Resolved: In a democracy, the public’s right to know ought to be valued above the right to privacy of candidates for public office.

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Resolved: In a democracy, the public’s right to know ought to be valued above the right to privacy of candidates for public office.

I get the importance of debating current topics and issues, but we really need to stop when we start struggling to put current issues into “debate terms.” This topic is trash, probably the worst one I have ever read. Not only is it worded poorly, but it relies upon presumptions of rights that may not necessarily be true. It’s also very open to being debated in narrow real world contexts which provide opportunity for abusive positions. Let’s get to it then.

Definitions

Democracy – There is no absolute democracy in the world today, we know that. And that doesn’t make a democracy definition critique of the resolution valid. The word democracy here can be replaced with “democratic society.” Democracies share certain characteristics like popular representation, people being able to run for public office, and a certain level of freedom enjoyed by citizens of the society. Don’t belabor the point about what  democracy is; we all know what this is referring to.

Right to Know – This refers to the peoples’ right to have access to information, personal and political, about a candidate running for public office. Yes, you can debate whether or not this right actually exists, and yes, this does make for a valid critique of the resolution.

Right to Privacy – This is also pretty straightforward. It’s the right of a person to keep information about themselves private. Once again, don’t belabor the point about what exactly is covered within this right.

Candidates for Public Office – Anybody who is either running for or appointed to a government office. Yes, this does include people who are in non-elected positions like cabinet members and justices. These are still public offices even if not directly elected.

Ought to be Valued – This is the most important part of the resolution. It asks us this question: when a candidate’s right to privacy is in conflict with the public’s right to know, which one wins? Should the candidate reveal information? Or should they be allowed to keep all that information private?

Case Positions

Affirmative

1. Utilitarianism – Public knowledge promotes the greatest good for the greatest number of people. When all information about a candidate is publicly available, it allows people to make the most informed decision about a candidate for public office. This ensures that the public opinion holds the character and behavior of these candidates accountable.

2. Rights are not absolute – A person’s rights only extend as far as another’s rights begin. This is why we can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater. That is an exercise of free speech that puts other people’s lives at risk. Therefore, that right is limited. Similarly, the privacy of candidates for public office puts the rights of the people at risk. They are at risk of electing a candidate that could damage their rights significantly, or if given undue power, could continue violating the rights of others. Therefore, when it conflict, the public’s right know should be prioritized.

3. Governmental Legitimacy – All governments, and democracies in particular, are only legitimate if they are accountable to the citizens which they govern. This accountability is not possible in a world where candidates are allowed privacy. It prevents the public from fully evaluating and judging the candidates for public office.

Negative

1. Right to Know Doesn’t Exist – Rights must exist as claims of people against each other. Under a balanced social contract, it is not reasonable to contend that people would have a claim on each other to reveal information about themselves. Quite the opposite. People have a claim on each other not to interfere with their privacy. As such, it’s impossible to affirm the resolution.

2. Public accountability happens anyway – The public can hold a candidate accountable without them divulging requested information. The simple act of holding back information is enough for a public indictment of the candidate’s character. We’ve seen this happen across the United States repeatedly over the past few years. The right to privacy can still hold priority, because the right to privacy doesn’t matter in cases where it’s in conflict with the public’s right to know.

Hopefully that helps get you started. Good luck!

Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

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Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources.

Welcome to another debate season! I’m disappointed that we’re starting off with such a bad topic. It’s not that the area of discussion is bad, but the topic is worded terribly. The question that not telling someone a person’s name is or is not a “right” is not a good one. Everyone obviously has the right to say what they want, so to say that a journalist doesn’t have the right to reveal someone’s name is ridiculous and unenforceable. What’re you going to do? Prevent the article from running in the paper if there isn’t a named source? Obviously that can’t happen. But alas, we have to debate what we’re given, not what we want to debate. So let’s get to it.

Definitions

Reporters – Don’t think too much about this. A reporter is basically someone who reports the news. This includes journalists of all types.

Identity – Some people may try to define identity very precisely. Simply put, though, this is an identification of who a person is. It’s not just a name, but can also be a description that points to one particular person. For example, if I said “the attorney general of the U.S.” that would be akin to identifying the person.

Confidential Sources – In journalism, people often provide information to the reporter. The people are called sources. If that person’s identity isn’t revealed, it’s a confidential source.

Ought – This is the most important word of the resolution. Ought means should, and to develop a framework for your case, you’ll need to identify how we determine what the United States government ought to do.

