They’re hot off the presses! Ladies and Gents, the voting options for the 2017-2018 Stoa debate season are here! As always, the Ethos team is here to give you a guide for voting. In this post, we’re checking out the new LD options. We’ll have the policy options up in a post ASAP.
We’ll analyze each of the resolutions through the eyes of three Ethos team members.
Resolution 1: In the United States, executive agencies undervalue due process.
Con: Fact Resolution
Any positive you can conjure up for this resolution is immediately outweighed by the stark reality that this resolution does not belong within the realm of Stoa Lincoln-Douglas debate. On their website, Stoa describes LD as an environment where “students discuss and debate competing values or value systems.” This resolution doesn’t propose a clash of values, nor ascribe relative moral worth to concepts. Rather, it asks you to evaluate a STATE OF REALITY, whether or not executive agencies undervalue due process. This is categorically a fact resolution, and while it may be apropos for parliamentary debate, it does not comport with Stoa’s stated vision for LD. Dear Stoa, simply because the word “value” is embedded in the resolution does not make it a value resolution (cough 2013’s notorious “Resolved: Privacy is undervalued” cough).
Joel’s Grade: F
Pro 1: Clear Conflict
This resolution has two factors: What is the proper value of due process? and are executive agencies going too far? That makes an easy two contention AC. Neg only needs to prove one false. So debates should be pretty easy to organize and follow, with little craziness making or bizarre new strategies doing well under this resolution.
Pro 2: Diversity of Material
Applications, even just within the US, abound here, with plenty of different angles to take. The NSA’s metadata collection will surely be popular, but other examples such as drone strikes without trial or civil asset forfeiture should be considered. Executive agencies are not limited to the federal government, so state and local authorities could be considered by debaters.
Con 1: Fact Resolution
Value resolutions consider the proper value of a concept in relation to another concept, in the form, X > Y. Fact resolutions consider what something is, in the form, X is [subjective statement]. This resolution falls into the latter category. Unlike value resolutions, in which principles come first and facts and evidence are helpful, but not essential, the Affirmative cannot win without bringing up specific facts and evidence to justify the claims made. While value elements are present, this is nevertheless a fact, not a value resolution.
Con 2: Not enough ground
Despite the wide variety of applications available, there simply is not enough material here to have an entire season of debate. While new applications provide new angles for this resolution, new takes on the resolution itself will be worn out by the end of January.
Noah’s Grade: D-
Pro: Good conflict
What I like about this resolution is that it evaluates the very nature of executive agencies. Executive agencies exist to operate at a level of efficiency that Congress simply cannot. Questioning whether the agonizingly slow but supposedly just checks and balances of Congress are necessary for executive agencies is a conflict that’s existed since the Federalist Papers.
This isn’t bridge in Indiana Jones narrow, this is walking on a tightrope across the Niagra Falls narrow. Yes, this conflict has been fought for centuries, but the battle lines have been clearly drawn. There are very clear warrants for each side of the debate that offer depth but not a variety of options. I’d love to debate this resolution for two months or even for a semester but debating the exact same examples, exact same case structures, exact same frameworks, and exact same founding father quotes for an entire year is a nightmarish scenario.
Random aside: This is why we need a multi-resolution year. NSDA, the biggest high school debate league in the nation, switches resolutions every 2 months which allows for these value resolutions to be debated without stagnation. Stoa members had the option to debate three resolutions in a year, one each semester and one for nationals, but voted the option down.
Drew’s Grade: D
Resolution 2: Preemptive warfare is morally justified
Pro 1: Captivating Content
This topic sphere generates some intriguing subject matter, delving into the fundamentals of political and legal theory, along with reams of reams of philosophical positions concerning the ethics of war.
Pro 2: Minimal Bias
Like any LD resolution, some judges will approach this topic with strong preconceived notions. Fortunately, the phraseology of the resolution doesn’t provoke an immediate reaction towards one side or the other, and the sides are not generally associated with political platforms.
Con 1: Borderline Fact Resolution
Because it’s not comparative value, this resolution strays dangerously into fact territory. In fact, it’s foreseeable that many debaters may choose to interpret as a fact resolution, selecting the verbal phrase “is justified” to indicate a state of affairs rather than a value conflict.
Con 2: Limited Metagame
“Morally justified” resolutions offer a sparse array of positions, and the debate landscape will degenerate throughout the year into two things: (1) Disputing various moral frameworks (deontology vs. consequentialism all over again) or (2) Glorified definition debates on the precise interpretation of various moral imperatives from the aforementioned frameworks. By the time you arrive at NITOC, this rez will have long exhausted its potential.
Joel’s Grade: C-
Pro 1: New Ground
Neither Stoa nor NCFCA has debated such a resolution as this in their entire histories. This resolution is about the conduct of nations directly before and during war, which means that discussions of what is the proper threshold for a war ought to be left off the table.
Pro 2: Existing Discussion
There is a solid body of research about this very discussion like there was for the value resolutions in the 2015-2016 season. Having gone a year without any real scholarly work on the issue in the resolution, it is definitely a plus to look at a rez which tells debaters to join rather than create a debate.
Pro 3: Really Cool
I’m sorry, but I just think this resolution is an awesome debate to have. The morality of war is one of the most interesting and difficult discussions to have, so to have a resolution all about it is a really great idea.
Con 1: Lack of Depth
Like the first resolution, this one will most likely be worn out by January or February. For a resolution intended to last a year, this is very problematic.
Con 2: Fact Resolution (sort of)
This is technically a fact resolution but has enough of a value element that debating it should really qualify as a value debate. For me, this is an extremely minor point.
