NCFCA released their resolution options for the 2016-2017 season! Here’s my perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of each.
First, so that you’re aware of my personal preferences and experience when it comes to debate, I have competed in NCFCA LD the past two years and qualified to Nats this past year. I’m not negatively predisposed to “real world analysis,” however, philosophy is my passion. I ascribe to Isaiah’s philosophy of research but I would also add that it is critical for LDers to probe every word and clause in the resolution for grammatical nuances, which can dramatically alter the debate landscape. My outlook on LD is more fully expounded upon in this video.
That said, here are some things to consider for your vote.
Choice A) “Resolved: In the interest of protecting human rights, governments may interfere with another nation’s sovereignty.”
Pro 1: Depth of Content. This resolution delves deep into both political theory and rights theory, along with a smorgasbord of practical applications. There’s ample material here to last a season, along with a great equilibrium between philosophy and pragmatism.
Pro 2: Morality Philosophy. What I personally find most fascinating are the complex moral dilemmas lurking beneath the surface of this resolution. Just war theory, the perspectives of other nations as opposed to merely America’s, the extent of government power, litmus tests for the legitimacy of a sovereign nation, the relative importance of human rights are simply a few of the manifold moral issues undergirding this resolution. (For the flipside of this, see Con #2.)
Con 1: Wording. As it’s currently worded, the word “may” destroys the value element this resolution. My dictionary (New Oxford American Dictionary) defines “may” several different ways, the most prominent being “expressing possibility.” If this interpretation of “may” is taken (which it inevitably will by some debaters), NOT ONLY does the resolution become a fact resolution BUT ALSO it is rendered nonsensical. (Of course there is the possibility that governments might interfere with another nation’s sovereignty to protect rights.) The word “should” ought to replace “may” to avoid any ambiguity.
Con 2: Overused Theme. Just looking at the past four years, the resolutions in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 have all dealt extensively with the purpose of government. While it’s not a bad theme, NCFCA needs a paradigm shift away from discussing government’s proper role.
Choice B) “Resolved: That interpreting the United States Constitution according to its original meaning is preferable to interpreting it as a living document.”
Pro 1: Relevance. “Timely” is the word this resolution conjures in my mind. It’s pertinent to today’s court appointments, controversial Supreme Court decisions, and the persistent clash between two judicial philosophies. All debaters should be well versed in this topic sphere and this resolution would be an excellent avenue for attaining that knowledge.
Pro 2: Philosophical Backdrop. The philosophies behind strict and loose constructionism are captivating. While it could be taken superficially, this resolution provides a chance to foray into the underlying philosophies. It would be exciting to venture into postmodernism (truth is relative to culture) and deconstructionism (words don’t convey absolute truth, only agendas), along with examining proper hermeneutics (interpreting texts).
Con 1: Judge Bias. That said, balance is crucial… and this resolution is anything but balanced. The severe conservative atmosphere in the NCFCA would severely hamper the resolution. It’s a decent resolution, but I don’t think the NCFCA is the right league for it. Debaters in the NCFCA creatively circumvented judge bias in 2015 (freedom and equity) but this resolution would push their creativity and definition-debating (which nobody wants) to the max.
Con 2: Wording of Concepts: The terms in the resolution could be worded better as well. There are multiple sub-genres of original intent and there are more relevant and competing interpretations against it than “living document” theory, which is the conservative far right’s name for it.
Con 3: Order of Concepts. To mitigate the judge bias, I would recommend reversing the order of the terms so that it would read “Resolved: That interpreting the United States Constitution as a living document is preferable to interpreting it according to its original meaning.” Loose constructionism needs the last word in the NCFCA to be viable.
Choice C) “Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in criminal justice systems.”
Pro 1: NCFCA Paradigm Shift. FINALLY! This resolution deviates from the NCFCA’s preoccupation with the purpose of government, the limits of freedom, or the common good vs. the individual. If this resolution is voted in, NCFCA will have a refreshing incursion into uncharted territory.
Pro 2: Human Nature. This resolution brings to mind one of my favorite Isaiah comments: “Human nature should be the substance of LD debates.” The unique psychological dimension to this resolution affords debaters the opportunity to discuss human nature in depth, along with philosophical matters like justice vs. mercy, the law vs. leniency, and more.
Pro 3: Fact-Oriented. One of the most appealing things is that this resolution is concrete. We have clear manifestations of philosophical and psychological principles in a real-world context. Empirics and policies will illuminate the philosophy, giving the theoretical a real face. If conducted properly, this resolution could give LD the ideal balance between principles and pragmatism.
Con 1: Fact-Oriented. The sword does cut both ways… if the resolution becomes too inundated with facts, the pro becomes a con. Cost\benefit analyses and pragmatic, “what works,” approaches are important, but I believe not to the detriment of the principles-element of debate.
Con 2: Similar Context. Both LD and TP debated criminal justice in 2012. Five years removed from that now, however, and this disadvantage is really quite minimal.
Conclusion: C > A > B. My family plans on voting C. I would be more excited for A except that there’s no guarantee that the NCFCA will alter the wording… and the potential of being interpreted as a fact rez is not appetizing. I really, really like the philosophical aspect of B, but I foresee judge bias being practically insurmountable. Knowing that I’ll be on the other side of the table next year judging, though, I will be happy judging any of these options. Just pretend A is a value rez for me. 😉