Case Positions

Affirmative

1. Utilitarianism – Allowing confidential sources is the most utilitarian approach. It leads to the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. Otherwise, you end up with a lack of people wanting to come forward with information, and you also end up with people’s lives inappropriately being affected just for telling the truth.

2. Freedom of Speech – It’s actually impossible for source confidentiality not to be a right. What is the option to enforce? Are you going to torture journalists? Are you going to limit what can and cannot be printed in the press? These would all be violations of the freedom of speech the United States is founded upon.

3. Correspondence Theory – Any truth proposition, like the resolution, must be weighed against already accepted truths to determine its truth. When we weigh the resolution against things we already accept to be true like freedom of speech, the value of a free speech, and democratic ideals, we find that the truth of the resolution is evident.

Negative

1. What is a right? – Source confidentiality can’t function as a right. Rights, like freedom to protest, function as claims against others – either claims to not interfere or claims to confer some benefit. Neither of these apply to source confidentiality in journalism. Because it can’t be a right, the resolution essentially doesn’t work. We can’t say something that’s impossible “ought to be.”

2. Moral Progress – There are schools of philosophy which propose that a society’s moral progress is only possible through the most direct moral conflict. Source confidentiality prevents that from happening. Without confidential sources, though, the moral conflict in a society would be exacerbated, thus contributing to more rapid moral progress.

Well, that’s it. I hope that helps get you started. Good luck, and don’t forget to check out the academy if you need help!

 

Resolved: Wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to other nations.

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Resolved: Wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to other nations.

Resolved: Wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to other nations.

This is a very relevant topic in today’s political climate. It’s an interesting one, and should lend itself to some good debates. Hopefully students don’t try to turn it into a definition debate or take abusive positions focused strictly on the meaning of development assistance. Regardless, let’s get into it!

Definitions

Wealthy nations – This is a relative term. Wealthy nations can also be translated in the context of the resolution to mean “wealthier nations.” The intent is basically to make a delineation between countries that can provide assistance, and countries that need assistance.

Development assistance – This is basically foreign aid designed to help a nation develop a particular part of its society or government. It can come in many forms including but not limited to money, resources, and personnel. The thing to focus on here is that the assistance is designed to help the development of the country, so it is distinct from things like humanitarian aid or military assistance during armed conflict.

Obligation – What’s interesting here is that the resolution doesn’t state “moral” obligation. So, your case must explain how nations determine what obligations they have, period. This can include legal obligations, moral obligations, or other obligations you can think of. The resolution isn’t limited to the realm of moral theory this time.

Frameworks/Case Positions

Affirmative

1. Categorical Imperative – The categorical imperative, all three maxims, work pretty well to argue for this resolution. It is easy to conceive of a world where every wealthy provides assistance as a desirable one to live in. Not only that, the act of providing such assistance can reasonably be thought of as an action which strives toward a number of different ends in the kingdom of ends. This is a strong framework for the affirmative of this resolution. Read more about the categorical imperative on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy here.

2. Veil of Ignorance/Original Position – Everyone has defining characteristics which impart biases onto their political and moral reasoning. Ideally, if we could, we should develop social justice policies without these biases because that will yield the most objectively reasonable outcome. This state of deliberation, in which actors are free from the influence of any personal bias, was dubbed by John Rawls as the original position. One could contend that, when evaluated from the original position, it is easy to see that wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to others. After all, you could wake up tomorrow and be a member of one of those “other nations.” Read more about Rawls’s original position here.

3. Virtue Ethics – Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean would establish providing assistance as the proper course of action between the two extremes of doing nothing and taking over/doing everything. It is the moderate approach to helping other nations develop, and as such, is the virtuous course of action. Read more about Aristotle’s Doctrine of the Mean here.

Negative

1. Social Contract Theory – The social contract, and government, are formed primarily to protect a nation’s own citizens. Therefore, any government primary obligation is to its own people. One could argue that no government in the world, however wealthy, has sufficiently met this obligation. Even in the United States, we have yet to have proper due process of law and equal protections for minorities. Providing assistance to other nations must come at a price; the money has to come from somewhere, and that is money that could be used to solve domestic issues. The opportunity cost of providing assistance for any nation is too high. Read more about contractarianism here.

2. International Law – The only obligations that exist between nations are legal ones. There is no global social contract as citizens have not formed or consented to a global government. Nowhere in international law does it specify an obligation for wealthier nations to provide development assistance, and as such, an obligation like that cannot exist. It should be noted that this position will require a clear distinction to be made between humanitarian aid and development assistance because international law is rife with obligations for humanitarian aid.

