Author Archives: Bill Batterman

Burden of Rejoinder, Episode 3: Analyzing The Water Resources Protection Topic (So Far)

After providing a brief update about the 2022-2023 topic selection process, co-hosts Bill Batterman and Brian Manuel spend most of this episode discussing the water resources protection topic. What are their major takeaways? What trends have they identified? How do they expect the topic to develop during the rest of the season? They analyze the survey of the elimination rounds at St. Mark’s and offer suggestions for students and coaches as they prepare for the next wave of tournaments.

You can subscribe to Burden of Rejoinder in your favorite podcast application. New episodes will be released approximately twice per month. To ask a question or to suggest an episode topic, email podcast@the3nr.com.

As noted in the outro, Bill and Brian are especially interested in hearing from coaches who have recently attended an in-person debate tournament. If you’re interested in sharing your perspective, please send an email and they’ll use it to help prepare for a future episode about the return of in-person debate.

Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Pfau on Negative Strategy and Distinguishing Between Case and Plan Responses

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.

When reading old(er) debate theory scholarship, one immediately notices the ubiquity of labels and jargon. This kind of specialized language has been common in debate for a long time, but it is interesting how many previously-ubiquitous terms have completely fallen out of the debate lexicon. Sometimes, this is for the best; older terms can become outdated because of changes in popular debate practices. But other times, I think we would benefit from revisiting and rejuvenating old terms.

One example of the latter is the distinction between negative case and plan arguments. This distinction between “case side” and “plan side” used to be an important part of the “Debate 101” curriculum. Negative debaters were taught that case responses minimized or disproved the harms, significance, and inherency of the affirmative’s case while plan responses minimized or disproved the affirmative plan’s workability and solvency and identified disadvantages to its adoption.

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What If? The High School Policy Debate Topics That Finished In Second Place, 1995-2021

During each year’s policy debate topic selection process, I usually think quite a bit about the slate of potential topics. But when the voting ends, I tend to forget all about the topics that weren’t selected and get to work on the topic that won (eventually; I mostly continue focusing on the current year’s topic). I assume most people have a similar experience.

As I thought about today’s NFHS announcement of the final two candidates for the 2022-2023 topic, I wondered about the topics that weren’t selected. I can remember a few of the second place finishers, but most have been completely forgotten; it’s difficult to even find many of them.

In this post, I decided to do something about that. Using a variety of sources including emails, the NFHS website, the NSDA’s Rostrum archive, and my personal archive of historical debate materials, I have compiled a list of the second place finishers in the policy debate topic selection process dating back to the 1995-1996 season. This covers most of the “modern era” of high school policy debate.

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The Final Ballot for the 2022-2023 Topic Includes Multilateral Climate Change and NATO Emerging Technology Resolutions

Today, the NFHS announced the results of the first round of balloting for the 2022-2023 high school policy debate resolution:

The National Federation of State High School Associations recently tabulated debate ballots from 34 states, Washington D.C., the National Speech and Debate Association, the National Debate Coaches Association, the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, and the National Catholic Forensic League. The returned ballots narrowed the five proposed topics to two for placement on the final ballot to select the 2022-2023 national high school debate topic. The five topic areas were ranked 1-5 with the two topic areas receiving the lowest totals – Climate Change and Emerging Technologies – placed on the final ballot. On January 10, 2022, the NFHS will announce the preferred topic area and resolution after states and national organizations are able to place a final vote. The 2022-2023 national high school debate topic and resolution will be posted on the NFHS Speech and Debate webpage and sent to state associations and affiliate members.

The final ballot will include the following two resolutions:

1. Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its support of multilateral greenhouse gas emission reduction regimes.

2. 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.

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A Survey of the Elimination Rounds at the St. Mark’s Heart of Texas Invitational

How is the water resources protection topic going? Is it a good topic? What are the most common affirmative and negative arguments? What affirmative and negative strategies have been most successful? By late October, we can start to answer these questions with more confidence.

