Monthly Archives: June 2022

A YouTube Playlist To Help Debaters Learn About Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

One month after the 2022-2023 high school policy debate topic about NATO was selected, Russia invaded Ukraine. This will have major ramifications for many of the issues students will be researching and debating this year. Even when Ukraine is not the explicit subject of a debate, it will be the elephant in the room. In order to debate the NATO topic intelligently, students will need to know a lot about Ukraine, Russia, and the war.

To help debaters get started, I have curated a YouTube playlist with a series of videos about the history of Ukraine and Russia, the geography of the war, the important military developments so far, and the competing theories about the causes of the war.

I will continue to update this playlist throughout the summer with additional videos. Have a suggestion? Post a comment or email me.

Analyzing The NATO Topic Using Justification Burdens: Strategic Considerations and An Affirmative Case Selection Checklist

In sharing David Cheshier’s 1981 article “Justification vs. The Counterplan,” I noted the continuing importance of the justification argument in contemporary debates about counterplan theory. If you haven’t yet read Cheshier’s article, I suggest doing so before continuing.

More broadly, I think the concept of the justification argument provides a valuable tool for analyzing a debate topic and generating research ideas for affirmative and negative arguments. In this post, I will use the concept of the justification argument to break down the 2022-2023 high school policy debate topic:

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its security cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in one or more of the following areas: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity.

When using this method to analyze a resolution, one starts by identifying each of the affirmative’s “justification burdens” as derived from the resolution’s wording. In other words, what does the affirmative need to “justify” in order to make their prima facie case for the resolution? When making this list, it is helpful to pose the burdens as questions: has the affirmative justified the need for XYZ?

For the NATO topic, there are five main justification burdens that the affirmative must arguably meet. For each burden, I will briefly explain the issues that it raises, the negative strategies it invites, and the strategic considerations the affirmative should therefore consider when selecting and designing their cases. For simplicity’s sake, these five burdens are presented in the order that they appear in the resolution.

After identifying and discussing these burdens, I have also provided a checklist that can be used to vet affirmative case ideas. I hope that students and coaches find this helpful as they begin their summer research.

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Cheshier on Justification Arguments

Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives is a series highlighting “old” debate theory articles that are particularly thought-provoking, influential, or illuminating and that active debate students would benefit from reading.

In tracking the transition from what I called the “policy testing” paradigm of the late 1990s and 2000s to the currently predominant “hypothesis planning” paradigm that first emerged in the 2010s, I noted the importance of the view — derived originally from the hypothesis testing paradigm of the 1970s — that counterplans are merely “justification arguments,” not counter-advocacies. As described by David Zarefsky, the leading theorist of the hypothesis testing paradigm, the counterplan “is merely the justification argument in a different form.”

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