Topics! – PF Nov ’17, LD Nov-Dec ’17

Public Forum Debate – 2017 November Topic Area: Gun Rights

Resolved: The United States should require universal background checks for all gun sales and transfer of ownership.

With the mass shooting in Las Vegas just as the topic was being announced, it’s either very timely or very awkward – every indication is that the shooter passed all the necessary background checks. To that extent, other examples will need to be used to justify the Pro side of the resolution. I do have a Gun Issues folder that goes back years that should have articles relevant to this topic.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate – 2017 November/December Topic

Resolved: Wealthy nations have an obligation to provide development assistance to other nations.

An extension of the question of whether we as individuals have an obligation to help others in need – aid writ large rather than individually. With our obligations towards our own people in three different locations post-hurricanes, the question of who we should help first becomes relevant in a way it usually isn’t for variants of this topic. (Mexico was going to aid Houston until their earthquake.) For those into Political Science, this is a classic core-periphery question/situation. Remember that the LD-Values folder has a Philosophy subfolder, and that there’s a PSci (Political Science) folder (because that’s my major) as well. Do note that the resolution isn’t U.S.-specific; what obligations do the EU, Russia, and China have as leading economies? Examining Chinese projects in Africa and Latin America could prove interesting. Still, this is fundamentally a value question, not one of policy.

Topic recap/repost:

Lincoln-Douglas Debate – 2017 September/October Topic

Resolved: In the United States, national service ought to be compulsory.

Compulsory National Service was the 1968-69 CX topic – I remember it as the worst CX topic I had as a competitor. At the time the Selective Service System was in full swing, and many felt that everyone should have to serve their country.

Note that this wording has nothing to do with military service – civilian service is definitely an option. Since the resolution comes under LD (proposition of value), the policy issues that made the question miserable (to me) as a CX topic can be avoided. More on this one later.

Public Forum Debate – 2017 September/October Topic Area: Korean Peninsula

Resolved: Deployment of anti-missile systems is in South Korea’s best interest.

I’ve just updated the Extemp Files so there are a ton of articles available on this one.

In terms of the larger question (what to do about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs) think of a Venn diagram made up of circles representing the countries involved – North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Japan, and even Russia. The resolution is a very specific subset of the larger question – what defensive actions should South Korea take. After South Korea’s recent government change, there was an initial rejection of the THAAD anti-missile system deployment. Events are overtaking that position – the files contain articles that now involve South Korea wanting not only its own missiles, but also its own nukes as well. It’ll be interesting to see where the real world stands when we actually start debating this resolution (October for my state).

Policy Debate – 2017-2018 Topic

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its funding and/or regulation of elementary and/or secondary education in the United States.

Repost from this past spring, when the topic was announced:

This will be the third time I’ve coached/judged on this topic. When education reform came around during the 1972-73 season, the first ‘computers in education’ cases (when computers still involved mainframes and punch-card programming) appeared – so, how has that turned out?

One thing that was clear the last time we did this was that the only real way to improve educational outcomes was by what happens in the classroom – something that isn’t specific to school type (public/private/charter/whatever). The double ‘and/or’ construction of the resolution leads to a number of possible combinations. Identifying a specific problem will be important on this one – too nebulous, and solvency evaporates. Note also that funding-only cases usually lack inherency – you’re just expanding existing programs – though arguing that everything is fine except for funding might work. The Extemp Files and Extemp Backfiles have Education subfolders worth mining. Few education problems are new, so older issues/articles are likely to still be valid (since we haven’t really done anything particularly successful to solve the problems).

A comment I made to an area CXer at Nationals, before she headed off to camp on this topic: What about an infrastructure case? With many schools in bad physical shape (poor facilities, and outdated materials), would improving facilities work as an Aff case?

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Topics! – PF Sep/Oct ’17, LD Sep/Oct ’17, CX ’17-’18

Lincoln-Douglas Debate – 2017 September/October Topic

Resolved: In the United States, national service ought to be compulsory.

Compulsory National Service was the 1968-69 CX topic – I remember it as the worst CX topic I had as a competitor. At the time the Selective Service System was in full swing, and many felt that everyone should have to serve their country.

Note that this wording has nothing to do with military service – civilian service is definitely an option. Since the resolution comes under LD (proposition of value), the policy issues that made the question miserable (to me) as a CX topic can be avoided. More on this one later.

