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Off the bat, I admire the members of the topic committee for their
thankless task, and feel that in terms of substance, they have wrung about
all they can out of the Asia topic areas in the choices they have presented
before us. As well, I continue to be thankful to the members of the
community for the support shown myself and the squad over the past few
I do want to raise some questions for discussion, and see how far in left
field I am, or is there an undesirable trend occuring in terms of topic
Reaching for the first debate text I could find today, (Freeley's sixth
edition--I know its old, but I think the new editions as well as other
texts have the same advice), I noted on p. 37 that on framing resolutions,
"The Second National Developmental Conference on Forensics made the
following recommendations specifically for educational debate. . . Specify
clearly the nature and direction of the change or decision." He also notes
that presumption and the burden of proof should be placed (p. 38).
With that in mind, I turn to the five choices:
1. Resolved: The United States Federal Government
should substantially change its trade and/or aid policies to promote
human rights reforms in one or more of the following Southeast Asian
nations: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos,
Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.
2. Resolved: The United States Federal Government
should substantially increase its security assistance to one or more of the
following Southeast Asian nations: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar),
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Phillipines, Singapore,
3. Resolved: The United States Federal Government
should substantially change its development assistance policies
toward one or more ASEAN member nations in one or more of the
following areas: poverty elimination, environmental protection,
4. Resolved: The United States Federal Government
should substantially change its non-military foreign policy toward
one or more of the following Southeast Asian nations: Brunei, Burma
(Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Phillipines,
Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.
5. Resolved: ASEAN should promote substantial reforms among its
member nations in one or more of the following areas: environmental
protection, regional security, trade.
And I react as follows:
1. On four of the five topics, there is no direction--and the only
directional topic (#2) is the one that seems the least interesting, however
fascinating it would have been during the 1967-68 year. What do these
nations need security assistance from? Where's the controversy?
2. The interesting areas are either "promote substantial reform" or
"change" in human rights and environmental protection, etc. This forces us
into a dilemma--choose an interesting topic, or a nondirectional one.
3. Given the liklihood that a nondirectional resolution will be chosen,
I'll anticipate hearing the position that says, theoretically, that "the
negative's only ground in a nondirectional resolution in a dynamic and
changing world is to promote the status quo--right this second--and this is
impossible because the situation with regards to our case changes
substantially with each passing second,and thus any action constitutes a
warrant for the affirmative. We cannot help but change--vote affirmative."
Negative would then say that with that "abusive" criterion, negative would
never win a debate round. Affirmative would say, tough luck--the topic
framers made that mistake, and it's not our fault. I've heard this
argument run before on nondirectional topics, as well as the old CEDA
topics where negative had to promote the changes (hence assume the burden
of proof) implied by the "values" argued. Sometimes it works, sometimes it
doesn't. Whenever it does occur, of course, we hear less on the issues and
more on the a priori argument that negative will never win.
Am I overstating a problem? If so, what is the negative ground on
the "change" resolutions? Does it become a "change vs. minor repair"
debate each time? Will most counterplans that work constitute
substantial (hence, topical) changes, and are we going to allow
"topical" counterplans by assuming each affirmative case
"parametricizes" the resolution whether affirmative runs parametrics
or not? I'm genuinely grasping for negative approaches to share with
4. Although one may argue that "pro-reform" in terms of #5 is directional,
reforms can go in direction--and they can even move from "disorder" from
"stability". I kind of like this one because lots of research will have to
go into what we are "reforming" from in the region. But since the nature
of the reform is vague, so to my mind is the burden of proof (which to some
may be a good thing).
5. The "long nation list" topics to me seem difficult for the
negative--from such a long list, there is bound to be at least one that
requires a substantial change.
As I said, I might be out in left field concerning the wording of today's
topics, and am afraid that at some point soon we will once again "reinvent"
the wheel of directionality, just as CEDA reinvented the wheel of policy
debate, theory, and evidence usage after its splinter from NDT. At least
these groups are together now.
As argumentative as the post sounds I'm raising the questions in a general
attempt to seek advice for both myself and others who use the national
topic as a vehicle for teaching policy debate in the beginning debate
class, and who teach policy debate mainly to novices in a mostly
Perhaps these points were already dealt with in committee. I would like to
see some response to this by both committee members and others as advice to
how to approach the negative in these resolutions.
Thanks for listening and responding!
Archive created by Jonathan Stanton (email@example.com)
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