3. Utilitarianism – For any action to be good, and therefore reasonably be considered obligatory, it must provide the most good for the greatest number of people. Often, development assistance does not do that. There is evidence to suggest that it can actually harm the countries receiving the aid. Often, such countries are ruled by destructive regimes which do not actually direct the assistance towards its intended goals, and instead use it to carry out their own agendas. Additionally, this assistance means that there is less available for the wealthy nation’s own citizens.

That’s it, hope it helps you get started. Feel free to post comments and questions below, and check out the Academy if you want personal private coaching!

Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.

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Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.

This is a topic I like. I actually debated it for one of the tournaments I did PF, fun times. Let’s get into it.

Definitions

Civil Disobedience – Civil disobedience is when someone refuses to obey a law as a means of protest. Think Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. The key to civil disobedience is that it is a nonviolent form of protest.

Democracy – A democracy is a system of government where people vote on laws and/or elect representatives. Some people will probably try to turn this into a definition debate where they limit the scope of “democracy” to only absolute democracy. Don’t let them do that. Democracies include representative forms of government like we find in England, France, and the United States. In the modern world, an absolute democracy does not exist anywhere.

Morally Justified – This is the crux of your case, and it’s up to you to define. You must use your framework to explain what it means for something to be morally justified. How do we determine what is morally justified? And how does that framework of evaluation apply to the resolution?

Important Point – The resolution must presuppose that the law being is unjust. Otherwise, there’s no point in debating. I am sure people will try to weasel their way out of that, but you need to corner them into actually debating. Obviously, we can agree that civil disobedience to protest an already just law is not morally permissible; it would be difficult to argue otherwise without taking an anarchist position. Don’t let people use abusive definitions and frameworks to turn this resolution into a definition debate tipped in their favor.

Case Positions/Frameworks

Affirmative

1. Justice is the Highest Value – A democracy is not automatically just. Like any other government, a democracy is subject to the moral arbitration of the principles of justice. Because justice is the first virtue of any social institution (Aristotle), all such institutions must ultimately answer to the principles of justice. Therefore, civil disobedience is morally justified, even in a democracy. If the government is being unjust, then the people have the right, and arguably the moral obligation, to disobey the government.

2. Right to Civil Disobedience – Dworkin argues that people have a right to civil disobedience when the government is unjust. This is an extension of his framework of rights. The government’s right to govern is contingent upon the consent of the governed, particularly in a democracy. Therefore, people must also have the corresponding right to dissent when injustice occurs. Otherwise, consent can never truly be meaningful, or even exist really.

3. Virtue – A virtue position, based upon Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean, concludes that civil disobedience is the most virtuous course of action. You can therefore argue that it is morally justified. In short, civil disobedience is the middle ground between the two extremes of doing nothing and violently rebelling.

Negative

1. John Rawls’ Alternatives – John Rawls argued that, if there are multiple options when trying to reach a just end, the one that gets you there in the best way possible is the only just course of action. The others automatically become unjust because they are worse. You can argue here that violent revolution is a significantly better option. If we look at the tolls that civil disobedience movements have taken, like those in India and the United States, we can see that people have endured decades of punishment and injustice. In fact, death tolls over the course of entire civil rights movements are remarkably less than death tolls in violent revolutions, historically speaking. Violence also ends the injustices more quickly and actually punishes the oppressor, which civil disobedience does not.

  • If you want to take a safer approach, you can also argue that democratic avenues of recourse and other nonviolent protests methods are also better options, because they don’t involve breaking the law.

2. Rule of Law – In order for the social contract to remain legitimate, the rule of law must be respected. Thomas Hobbes argues that people forfeit their rights when they enter into a social contract because the state of nature is so much worse to be in. As a result, they must respect whatever rights they are afforded and the laws of the government. Even an oppressive life under a government is vastly preferable to a life in the state of nature, so people must respect the rule of law under the social contract.

3. Moral Precedent – Civil disobedience sets a dangerous moral precedent which eventually leads to more violent forms of disobedience and a degradation of respect for the law. It would be a dangerous precedent to admit the moral justification of civil disobedience because you cannot do so while at the same time arguing that people should obey the law. The two are, by definition, mutually exclusive.

I hope that helps get you started. Good luck!

Remember to leave a comment if you have questions or want to discuss anything, and remember to visit the debate academy website if you’re interested in private coaching.

Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.

Resolved: Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid to foreign countries is unjust.