Note: there is a Novice LD topic that may be used in some areas – Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified. This is the annual fall novice topic – it’s been used the previous two years, if memory serves me. Check your local tournament invitations to see which topic they’re using. (I’ve had teams show up having prepared for the wrong topic – it’s not a positive experience.)

Public Forum Debate – 2017 September/October Topic Area: Korean Peninsula

Resolved: Deployment of anti-missile systems is in South Korea’s best interest.

I’ve just updated the Extemp Files so there are a ton of articles available on this one.

In terms of the larger question (what to do about North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs) think of a Venn diagram made up of circles representing the countries involved – North Korea, South Korea, the United States, Japan, and even Russia. The resolution is a very specific subset of the larger question – what defensive actions should South Korea take. After South Korea’s recent government change, there was an initial rejection of the THAAD anti-missile system deployment. Events are overtaking that position – the files contain articles that now involve South Korea wanting not only its own missiles, but also its own nukes as well. It’ll be interesting to see where the real world stands when we actually start debating this resolution (October for my state).

Policy Debate – 2017-2018 Topic

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its funding and/or regulation of elementary and/or secondary education in the United States.

Repost from this past spring, when the topic was announced:

This will be the third time I’ve coached on this topic. When education reform came around during the 1972-73 season, the first ‘computers in education’ cases (when computers still involved mainframes and punch-card programming) appeared – so, how has that turned out?

One thing that was clear the last time we did this was that the only real way to improve educational outcomes was by what happens in the classroom – something that isn’t specific to school type (public/private/charter/whatever). The double ‘and/or’ construction of the resolution leads to a number of possible combinations. Identifying a specific problem will be important on this one – too nebulous, and solvency evaporates. Note also that funding-only cases usually lack inherency – you’re just expanding existing programs – though arguing that everything is fine except for funding might work. The Extemp Files and Extemp Backfiles have Education subfolders worth mining. Few education problems are new, so older issues/articles are likely to still be valid (since we haven’t really done anything particularly successful to solve the problems).

A comment I made to an area CXer at Nationals, before she headed off to camp on this topic: What about an infrastructure case? With many schools in bad physical shape (poor facilities, and outdated materials), would improving facilities work as an Aff case?

Today’s question

Nationals is over, debate camps are working on actual (CX – Education topic) or potential (LD & PF) topics, and I’m trying to get caught up with pulling post-Nationals articles (still have the last week of June to cover, though I am current for July). So, slow around here for a brief period.

BUT…

…there are still questions worth pondering. The Washington Post had one this morning, already worded the way we like it:

Resolved: Barack Obama is better at Twitter than Donald Trump

Extemp Files Update – plus CX, LD, PF

The Extemp Files, LD-Values, and Government folders were updated yesterday afternoon, through March 6th. (I’m current with pulling articles, but not caught up with filing them.)

3-16-17: Files just updated again; now current through March 13th. Biggest edition is a ton of articles on the new Trumpcare proposal.

CX (China), PF (2-state/Middle East) and LD (housing): quick lessons from Nat Quals (ours was the first weekend in March). CX – you need to get more current material on what’s going on in China – too much of what I heard was dated and not applicable (though, often, the other team didn’t point this out – presumably because they weren’t current either). Hit the China folder for the most recent articles. There are some good ones on what Xi’s doing, and economic implications. PF – only judged one round, so not a lot of takeaways – but there have been a bunch of recent articles on the topic (Middle East folder), a lot of them analytical. LD – a longer post later if time permits (State this weekend, so jammed for time) – quick takes are that most people are sticking with homeless only – consider expanding to others who need adequate housing. Hit the Poverty folder; there have been a lot of recent articles on dealing with homelessness. Stats: there’s a 2011 figure I heard in multiple rounds about 2+M homeless; current is much less than that (600k?). Realize that while the recession peaked in 2008-9, there was a lag in people losing homes, so the 2M figure likely reflects the peak number of homeless during the Great Recession.

They’re complete through June 2016 (just before Nationals), and from Sept. 12 2016. Articles in the gap will be added as time permits. I have tried to find all the China articles in the gap after Nationals for the CX people. The files now begin in January 2016; 2015 articles are now in the backfiles.

The Extemp Backfiles folder is available, too. With some political issues, global and domestic, having existed for years, there are some gems to be found here.

Government folder: since the inauguration, I’ve been filing All Things Trump a bit differently. In the Elections subfolder, the articles since the inauguration have to do with the inauguration itself, the inauguration weekend protests, and with Trump appointments. There is now a Trump folder (which will eventually be moved to the Presidents folder, but not for a while) for things specific to him and to White House operations/people. Other topics concerning his actions will be found in the specific topic folders, mostly in the Extemp Files. Note that the Government folder has folders in it for both political parties, for Regulations, for Privatization, and an unfortunately active one for Corruption (including the potential for it).

