You may think you are “left” or “right.” But I’m telling you that you’ve become your worst nightmare: a centrist.

No, I’m not talking political theory here; I’m referring to your theoretical leanings when it comes to the focus of the debate round.

I recently got involved in an extremely lengthy discussion with a fellow debater about Topical Counterplans. Well, you can’t start talking about Topical Counterplans without talking about parametrics*. And once we began talking about parametrics, we began to discover where the fundamental differences lie. And ultimately, I came to the realization that I’m a centrist. And he’s a centrist. And we’re all centrists. 😛

When I’ve been talking about the purpose of the resolution, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two parties that hotly contest the legitimacy of topical counterplans. The advocates of such strategy, I label “plancentrists.” The opposition, I label “rezcentrists.”

By plancentric, I mean that the focus of the round is on the *plan* as the Affirmative’s only advocacy. Consequently, a proof of the undesirability of the Affirmative plan is the only criteria necessary for a Negative ballot. This would legitimize the theory of topical counterplans, because a topical counterplan would be a reason to reject the Affirmative’s plan.

Rezcentrists, on the other hand, focus their advocacy on the resolution, and whether or not the resolution is proven “true” or “false” becomes the focal point of the round. To differentiate between “rezcentrism” and whole resolution advocacy, the Affirmative “rezcentrist” would place the positive or negative truth value assigned to the resolution in the context of the Affirmative plan. Whole resolutional advocacy is disproven by proof of the undesirability of only one aspect of the resolution.

I admit that rezcentrism and plancentrism seem similar when contrasted with whole resolution advocacy, however there is a subtle difference. Under a “plancentric” view of the debate, the plan becomes the end. Under “rezcentrism”, the plan is a means to an end. The affirmative’s over-arching advocacy of the round is “Yes, USFG policy toward Russia should be reformed. Here’s a plan that supports the resolution. If we prove the desirability of the plan, we prove the desirability of the resolution and the Affirmative’s advocacy (we win).”

This theory would leave topical counterplans out to dry, because if you present another desirable action of the resolution, you would indeed be affirming the resolution (so the argument goes).

Me? I’m a plancentrist. Ask me about it sometime, and I can tell you why. That’s not why I’m writing this article. I present this article to the debate community as a “new” beginning to how we evaluate the justifications for (or against) topical counterplans. Too often I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to “prove” that the resolution means this, and parametrics does that, and so topical counterplans are this. I’ve seen others do the same. For all our labors, however, I think we’ve missed that we’re operating under an entirely different framework, one that makes “proving” with certain theorems impossible.

Let’s re-evalute where we’re coming from, and why. Instead of proving legitimacy under two completely different interpretations, let’s evaluate the frameworks themselves; compare and contrast them, weigh them, and offer “reasons to prefer.” *That* sounds like a fun debate.

Go Debate

*Parametrics – A highly misunderstood theory that protects an Affirmative from getting hit with every Disadvantage under the resolution. Confusion comes in when Negative teams begin to use parametrics as an application to legitimize topical counterplans. Due to this constant application, “parametrics” is commonly (mis)understood as “Topical CPs are Good.”

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