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«Judging Manual for Policy Debate What is Team Policy Debate? Team policy debate is an activity in which students try to persuade a judge that their ...»

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Judging Manual for Policy Debate

What is Team Policy Debate?

Team policy debate is an activity in which students try to persuade a judge that their arguments should win

them the debate. Students from around the country debate a single topic (called resolution) for the entire year.

Policy debate is focused on the content of arguments made by the debaters rather than on presentation or

delivery. Arguments are often supported with published quotations researched by the debaters (called evidence or cards). A team of debaters is composed of two students (usually from the same school). In one round of debate, there are two teams: the affirmative and the negative. The affirmative will begin by presenting a speech that identifies a problem that exists now and offering a policy to solve the problem. This policy is called the affirmative plan. After the affirmative has presented their case, the negative team gives a speech against it, then the affirmative will argue against the negative and so on, back and forth, until the debate ends with the affirmative giving the final speech. All together, there are 8 major speeches in a debate. There are also four cross-examination speeches so that each debater gets to ask questions once and answer questions once.

The Speeches in a Debate (HS and MS) Speech Time (HS) Time (MS) First Affirmative Constructive (1AC) 8 5 Cross-examination by Second Negative 3 2 First Negative Constructive (1NC) 8 5 Cross-examination by First Affirmative 3 2 Second Affirmative Constructive (2AC) 8 5 Cross-examination by First Negative 3 2 *Second Negative Constructive (2NC) 8 5 Cross-examination by Second Affirmative 3 2 *First Negative Rebuttal (1NR) 5 3 First Affirmative Rebuttal (1AR) 5 3 Second Negative Rebuttal (2NR) 5 3 Second Affirmative Rebuttal (2AR) 5 3 Preparation (per team for the whole round) 8 5 *These two speeches, 2NC and 1NR, are called the “negative block” and are treated as one long speech (with a crossex in between). The negative speakers should divide the important issues in the debate between them so that they each handle separate arguments rather than having the 1NR merely repeat the same ones the 2NC made.

Debate is a game of persuasion in which students try to convince the judge that their policy option is best.

The “rules” of this game are themselves debatable, making it an exciting and dynamic activity. Nevertheless, several tools have been employed for much of debate’s history. There are two burdens to consider in most debate rounds: burden of proof and burden of rebuttal. First, the Affirmative team must meet the burden of proof. To advance a compelling case for change from the status quo (debate resolutions are all worded so that the affirmative advocates a change from the current system), the affirmative must overcome presumption. Presumption is the idea that a judge would presume the current system to be functioning properly until a case proves otherwise (meeting the burden of proof).

The affirmative team can meet the burden of proof by addressing what are termed stock issues. These are the issues the affirmative needs to win to argue a new policy should be adopted. There are basically five stock issues. First, the issue of topicality is the question of whether the affirmative plan meets the words in the resolution.

If the affirmative presents a strong case but does not meet the words in the resolution, the judge cannot endorse their plan. They are outside of the judge’s jurisdiction. Debates on topicality are sometimes technical and are debates about debating. For example, the negative says the affirmative is not a “substantial” increase, and defines substantial as 5%. The affirmative argues that this interpretation is bad for debate, and that substantial should mean “large in scope.” The judge must decide whose interpretation is better.

The second stock issue is harms (sometimes also described as “significance”). The affirmative must be able to show that a harm is occurring that requires action. They must show a felt difficulty—people must be suffering, the environment is being damaged, rights are violated,

The 5 stock issues:

etc. If the negative is able to show that there is no harm or that the harm Disadvantages is inconsequential, there is no need for a plan.

Solvency The third stock issue is inherency. The Affirmative must show Harms that the current system is not addressing the harm. If there is a harm but it is being adequately addressed, there is once again no need for action. Inherency For example, people may be victims of racism due to racial profiling, but Topicality if the negative could show that national legislation has just been passed, there would be no need pass it again.

The fourth stock issue is solvency. The affirmative plan must solve the harm they have outlined. If they can show a need for action but present a solution that will not address the need, action is futile. Negatives may attack the feasibility or workability of the plan, or may argue that the harm has alternate causes that make it difficult or impossible for the affirmative to solve.

The last stock issue is disadvantage. Here the question is: do the drawbacks to action outweigh the advantages. There are three main parts to a disadvantage. The link is the connection between the affirmative plan and the disadvantage. The uniqueness is the part where the negative shows that the disadvantage is not happening.





The impact is the portion of the disadvantage where the negative demonstrates the consequence of acting. More than one link may be needed to get from “point A” (the affirmative plan) to “point B” (the impact). For example, a negative might argue a disadvantage called federalism, where they take the position that the federal government

should leave state issues to the states. An outline might look like this:

Disadvantage Spending:

A. Uniqueness: Although they have not been cut yet, disaster relief aid is vulnerable to budget cuts.

B. Link: the affirmative forces a trade off with disaster relief aid.

1. The affirmative plan is costly.

2.New federal spending will force cuts in other areas.

C. Impact: Lack of disaster relief will cause massive deaths from natural disasters.

Remember that all takes for the negative to win is to win one stock issue. If they only attack the affirmative on topicality, for example, they will still win if they win their topicality argument. They may also win on a combination of issues. One of the most common negative strategies, for example, is to minimize the affirmative solvency and outweigh what the affirmative has left with a disadvantage.

Two common, important arguments that are not specifically stock issues but are worth noting are counterplans and critiques. When the negative abandons the status quo and advances their own counterplan, the debate becomes more complex. Generally speaking, the negative will need to show that their counterplan is a reason to vote against the plan. Most teams do this with a disadvantage that applies to the plan and not to the counterplan. Negatives also run critiques that question the assumptions of the affirmative team (like gendered language, western science, or state based solutions).

