[eDebate] Re-thinking the States Counterplan
Pacedebate at aol.com
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.
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
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.
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
> 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
> Tim Mahoney
> Director of Debate, St. Mark's School of Texas
> 10600 Preston Road
> Dallas, TX 75230
> 214-734-3673 cell
> 425-740-9130 fax
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