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Post by Benjamin Dickert

What was Meant and what was Said: Ethos’ LD Sourcebook Authors Talk NCFCA Resolutions

As any debater can tell you, Strategy and Execution are two extremely different things. The ideas in the NCFCA resolutions are fantastic. Their actual phraseologies pose some challenges. As you consider the resolution that accumulates the most votes, the AxiA authors have some thoughts to help you.

We’ll begin by talking about some of the issues we have with the current resolutions’ phraseology and then list possible alternatives – this post isn’t a comprehensive breakdown of the resolutions, just some highlights we wanted to share. Also, the objective is not to simply attack or ‘bash’ the resolutions but to suggest ways in which they could be improved for the sake of good, engaging competition.

Current Phrasing Issues:

Resolution A – “National security ought to be valued above freedom of the press.”

There’s no such thing as a perfect resolution and every topic tends to have at least some bias. However, we believe that resolution ‘A’ poses a significant bias against the affirmative that will cause results to quickly skew. While the topic is certainly the source of vibrant discussion in the media, the evidence that is truly viable in a debate setting favors the negative almost exclusively. The source of this problem comes from the resolution’s specific use of the term ‘freedom of the press.’

One example is that it will be extremely hard to find a significant case in American history where the freedom of the press was set aside for national security. In all of our Supreme Court, and State Supreme Court research,  we have not yet encountered a single case that would pose a strong argument for the affirmative side — the resolution is not limited to the United States but there are good reasons why our courts have ruled with such consistency. When a skilled debater attacks the resolution, a judge will probably hear the resolution as – “Government opinion ought to be valued higher than the First Amendment.”

So, while applications abound, true support (i.e. real world scenarios, case law, etc.) leaves an obscene bias for the negative in either legitimate or illegitimate government settings.

Resolution B- “Personal freedom ought to be more highly valued than the good of society.”

In this resolution, the phrase “good of society” forces the affirmative to argue a vague, subjective standard. This creates a strong bias against the affirmative that allows the negative extremely easy avenues of attack.

At this point, voting is closed but, since the phrasing is still subject to change, we have compiled a few possible revisions that would successfully fix the problems we have identified without altering the nature of the resolutions people have voted for.

Proposed Solutions:

There are several things that can be done to each resolution but we feel that the following alterations would successfully mitigate their current issues.

Revisions for A or B-

Option A: “National security ought to be valued above personal freedom.”

Option B: “Personal freedom ought to be valued above national security.”

These two options conflate Resolutions A and B together to form something we believe to be a stronger Resolution. These proposed revisions allow arguments from both Resolutions A and B without unmanageable bias, all while preserving the essence and intent of the current phrasing.

Revisions for B-

Option A: “Personal freedom ought to be more highly valued than utilitarianism.”

Option B: “Personal freedom ought to be more highly valued than majority interests.’

The main issue with the current phrasing for resolution B is the obscene ambiguity of “the good of society.” These proposed resolutions seek to condense that idea into terms that can be defined.

Last of all, Option for Resolution C—”That preemptive war is justified in the interest of national security”. We have barely considered this one because it poses a debate that comes down to the interpretation of “preemptive,” not to mention “war,” where both AFF and NEG will have great positions hinging on these interpretations alone. Let’s avoid this one.

Hopefully, as is our intent, we have provided some helpful analysis about the resolutions’ potential flaws to kick start discussion. We also hope that our proposed alternatives help provide clear, competitive, and unbiased resolutions for students to debate. In any case, we are thrilled to get to research the new topic soon!!


Photo: ‘Unhindered by Talent’ on Flickr

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