We debaters are taught that having nothing to say is bad. We have been taught that “I don’t know what I think about that” is is not an acceptable response under cross-examination. We are pushed to evaluate and respond immediately.
When the resolutions are released, our minds begin churning. After all, we are debaters. We must have an immediate response; an immediate evaluation of the options. We must have an opinion.
And yet, when I was asked to write this post, I almost said no because I don’t have an opinion. I don’t have an opinion because, in the past 14 years, I’ve discovered that the sky is never falling. Certain resolutions are better than others, yes, but the benefits are marginal, not absolute. Debaters will learn, no matter what they debate.
If I have no opinion on the matter, and I am confident that debate in 2022-23 will be a profitable endeavor, why write a blog post on the choices? Because I want to convince you to be excited no matter which resolution is chosen. Each of these topics represents an opportunity to learn a vast and impactful area of policy that will pay dividends in both your career and intellectual development.
1. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform one or more of the following programs: Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare.
On my bookshelf is the 1988-89 National Debate Handbook, a debate sourcebook published by the Baylor University debate team for the former National Forensic League. I probably have one of the only copies still in existence. The first brief of this Handbook is entitled “The Elderly: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.”
This resolution is timeless. If you become an expert on entitlements, you will have a job for as long as you like it. Navigating decades of bureaucracy built upon bureaucracy is an art form.
Many readers of this post will be well-connected to friends and family. For us, it is difficult to imagine what life would be like with no one to help. But there are truly many whose lives would hang in the balance without the reliable technocratic administration of benefits by these three programs. And when those benefits are interrupted, the consequences can be disastrous. Conversely, even the slightest changes to entitlements can be life saving.
It may not be pleasant to think of people lost in the cracks of society. It would be far easier to close our eyes and ignore the discomfort. But, we cannot. As good citizens and members of the human race, it is our duty to see to their care. As policy debaters and future policymakers, this topic deserves our attention.
2. Resolved: Housing and urban development policy should be substantially reformed in the United States.
As students, you likely do not spend much time deciding whether you will live in an apartment or a house, in the city or in the country. Those decisions are not yours to make.
But they will be. You will soon choose to go to college or trade school or get a job. You will move out and perhaps get a roommate. Maybe your roommate will be your best friend. Maybe your roommate will be a rando you met on Craigslist. Either way, you will shape your own environment, which in turn will shape you.
But your environments, and therefore your lives, are already shaped by a million silent influences. When you go to the store, why are there strip malls surrounding it, and why are they probably only one story? There’s probably a zoning law. Why don’t new apartment buildings look like this picture? As it turns out, there are reasons. Why are some houses far apart while others are close together? It’s not just preference. You may wonder how people survive without owning cars, while others wonder how you live without being able to walk to the store.
Debating this resolution will allow you to answer all of these questions and more. You will look at your city and understand why things are the way they are. You will be able to tell people secrets about their own homes: secrets, not because they are hidden, but because they are in plain sight.
3. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform its policy towards one or more countries in Europe.
Francis Fukyama’s 1992 book, the End of History, postulates that the time of ideological cold wars is over. The West has won. The future will be determined not by ideology, but by how efficient and effective the government is at administering its most basic functions.
But is this really true? Autocracy is on the rise worldwide.
The U.S. was focused on the Middle East, post-9/11, and much attention has been given the “Asian pivot” conducted in response to a rising China. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine shows that European partners are more important than ever to the future of liberal democracy. In a modern multi-polar world, the U.S. is no longer the world’s police. The U.S. needs effective allies, and it may find them in Europe.
But even within Europe, rising populism threatens core American values like freedom of expression and self-determination. In Germany, decades of political stability led by Angela Merkel are now gone. In France, Emmanuel Macron faces opposition from both the left and right. The United Kingdom has left the European Union and others may follow even as Europe’s power shrinks relative to that of China.
If resolution 1 is timeless, resolution 3 is timely. I guarantee you will use the knowledge you gain debating this resolution, if only as you travel and experience the continent for yourself.