[eDebate] Topic Formulations - Whats your method?

William Newnam wnewnam
Mon Apr 24 11:39:30 CDT 2006

 I think the topic
> committee made a huge, whopper of a mistake the last time we had a
> Courts topic by including the phrase "recognizing" the right to
> privacy, instead of "upholding" it, because it caused the topic to
> be the opposite of what was anticipated (nearly everyone ran a case that
> increased rights).

What I am about to say is not really relevant to the larger discussion, but 
the interpretation of this topic always bothered me.

I don't wish to engage in a huge argument here, but I must say that I 
disagree with the warrants for these claims because the problem was not with 
"recognizing" but the way judges chose to interpret "recognizing."  The most 
egregious example of this occurred with one of the most popular cases on the 
topic--Bowers v.  Hardwick.  In that decision, the court specifically noted 
several times that they "do not recognize" a right to privacy.  But, somehow 
judges repeatedly allowed teams to say they "recognized a right of privacy" 
because they used it in the decision.

This interpretation, of course, flies in the face of Ryan's concerns 
expressed in his post that, "The
Affirmative can defend themselves on topicality with good, specific 
literature on the question, the Negative can go for Topicality with 
specific, contextual literature defining the action in relation to the topic 
itself.  I am increasingly disturbed by Topicality debates on both sides 
that don't center around contextual evidence, which is more
important than the dictionary.com definition of terms in the resolution."

In the case of the privacy topic, judges frequently and explicitly ignored 
this admonition leading to the issues Ryan discussed on that topic.  I have 
a feeling that in the current environment, this would be less of a problem 
than it was on the original privacy topic.

In short, I think the problem was a pool of judges unwilling to hold 
debaters to a strict topicality standard rather than the words used in the 

bill n

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