Extemp Files instructions repost: The link takes you to a Dropbox folder; if a pop-over window saying something about setting up an account or logging in comes up, just close it.

The files are serious overkill – over 34,000 articles right now. There should be a way to copy or download individual articles when you find the ones you want in your files – try right-clicking the specific PDF file/article and selecting the ‘save link as’ option.

The four-digit numbers at the beginning of most of the file names (and the names of the sub-folders) are simply mm/yy codes so that you can tell how recent the article is at a glance.

Please don’t download the whole thing; it trips up my Dropbox limits and bad things happen that shut down access for others. If you need a full copy, let me know (see the About link for an email address) and I’ll make arrangements to get you a copy or share the folder (so that you get the updates as soon as I post them). Students who want to share the folder will need to have an OK from their coach – I don’t want to step on the toes of any coaches who prefer other methods of team research. (Several coaches already share the folder, if you’re a coach and are interested.) Specific topic subfolders can be shared as well.

Topics! – PF Mar ’16, LD Mar/Apr ’16, CX ’17-’18

Public Forum Debate – 2017 Mar PF Topic Area: Middle East

Resolved: The United States should no longer pressure Israel to work toward a two-state solution.

There’s been a lot on this one recently. Hit the Extemp Files and look for the Middle East folder (essentially Israel/Palestine). There are really only three choices: 1.) Stop expanding settlements, and possibly reduce them (a number are illegal, and one was just taken down), so that Palestinians can have territory for a state of their own. What’s happened in Gaza complicates the choice, given how things there turned out. 2.) Give up on a two-state solution, annex the West bank, and accept Palestinian residents as citizens of Israel – effectively ending the country as a Jewish state. 3.) Continue with Netanyahu’s ‘state-lite’ system of limited autonomy and reduced rights, leaving a system criticized for its apartheid-like distinctions (Animal Farm’s point of ‘some are more equal than others’). What Trump does is worth watching – he’s already criticized the settlements (in a bit of a surprise), but may move our embassy to Jerusalem. One interpretation of the Con on this topic might be that we just step away from the matter and not advocate for any of the three positions – it’s their problem, not ours. That, however, changes the politics of the entire region. (Would we still stand with Israel?)

Lincoln-Douglas Debate – 2017 Mar/Apr

Resolved: The United States ought to guarantee the right to housing.

Housing articles are in the Extemp Files in the Economic Crisis – US folder (homelessness articles are in the Poverty folder), and/or in the Government folder in the Economics subfolder. (I often file housing articles in both locations.) Remember, though, that this is a Proposition of Values event, so the emphasis may be on our social contract terms (expanding them to include housing) with a food/shelter/clothing basic needs argument. (If we go just for housing, why shouldn’t we cover the other two areas as well?) Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is likely to come up in many rounds – the basic level of needs would seem to apply, and is necessary for the higher levels to be achieved.

Policy Debate – 2017-2018 Topic

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its funding and/or regulation of elementary and/or secondary education in the United States.

This will be the third time I’ve coached on this topic. When education reform came around during the 1972-73 season, the first ‘computers in education’ cases (when computers still involved mainframes and punch-card programming) appeared – so, how has that turned out?

One thing that was clear the last time we did this was that the only real way to improve educational outcomes was by what happens in the classroom – something that isn’t specific to school type (public/private/charter/whatever). The double ‘and/or’ construction of the resolution leads to a number of possible combinations. Identifying a specific problem will be important on this one – too nebulous, and solvency evaporates. Note also that funding-only cases usually lack inherency – you’re just expanding existing programs – though arguing that everything is fine except for funding might work. The Extemp Files and Extemp Backfiles have Education subfolders worth mining. Few education problems are new, so older issues/articles are likely to still be valid (since we haven’t really done anything particularly successful to solve the problems).

Topic recap/repost:

Public Forum Debate – 2017 Feb Topic Area: Cuba

Resolved: The United States should lift its embargo against Cuba.

A regular topic comes around again – in the Extemp Files folder, look for the Cuba subfolder. It has all of the 2016 and 2017 articles. The Extemp Backfiles has articles on Cuba from 2015 and before.

