Harrison Durland took a look at Stoa’s 2019-2020 TP options. Here are some of his conclusions intended to spark your own independent thinking.
1. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform its banking, finance, and/or monetary policy.
- Depth: There is a lot of area/material for research.
- Breadth: It also seems that there are a decent number of cases available, as Stoa described in their blurb about this choice.
- Importance: Banking/financial/monetary policies are crucial to the healthy functioning of an economy (as evidenced by the 2008 crisis). Thus, I consider this topic pretty important and worth some study.
- Skills education: It very likely will teach you to explain and debate complex issues with lay audiences (e.g., your judges), which can often be a crucial but underdeveloped skill.
- Complexity and dullness: As you can probably guess, this topic could probably tend to be complicated and/or dry, especially for the more-advanced cases.
- Effort: In general, you have to do more research and work to understand complex topics.
- Judge bias: I am notably worried about conservative judge bias in this resolution: I get the impression that many homeschool parents love the idea of deregulation, and will gravitate towards “deregulate = better” philosophies especially when they don’t understand the actual concepts being debated.
Ultimately, I feel that though this topic may seem bland, it could still be very beneficial for debaters. However, the complexity and lack of appeal for younger/newer debaters hurts this in my rating.
2. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform one or more of the laws administered by the Department of Labor.
- Breadth: Put simply, there are a lot of laws regarding labor policies; you can probably expect to see a lot of case opportunities. (Here are just two lists as examples.)
- Importance: It’s an important issue and it’s frequently debated in real life, so it is especially good to have experience discussing topics like minimum wage laws.
- Interestingness: It will likely be more interesting that banking/finance/monetary policy.
- Complexity: It also tends to be less complicated than banking/finance/monetary policy (given that it doesn’t focus as heavily on formal macroeconomic concepts).
- Topical and skills education: You will have to learn to debate both sides of these contentious issues and learn how to counter appeals to bias.
- Breadth: It seems like the breadth of cases may go a bit too far (although I recognize I have overestimated this in the past).
- Judge bias: Again, there is the issue of “deregulation = better.” For an example, look at an “abolish minimum wage” case. However, there are also other conservative positions/biases, like opposition to some anti-discrimination laws (e.g., LGBTQ), as well as strong support for federalism.
- Wording: the usage of “…reform one or more” seems very strange in my view, since it strengthens those annoying “abolish not reform” topicality presses (e.g., “abolishing the minimum wage is not topical”)—even though Stoa explicitly said that abolishing the minimum wage is a possible case. Of course, if someone challenges you with this T-press you can probably just appeal to “writer’s intent” by referencing Stoa’s blurb; it’s just a confusing choice on the writers’ part.
To summarize: overall, this is a broad resolution (potentially too broad) but it should also be very accessible for new debaters, and it has a lot of area for research. The main problem to me appears to be the potential issue for judge bias, followed by the breadth of the topic.
3. Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reform its policy regarding veterans.
- Breadth: It doesn’t seem too broad.
- Skills education: You will very likely have to learn to deal with appeals to emotion.
- Topical education: You will learn about the people that have fought and suffered for our country.
- Lack of breadth: I could be underestimating the amount of viable cases, but my research thus far (as well as reasons mentioned further down) give me the impression that there will not be a good number of cases.
- Emotional appeals: Likely many areas for (bad) appeals to emotion (e.g., overly-dramatic and/or unrepresentative anecdotes).
- Judge bias: I expect this to be a serious issue in some cases, since some judges may be relatives of veterans or actual veterans themselves.
- Lack of depth: It seems that it will be harder to find as much substantive, academic research and analysis on this topic compared with the first two resolutions. Or, in a similar sense, many sources may focus on discussing reforms in the abstract (e.g., “we need to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse,” “we should center reform efforts on veterans”) rather than giving serious, concrete proposals that could serve as good cases. (Although I have little doubt that there will be some big cases such as “privatize ABC program” or “increase funding for XYZ program.”)
Ultimately, in my view, this is too narrow and has too much potential for frustrating appeals to emotion or judge biases.