This is the first of what will be a semi-regular feature here on vBriefly. Most Thursdays, I will post an item that I believe will useful to debaters, coaches, or tournament directors. I clearly think about debate too much and need a repository for my random thoughts. Read on for links to articles I found interesting, ideas on strategy, or, as is the case this week, some ideas on how to make debate better. Unfortunately, I am sure most of these unquestionably brilliant ideas will be ignored.
As you may know, the NSDA is currently considering a number of rule changes for Public Forum. The proposals include changing evidence rules, eliminating cross-fire, and adding time to speeches. Regardless of the merits of any of these specific changes, I think the Lincoln-Douglas community can learn from Public Forum and begin to re-examine our rules. It’s healthy for us as a community to regularly revisit the norms that govern our events and to make tweaks as debate evolves. Unfortunately, that is not something that has been done in LD. The only change I can recall is when a minute was added to prep time about ten years ago.
While there are many problems in contemporary LD (and an even larger number of potential solutions), I believe there’s one modest change that would immediately improve debates: moving one minute of time from the AC to the 1AR.
At the Minneapple, folks were discussing the tremendous and growing advantage of negating, both generally in LD and specifically circuit LD. As speed and complexity increases, affirming against smart negatives is increasingly difficult. Further, debaters on the neg also have powerful incentives to uplayer and avoid engaging with the substance of the AC, producing “bad” debates.
Moving a minute from the AC to create a five minute 1AR would be a small step toward solving the problem. An additional minute in the 1AR would improve the ability of affirmatives to win even in the face of seemingly overwhelming negative strategies. For example, affirmative debaters often feel that they must choose between going for theory or substance; an extra minute would alleviate that issue, by cutting the negative’s 6-4 time advantage in half.
At the same time, there is almost certainly one minute of AC content that could be cut without concretely harming the affirmative’s chances of winning. Huge chunks of ACs are filled with preempts to arguments the negative might (but usually doesn’t) make. If anything, removing minute from the AC would encourage more substantive debate by forcing affirmatives to read only the most necessary components of their position.