Category Archives: Noteworthy

Breaking Down The Final Two 2022-2023 Topic Choices: Why I Am Not Voting For The NATO Emerging Technologies Topic

With the 2022-2023 high school policy debate topic selection process nearing completion, I explained my concerns about the multilateral climate regimes topic. This time, I will share my thoughts about the other option on the final ballot: the NATO emerging technologies topic. Is it the better choice? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. I’ll return to this answer at the end of the post, but first I’ll share my analysis of the NATO topic.

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Breaking Down The Final Two 2022-2023 Topic Choices: My Concerns About The Multilateral Climate Change Regimes Topic

The final round of voting for the 2022-2023 national high school policy debate topic is nearly complete. The two resolutions on the ballot are:

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.

Which one is better? I’ve had a difficult time deciding. Both have serious problems. In this post, I will explain my concerns about the climate change topic. In a subsequent post, I will do the same for the NATO topic. If you haven’t voted yet, I hope you will find these posts helpful as you deliberate over your final choice.

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An Updated List of TOC Qualifying Tournaments in Policy Debate, 1992-1993 to 2021-2022

When I was on the Tournament of Champions Policy Debate Advisory Committee in the late-2000s, I created a spreadsheet that tracked the history of TOC bid tournaments by level. At the time, I was able to compile information from 1997-1998 through 2009-2010. The spreadsheet was a useful resource for preparing or reviewing TOC bid tournament applications, and it was also helpful for anyone researching regional or national circuit participation trends.

While working on my recent post about declining participation, I decided to update this spreadsheet to include information through the current (2021-2022) season. I was also able to find information from a few older seasons. The spreadsheet — which is publicly available here (and embedded below the fold) — now includes complete information from 1992-1993 and 1994-1995 through 2021-2022; I couldn’t find information for 1993-1994 or for any seasons before 1992. If more issues of Rostrum are eventually digitized, I hope to fill in more gaps.

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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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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.

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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Recommended Podcast Episode: Bracewell Environmental Law Monitor on WOTUS

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

I recently wrote about the Arizona District Court’s WOTUS decision and what it means for the water resources protection topic. Students looking for a deeper dive into the subject should check out two recent episodes of the Bracewell Environmental Law Monitor podcast. The first (from September 15th) is a very wonky discussion of WOTUS, its history, its current status, and its future. It is a conversation between three Bracewell attorneys: Daniel Pope, Ann Navaro, and Brittany Pemberton. Its target audience is lawyers and other professionals in industries affected by WOTUS, but I think debaters will appreciate its depth.

The second episode is a five minute update from later that day. In it, Pope explains the EPA’s announcement that it will no longer be enforcing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. At the time the earlier episode was recorded, this had not yet been determined.

A Hard Job That Keeps Getting Harder: The Reasons Why Debate Coaches Quit Are The Same Today As They Were In 1965

Debate coaching is a difficult job that has become even more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last March, coaches were forced to scramble to salvage the rest of the debate season after schools and large parts of the economy were shut down. They figured out how to teach and coach and judge online, taught students to compete online, and struggled to sustain their debate programs amidst often severe budget cuts.

Now debate coaches have been forced to figure out what to do next. Some are back in in-person classrooms with inconsistent (or non-existent) masking and social distancing policies. Others are still teaching and coaching online. Some are bouncing back and forth between the two. When will in-person tournaments return? Some already have, but no one in a position of public health authority is making that decision. Coaches are mostly on their own to decide what is safe and how to continue coaching debate during an ongoing pandemic. And all of this responsibility has been added on top of their “regular” jobs as teachers or professionals in other fields.

It’s overwhelming. Anecdotally, many coaches have decided to give up on debate either temporarily or for good. Others have significantly scaled back their involvement. Coaching shortages were already a pervasive problem before the pandemic. Now, the outlook for the debate coaching profession seems grim. How many coaches will quit before the pandemic is finally “over”? How many debate programs will permanently end because they were unable to recruit and retain a committed coach?

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