[eDebate] Re-thinking the States Counterplan

Pacedebate at aol.com Pacedebate
Sat Apr 4 21:19:30 CDT 2009

In a message dated 4/4/2009 1:43:25 P.M. Mountain Daylight Time,  
gacggc at gmail.com writes:

Tim, it  is extremely bad advice to "implore" teachers at summer
institutes to "not  teach debaters the states counterplan," 
I'm asking institute directors and people who work with high school  students 
to think about the educational goals of their teaching. I'm asking  these 
folks to contemplate this question: "What is my educational aim when I'm  
teaching the states counterplan?" In reality, I would like this to be at the  
forefront of every summer debate camp/institute regardless of the arguments  taught. 
It wouldn't take much of a mindset shift to create a substantial and  
beneficial change in the high school community.
If folks opt for the counterplan advocated by Paul Johnson earlier in this  
thread I don't really have a huge issue with that. I do think we  need to go 
cold turkey and break the habit of the states counterplan but I  believe the 
state counterplans that are truly reflected in the literature to be  
educationally defensible counterplans. The counterplan that lopez's and uniform  fiats 
states and relevant territories isn't educationally defensible. Is there  some 
gray area between those extremes? Probably. If summer staff thought about  
education instead of the most strategic arguments possible would my student's  
summer experience be better? Definitely.

since there
is no doubt that the students  will be hearing the states argument a
This is just a bad inevitability argument. This might be true at the  college 
level although it is possible the generation of debaters we shape now  could 
change that. However, in high school this inevitability argument really  isn't 
true. The reason why some of the bad arguments that exist on the high  school 
circuit survive the first few tournaments is because some lab leader at  camp 
sat down and wrote a bunch of blocks and spent time explaining to their  
labbies the "tricks" to make these arguments viable. 

It is  hard to believe anyone would advocate not teaching as a
solution to dealing  with an argument.
I didn't say don't teach i said teach how to answer it not how to run it.  
Just like we do with a huge swathe of other arguments. Print out the file called 
 backfile check go over all the bad arguments in it with your students and 
how to  beat them and then move on. Don't conclude by making it a core part of 
the  curriculum any more than people make spark a part of their core  

Also, as Stefan mentioned, the states counterplan has the  rather
useful effect of limiting an extremely large topic to those  areas
where there is a particular warrant for federal action. At the  topic
meeting, this issue was brought up when people voiced concern as  to
the breadth of the resolution, and it was pointed out that with  states
as a tool for the neg, the aff would have to be quite selective  in
choosing an aff.  So the states cp was considered as a  necessary
limiting tool, allowing for this particular wording (if we throw  out
the states cp, the discussions at the high school topic meeting  would
be necessarily focused on adding in additional  limiters).
Yes, I get that people did that. I'm arguing that is a bad way to think  
about debate. I believe Ryan Galloway effectively impact turned this and no one  
has really created any meaningful response. Galloway says that the states  
counterplan means a huge swathe of the literature is ignored and people  basically 
responded in three ways 1) suck it up and go for theory 2) the  federalism da 
is educational (oh sure, that really outweighs the points galloway  made and 
by the way you can still run this educational argument even if you  don't have 
the states cp 3) it's inevitable. 
The reasons why poverty should be debated next year are almost completely  
eviscerated by the existence of the states cp. If you have even the slightest  
doubt about this please reread the topic paper
There is a reasonable section of the paper devoted to the states  counterplan 
and potential aff defenses. In fact, there is a quite a good card  included 
that "should" defeat any states cp. Read it and make a realistic  assessment of 
how debates will shake down. The neg makes 90%, if not more, of  those affs 
go away by fiat and even the few that it doesn't completely remove  are 
borderline non topical (the federal control of interest rates type aff's)  and can in 
many instances be solved by other state actions.
The states counterplan creates an ugly, uneducational race to the bottom. I  
know that most of the aff's that really attempt to deal with poverty can be 
done  by the states so I choose an aff that has a mechanism the states don't 
have  jurisdiction over. The neg then lopez's that power away OR has the states 
act to  solve poverty in some other way. So the only solution is for the aff to 
find,  generally weak, internal links to international advantages. While 
most, if not  all, the people on this list know exactly how this will shake down 
in college I  don't think as many realize how truly dreadful this will make the 
poverty topic  on the high school scene.