To help figure out the answers, I like to survey the elimination rounds at major national circuit tournaments. Doing so can reveal helpful information about how the topic is being interpreted, which (if any) affirmative cases are most common, which negative arguments are most popular, and whether there is a significant affirmative or negative side bias.

For each elimination round, my review includes the 1AC (plan text and advantage names), a list of 1NC off-case arguments (including a numerical breakdown by argument type), and the argument(s) extended in the 2NR. The process of compiling this information helps me get a better sense of what happened at the tournament because it forces me to review all of the elimination round speech documents. Doing so helps me identify information that will be helpful when preparing for future tournaments: argument trends, common arguments, unique/new arguments, teams’ tendencies, evidence to reproduce, holes in our preparation, etc. The process is time consuming, but I think it is time well spent.

In this post, I will share my survey of the elimination rounds at the St. Mark’s Heart of Texas Invitational. You are encouraged to repeat this process on your own for other major tournaments and for tournaments in your region/circuit.

For now, I won’t share any conclusions; I’ll save that for a future post or podcast episode.

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Glass on Neg-Neg Theory

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 February 2012, David Glass wrote an article in Rostrum proposing a new concept called “Neg-Neg Theory.” A play on the Plan-Plan Theory of the early 1990s, it challenged the assumption that the affirmative team must affirm the resolution: “rather than the affirmative being obligated to defend the resolution, the affirmative could take the initiative of proving the resolution to be incorrect or false.” Glass then attempted to lay out the corresponding affirmative and negative burdens that would be established if the affirmative opted to take a negative approach to the resolution.

I don’t recall much reaction to Glass’s article at the time. While an increasing number of affirmative teams kritiked or impact turned topicality during this era, I don’t remember any that cited Glass directly. Unavailable online, the article was then functionally memory-holed for the rest of the decade.

After a long hiatus, Glass’s article returned to The Discourse during the 2019-2020 season when a few affirmative teams began directly citing it to support a counter-interpretation against topicality and framework arguments. I believe but can’t confirm that Westwood was the first to do so.

In this post, I will explain and critique Glass’s Neg-Neg Theory. I will also share the full text of his article so that students can more easily read, study, and debate it.

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Recommended Podcast Episode: Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò on Deference Epistemology and Standpoint Epistemology

Podcasts are an excellent educational resource for debaters. I will occasionally recommend specific episodes that debaters might find particularly helpful.

Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò is a philosophy professor at Georgetown. He recently wrote two provocative articles about the concept of deference epistemology and its relationship to standpoint epistemology: “Identity Politics and Elite Capture” (in the Boston Review) and “Being-in-the-Room Privilege: Elite Capture and Epistemic Deference” (in The Philosopher). Both have significant potential applications to popular debate arguments; Jenny Zhang explicitly made that connection in a Gawker article. Táíwò is also working on a book-length version of these articles; its title is Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else) and it will be published by Haymarket Books in mid-2022.

Cards from Táíwò’s articles are already being cited in debates, and I expect that they will become increasingly popular going forward. To help students understand how to defend and answer Táíwò’s arguments, I recommend two podcast episodes: “Identity, Power, and Speech with Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò” from The Dig and “Constructing New Rooms with Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò” from The End of Sport.

The former episode is a long, in-depth conversation about Táíwò’s articles. Daniel Denvir is a talented interviewer, and his questions give Táíwò an opportunity to unpack, explain, and expand his position. Listening to this conversation will help students better understand the concepts and arguments in Táíwò’s work.

In the latter episode, hosts Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Johanna Mellis, and Derek Silva ask Táíwò to apply his arguments to sports. The conversation begins with a basic introduction to the idea of racial capitalism and then moves to a discussion of elite capture and how it plays out inside and outside of sports, including in last year’s WNBA and NBA player protests and in Colin Kaepernick’s exclusion from the NFL. Then, Táíwò offers a succinct explanation of what he means by the concept of deference epistemology, how it differs from standpoint epistemology, and how it might be applied to college football during the pandemic. Sports fans will find this episode particularly helpful for understanding Táíwò’s arguments, but I think it will be helpful even for students who aren’t familiar with the specific details of the sports examples.