Finally! A good topic! This is a topic with lots of clash and room to come up with creative positions without allowing  a lot room for abusive stances. Oh snap! Let’s get deep on this one.

Definitions

1. Political Conditions – A political condition is any demand by a particular state which must be fulfilled as a prerequisite contingency for further action. To put it simply, it’s whatever the government says you must do to receive the aid.

2. Humanitarian Aid – This is assistance to help the citizens of a country. This can be in the form of money, supplies, food, and even military aid. Yes, military aid can classify as humanitarian aid if used for humanitarian purposes.

3. Unjust – This is the most important part of the resolution, and you will define it through your value structure. You must define what it means for something to be just or unjust and then explain why the resolution should be affirmed or negated based upon that definition.

Affirmative

1. People as a Means to an End – Placing political conditions on humanitarian aid is using people as a bargaining chip. The action has two immoral effects. First, it places an absolute monetary value on human life. That, in itself, is an offense to justice which demands that the only thing which matches human life in value is human life itself. Second, it uses people as a means to get political gain. Using people as a means to an end is a violation of the inherent dignity which they are due, and therefore, a violation of justice.

2. Utility – On utilitarian grounds, it doesn’t make much sense to demand political conditions before providing humanitarian aid. Often times, such negotiations break down, and even more often, the actions taken to meet the conditions are reversed after the aid is received.

3. Self Determination – Humanitarian aid is in itself unjust because in interrupts a nation’s ability to be self-determinate. When adding political conditions to that dynamic, it becomes an even greater violation on a nation’s self determination.

Negative

1. Where’s the Injustice? – Injustice requires a violation of human rights. It requires that somebody not get what they deserve. A nation has no obligation to provide humanitarian aid to anyone. So, to ask for political conditions for that aid cannot be unjust because it is no morally worse than the default. Not providing humanitarian aid is not unjust, so how can asking for a little something in return be unjust?

2. Virtue Ethics – Virtue ethics dictates that this is actually the middle course of action. A nation could just provide humanitarian with no conditions, or refuse to provide it at all. The middle course of action is to negotiate the humanitarian aid conditions so that both parties benefit. Not to mention, political conditions can also be used to ensure the aid is used for its intended purpose.

3. Utility – Humanitarian aid without conditions is uselss. In places where the aid is most relevant, oppressive regimes often utilize the “aid” for their own ends rather than for humanitarian purposes. Utilitarianism dictates that political conditions be assigned as contingencies for humanitarian aid because it ensures the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

There you go. Good luck!

Resolved: A government has the obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens

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Resolved: A government has the obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens.  

Another topic about the economic gap? Didn’t PF already beat this dead horse? Alas, such is the way of the NFL, and so shall it be. Let’s continue with the topic analysis.

Term Identification and Definitions

Nouns – government, obligation, economic gap, rich and poor citizens

Verbs – has, lessen

Government – I foresee a lot of abuse potential with this term. We all know what a government is, and we all know that, in the philosophical realm, conceptions of government precedes analysis of its obligations. Based upon this understanding, you should not actually define government, but rather adopt a philosophical understanding of it and use that to argue your point.

Obligation – An obligation is something which someone/something is required to do. This will be the central focus of the debate. Your case should posit an understanding of where governmental obligations come from. Based upon that understanding, you will argue whether or not a government has an obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens.

Economic Gap – It is obvious what an economic gap is. People make varying amounts of money. However, the important thing you must pay attention to is the effects associated with this gap. Income disparity is coupled with various other differences, which when summed up, comprise the “economic gap.” These differences include health quality, housing quality, food quality, education quality, etc…

Rich and poor citizens – This is fairly straightforward. There are rich people, and there are poor people. Because the resolution is not specific to any nation in particular, do not try to put a number or country on this definition. We all have an understanding of what rich and poor people are.

Potential Case Positions

Affirmative

Rights Correspond to Obligations – Social contract theorists and rights theorists have argued that claim/obligation duality is what comprises rights. The question “what is a right?” is best answered by a joint couple of a claim and obligation. A claim is a restriction which we have on other peoples’ actions, and an obligation is a restriction we have on our own actions. For example, the right to life consists of the claim on others not to kill us and the obligation on us not to kill others. All rights, including governmental rights, function this way. Governments have the right to affect fiscal policy, have a national bank, levy taxes, etc…. Therefore, they must have the corresponding obligation to carry out these powers for the best interest of the people, which includes lessening the economic gap between the rich and poor citizens.