As to whether states destroys the case debate, this is often  true, but
it seems less true when it comes to anti-poverty  legislation.  There
are many job-creation programs that have been  created by the federal
government particularly because states dont have the  money to step in,
and yet those states need the jobs.  State funding  disads will not be
hard to come  by next  year.
Yeah, those state funding DA's really won a lot of debates for the aff this  
year. Next year the neg will get to leverage politics, spending and federalism 
 against the state spending da. 

Also, while concepts such as federalism are old-hat to coaches,  they
are news to high school debaters.   Same with  politics.   These issues
will not go away from the political  discourse just by ignoring them in
high school debate rounds;   therefore students will be ill-served by
coaches who refuse to teach these  fundamental  args.
The majority of summer institute instructors are not teaching a version of  
the states counterplan that is anywhere near what occurs in "political  
I'm going to stop here. I read most of the rest of Dr. Glass's responses to  
be little more than "there are other bad arguments" Yep, that's true. I agree  
with the others who said that counterplans/alternatives should be held to a 
very  high standard as to what constitutes a solvency advocate - if you don't 
have an  advocate for your particular version of action then it should be 
assessed as  zero solvency.

It is understandable why coaches and debaters  want to innovate; it is
much more fun to craft an entirely new approach to  an arg than to have
a kid run states/federalism or states/politics.   But such a
bread-and-butter approach gives the young debater a reasonable  way to
learn the game, and to get sufficient grounding from which to  branch

AT Ryan:

1)  "First, the states counterplan  guts in-depth education on domestic 

The states cp does not  seem to uniquely gut the case debate in
comparison to any other agent  cp.  It seems this arg applies to all
agent cps, including ones with a  single actor (executive order, etc).
The better arg is that 50 state fiat  is not symmetrical to federal
action - however there are in fact  anti-poverty programs in all 50
states, so it may depend on the particular  aff.

2) "Second, the states counterplan thrives by distorting  the
literature base to answer it."

You're right about Lopez, but  there will be no need to devolve
authority to the states when it comes to  poverty.  So the Lopez-based
disads don't seem to apply this  year.

3) "Third, the benefits of testing the  federal  government  in the
resolution with the states counterplan are vastly  overstated"

Again, this arg seems to apply to any agent c/p.  If  you toss all of
these out, you privilege the status of the federal govt -  and even the
particular branch of the federal gov't the aff  chooses.   So you'd
also eliminate the courts c/p; executive  orders; refs, etc.

Anticipating that you might say this is good, one  can also make the
same arg against a PIC which avoids doing the aff in a  particular
area, or avoids doing a part of the aff - each of these  "classical"
cps decreases the need to discuss the case.  (Actually all  cps
decrease the need to discuss the case - so you're arg is a  more
general "cp bad" position.")

4)  "the counterplan guts  in-depth education on domestic topics.  "

That  also could be  said about almost any cp.  It could also be said
about almost any K...  and perhaps the K, with its shift in the
discussion framework, is more  effective at gutting   case-specific

5) "I  suspect we will see a lot of military aff s and aff s dealing
with federal  agencies to try to carve out some narrow warrant for why
the USFG is  necessary in this instance.  "

I agree.  That was my thought  when we were discussing this at the
Topic Meeting.  This does not seem  bad to me; there are still a large
number of affs - and the rez becomes  functionally much more easily

You say these affs shouldnt  be the only functionally viable affs - but
it is always the case that good  affs = all affs - unstrategic affs;
your focus on states doesn't seem  warranted.

It is difficult to defend such a vanilla approach to debate  - but
remember there was a time when the state cp was wildly innovative,  and
it forced people to rethink their approach to the aff, and  concentrate
on areas where there was a particular need for federal  action.   This
still does not seem to be an irrelevant of bad  requirement when
thinking about federal action.

