[eDebate] A Step to a Unified Debate Theory for Everyone
Sat Nov 17 08:59:48 CST 2007
Unifying Arguments for Policymakers, Activists and Performers
Since it seems clear that there is a desire by many to model more than
the government's policy-making activities in Academic Policy Debate,
the question is whether coherent changes can be made to make this
possible. It seems that the theoretical tools already exist to make
it possible for everyone to debate in the same context; they just
don't seem to be accessed correctly in most rounds.
First consider: Where and how does one place the Activist in the
Debate Theory Spectrum?
As noted in previous posts, the "Alternative" as a tool does not seem
to do the job. It invokes fiat in a manner exactly analogous manner
to the "Plan" and "Counterplan". There is the claim by the
Critique-debater that the Alternative "solves", in the same way that
the Policy maker claims the Plan does so. The problem with this is
that one cannot indict fiat as being a bankrupt tool if one is in fact
using it. Also it seems that fiat provides real value.
Perhaps it would be helpful to take a step back and examine how
activism function in the "real world."
Nobody would use the argument that "you're not a real policy-maker" as
a reason to tell an Activist to stop what he or she is doing.
Activists realize they're not functioning in the same way as the
How do Activists function? Where do they fit in the Policymaking continuum?
The first thing that an Activist does is respond to a Problem. So far
this is the same as a Policy Maker; there is something going on, that
needs a Solution.
So the Problem/Solution dichotomy exists for both.
The Activist sees that the Problem is not getting solved by the
current power structure. This goes to the debate concept of
Since there is an Inherent Barrier to the Government solving the
problem ? some attitude or structure standing in the way, the Activist
feels the need to go outside of the government, perhaps directly to
People, or to use some other Method, to increase the awareness of the
problem. In this way, in a democracy, minds can be changed so that
the government can be changed.
Sometimes the very structures of the government are seen to be the
problem. If this is the case, activists have in the past tried to
incite open rebellions against their government. The number of times
this has resulted in a truly better system are exceedingly few.
Sometimes, the Activist is more like a Philosopher, who sees a problem
in the way people are thinking about the problem. If this
conceptualization issue exists, it might be shown how
reconceptualizing an issue would allow for change to take place, by
removing barriers to change.
Thus one of the main issues the Activist has to examine is this: What
is the best way to overcome inherency: how can the Activist make him
or herself heard, so that people will change their minds?
Therefore it might be seen that Inherency is the true focus of the Activist.
The Policymaking debater approaches the Inherency issue by asking what
would happen on a significance/impact level were Inherency overcome.
Is this a "fair" thing to do? If the policymaker did not approach
inherency in this way, one could not access the advantages to change,
and therefore there would be no mechanism to debate the consequences
of policy change.
Thus we see the real nexus point that distinguishes the Activist
Debater from the Policy Debater:
The Policy Debater fiats over Inherency to debate potential
consequences of change.
The Activist Debater focuses on Inherency to debate how change can
If this is the real difference, it would change the way Activism and
Criticisms are debated.
For one thing, Critiques would not be initiated by the Negative in
response to a PolicyMaking position, because they do not function as
being responsive to the Affirmative's project - since the Affirmative
fiats over inherency issues.
Instead, Activist and Critical projects would be started by the
Affirmative, in response to the Resolution. Instead of fiating
"over" inherency, the Activist debate round would focus on Inherency,
and ask what is the thing causing this barrier.
For example, if the problem is the way the United States "otherizes"
Iran, by the construction of Iran as a particular thing, this could be
the focus of a debate. If the problem is the way Borders themselves
are conceived, that might be the focus. If the problem is that the
Government has been conceived on poor principles, such as racism or
sexism, that might be the focus ? and arguments can be made how change
in these areas will help break down the barriers, or allow focus on
the barriers, that prevent resolutional change.
Such an approach would "allow in" many of the Critical projects that
it seems people want to focus on. The question of "fiat" would be
moot in such a debate, because the focus is on the Inherency issue,
and how to remove the barrier. Significance & advantages still get to
be debated because they would be the result of removing the barrier,
and also the Critique Aff would get to access the moral advantages to
trying to change those things which created the barrier.
There would not be the need to offer an "alternative"; the goal in
most cases is changing minds, so that change can happen though
existing systems. Of course, if one thinks the government needs to
be radically reconstituted or removed, this too could be the focus of
The "limiting" aspect of the Resolution would still function as it
does currently; one would need to be able to show that they fit within
the Resolution, for all the reasons currently espoused.
What about debates about debate itself? How would these be allowed
in? My initial reaction is that such arguments can't easily be
accessed by the Affirmative side, since the Affirmative has the issue
of upholding the Resolution. It seems that the debates about debate
can best be initiated by the Negative, focusing on the term
"Resolved". The negative might argue that the Resolution itself
should be rejected, because it implies acceptance of debate as it is
currently constituted. This approach might allow in debate about
certain alternatives, such as "performance" etc. In this manner,
alternative ways of communicating might seen to be germane to the
project initiated by the Affirmative, who must propose acceptance of
the current debate structure in order to accept the Resolution. Also,
if one feels that acceptance of the resolution accepts the policy
debate community as it is currently organized, and if one feels that
the community practices are problematic for some reason, these points
could also be accessed by rejecting the resolution. If such a
rejection decreases the ability to focus on the policy points being
made, and if such a loss can be shown to harm the prospects for change
via education, that would seem to be a valid argument by the
affirmative. This is not so different from the way many of these
debates function currently.
These are some ideas as to how everyone's projects might be accessed
along established debate theories and practices, hopefully in a
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