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Have you ever been annoyed before by a 1AR who brought up an entirely new response to the link of a disadvantage you presented back in the first negative constructive? Don’t worry, your annoyance is justified. The 1AR’s brand new argument labeled as a “response” is not only in an ethical grey area but it’s also invalid.

In my senior year of debate, after a judge had chewed me out pretty hard and docked my speaker points for pointing out that the AFF had dropped our major DAs in the 2AC and couldn’t respond to it in the 1AR because that would be brand new argumentation of existing arguments, I decided two things. First, my league, unfortunately, didn’t grasp a strong understanding of debate theory and never really asked the “why?” question about what we do and why we do things in debate. And second, I was doing a horrible job at explaining alternative theory, changing stigmatized debate norms, and educating my judges and opponents about the wonderful world of debate.

I thus set out to change both of the above and took an oath to re-educate my debate league into what constitutes a new response in the rebuttal and why it’s not okay. It is my hope that you too are interested in this goal and will be able to find this article helpful to serve this purpose. With that, there are two simple reasons why arguments that have been brought up over two speeches ago cannot be responded to in future rebuttals,

Reason #1: Concession

If you drop an argument, you have conceded it. You don’t have to personally agree with it, but you have indirectly conceded it.

Let’s break this down by looking at an example. Let’s say for instance that you claim that cookies n’ cream ice cream was the best ice cream in the entire world to your friend in a social conversation you were having and your friend doesn’t deny it. It’s logical to assume, for the purpose of that conversation at least, that they concede that cookies n’ cream is the best. However, imagine if, after 10 minutes of talking, your friend suddenly interrupted you and starts arguing that vanilla ice cream is better. It would be weird, and you would be wondering why he didn’t say that when you talked about cookies n’ cream being the best 10 minutes before. You would almost feel indirectly lied to as you know your friend had heard you argue what the “best” ice cream was 10 minutes ago as your friend only nodded along and didn’t disagree.

This is the reason a rebuttal speech cannot respond to an argument brought up in the first constructive — be that the 1NR responding to the 1AC or the 1AR responding to the 1NC . They had their chance to respond to it 10 minutes ago when the conversation was brought up, but they didn’t. A debater, by ignoring any line of argumentation, is essentially concerning that line of argumentation.

I like the way that our very own Coach Jadon Buzzard puts it, “If the aff has a chance to run an argument against a position in the 1NC, and they don’t run it, they concede it.”

Reason #2: Education & Fairness

If we allowed the 1AR or 1NR to respond to arguments that were made in the 1AC or 1NC, then overall education and fairness in rounds would decrease. Why and how so though?

Allowing new arguments in the rebuttal is a bad idea in general to education. The reason being that the rebuttals are for further fleshing out arguments that were made in the constructive, not for building one’s case.

Okay, that’s all well and good you might be telling yourself, but why does it hurt education in rounds? Well, the interpretation of debate theory that would allow teams to make new responses in the rebuttals to arguments from over one speech ago would destroy debate simply because it destroys the “bright line” or the standard. We need some sort of line in the sand here to delineate where teams can make responses. If we go for the standard that says that teams can respond to arguments from over a speech ago, then where does that stop? And that’s the problem, it doesn’t. Now the 2NR and 2AR could make completely new responses to the 1AC/1NC and even the 2NC for the AFF. This would reduce the number of responses the other team could make and sometimes even make it so that the other team would never be able to respond (for instance, the AFF could respond to all the NEG DAs in the 2AR and the NEG would never get a chance to respond back).

This would be devastating to educational and fair debate rounds and is a standard we should all decry.

Exceptions: There Are Two Of Them

It’s important to note that there are two almost exceptions to the “you only get one chance to respond” argument. The first being the 1AR responding to the 2NC. I will concede that the 1AR needs to make brand new responses to the 2NC since that is the first opportunity for the AFF to respond to the NEG block. But that’s exactly the point. The reason the 1AR gets to respond to the 2NC with brand new responses is that it’s the first opportunity for the AFF to respond. However, in the case of a 1AR responding to arguments from the 1NC, the AFF already had their chance to do so, yet choose to concede the argument instead by not responding to it. Furthermore, I would argue that the 2NC and the 1NR can be considered as one speech, the NEG block, for the purposes of this article. If we look at it that way, then this exception isn’t really an exception because it doesn’t contradict the statement of “you only get one chance.”

The second exception is constructives. Constructives don’t have to follow the “once chance” rule because, in a constructive, one can do whatever one would like since one can bring up completely new argumentation. Notice, however, that the only speech this affects is the 2NC — given that the 1AC doesn’t make responses (only makes arguments and spikes) and the 1NC and 2AC both have only one opponent speech before them. The 2NC is distinct in that it is the only constructive in the debate round which has two opponent speeches before it. This means that the 2NC can choose to respond to the 1AC, the 2AC, or a little bit of both — depending on the strategy of the NEG team. This means that strategies like Emory switches — which puts all the case responses to the AFF in the 2NR — are completely fine. You can read more about Emory Switches on the Ethos blog.

Application: The T Shell

Up to this point, you’re probably nodding your head and maybe even getting a tad bored because you agree with everything above. Here’s, however, where I’d like to get more controversial by using the application of a topicality “shell” — which is just debate lingo for a fully structured topicality argument. Let’s use the example of the 2020-21 NCFCA TP resolution. Here are the taglines of our example structured topicality shell (without any evidence or rhetoric):

Before I go any further, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: most NCFCA and Stoa high school debaters have no idea how to respond to a structured topicality shell. Being 100% serious here. I would win topicality once or twice a tournament in my senior year partially for this reason. How does this relate to our current conversation? The reason is because the majority of AFF teams will only respond to one part of your T shell — with that response being either a “we meet” (which is a refutation of the subpoint B violation) or a rejection of your definition (found in the subpoint A interpretation). If the AFF comes up and says “we shouldn’t use their definition, let’s use this definition from Dr. Smith instead” and then they read the Smith definition. Notice that they’ve dropped all the reasons why we should value the NEG definition (in other words the standards in subpoint C).

If the AFF dropped your standards and didn’t provide their own when they presented their response definition, you’ve already won the round and it’s game over for AFF. They can’t bring up new standards or reasons to prefer their definition in the rebuttals because that would be new presented arguments, and they also can’t respond to your standards in new speeches because that would be a new response to arguments from over a speech ago, which as we’ve discussed above is invalid.

Impact: Why Does It Matter?

The T shell example isn’t the only argument where the concept of “you only get once chance to response” applies. It also applies to the different parts and subpoints of 1AC advantages or 1NC disadvantages as well as more normal one-pointed arguments. In every case, it’s all the same: if your opponent drops your argument for more than one consecutive speech when they had a chance to respond, not only can they not respond in future speeches, but if they do so anyway then they’re abusing fairness and education in the round and you should ask your judge to strike down that argument. For certain arguments, this could mean the difference between a win and loss.

How do you effectively point this out, however? I turn you to an awesome argument called the “procedural.” We’ll be writing about procedurals soon, so stay tuned! In the meantime, just explain to the judge that the interpretation that allows teams to respond to arguments whenever has zero bright line and would destroy education and fairness in debate.

I should note in conclusion, however, that when you point out that the other team can’t do what they’re doing, you must to do important things. First, be super and ultra-clear to the judge. If you sound confusing when you explain the above arguments, then your judge is going to get close to the other team, not you. You don’t want that to happen. Second, be very gracious when presenting such arguments. Remember that debate is a game, so the most persuasive argument flies, but in the home school circle, we value honoring God and having fun over winning!

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