It is thought that if you can get your 1AC in perfect running order, then you can (in theory) win 50% of your rounds, and this is true. So instead of telling ya’ll a specific case that I favor this year, I’m just going to list criteria for what I’ve found makes a defendable 1AC.
Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS)
I’ve always found that simplicity is key or as my grandfather use to say: you should adhere to the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). This is true for the case, but more importantly the plan. If your mandates are long and confusing, then you will be left with a confused round and a confused judge; however, if you can present a mandate that is simplistic and short then you will have a overall clean debate round.
The strategy of writing confusing plans in order to confuse your opponent is shady and counterproductive. The end result is a lack of clash (because the negative team has no idea what you are doing) and a lost judge who, in the end, will vote for the better speakers (because he doesn’t understand the flow). However, if you are able to represent an easily understandable plan, then it will not matter if the negative team is disorganized and illogical because the judge will go with what’s easiest to understand. Overall, it is best to KISS at all times if you possible can.
A Supportable Goal/Value/Criterion
Some people say that values have no place in policy debate; that there should be no overlap between LD (Lincoln Douglas) and TP (Team Policy). I would have to disagree. In the five years that I debated, I never wrote a 1AC without either a goal or a value, and when people, in or out of the debate round, would say that policy debate has no place for values, then I would ask them to name one policy that was not motivated by a value or a goal. Every policy is valuing something i.e. national or economic security, human life, justice, environmental preservation etc. So the first thing to determine when writing a 1AC is what your goal is or what your policy is valuing. If you find that your policy is a lame-o policy and you are simply saving a few daisies, then you need to reevaluate. Once you’ve figured out what the point of your policy is, then you explain why that value matters.
In the debate round, values and criteria are ridiculously helpful in outweighing. For example, if in the 1AC you provide a value of the quality of life, and then you have the criterion of human health, and then, on top of all that, you can demonstrate that your policy will increase human health, then any of their disadvantages that don’t impact human health are a waste of the negative teams time. Honestly, you should find a good team that understands values and criteria and watch how they outweigh using these tools.
Carefully Worded Tags, Transitions, and Mandates
Hopefully, you all recognize the importance of tags. In a 1AC, there are no excuses for giving weak-sauce, sloppy tags; however, on the other hand, this is not the time to impress the judge with your large vocabulary and force them to write “Enhanced Environmental Degradation ” instead of “Increased Environmental Harm.” There is also something to be said in carefully wording your tag lines to not overstate your solvency. If my solvency tag was “Solve World Hunger” then I’m in a world of hurt; however, if I were to rewrite the tag to say “Reduce World Hunger,” then I should be able to prove solvency. You would think that this goes without saying, but you’d be surprised what an ill prepared tag can claim.
The transitions are the area in a 1AC that should be used to show off. If you have elegant sounding, educated statements between points then you will build your ethos. You want to sound like you put thought into the case instead of sounding robotic and choppy.
It’s also very important to carefully think though the wording of your mandates and the other planks of your plan. I remember losing a round based on the fact that we had excluded a needed government agency from our enforcement. The judge said we had won on every other argument, but the failure to think through the basics cost us. Careful wording of the mandates themselves are extremely crucial. I would go so far as to say that you should spend an equal amount of time working your mandates as you do building your case. Think through them, rewrite them, and then think through them again.
Great ideas, but when you say
_For example, if in the 1AC you provide a value of the quality of life, and then you have the criterion of human health, and then, on top of all that, you can demonstrate that your policy will increase human health, then any of their disadvantages that don’t impact human health are a waste of the negative teams time._
I have to disagree. DA’s don’t have to link back to the Affirmative’s criterion in order to have weight in the round. If your value is QoL and you’re criterion is Economic Benefit, and if I can show your plan causes deaths in third world countries, I don’t need to show how deaths in Africa affect our economy. The impact to my DA stands on its own.
Taking a broader perspective, real world policy-making supports this view as well. If a policy (such as ethanol subsidies) has unintended consequences (starvation), policy-makers should evaluate that policy in light of all factors, not just the areas the policy was designed to help (environmental protection, energy security).
So, while a value and criterion can be helpful to emphasize the benefits of a plan, they are not a way to cop out of DAs unrelated to your plan’s focus.
Fundamentally, I agree with you. Obviously, if the negative team runs a disadvantage of human life, it needs to be addressed. However, I disagree with the idea that you can disregard the Affirmative teams value or criteria and just assume that your’s takes precedent. It goes without saying that you have an easy argument to make, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make the argument. There are several different reasons: it develops good debating habits (to present an entire argument), to make for a cleaner debate round, and to make for a better, more persuasive argument. It a rather simple step and take little time, so there is no good excuse not to do it; all you have to do is propose a counter or additional criteria and explain why. This should take a couple of seconds if you’re proposing the criterion of human life; however, what if your proposing “economic security” in response to “national security”? It will take you a couple more seconds and it is most certainly is necessary. Why? Let me show you the difference:
The Affirmative team’s plan causes a disadvantage to our economic security (said of course very persuasively).
Giving two reasons why economic security is just as important as national security:
1) You can’t have national security without economic security.
2) Our economy is in a delicate state, thus we should not make policy without considering economic security.
Thus, we must look at both national security and economic security.
If you don’t take this step, I guarantee you risk losing ballots. My sister and I relied heavily on values and criteria in all of our Affirmatives and the only time we lost was when the Neg. challenged our criteria (or ran T).
As for the “wasting your time” comment…I still think that it’s a waste of time to run DAs that don’t apply to the Aff.’s criteria or your own counter criteria, because then they’ll simply outweigh. Trust me this works almost every time (especially if you have the criterion of human life or human health).
Hopefully I clarified what I initially meant to say, but obviously you welcome to your own opinion.