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 this installment of the series, I am sharing David Cheshier’s 1999 Rostrum article about effects topicality. Cheshier’s monthly columns in Rostrum were an excellent resource for debaters in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and they addressed many of the most important theoretical controversies of the era. While some columns feel a bit dated in 2021, many are as relevant as ever. This one is a good example — especially for students preparing to debate the 2021-2022 water resources protection topic.
The fate of the 2021-2022 high school policy debate resolution likely hinges on the definition of the word “protection.” If it is defined narrowly, the topic has the potential to be much better than skeptics (and fans of the runner-up Russia topic) had initially assumed. If it is defined broadly, this season will be a frustrating slog. Unless “protection” establishes a meaningful limit on topical plan mechanisms, students will struggle to research and prepare for all of the many, disparate policy proposals that could, by effect, “protect” water resources.
One of the most promising topicality interpretations of “protection” is based on a protracted legal battle in Oregon over the construction of an LNG terminal. It defines “protection” of water resources as policies that “save or shield [them] from loss, destruction, or injury or for future intended use.” There’s a lot more to it, but this is a limiting interpretation that could, if it prevails, keep the water resources topic relatively manageable.
To understand this evidence, it is important to understand the context of the legal fight over the Bradwood terminal. This requires more background information than one might initially realize. In this article, I will share what I have learned about the Bradwood terminal, the Oregon Statewide Planning Goals, and the decisions of Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals and Court of Appeals. This is wonky stuff, but I think it is important for students to understand it. And at the end, I’ll share some A+ topicality cards.