Ladies and gentlemen, the time has come. Voting for Stoa’s 2018-2019 debate resolutions is now open. Cast your vote—but first, take a look at what three Ethos team members have to say about the TP resolutions!
The LD voting guide is coming soon.
1. Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its international policies towards infectious diseases.
Pro 1: Long-lasting educational value
There are a lot of topics in the news that people think they understand until they actually research them. “Infectious diseases” is one of them. By forcing debaters to research this topic all year, the resolution will require them (and oftentimes judges) to understand how diseases and viruses work, and also the fact they are unlikely to be affected by epidemic diseases.
Pro 2: Increasing importance
Although the likelihood of any individual (especially in the US) being touched by important infectious diseases is small, the likelihood of America being affected is on the rise. Our world is becoming increasingly global, and the ease at which sickness spreads is on the incline. This topic will definitely be a modern-day discussion.
Con 1: Up-and-down importance
As a whole the resolution is present-day, but real problems regarding diseases come rarely. Ebola and Zika were the biggest topics in the news (and supposedly the death of us all), but now no one is worried. If judges are voting on significance all year, Affirmative may not be a fun side.
Joshua’s Conclusion: Overall, this resolution is the best one proposed by Stoa this year. It has little bias and provides good educational value. I’ll be ranking Resolution 1 as first.
Pro 1: Untouched topic area
No homeschool debate league has gone near this topic in recent years. It presents a whole new area of policy for debaters to study. Plus, it means it’s going to be difficult if not impossible to keep recycling old case ideas. See ya later Jones Act and icebreakers!
Pro 2: Cutting-edge policy discussion
Expect to see new cases proliferate through the year for new technologies and ideas on how to prevent infectious disease outbreak. Science is constantly advancing and this resolution allows you to take full advantage of that.
Con 1: Ambiguous wording
What constitutes an international policy? If we act domestically to prevent diseases from the outside world from coming in, is that international? What policies does the US have toward infectious diseases? Not many. The resolution should have been written, “The USFG should substantially reform its policies regarding infectious diseases.”
Con 2: Unknown advantages
Considering there are no real infectious disease outbreaks currently endangering the US, a ton of advantages for aff cases will be hypothetical and unknown. I can’t wait to see debaters whining about significance and solvency all year. Yay.
Drew’s Conclusion: B
The wording shouldn’t be too large of a hurdle and the lack of concrete, ensured advantages is doable. The opportunity to delve deep into the world of science and diseases would outweigh these cons. This resolution would be a fun time.
I must note that “infectious disease” policy is not a topic that gets a lot of offhand political attention (unlike trade policy, federal subsidies, etc.), so this is an interesting choice. That being said, I’ll go over some of the general pros and cons of the resolution:
Pro 1: It’s fairly niche and focused. You can really learn a lot about infectious disease and health policies in general
Pro 2: It’s not very politicized—at least, from what I can tell. This means less judge bias and perhaps better source quality on average.
Pro 3: It requires dealing with science-y and scary topics, all in the context of normative questions of policymaking. This means that you have to learn generics on epidemiology and science in general, as well as generic strategies for dealing with fear-mongering.
Con 1: It’s really niche and specific. Hopefully you aren’t disturbed by disease/epidemics (as I used to be slightly)—and hopefully this doesn’t totally bore you.
Con 2: In many ways, this could be too much science for a high school debate round. It’s very difficult/unreliable to have a debate on science and policy in a relatively short time period, especially if the science is unclear and the audience/debaters are not experts.
Con 3: Building off the previous point, there is the very legitimate problem of potential appeals to fear. If nothing else, this likely offsets the “not very politicized” pro.
Harrison’s Conclusion: C+, maybe a B-.
2. Resolved: One or more international conventions on environmental issues should be substantially reformed.
Pro 1: International flavor
Not having the USFG as the only possible actor is a smart move. For a while now it’s been the only agency we as debaters have power over, yet the world is a lot bigger than one government.
Con 1: No actor
I like not having the USFG as the actor, but the resolution doesn’t specify at all who should reform which conventions. Affirmative teams can act as the UN, as Uganda, as the US, or as every nation in the world. While resolutions that don’t focus on the US are definitely something Stoa needs, resolutions with no actor go too broad. With any possible combination of actors, squirrels will be rampant and negatives will argue a lot of generics.
Con 2: Broadness
Once again, this resolution is on the right track but goes too far. With the hundreds upon hundreds of international conventions the resolution allows affirmative to reform, there’s no guarantee you’ll hit the same case twice. Once again, affirmatives will have specific evidence and negative will have to rely on a lot of generics.
Con 3: Bias
When you have California and Texas in the same league, this is a given – but perhaps no resolution would be more controversial than the environment. Whether it’s pollution, global warming, dumping plastic, or the like, you’ll be in a constant struggle against judges’ personal views.
Joshua’s Conclusion: This is, in my opinion, the worst resolution proposed this year. You’ll be fighting against bias all year (and oftentimes unsure which bias you’re fighting). Negative teams will be hit all year with the argument that their evidence is not specific – which is admittedly a bad argument most of the time, yet teams lose to it all too often.
