Resolved: To alleviate income inequality in the United States, increased spending on public infrastructure should be prioritized over increased spending on means-tested welfare programs.

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Resolved: To alleviate income inequality in the United States, increased spending on public infrastructure should be prioritized over increased spending on means-tested welfare programs.

This resolution isn’t phrased properly. The real world doesn’t actually pose a choice between these two, and it’s difficult to think of a scenario in which they would come into conflict. Rather, we should be talking about which one is more effective, which is probably what this debate will turn into. It’s important to remember, however, that you must prove why the government should pick one over the other. The resolution assumes a world where there is a choice to be made. This resolution is also rife with opportunities for well run kritiks, although that’s not really a fashionable thing to do in Public Forum. For example, who says we even should alleviate income inequality?

Definitions

Income Inequality – We’ve all heard about the 1%. That is essentially what this is referring to. Don’t get too bogged down in the actual spread of income, but rather focus on the idea that there is substantial income inequality in the U.S. which needs to be fixed. The actual numbers around this are irrelevant to the argument.

Spending on Public Infrastructure – This harkens back to the days of FDR. Spending on infrastructure means building things that help form the foundations of society like energy producing facilities, roads, hospitals, and other public works type things.

Spending on Means-Tested Welfare Programs – These programs refer to those which grant benefits or assistance based on the need of the individual. Means-testing refers to evaluating the means which a person has, or how much they are able to provide on their own, and then allocating benefits accordingly.

Pro

1. Infrastructure Works Better – Spending on infrastructure creates jobs, and helps society. The numbers are clear. While welfare programs may provide assistance or money directly to those in need, infrastructure spending allows those in need to earn that assistance while also contributing to the rest of society.

2. Welfare Programs are a Byproduct of a Bad System – The reason that welfare programs even exist in the U.S. is because of things like a private healthcare system and poor education. Therefore, we shouldn’t increase spending on these programs, but rather fix the systems that’s causing the need in the first place.

3. Welfare is Useless Without Infrastructure – Let’s say you give a person $100 to buy medication. If he can’t get to a pharmacy, that $100 is useless. He can’t get the medication anyway. The resolution creates a world in which there is a conflict between infrastructure and welfare needs. In this conflict, infrastructure should always be prioritized because welfare is useless without infrastructure.

Con

1. Infrastructure Spending Doesn’t Work – Contrary to common belief, infrastructure spending in the 21st century doesn’t promote economic stimulus and job growth. It also doesn’t address the major problems of income inequality because jobs in infrastructure don’t pay anything. Welfare programs afford people the ability to work towards getting higher paying jobs.

2. There is No Need for Infrastructure Spending – The resolution poses a false dichotomy. In the United States, infrastructure is pretty much set. We need to focus on other things because roads, energy, and such things are taken care of.

3. Prioritization is Bad – These expenditures don’t exist in a vacuum. The U.S. spends nearly $1 trillion on “defense” every year. If that spending is cut even slightly, then both infrastructure and welfare programs can receive the funding they need. The notion that one must be prioritized over the other is spurious, since both are possible.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Resolved: The United States should withdraw its military presence from Okinawa

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okinawa

Resolved: The United States should withdraw its military presence from Okinawa.

This is probably a good topic for students to learn a little something. Most people don’t know about the U.S. military presence in Asia and how we handle business in that part of the world. That being said, the debate will actually be pretty shallow. There aren’t many good reasons to go one way or the other, so rounds will likely become tennis matches unless students develop some creative positions.

Definitions

Okinawa – Okinawa is an island chain to the south of Japan. The United States has historically maintained a strong military base there as a launching point to the rest of Asia/Southeast Asia

Withdraw its military presence – Do not get caught up in how much of the military presence is to be withdrawn. For the sake of the debate, just assume that the United States will no longer maintain a military base(s) on the island chain of Okinawa.

Should – This is the most important word in the resolution. Your framework will need to explain how a government decides what it should do. Then you will apply that framework to this specific situation to argue the resolution.

Case Positions

Pro

1. Unnecessary Expenditure – The United States’ primary obligation is to its own people. It should be spending toward that obligation above other things. Maintaining a military presence in Okinawa does not promote the interests of the American people, and therefore, is an unnecessary effort that does not fulfill the obligations of the U.S. government.

2. Political Conflict – The people of Okinawa do not want a U.S. military base in their home, and since WW2 is over, we do not have a reason to continue to maintain one there. We are violating principles of international law, as well as the self determination of the Japanese people, by doing this.

Con

1. Security – A government’s primary obligation is to protect its own people. That is the reason governments are formed to begin with. A military presence in Asia is integral to fulfilling this obligation for the U.S. Countries like North Korea are a legitimate threat, and Okinawa allows the U.S. to maintain the possibility of a rapid response to any hostile activity. It also acts as a deterrent against any such hostility.

2. Obligation to Japan – The United States has committed to protecting Japan against foreign threats. This is particularly important since Japan is not allowed to have its own standing military. In order for the United States to honor this commitment, a military presence is Okinawa is necessary.

That should help you get started. Good luck!

Resolved: The United States federal government should adopt a carbon tax.

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Resolved: The United States federal government should adopt a carbon tax.

This isn’t a really interesting topic. The debate is pretty bland, and there isn’t much evidence for either side. It will be difficult to come up with unique positions that people aren’t already prepared for. In any case, let’s see what we can do.

