[eDebate] Small Schools and Non-Topical AFF's

Galloway, Ryan W. rwgallow
Thu Oct 4 20:24:27 CDT 2007

I really should stay out of this, but...

Zomp and Scott Elliott are exactly right in the debate about the damage of non-topical aff's to those just learning debate.  I will expand on that argument and make an additional argument about small schools.

When I worked at Augustana College, every student on the squad started as a novice.  We worked our tails off to become competitive, and qualifying for the NDT was a big accomplishment.

My students #1 complaint about debate was when they would debate teams that wouldn't defend the topic.  It was VERY difficult to have strategies about both the topic and the non-topic.  Repeatedly, the teams who would do this would say "helps small schools."  It might help them on the AFF, but it certainly doesn't help a school with limited debate experience debate you when you won't play by the basic rule that you should defend the topic.  

It is true that we frequently also lost debates to bigger schools with lots of cards.  But when Emory GP (a specific example) beat them, they could say, "ok, that team was faster, more experienced, and had better cards on 'x.'  The judge said if we did x, y, and z; we could win.  I know how to get better."

In the other debates the after-rounds with judges were often hilarious.  You would ask "what could we do?"  [long pause].  Maybe you could run, "x argument having nothing to do with the topic that we've never heard of any lit on."  How on earth could we have an infinite variety of those arguments against a 180 team field at a large tournament?  Especially when many of these arguments arguably existed nowhere in any literature.

Is it that unreasonable that a team DEFEND THE TOPIC so our topic-specific strategies could apply?

I've basically already made argument #2:  it is false that allowing the affirmative to defend non-topical aff's "helps small schools."  It HURTS small schools when debating such AFF's. 

Further, large squads gain an additional advantage--specialists.  I could go into a long discussion about this, but when your coaching staff hits about four you can have an argument specialist.  About all Eber did at MSU was cut cards against K teams.  Other large squads have their specialists.  When a specialist can target a team with non-topical aff's the advantage to the team running the non-topical aff shrinks dramatically.


Against squads that can't afford (literally cash-wise) an argument specialist.  Then the non-topical aff. defender can say "but we lost to Baudrillardian geo-politics bad last night, go research that..." AND your politics updates, and five countries, and the twenty or so cases per country.

It's a losing battle.  Judges should vote on "you're not topical--go write a topical case."

Adjust your strike sheets accordingly, but I'm already on record in the judging philosophy as saying the number 1 strongest bias is that an affirmative should be topical.

And this is the primary reason why.

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