Pro 1: Expansive topic area
This seems extremely narrow, but the truth is, there are HUNDREDS of international environmental conventions. Every team could run a new aff case at every tournament and there would still be untouched depth to the topic.
Pro 2: Not US-Centric
You could have an entire case focused on how Latvia takes care of its environment. There’s no reason that any affirmative has to have a case focused solely on US policy. This is a breath of fresh air.
Con 1: Expansive topic area
Have fun going neg with hundreds of international environmental conventions to reform. Generics are going to be your best friend. While the specifics of a lot of affirmative cases may change, the ideologies and principles are likely to remain the same. Prepare for those.
Con 2: Judge Bias
None of your judges think global warming is a thing. So have fun with that.
Drew’s Conclusion: A
I’m a big fan of this resolution. You don’t have to run a case talking about global warming, and well-developed generics are going to be your best negative strategy. The breadth in case ideas allows for substantial creativity. Have fun with this one.
All I can say to introduce this is that if this is chosen, be prepared to talk about the Paris Agreement and actor theory/topicality. Moving on to the pros/cons list:
Pro 1: It’s rather important. Admittedly, the same could be said about a lot of other topics, but it appears especially important when talking about entire international conventions on environmental issues.
Pro 2: No actor lets you explore things in ways different from USFG-resolutions.
Pro 3: Lots of breadth. Given that there are well over a thousand agreements/conventions that you could reform (although probably most of them aren’t important or in need of reform), you are probably going to be able to swim in cases.
Con 1: The topic in itself is too broad. Forget swimming; you are probably going to drown in cases.
Con 2: There is no actor, making the already-broad topic even broader.
Con 3: Potential for abuse of actor: you can fiat actors to do absurd/uncharacteristic things. For example, you can fiat Japan to agree to stop whaling; you can fiat China (or America) to agree to reduce their pollution; you can fiat countries to agree to cease overfishing. I really can’t stress this enough: it is so easy to abuse this.
I could go on, but the problem of not having a specific, slightly-narrow actor practically ends the discussion in my mind. No matter how good the rest of the resolution may be, without an actor, this resolution is deeply flawed.
Harrison’s Conclusion: D
3. Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reform its foreign aid.
Pro 1: Important topic
We hear about foreign aid all the time. Having a wealth of knowledge about it will be valuable in the future, no matter your educational and career path.
Pro 2: Short and sweet
Hate topicality debates? Me too. And they should be rare with this resolution.
Con 1: Repetitive debates
Every round will likely come down to some of the same basic, generic arguments. Get ready for your speeches to be pretty much memorized.
Joshua’s Conclusion: This resolution touches an important topic but has too small a scope. I’ll rank it second.
Pro 1: Simple resolution
The wording is clean and unambiguous. Yay!
Con 1: Brutally narrow
On neg, you need two briefs: Foreign Aid – Pro and Foreign Aid – Con. That’s it. There is little room for creativity within this resolution. Every case is going to look like, “Stop giving foreign aid to X country” or “Give more foreign aid to X country”. There’s a tiny bit of room for uniqueness in the kind of foreign aid to give, but even then, you’re being put in a box. Be prepared to hear a lot of the same arguments throughout the whole year.
Drew’s Conclusion: D
The ideological box that you’ll be stuck in trying to make cases makes this a great parli resolution, but a horrible resolution to be stuck debating all year. Don’t be deceived by its simplicity, vote against it and for creativity!
Pro 1: It is very important for real-world policymaking. People may not always think about how significant our foreign aid is (although it is only 1.3% of the federal budget), nor do many people really think about how positive (or potentially negative) those effects are.
Pro 2: It can be useful information for you, not just for casual policy discussions but also for considering whether and/or which charities to donate money to.
Pro 3: This can help debaters’ understanding of and defense of humanitarian/ethical principles (such as Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance, AKA utilitarianism).
Pro 4: This should be broad enough to allow for a wide variety of cases.
Con 1: There very likely will be too many cases. The Stoa blurb lists everything from economic aid to medical aid to military aid and more.
Con 2: There can be a lot of emotional appeals. However, in some ways, this can be a pro, because debaters will need to learn to argue against emotional appeals.
Con 3: Judge bias might be significant, especially if a judge automatically brings in an ethical worldview (especially if that worldview is national self-interest or utilitarianism).
Con 4: There will likely be some really strong cases—so long as the affirmative can defend utilitarianism over national self-interest. The reasoning is multifaceted, but the most prominent reason is arguably that foreign aid has a lot of bad policy drivers, because many foreign aid policies are designed to uphold US self-interest, but primarily affect foreigners. Thus, it isn’t hard to expect that many more policies are selfish rather than utilitarian.
Harrison’s Conclusion: B
Joshua Farquhar: 1 > 3 > 2
Drew Magness: 2 > 1 > 3
Harrison Durland: 3 > 1 > 2
If you want to see other perspectives on the pros and cons of these resolutions, or if you want to help influence the vote by adding your own thoughts, check out this debate/discussion on Kialo.