic Growth Allows Debt Reduction – The U.S. needs to focus on economic in order to eventually reduce the national debt. A growing economy allows for a surplus and allows the U.S. to make more payments toward reducing the federal debt. When the two come into conflict, the U.S. should prioritize growing the economy because it’s the only way to reduce the national debt in the long term.

Hope that helps get you started, good luck!

Resolved: The United States ought not provide military aid to authoritarian regimes.

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Resolved: The United States ought not provide military aid to authoritarian regimes.

This topic is an interesting one. On initial examination, it seems stupid and one sided. And to be clear, it’s certainly emotionally advantageous for the Affirmative. That being said, there’s a lot of room for debate here if you can suspend the heartstrings for 45 minutes. There’s great opportunity for clash, and a lot of room for directly competing viewpoints. So let’s talk about it.

Definitions

Military Aid – This is any aid provided to the military of a nation. This includes, but is not limited to, troops, machinery, funding, weaponry, and training. Do not get bogged down in a definition debate about what does and does not constitute military aid. Your case should apply to all forms of military aid. The only distinction that’s important here is that this is not civilian aid.

Authoritarian Regimes – This is more of a “you know it when you see it” type of term. Authoritarian is a poor choice of words, but it refers to regimes which are dictatorial and generally have a history of abusing the rights of their own people. Relevant examples for this resolution include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, etc…

Ought – This means should, and you don’t really need to define it, but it’s important to know that this is the crux of your case. You must first answer the question of how we determine what the United States government should do. Only then can you determine if the U.S. government should provide military aid to authoritarian regimes.

Alright, let’s get to work on possible frameworks.

Affirmative

1. Categorical Imperative – Providing military aid to authoritarian regimes certainly fails all three maxims of the categorical imperative. We don’t want to live in a world where this is universal. It doesn’t seek to not use people strictly as a means to an end, since what humane reasons could there possibly be to provide this military aid, and it definitely doesn’t contribute toward an end in the kingdom of ends.

2. Veil of Ignorance – In a liberal application of the veil of ignorance, it can be argued that, as a citizen under one of these regimes, you would not want foreign powers providing aid to a regime that is trying to oppress you. You would want the opposite. From behind the veil, it’s clear people would construct a world in which these regimes do not receive any foreign military aid.

3. Coherence Theory – Truth of a proposition can be examined through examining its coherence with other already established truths. This includes moral propositions. When it comes to established international moral principles, we can look to things like the declaration of human rights to show us that established truths focus around protecting citizens, not military regimes. There is explicit rejection of military oppression of people. It does not cohere with these established truths that the U.S. should provide military aid to authoritarian regimes.

4. Moral Progress – Moral conflict is necessary for moral progress. When the U.S. provides military aid to authoritarian regimes, it prevents the citizens under that regime from creating the necessary moral conflict to help the nation progress. Allowing the military to weaken allows the self-determination of the people to be realized through conflict.

Negative

1. National Security – A government’s primary obligation is to the security of its own people. After all, that’s why government is formed in the first place. If it fails to protect its people, government is worthless. There are several situations in which providing military aid to authoritarian regimes protects the security of U.S. citizens. As long as this is the case, the U.S. should continue providing such aid.

2. National Interest – A government’s primary obligation is to its own people and the interests of its country. Often times, providing aid to such regimes is in the best interests of the U.S. economically and globally. It often allows the U.S. to position itself more advantageously globally or secure access to resources it would not otherwise have.

3. Utilitarianism – The alternative of not propping up certain regimes is much worse. It leads to exacerbated conflict that is often worse for the people of a nation and worse for global stability. Military aid allows for the preservation of a government, though the government may not be the best. An authoritarian government is better than no government at all.

Hope that helps get you started. Good luck!

Leading Up to the New Book – 30 Poems in 30 Days – The Final Three

I’m gearing up for the next release in my series of poetry by doing another 30 in 30. If you haven’t, check out the first installment, The Voices In My Head, on Amazon. The next installment will be out on October 26th, my birthday!

Beginning

It starts with the briefest spark
A whispered idea
An unhinged thought
A look from across the room
So is its inception

Middle

It begins its motion with a thrust
A push not at all gentle
But almost catastrophic
With the might of a lifetime behind it
The stone begins its tumble

End

There is a loud crash
Destruction of the highest order
The shadows return
Always
There is left only darkness

Leading Up to the New Book – 30 Poems in 30 Days – 3 Poem Weekend Catch Up

I’m gearing up for the next release in my series of poetry by doing another 30 in 30. If you haven’t, check out the first installment, The Voices In My Head, on Amazon. The next installment will be out on October 26th, my birthday!

Flames

Devil’s tongues
Blue, orange, yellow
Flicking upward
Tasting their work

Cracks of splintering wood
Herald the end of a lost time
A chorus of goodbyes
Burying the past where it belongs

I set fire to yesterday

Drums

The beat grows
Crescendos
With the rising sun

Echoed by the trudging of boots
Across barren fields
Sodden with the night’s rain

The thunder rolls
Ever louder
Ever angrier

They hold their breath
As the tide flows over the hill
Blocking out the sun

Gravestones

They stretch as far as you can see
Soldiers watching unseen gates
Guarding empty cities
Full of hollow hopes and withered wishes

Slaves whipped night and day
By an unforgiving and never ending wind
Hungry for cries of pain
From children and widows left alone

Leading Up to the New Book – 30 Poems in 30 Days – The Trees

I’m gearing up for the next release in my series of poetry by doing another 30 in 30. If you haven’t, check out the first installment, The Voices In My Head, on Amazon. The next installment will be out on October 26th, my birthday!

The Trees

Dancing silhouettes
Baked onto the twilight skies
By the howling moon
Branching shadows across the stars

Tendrils spider webbing
Into the booming silent night
Steadfastly swaying
In the wildly whipping winds

Each flash of lightning
Revealing specters hiding
Among the blossoms
Smiling widely back

Through the cracked window