David  Glass

On Sat, Apr 4, 2009 at 2:41 PM,   <Pacedebate at aol.com> wrote:
> If you really want to make a  difference then you need to think about the
> place you can have the  biggest impact. I believe there are three key areas.
> First, summer  debate institutes. For many high school students a majority 
> their  ideas about debate are formulated during the summer. If you work at
>  one of these institutes I implore you to not teach debaters the states
>  counterplan or if you feel it is your educational obligation to teach it  
> least subject it to a very rigorous test of the solvency advocate  for the
> counterplan. Certainly on next year's high school topic  (poverty) there 
> be advocates for state action to deal with  poverty. I'm skeptical that any
> of those advocates will express a  preference for uniform action by all 50
> states and relevant  territories. Again, I have a strong preference for
> institutes removing  the states cp from the entire curriculum and I suggest
> those of you  who are instructors to just refuse to teach it.
> Second, as teachers.  Teach your students (high school or college) your
> favorite theory  argument against the states cp and help them learn how to
> actually win  these arguments in debates. Many of the arguments expressed by
> others  are sufficient reason to reject the states cp but debaters rarely go
>  for these arguments in debates.
> Third, as judges. If the aff goes for  "cp doesn't solve" hold the negative
> to the same solvency burden that  the affirmative has. If the aff has cards
> that the federal government  can solve certain problems then the neg should
> be required to read  evidence that advocates their counterplan which means 
> the cp does  50 state and territories fiat then they need an advocate for
> that type  of action. Failure to have said advocate should be evaluated not
> as a  "solvency deficit" but as a "100% solvency deficit". It is unfair to
>  expect the affirmative to detail and evidence solvency deficits to a
>  counterplan that, as others in this thread have noted, is completely  
> from the literature.
> I'll conclude with a final  comment about summer debate institutes because I
> believe that to be  the most significant area where people can make a
> difference. What  happens at summer institutes truly shapes each generation
> of debaters.  Summer institute directors need to seriously contemplate the
> role of  their "institute". Are they really an educational arena as their
>  brochures suggest? At any moment in time could a teacher from a high  
> walk in to a labroom and could the "instruction" being received  be 
> as truly educational? Or are these programs really just  big debate strategy
> sessions where students are taught cheap tricks by  coaches who are really
> training students to be the debaters they want  on their college squads in
> the future. Lately, I'm sad to report, the  trend has been toward cheap
> tricks and bad arguments. Each of you that  works at a summer institute can
> make a genuine difference in that. I  truly hope you will approach your lab
> with the idea that you are there  to teach the students in your group about
> the substance of the  topic.
> Ryan Galloway is 100% correct when he says:
> "Instead of  encouraging understanding of issues related to poverty, the
> states cp  forces everyone involved to narrow and obscure areas of poverty
>  literature.
> Everyone who researches, teaches about, leans about, and  grapples with 
> domestic topic is intentionally cordoned off to a  narrow literature base to
> research the topic to get around that  blasted "federal government" warrant.
> Maybe it's time we learned about  more.  We are losing something here, and 
> are losing the  in-depth understanding about issues that are important for
> our  students to learn about, especially in trying economic times."
>  Please, please, please this summer make a commitment to teaching your
>  students about the substance of poverty not the sham of the states
>  counterplan.
> Thanks,
> Tim Mahoney
>  Director of Debate, St. Mark's School of Texas
> 10600 Preston  Road
> Dallas, TX 75230
> 214-346-8141
> 214-734-3673  cell
> 425-740-9130 fax
>  ________________________________
> Worried about job security? Check out  the 5 safest jobs in a recession.
>  _______________________________________________
> eDebate mailing  list
> eDebate at www.ndtceda.com
>  http://www.ndtceda.com/mailman/listinfo/edebate

**************Worried about job security? Check out the 5 safest jobs in a 
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/attachments/20090404/b1dee125/attachment.htm 

More information about the Mailman mailing list