The second important burden to be aware of is the burden of rebuttal (also called the burden of rejoinder).

This burden states that a speaker (any speaker, on either side) has the burden to refute the arguments made by the other side, or else concede the arguments. Stated another way, in debate— silence means consent. This burden has several important implications. First, In debate, silence it means that debaters can use what is previous speakers have said or not said to means consent. their strategic advantage. They may capitalize on arguments that their opponents ignored, pointing out that these concessions should cost them the debate. They may employ a “spread” strategy of presenting a large array of arguments in hopes that one will get past their opponents. The other important implication of the burden of rebuttal is that the judge must carefully track arguments to be able to identify dropped positions. If a speaker claims a position was conceded, the judge must be able to verify this claim. The only way to do so is to take notes on all arguments made in the debate, to know what speech they were made in, and to be able to identify point of clash (so that it is clear which arguments answer other arguments).

It is said that the negative has issue choice, while the affirmative has argument choice. This is because issues (that the affirmative must meet to meet their burden of proof) are made up of arguments (individual units of proof). In other words, if the negative wins one issue, they win. They may make strategic choices about which one they are ahead on over the course of the round. The affirmative can counter this by having an array of answers to each issue raised by the negative and focus on the strongest answer in rebuttal. They might make three different types of answers to topicality, for instance, arguing that they meet the negative’s interpretation of the topic, that the negative interpretation is not a good one, and that they have a better interpretation of the words in the resolution.

Notes in debate are taken on what is called a flowsheet (more frequently abbreviated a flow). Judges “flow” the arguments by writing each claim in the debate down in the column in which the speaker makes the argument. Abbreviations, shorthand, and small handwriting are suggested. Because many arguments are made in a debate, and cramped flows can become messy, judges tend to use at least one sheet of paper for each stock issue presented in the first speech (usually labeled as “observations” “contentions” or “advantages”), as well as one sheet for each major negative position (disadvantages, topicality and similar important arguments are often labeled “off case” arguments). Debaters will sometimes present roadmaps before they begin their speeches to help the judge organize their flowsheets.

–  –  –

What is the Role of the Judge?

Judges in debate must fulfill a number of important roles. First, the judge is a decision-maker. They must ultimately vote for the team that presented the better arguments. This decision is usually best understood as the judge imagining that they were in a position to put the affirmative plan into effect (as the Congress, the Supreme Court, etc.), and needed to weigh the merits of the plan based on the arguments made in the debate. The power of the judge to imagine that a vote for a plan would actually put it into effect is known as fiat power. The judge must set aside their own personal opinions about the topic and evaluate the positions made by the debaters as they were argued. An argument the judge sees as particularly strong may not factor into the decision if made only briefly in a constructive speech and not referenced later in the debate.

The judge in the debate is also an educator. Judge feedback after the debate helps students to advance their knowledge about the their arguments, about debate, and about how to become more persuasive. The discussion after the debate can help debaters win subsequent rounds, sometimes even later the same day. Comments made on the ballot allow debaters to understand the judge’s decision making process and improve their skills and strategies.

While there is quite a bit of jargon in policy debate, the activity is, at heart, about persuasion. Debaters have a duty to adapt to their judges. Some judges have judged many debates and are familiar enough with debate terms that use of such terms serves as a sort of oral shorthand. Newer judges less familiar with such terms should not feel that they must know all the terms that debaters use to be good judges. Intelligent, fair-minded individuals who listen carefully to the arguments made Judges must also occasionally act as arbitrators. Judges must keep track of time in the debate.

Occasionally, they might have to intervene during the debate if there is a serious problem. This might be anything from two partners not getting along with each other to someone’s evidence being misplaced but is most often a student who is too nervous or upset to go on debating. The judge should do his or her best to try to allow the debaters to work things out among themselves. If the debaters clearly need the judges help, try to be supportive and helpful but with the ultimate goal of continuing with the round. If this does not resolve the situation, ask one of the tournament officials for help. They’ve been where you are and they can give you a hand.

What Does the Judge Do in a Debate?

What to do BEFORE the debate Some experienced debaters my ask questions before the round to try to learn about their

1. Check the pairing to see judge. These are the questions they are most likely to ask and some possible answers.

where you are judging and pick What are your preferences/Do you have any paradigms/What is your philosophy?

up your ballot at the ballot These are all questions about how you decide debates. You may want to indicate your table. experience with debate (“I am a fairly new judge,” for example) and let them know if

2. Get your supplies (several there are things that you especially like or don’t debaters to do.

sheets of paper, pens, timer). Do you allow tag team?

See the ballot table or a This is a question about whether the judge will allow debaters to “tag in” to answer/ask tournament official for help. a question for their partner. Debaters frequently use this question to fell out other

3. Go to your room and try to attitudes of the judge (they are strict with rules, they are flexible, etc.) get the round started on time. What do you think of speed?

Have the debaters put names on Make debaters aware that you don’t evaluate unclear arguments. If they plan to speak ballot (1N, 2N, etc.) rapidly, they should watch your facial expressions to make sure you are following.

What to do DURING the debate

1. Listen carefully during all speeches (constructives, cross-examination, and rebuttals).

2. Take notes during all constructive and rebuttal speeches. Use flowsheets. Record all important ideas.

3. Keep time for each speech and for preparation time. Let students know how much time they have left.

4. Between speeches review notes and write comments for each student in the boxes at the bottom of the ballot.



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