Category Archives: Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives

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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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Hingstman on Topicality and the “Division of Ground” Standard

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.

Dr. David Hingstman recently retired after a long and distinguished coaching career. In this post, I will share one of my favorite of his many scholarly articles: a 1985 conference paper explaining a “division of ground” framework for understanding and debating topicality.

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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 Sometimes, this is for the best; older terms can become outdated because of changes in popular debate practices.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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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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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Seaver on Trans-Topical Argument and Evidence Recycling

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.

For many years during the 2000s and early 2010s, the National Debate Coaches Association published an “NDCA Coaches Corner” column in the Rostrum. Picking up where David Cheshier’s late-1990s and early-2000s column left off, volunteer member coaches took turns writing articles about a variety of theory and coaching issues. More than a decade later, these articles are fascinating to revisit.

In this post, I will share Frank Seaver’s 2007 Coaches Corner article about argument and evidence recycling between topics. Written a few years before the transition to paperless debate, Seaver’s article criticizes the national policy debate circuit’s tendency to reuse the same arguments year after year even when the recycled arguments are not core issues in the scholarly literature about the new topic.

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Conliff on Counter-Advantages

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 digging through old debate theory scholarship, I often find remarkable consistency across eras. While theories evolve, many foundational issues have remained perennial controversies for several decades (or longer). I have already shared many articles in this series that demonstrate this surprising consistency.

While these are enlightening articles to revisit and study, I also enjoy uncovering articles that propose novel theories that never caught on and that have been lost to history. Here, I will share one example: an article proposing a position called the “counter-advantage.”

Published in 1993 in Debate Issues, the article was written by Charles Conliff, a Miami University of Ohio college debater. As far as I can tell, it has never been made available online; there is no reference to it on Google.

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Hynes on Counterplan Competition

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.

As I mentioned on Twitter, I recently revisited Debating Counterplans: Modern Theory and Practice. Written in 1987 by University of Louisville Director of Debate Tim Hynes, this short book offers a valuable intellectual history of the counterplan as it had developed from the early 1970s through the late 1980s. As far as I know, it is not currently available online; this post (and future posts in this series) will remedy that.

The first chapter that I will share is the fourth chapter of the book: “Counterplan Competition.” In it, Hynes explains the origins and “modern” (1980s) developments of counterplan competition including the six potential standards for determining competition: Mutual Exclusivity, Net Benefits, Redundancy, Philosophical Competitiveness, Resource Competitiveness, and Artificial Competitiveness. After describing each standard (including its strengths and weaknesses), Hynes concludes with a discussion of the two major affirmative strategies that had been developed to disprove counterplan competition: extra-competitiveness and permutations.

At the time, standards for competition had not yet been fully settled; Hynes was describing a set of theoretical concepts that were still in flux. In retrospect, his analysis was quite prescient: Hynes accurately identified the mutual exclusivity and net-benefits standards for determining competition as the strongest, and he correctly predicted (citing Solt) that other standards would eventually be subsumed by the net-benefits standard.

In my view, contemporary students would benefit greatly from reading this history of counterplan competition — especially given how many debates in 2021 are decided by counterplan competition arguments. It is one thing to understand that counterplans compete based on mutual exclusivity or net-benefits because your debate coach or summer institute instructor told you so. It is quite another to understand why these standards were established and how and why affirmative teams developed responses like extra-competitiveness and (proto-) permutations. Students that understand the intellectual origins of these arguments from decades ago will be much better prepared to intelligently debate the extremely complicated counterplan competition issues that dominate today’s tournaments.

The full text of “Counterplan Competition” is below.

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Unger on Topicality, Reasonability, and the Best Definition Standard (a.k.a. Competing Interpretations)

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.

One main purpose of this series is to share important debate theory scholarship that is currently unavailable online. This installment is a good example: it features James J. Unger‘s seminal article introducing the “best definition” standard for topicality. Originally published in the October 1981 issue of Rostrum, it was later included in the Advanced Debate textbook. Oft-cited but unavailable (until now) online, Unger’s article developed the theoretical basis for what is now known as the “competing interpretations” model of debating and judging topicality.

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Papka on (Excessive) Conditionality and the “Middle Ground” of Dispositionality

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 highlighting Ouita Papka‘s article about conditionality from the 1986 Debater’s Research Guide. At the time the article was written, Papka (now a successful chef and restaurateur) had just won the National Debate Tournament for the University of Kentucky. Her article’s main goal was to help students better answer negative strategies that include multiple conditional counterplans. Papka also proposed an alternative, “middle ground” status for negatives to consider when introducing counterplans (soon to be called “dispositionality”) that was pioneered by Kentucky during her senior season.

It is interesting to trace the historical norms about conditionality and off-case positions since the time Papka’s article was written. For most of the 1990s and into the early-2000s, it was uncommon for negatives to introduce multiple conditional counterplans. During that era, dispositionality became a more common alternative disposition, and one conditional counterplan was typically considered the maximum acceptable degree or “amount” of conditionality.

This began to change in the second half of the 2000s. Notably, the 2006 NDT Final Round included two conditional counterplans and the 2009 NDT Final Round included four conditional counterplans and one conditional kritik; at the time, both were shocking deviations from expected conditionality norms.

In the 2010s, negative teams increasingly introduced multiple conditional counterplans and kritiks, and successful theoretical objections to conditionality became relatively rare. As a result, debaters in 2021 are facing the same challenge that Papka identified in 1986: “being affirmative in a debate round where the first negative presents four conditional counterplans.”

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Digging Into The Debate Theory Archives: Ulrich on Counter-Procedure Counterplans

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 part five of the recent series on the history of plans in policy debate, I quoted Walter Ulrich’s 1987 attempt to categorize the different types of counterplans. He distinguished between three major types: counter agent counterplans, counter policy counterplans, and counter procedure counterplans. While further sub-categorizations (like Solt’s twelve categories) may be helpful to distinguish between particular counterplans, the simplicity of Ulrich’s taxonomy can help students recognize their shared foundational assumptions.

Ulrich outlined his categorization scheme in a short article about one of the three counterplan types he identified: counter procedure counterplans. He defined them as counterplans that “develop alternative methods of evaluating and/or adopting the policy defended by the affirmative.” Popular examples included “the referendum counterplan, the study counterplan, planning counterplans, and other counterplans that advocate alternative processes for evaluating the affirmative policy.”

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