I completely understand people who hate 1AR’s. In a poll of over 150 Team Policy debaters of all experience levels, over sixty percent responded that they thought the 1AR was the hardest speech in the entire debate round. Not only is the 1AR speaker forced to spend the entirety of his speech in direct refutation, he’s also forced to deal with thirteen minutes of negative arguments in less than half that amount of time. Naturally, the debate community has devoted countless resources to the creation of strategies that can assist the 1AR in combating its inherent disadvantages.
However, as much as existing debate literature has discussed the 1AR, I believe there’s one strategy that’s been under-emphasized, a strategy that, were it more widely known, would make 2NR speakers pee their pants knowing they have to address such devastating 1ARs. And this strategy is quite simple:
Just kidding. You didn’t think I actually would write yet another article to add to the countless ones out there talking about grouping, did you? In reality, grouping gets more attention than it deserves, at least in my opinion. In a poll I conducted, over ninety percent of respondents opined that grouping is the best way to deal with the time disadvantage in the 1AR. And while grouping certainly has its merits, there are several issues with it.
The Problems with Grouping
Firstly, it decreases the efficacy of your responses. Naturally, you would prefer to give more specific responses to Negative argumentation. For example, if your opponent runs a DA arguing that your plan increases the mortality rate of Australian Koalas, showing how that disadvantage doesn’t happen in the first place would be a more effective tool than just grouping all the DA’s together and showing that your advantages outweigh them, even if the DA’s do happen. While grouping might save time, it does so at the expense of quality argumentation.
Second, sometimes just shoving all your opponent’s arguments into one basket doesn’t accurately address a good many points they’ve made. While grouping might have some merit in situations where two arguments naturally would have the same response, emphasizing grouping as a strategy to generally be followed encourages debaters to ruthlessly group the Negative’s arguments in a way that just doesn’t make sense; I can almost guarantee you there will never be a round where grouping a Topicality argument and a DA is going to go over well. And while few people would advocate grouping in such an extreme scenario like that one, many nonetheless commit the same offense to a lesser degree. I can’t tell you how many rounds I’ve won and lost because one side tried to group an argument that simply wouldn’t fit.
That’s not to say grouping should never be used; there are plenty of circumstances where knocking out two birds with one stone is the way to go. But Affirmatives need a strategy that addresses the fundamental problem of the 1AR: time trouble. Grouping simply accepts this reality and tries to make the best of a messy situation. But does it have to be like this? Is there a way to stop the problem rather than just work around it?
Well duh there is. Come on guys, why would I write an article about this if there wasn’t?
It starts by realizing that the 1AC and 2AC are easier speeches than the 1AR. They have 60% more time to address far less Negative argumentation (if they even have to) as well as the ability to make new arguments. This means our concern should center around making the 1AR’s job easier, even if the 1AC and 2AC become a bit more challenging. So how do we shift some of the burdens the 1AR faces back to the constructives? There are two easy ways to do this:
The first strategy is spiking, addressing Negative arguments even if the argument hasn’t been raised yet. After a few rounds with an Affirmative case, you’ll generally have an idea going in of what arguments are likely to be raised. Armed with this knowledge, the 2AC, after getting through 1NC refutation and possibly bringing up a couple more advantages of the plan, might address 1 or 2 arguments that Negatives tend to bring up in the 2NC. This drastically reduces the time 1ARs need to spend on these arguments, and sometimes even eliminates that need.
The second strategy is dumping. If you’re a first Affirmative speaker, go ahead and pull out your flows from the past couple of years. If you’re anything like me, you most likely used about two pieces of evidence on average in your 1ARs. Suppose you spend thirty seconds reading and explaining each piece of evidence. This means that you’ve just spent a whopping twenty percent of your speech just putting it on the table. That’s a minute of your life you’ll never get back. A minute that could have been spent on new analysis and showing how utterly wrong your opponent is. Instead, work the evidence you need into your constructives. Use the evidence in the 1AC to show how significant your harm is. Use it in the 2AC to argue the benefits of the plan, or as a response to the 1NC. If you know ahead of time what pieces you’ll need in the 1AR, read it earlier in the round so you can simply refer back to the evidence rather than gobbling up time reading it.
Back in ye olden days of yore, farmers wouldn’t spend the Summer frolicking about in the nice weather without a care in the world. No, they would use the warm climate to grow crops in preparation for the Winter, when they wouldn’t be able to do so. In the same way, don’t spend your 1AC and 2AC waltzing about, thinking you’re guaranteed a win: use them as a chance to brace for the storm that is the 1AR. So what’re you waiting for? Get out there and make 2NR speakers that have to respond to you pee their pants in terror; show them the true power of the spike and the dump.
This advice is amazing. Thanks so much Ben!