Obama’s opening of contacts with Cuba, and the death of Fidel Castro, will change the dynamics of the arguments this time around – as will a Trump administration. The Cuban exile community has long opposed relaxing the embargo – will Castro’s death change that, or will they have more influence in a Trump administration than they did with Obama. Younger Cuban-Americans don’t support the embargo the way older Cuban-Americans do – have demographic changes altered the debate? A more specific post on this one soon.

If you have access to the 2009 Nationals (Birmingham) PF finals tape, watch it!

Lincoln-Douglas Debate – 2017 Jan/Feb

Resolved: Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict any constitutionally protected speech.

See earlier posts on this. I’ll get a new post up soon – the whole Berkeley thing makes for an interesting case study. See the Education – College folder, which was updated at the same time as the Extemp Files. It has the Berkeley articles.

Policy Debate – 2016-2017 Topic

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic and/or diplomatic engagement with the People’s Republic of China.

All topics can be found on the NSDA’s Current Topics page.

LD Jan/Feb ’17 – Protected speech on campus

Resolved: Public colleges and universities in the United States ought not restrict any constitutionally protected speech.

Of most use will be the Education – College folder, updated Monday. There s also a Free Speech folder in the LD-Values folder that covers the broader issue. Examples will matter a lot for this topic – to both justify and destroy cases.

Things to keep in mind:

Who are we talking about? Students? Professors/instructors? Administration/staff? Third-parties (say, guest speakers)? Do they all have equal rights/protections under the resolution? And does a campus situation involve a different set of rules than public space at large? If the purpose of a college/university is to provide services to students (classes being the most obvious example), what is the institution’s responsibility to its clients? If a campus can restrict access to its facilities for institutional reasons, can it restrict other things, like speech, for the same reasons? Campuses have ‘protected classes’ of people (like LGBT, not class in the sense of courses); what responsibilities does a university assume for people in those protected classes? What about student privacy rules?

Free speech is a pretty absolute right in America; exceptions like yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater are minimal. It stems, to steal a comment from a story I read long ago, from the position that true freedom is the right to be whatever kind of fool you want to be. That is, in essence, why the ACLU defended the right of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois (a Chicago suburb that had a large number of Jewish residents and Holocaust survivors at the time) many decades ago.

With that, though, goes the concept of freedom, not license. A.S. Neill, the former head of the Summerhill free school in England, wrote a book with that title: Freedom, Not License. Early in the book he gives an example: Students at Summerhill were free to attend class, or not, as they wished – but they were not free to play a musical instrument right outside the window of someone who was trying to study/learn. It’s the old adage that you’re free to spin around with your arms outstretched – but that freedom becomes license if you’re a tight enough space where doing so hits the people around you. Key to this topic will be the question of whether specific speech is an expression of freedom, or a case of behavioral license. (What’s the boundary line between speech and behavior?)

An article on a different topic ended with a thought that may be useful here, and one that will help your case stick in the judge’s mind – as the Rolling Stones said, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. If trigger warnings, say, are used to limit speech, then freeing professors from those restrictions would force students to face the type of uncomfortable situations they’ll face in the real world – would that be a case of not getting what you want, but getting what you need? The opposite side of the coin can use the same argument. Consider the article below:

Milo Yiannopoulos, who will speak at CU Boulder, has brought controversy to colleges

It details incidents in which the speaker, at previous talks, singled out a student (in what, at CU, would be a ‘protected class’) and a professor for ridicule and humiliation. Is that free speech, or license? If the latter, and therefore limited, would that also be a case of not getting what you want, but getting what you need? Should the speaker be limited in what he’s permitted to say, or even be barred from speaking?

Consider: are the examples you’re using from a public university? If not, then your opponent gets to point that out. Will that undercut your argument? Should you pre-empt that response by asking how such a situation would be handled at a public university? Can you use the non-public argument to attack opponents’ examples?

Examples to look for (and ponder) from the Education – College folder: in the January folder there are articles on the U-Missouri case, the Sandy Hook denier who was fired, and anti-Semitism at Oberlin. The November folder has several articles of interest – look for the Summers article, the ‘suck it up’ (Iowa) article, the Yale Dean article, and the Berry (students won’t melt) article. December has the ‘we have the right to exist’ article on white supremacists on campus, the Kentucky/Beach Boys article, and the Volokh Oregon article. These are hardly all that are available; don’t hesitate to look in the 2015 and earlier folders.

Sidebar: Want to take the round sideways? Several public colleges in the United States have an overseas campus. Look for the Bogos article for speech limits at such a campus. Would the topic apply to an overseas campus of a public university in the United States?