Governmental Legitimacy – The function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens. Because of the damage caused by economic gaps, peoples’ equality of opportunity, autonomy, and rights to life are harmed. Therefore, if the government does not work to rectify the situation, then it is not completely striving towards its purpose of protecting citizens’ rights. The government therefore becomes illegitimate, and an illegitimate government is open to popular revolt.

Progress – Society is only as progressive as its least progressed member. The goal of any society and its institutions, including government, ought to be a utopian ideal. This way, society continues to progress and becomes continuously better. If any institution is not striving or contributing to this ultimate end of progress, then it is violating its chief moral purpose. In order to fulfill this moral demand, it must be incumbent upon governments to work to lessen the economic gap between their rich and poor citizens.

Philosophers to study for the Affirmative: John Locke, John Rawls, Peter Singer, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Payne, Alexander Hamilton

Negative

Legitimacy is determined by the government itself – Conceptions of governmental legitimacy are not universal. Rather, once people surrender their rights to the sovereign, and a contract is established, the terms for that particular government’s legitimacy are established. This legitimacy manifests in the form of civic institutions and their functions, not in the form of abstract conceptions. Therefore, the claim that a government necessarily has any obligation other than to abide by its social contract cannot be affirmed. While a government can have the obligation the affirmative proposes, it does not necessarily have it. Therefore, the resolution must be negated.

Limited Government is the Best Government – Government should be small; it should exist only for the military protection of its citizens. Any other action taken by the government is a violation of individual autonomy, which is the paramount good. When a government attempts to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor, it must inevitably infringe upon property rights, and maybe other rights as well. Therefore, the government does not have an obligation to do so because such an obligation would violate its primary obligation of protecting its people and preserving their autonomy.

Capitalism – Capitalism is the only morally justifiable economic system. Property rights and autonomy can only be maximized in such a system. Any action which violates absolute capitalism is wrong. A government’s only economic obligation, therefore, is to stay out of the economy.

Economic Gaps Create Conflict – Economic gaps are healthy, and the market should be allowed to resolve them on its own, because that is how a society and economy evolves. Economic actors conflict with one another when the poor become unhappy. When this conflict is resolved, the entire economy is better off as a whole. Therefore, it is inappropriate for the government to intervene at any point, because that will only hinder economic progress. If the government succeeds in reducing economic gaps, that will substantially slow progress and development.

Philosophers to study for the Negative: Thomas Hobbes, Immanuel Kant, Plato, Ron Paul, Niccolo Machiavelli, Friedrich Nietzsche

I hope this helps get you started. Feel free to post comments and questions.

Resolved: Targeted killing is a morally permissible foreign policy tool

I’m thinking about writing and publishing briefs. So, before reading the topic analysis, if you could please take a second to answer the poll below, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

Alrighty, another topic to analyze and such.

Let’s start with identifying important terms.

Nouns – targeted killing, foreign policy tool

Verbs – is

Adjectives – morally permissible

Now that we’ve identified the important terms, let’s define them.

Targeted Killing – There is no actual definition of targeted killing you can find in a dictionary. The basic definition is the intentional killing of a noncombatant individual. In short, a targeted killing is an assassination. DO NOT try and be abusive with this definition and attempt to identify very narrow circumstances in which targeted killing takes place. The debate needs to focus on the moral permissibility of the action, so just accept a good general definition of it.

Foreign Policy Tool – Please do not make this more complicated than it has to be. A foreign policy tool is something which is used to achieve something in foreign policy. Essentially, what this is doing is specifying the agent and ends of the targeted killing. The government is carrying out/ordering the killing, and it is doing so in order to accomplish some foreign policy goal. This goal could be victory in a war, preventing a nation from building nuclear weapons, deposing an undesirable regime, etc… The actual end doesn’t really matter, just that it is a foreign policy end. The purpose of including this in the definition is to prevent abusive arguments which say that civilians and private organizations should not be allowed to conduct targeted killings.

Morally Permissible – Like the last topic, this is the most important part of this one. In order to argue the resolution, you must explain how we determine whether or not something is morally permissible. This explanation will occur through your value structure, and it will inform the rest of your case, so it is the most crucial part of the case. It is up to you to develop this definition in your value structure.

Ok, with those definitions in mind, let’s talk about some potential case positions.

Affirmative

Utilitarianism – On utilitarian grounds, targeted killing is morally permissible. Targeted killing leads to more expedient victories in armed conflicts, leading to fewer overall casualties. Not to mention, if rogue regimes are prevented from developing nuclear weapons as a result, then the utilitarian calculus definitely favors targeted killing.