Burden of Rejoinder, Episode 2: Next Year’s High School Policy Debate Topic and This Year’s College Policy Debate Topic

We know high school policy debaters and their coaches are focused on this year’s water resources protection topic, but this episode discusses two other topics that might be of interest to listeners: next year’s proposed high school topics and this year’s college topic.

In the first segment, co-hosts Bill Batterman and Brian Manuel explain how the high school policy debate topic is selected and how students and coaches can become involved in the process. They also share their thoughts on the slate of topics for 2022-2023 in preparation for the first round of balloting that will conclude this week.

In the second segment, Bill and Brian explain how the college topic selection process differs from the high school process and offer a brief introduction to the antitrust topic. They also share some tips for how high school students can improve how they watch college debates and browse the college wiki.

Links discussed in the first segment:
NFHS Summary of 2022-2023 Proposed Topics
2022-2023 Topic Papers
2019 and 2020 Topic Papers
Bill’s Post About 2022-2023 Proposed Topics

Suggested links for learning more about the antitrust topic:
Topic Paper
We The People (Podcast) — “Will President Biden Transform Antitrust?” (07/29/2021)
Weeds (Podcast) — “A User’s Guide to Antitrust” (06/07/2021)
CRS Report — “Antitrust Law: An Introduction” (05/29/2019)
CRS Report — “The Big Tech Antitrust Bills” (08/13/2021)
Brishen Rogers (Boston Review) — “The Limits of Antitrust Enforcement” (04/30/2018)
Sanjukta Paul and Sandeep Vaheesan (The Nation) — “Make Antitrust Democratic Again!” (11/12/2019)

You should now be able to subscribe to Burden of Rejoinder in your favorite podcast application. New episodes will be released approximately twice per month. To ask Bill and Brian a question or to suggest an episode topic, email podcast@the3nr.com.

If You Want A Glimpse At The Issues Of Tomorrow, Listen To A High School Debate Today: Revisiting Two 2018 Debates About Vaccine Mandates

One of my favorite things about being a long-time debate coach is the exposure it has given me to a wide range of public policy controversies. Jim Fleissner delivered a speech about this at the Barkley Forum Coaches Luncheon in 1995 that that I really like; I republished it here in 2010.

One of Fleissner’s points is that “an often neglected facet of [debate coaches’] teaching” is “the substantial body of knowledge acquired by your students.” As part of that argument, he makes this observation:

How many times have you heard a news report about some startling new development, only to realize that you heard about it years ago in debate? For example, the first time I encountered the notion that there were forces that might cause the collapse of the Soviet Union resulting in dangerous regional instability was in a high school debate over a decade ago. Silly academic dream-world arguments? I say if you want a glimpse at the issues of 2005, listen to a high school debate today.

For me, watching the ongoing fights over COVID-19 vaccine mandates has been the latest example of this feeling that debate anticipated the news. This can sometimes be unsettling or confounding, but it can also be inspirational and rewarding. In a sense, it can confirm that what we’re learning matters and that our research is successfully grappling with difficult controversies. I’ve been thinking a lot about two rounds in particular, and I thought others might find this reflection interesting.

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Burden of Rejoinder, Bonus Episode: Topicality on the Water Resources Protection Topic

In this short bonus episode of The 3NR’s new podcast, Bill Batterman and Brian Manuel discuss their early thoughts about topicality on this year’s water resources protection topic. Does “protection” provide a meaningful limit? How can the resolution be interpreted to exclude “effects topical” cases? We’ll revisit these and other topicality questions in the future, but we wanted to share our early impressions after the first few regular season tournaments.

This episode was recorded during the same session that we recorded episode one. Our second full-length episode will be shared soon. You should now be able to subscribe to Burden of Rejoinder in your favorite podcast application. If we missed a podcast directory or if you would like to suggest an episode topic, send us an email at podcast@the3nr.com.