Definitions

Carbon Tax – A carbon tax is a special tax placed on fossil fuels. Basically, you have to pay taxes when you buy fossil fuels. The intent is to curb carbon emissions by discouraging people from using fossil fuels.

Adopt – Don’t get caught up in the definition of this word. Adopt just means to enact. The resolution is asking whether or not the U.S. federal government should enact such a tax.

Case Positions

Pro

1. The Environment – Carbon Tax’s help the environment. Columbia’s tax is a prime example. If you want to reduce carbon emissions and protect our plant, a carbon tax is a great way to do it. Not only that, a carbon tax encourages investment into other green energy technologies.

2. Economic Benefit – A carbon tax helps the economy. It encourages development in new sectors and creates demand for alternative products.

Con

1. Economic Harm – Carbon taxes harm small businesses, and they afford an opportunity for larger companies to take advantage, establishing a more dominant market position.

2. Constitutionality – The carbon tax doesn’t fall under the interstate commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution like other taxes. It would be unconstitutional for the U.S. federal government to enact such a tax.

I hope that helps. Good luck!

 

Resolved: On balance, economic sanctions are reducing the threat Russia poses to Western interests.

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Resolved: On balance, economic sanctions are reducing the threat Russia poses to Western interests.

I don’t understand the reason for this topic. It seems quite outdated. There are more pressing issues which would likely have made for better debates. In any case, let’s see what we can do with this one.

Definitions

Western Interests – These are the interests of the block of nations known as “Western” countries. These include, but aren’t limited to the U.S., England, France, Spain, etc…

Economic Sanctions – We know what these are. Trade embargos, export blocks, etc… are imposed as restrictions designed to economically starve a country so it doesn’t do bad things or is pressured into not doing bad things.

Case Positions

Pro

1. Security – Sanctions inhibit Russia from supplying arms, supporting groups that work against the West, and conducting military action which poses threats to strategic U.S. positions in Europe.

2. Oil – It is actually in west’s interest to keep OPEC the major supplier of oil to the world and force Russia from the market. Economic sanctions prevent Russia from selling, producing, and buying oil to fuel its machine. You can actually base an entire case off of oil related interest arguments.

Con

1. Russia Is Not a Threat – Russia hasn’t been a threat since the Soviet regimes collapsed and the Cold War ended. It is a wounded animal that does not possess the economic or military strength to harm Western interests. Economic sanctions only starve the people.

2. Creation of Terror Cells – When you create a climate of poverty and oppression through economic sanctions, it creates a breeding ground for violent organizations and terrorists. Russia, and former Soviet block states, are recruiting havens for international criminal organizations. Economic sanctions directly lead to this happening.

Hope this helps, good luck!

Resolved: On balance, standardized testing is beneficial to K-12 education in the United States.

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Resolved: On balance, standardized testing is beneficial to K-12 education in the United States.

I’m not even going to bother talking about how terrible this topic is. Let’s just get into the arguments.

Definitions

Nothing in this resolution really needs to be defined. We all know what standardized testing is, and what K-12 education is. We also know what the United States is. The only thing to keep in mind is that you do, in fact, have to defend the actual standardized test that occur in the U.S. You cannot argue in a hypothetical world where standardized testing is carried out properly. The reason for this is the word “is.” The resolution is asking you to evaluate reality, not make a normative judgment about the ideal state of things.

The important thing here is to develop a framework which explains what being “beneficial” entails. If something is beneficial to education, what criteria must it fulfill?

Case Positions

Pro

1. Measurable Improvement – The mark of a strong educational system is its ability to measure improvement. There need to be objective metrics which evaluate whether teachers, schools, and students are improving and how they’re performing in relation to each other. Standardized test allow this to happen. They allow for the comparison of educational systems, along with longitudinal comparisons of performance. Additionally, they allow for the identification of areas of need.

2. Economic Benefits – Standardized tests economically benefit an already strapped education system. They are easy to administer, take less time, and are easier to evaluate. Therefore, they allow resources to go where they’re more needed.

3. Selection for the Working World – Standardized tests allow for an objective metric for post K-12 institutions to select students and employees. This is good for pre-secondary education because it allows schools to easily set standards, goals, and curricula.

Con

1. Preparation for the Real World – The mark of a strong education system is its ability to prepare students for the real world. Standardized tests prevent schools from being able to do that. They do not test skills and actual knowledge retention. Instead, they test irrelevant abilities of memorization and regurgitation. Not only that, there are entire companies dedicated to teaching techniques for effective test taking for these tests, rather than teaching actual useful competencies.

2. Finland – Standardized tests don’t actually create students who perform better on standardized tests. Finland is the #1 education system in the world, as ranked by the PISA standardized test rankings. The thing is, Finland’s education system doesn’t have any standardized test. The only multiple choice individual tests Finnish students ever take is this test for international ranking. Otherwise, their system is based entirely on group activities and collective learning. So, standardized tests actually waste a large amount of resources in the U.S. because schools focus on creating students who can do well on these tests, but they go about it the entirely wrong way. It’s a really strange self-defeating cycle.

3. Fish Can’t Climb Trees – Einstein had a famous quote about how you can’t evaluate how smart a fish is by asking it to climb a tree. Standardized tests do exactly that. They try to evaluate everyone using the same metric, which is dumb, because people aren’t all the same. If you ask all the animals to climb a tree, of course the monkeys will excel, and the fish will fail. Therefore, you destroy what an education system actually ought to be, a mechanism to foster and evaluate the actual skills of students. Standardized tests are destructive.

I hope that helps you get started. Good luck!