Just War Theory – Traditional Jus in Bello war ethics permit targeted killing. Asa Kasher does a very good job picking apart the principle of distinction in his writing and outlines precisely why traditionally accepted moral criteria in war permit the use of targeted killing.

All is Fair in War – General Sherman argued that everything should be permitted in the context of war as it is the only true way to propel us towards a society which does not approve of war at all. Essentially, if we allow everything to be permissible in war, then people will see how terrible war can be and just refuse to go to war in the first place. Therefore, because everything is permissible in war, targeted killing is permissible.

Negative

Utilitarianism – Targeted killings cause more violence. When leaders or important individuals are eliminated, their followers are energized by the fervor of vengeance. Not only that, assassinations often leave a power or authority vacuum which splinter groups try to capture, often violently competing with one another. Furthermore, the threats which targeted killing attempts to thwart are unrealistic and often only speculative.

The Principle of Distinction – It is always morally impermissible to target noncombatants regardless of their involvement in the conflict. If they are not directly involved in fighting, they have not directly threatened anyone’s right to life, and therefore, still retain their own right to life.

Targeted Killing Makes Government Illegitimate – Targeted killings are carried out as unilateral actions, and therefore, violate the rules of morally permissible military actions. These killings do not have the consent of the international community, nor do they have the consent of the people which the government rules over. The government derives its right to defend its people from the people’s consent to be defended. At the point where the government begins ignoring this consent, it becomes illegitimate. Therefore, targeted killing is morally impermissible because an illegitimate government is immoral.

I hope this helps get you started. Feel free to ask questions, and good luck! 🙂

How to Debate: The Fundamentals

The current state of high school debate is deplorable, and the national circuit is doing absolutely nothing to help it. I am sick and tired of seeing students using briefs, arguing

theory, and quibbling over definitions. Our instructors have forgotten what it means to debate well and the techniques which actually educate our students and help them grow into better speakers and thinkers. I want to use this post to give debaters an introduction to good debate practices which well help them develop into better debaters. I hope seasoned debaters who have fallen into the trap of being robots instead of actual debaters will also take the time to read this post and hopefully learn something. I will develop more in-depth guides for specific parts and categories of debate, but these general guidelines should provide a good foundation. Instructors need to start cultivating good debate practices again.

1. Do Your Own Research – Briefs are readily available these days. There are, however, numerous problems with these briefs. Excerpts from articles are taken out of context and misrepresent the actual point of the research. Excerpts do not include research methodology, nor do they include counter argument considerations. The biggest problem, however, is that they remove the incentive for students to conduct their own research, resulting in a much weaker understanding of the major issues concerning the resolution. If you read entire articles, and if you find information on your own, you are far more likely to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the resolution. This way, you actually know the reality, and you can articulate it more effectively for the judge. If your opponents come up with statistics you have never heard before, you will at least know whether or not they correspond to the actual situation in the real world because you have spent two weeks reading everything there is to read on the subject.

2. Control Cross Examination – Cross examination is one of the most crucial parts of any debate round. You must be able to control it in order to win. Control involves asking pointed questions. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you shouldn’t ask it in CX (aside from clarifications). You need to listen to what your opponent actually says when they deliver their case. Don’t just tune out after the tag line and pull out your pre-written rebuttal. Your opponent may say something completely different than what you expect, and you need to be ready to address what they’re actually talking about, not what you think they are talking about. Point out logical flaws in your opponent’s case to the judge using your questions.

3. Do Not Make Theory Arguments – Theory is stupid, end of story. It doesn’t matter, and a good stock debater will most often succeed over a good theory debater. Do not attempt to analyze the social situation of debate and pretend like it matters in the round. You are not in the round to debate about debate; you are there to debate the topic you have been given. Your opponent’s definition does not become invalid if it “hinders education which is the purpose of debating.” You know what hinders education? Theory arguments do, because the force us to talk about theory instead of talking about the actual topic.

4. Accept Your Burdens – Every resolution gives each side a particular burden. Do not try to modify your burden to make it easier to argue. Do not be afraid to argue difficult positions. In fact, if you do it well, judges will be more impressed despite their initial reservations.

5. Learn Things – Knowledge is power, and this is especially true in debate. If you just know more than your opponent, then you are already at an advantage. Do not focus so much on figuring out round techniques which will help you win. Rather, develop a knowledge base large enough that your opponent can’t throw anything at you which you cannot counter. You should know all the evidence which is in that giant folder of yours front and back because you should have read it all.

These are some basic characteristics which every debater should develop.