Con 3: Hitler
Hitler is definitely showing up in Negative cases for this resolution, no question about it.
Noah’s Grade: B
Pro 1: Rich History
Like Noah and Joel have touched on, this topic is absolutely fascinating. But even more than that, it offers such a rich depth. This conflict goes all the way back to The Old Testament! There’s a wealth of knowledge for debaters to draw upon
Pro 2: New Ground
This conflict hasn’t been debated AT ALL in homeschool debate. That’s rare. Not only that, but this isn’t your standard “Pragmatic individual vs. Idealistic Society” debate that nearly every NCFCA and Stoa resolution have fallen into in the past. We’re treading new ground here.
Pro 3: Encourages Creativity
My biggest problem with debaters is that we tend to fall into patterns of repeating the same quotes, logical fallacies, values, case patterns and arguments in every round. This resolution draws upon a rich knowledge base and treads new ground which encourages debaters to be creative.
Con 1: Lack of Depth
“But wait, Drew! Didn’t you just say that this resolution was rich with history!!?? Why are you now saying it has a lack of depth!!?”
There’s a difference between the depth of background information and the depth of argumentation. This debate is fascinating but how many legitimate reasons are there for preemptive warfare to be morally justified? Not a ton. Not enough to encourage a healthy metagame development for a whole year, which means you’ll be hearing the same arguments all the way through the season and you’ll have to deal with squirrely definitions and interpretations as people strive to be unique by making the resolution fit their point of view. All these problems would be solved in a multi-resolution year, but I digress.
Drew’s Grade: B+
Resolution 3: The United States ought to value economic isolationism over globalism.
Pro 1: Depth
Large, well-established literature base. Vast plethora of philosophers. Numerous historical examples. With this resolution, a diligent debater will be immersed in topic materials for a year.
Pro 2: Education
Due in part to its depth, this resolution has the most to offer you in terms of equipping you with knowledge about the world. You’ll be able to speak more intelligently on the contours of global markets, the moral merit and practical advantages of engaging in global free trade or isolated markets.
Con: Tired Topic?
Stoa already debated economics last year. However, the discipline itself is the only similarity between then and now, as the isolationism\globalism debate will engage wholly different sectors of economics.
Joel’s Grade: B-
Pro 1: Lots of Material
Finally, here is a resolution with enough material to last a whole season. These concepts are so broad that all sorts of new arguments will be available to be pioneered all the way to NITOC.
Pro 2: Research Heavy
This could be a pro or a con, depending on your perspective. In my opinion, having to rely on the ideas of others and on facts is a plus for often ethereal value debate. This resolution cannot be debated without bringing up lots of facts, statistics, and examples. Debaters will be forced to dig deep into this topic to debate it.
Con 1: Post-Value Debate
This resolution is very policy-oriented, to the point that this must be weighed on cost-benefit analysis, which means values will be limited to fifteen seconds of the AC and five seconds of the NC (to agree to the value) unless someone does something really weird. People will most likely use values like Benefits to the US or General Welfare (or if you want to embrace policy completely, Net Benefits). Regardless, this will be a debate about what most benefits the US, and numbers, not values, will be what holds sway.
Con 2: Wording
The wording for these concepts is honestly very strange. It should read, “The US should value protectionism over free trade.” That is the same idea, but the definitions of those terms are more set than these. Isolationism encourages Negative accusations of cutting off trade rather than taxing it, and globalism encourages Alex Jones-style conspiracies about removing the United States’ sovereignty to subordinate it to some UN-style governing body. Of course, that is not the intent, but the way this is worded makes abuse harder to fight.
Con 3: Judge Bias
This is something that judges, regardless of the opinion they take on it, will have considered. The judge will walk into the room having decided on the resolution. This can certainly be overcome (Stoa’s topics 2015-2016 were also very weighted based on the judge pool, but debaters managed to make do). It is nevertheless a big factor, especially for Negatives. Only one in five Republicans think NAFTA is good for America.
Noah’s Grade: D
Pro 1: Wording
This resolution has clear intent and solid wording. Great! Debaters who try to twist either of these concepts to mean things they don’t will be easily beat by savvy debaters who can clearly address the intent of the resolution. There’s no need to twist either of these terms! Just fight them on their own merits.
Pro 2: Timely
This debate happened on TV stages across America in 2016 due to the Presidential election. Perfect time to be debating this conflict.
Pro 3: Make LD’ers Research
Con 1: Frustrated Value Debaters
Most LD debaters are going to feel immense levels of frustration and balk at the idea of purely debating different economic ideologies for an entire year. Good or bad? You choose.
Con 2: No Conflict of Values
Both of these concepts value the same thing: economic growth. They just both have different methods of achieving it. Value resolutions are made great when they have very clear value conflicts: Privacy vs. Security, Public Need vs. Private Property Rights, Rehabilitation vs. Retribution. All of these value conflicts have very different goals. Isolationism and Globalism both try to grow the economy but through different methods. The best debates will be fought on the criterion or contention level.
Drew’s Grade: C
C > B > A. Vote C. Bias isn’t crippling and is certainly superseded by educational enrichment this resolution will afford. You’ll encounter innovative ideas all year, steep yourself in invaluable economic philosophy, and emerge a more informed citizen on macroeconomic markets.
B > C > A. Vote B. Although the breadth of applications is exciting, it being a fact resolution takes A off the table. I like the idea of C, as well as the research required, but the wording and the judge bias will be big struggles for debaters. B is the way I will be voting.
B > C > A. Vote B. It’s new ground for debaters but filled with treasure left by geniuses. Leave all of your preconceived notions at the door and prepare for an exciting year of debating a phenomenal values conflict.