[eDebate] Concerns with Resolution Two--Topic Committee Members?

Jim Hanson hansonjb
Thu Jul 9 15:00:21 CDT 2009

related to the below--

why wasn't the resolution written this way?

?Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reduce and/or restrict the role and/or size of its nuclear weapons arsenal.?

1. cleaner, simpler

2. the word "missions" is problematic

any topic committee members want to explain? I am curious.

jim :)
hansonjb at whitman.edu

From: Evelyn Spruce 
Sent: Thursday, July 09, 2009 9:38 AM
To: edebate at www.ndtceda.com 
Subject: [eDebate] Concerns with Resolution Two

?Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reduce the size of its nuclear weapons arsenal, and/or substantially reduce and restrict the role and/or missions of its nuclear weapons arsenal.? 

I write to express concerns with the above resolution. In particular, I believe its grammatical unsoundness suffices to justify its rejection. 

First, the comma separating arsenal and the first ?and/or? (?weapons arsenal, and/or substantially?) is inappropriate. Hacker, Strunk and White, the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Government Printing Office Style Manual specify that commas should only be used with lists of three or more items (the debate over serial commas does not apply here). Even if it was vague or ambiguous without the comma, the proceeding clause should have been revised into an independent clause. Simply rewriting the resolution to read ?and/or it should substantially? would have satisfied both the desire for a rigorous resolution and the demands of competent writing. 

Second, the use of ?and/or? is stylistically wanting. While ?and/or? is an informal expression, I think the need for crafting an adequate resolution provides leeway. But this ?leeway? has boundaries, and I submit that the use of ?and/or? twice in the same list item exceeds them. The second ?and/or? appears unnecessary. The wording paper on ?mission? claims that ?[r]oles are the broad policy themes and missions are the specific tasks that carry out the roles.? If this assertion is correct, then to restrict the role of the U.S.?s nuclear weapons arsenal requires restricting its missions. That the restriction be ?substantial? suggests that the converse is also true. I am not qualified to make sweeping content-related indicts of the resolution, so even if ?and/or? is not needless insofar as it provides a choice between restricting the role, mission, or both, it is stylistically unsound. 

These grammar and style-related improprieties are sufficient to disqualify the resolution without any content considerations. Adopting this resolution would not comport with the debate community?s commitment to improving education.

 The chosen resolution will be widely circulated outside of the debate community: programs will submit the resolution to their administrations for publication in college newspapers and debaters will include the resolution on written statements for graduate schools or potential jobs. I concede that not every program or debater will share information in this fashion, but some will. Even if this resolution is content-superior to the other two, that will be unknown to individuals outside the debate community. All they will read is a grammatically imprudent resolution. These grammar and style errors may deter prospective new debaters: if I was completely unfamiliar with resolutions, this wording would make me reconsider participating. 

My criticism of the grammar and style of this resolution should not be construed as support for either of the other two. 


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