I judged a lot of good debates/teams at St. Marks and I want to go over some of the issues that came up in the rounds that often decided who won and who lost. The rounds I judged broke down about 60% neg went for a K, 40% neg went for T so I am breaking this up into a K part and a T part- this will be T.
3 things both sides can do to improve their chances of winning on T
1. Impact comparison- most of the time T debates come down to: the negs interp is (shocking) better for the neg, and the aff interp is better for the aff. This is a place where a global meta level comparison of who’s ground I should protect would be very helpful. I am sure you have heard a bunch of generic arguments like
“Err aff the neg gets the block”
“Err neg, the aff gets infinite prep time”
These arguments are CERTAINLY better than nothing. However, if you can make a more specific comparison that is obviously best. Lets look at a t arg I saw in several debates “research is not exploration”. The way this T arg was deployed was to say if the aff “explores” something specific, than it is in fact research. So NOPP camp aff- topical cause it looks at the ocean generically. Iron Fert research, Acidification research, Osama research etc.
The way most teams were debating this was a “limits” argument- there are too many of these specific cases so even if our version of the topic is small it is better cause there will be specific case debates.
As the affirmative I think you can challenge this with an offensive argument and some impact framing by making a “pics bad” argument. Essentially a 2AR on this would sound something like this
“Debates about research are inevitable- if the aff is forced to defend broad, abstract research than the negs “specific strategy” will always be a pic- they will say do all research EXCEPT iron fert or Acidification. This means we are having the same debate – is that research good or bad- but now the aff is forced to start over in the 2AC instead of building a rigorous defense in the 1AC. It also creates a disparate research burden- the negative only has to defend one PIC but every affirmative has to prepare to defend all of them with offense. Since the neg can chose an arbitrary net benefit it will be impossible for the affirmative to come prepared enough to win. The alternative is more cases yes, but the negative can rely on generics, impact defense, kritiks etc to compensate for the larger number of affirmatives. These are tools that are UNAVAILABLE to the affirmative vs a pic- you can’t read an agent CP in the 2AC. This means that since specific research programs will be debated inevitably, its better to have the aff pick one and defend.
2. Explain defense- most people rightly focus on offense for topicality. But your minimal offense can become much more important if you spend a good deal of time winning compelling defense to the other sides offense. Take the “pics bad” argument above- how might the neg win defense to this? Well they can come up with a big list of reasons those pics won’t happen/won’t win like
-pics is a VI will check
-vague plans make pics not competitive/the aff can perm
-lit checks- there are only a small amount
Once you have your set of 2NC arguments, you read them. Now in the 2NR you want to pic a few of those arguments and go for them more in depth, rather than repeat what you said in the 2NC. So you would say something like
“Vague plans check pics- the aff can write the plan in a way that allows them to permute minor exemptions. This is a viable strategy for 3 reasons
A> Judge bias- absent textual competition most judges are reluctant to give the negative PIC ground, this rewards affirmatives who spend time writing a smart plan text and punishes those who don’t- teams running NOPP aren’t losing to dozens of crazy pics now so their argument is empirically denied
B. Rewards research- PICS that do compete with the plan via its language are the best arguments in debate- they reward case specific research and topic education by forcing the negative to get deep into the literature base of a particular affirmative- this is better for debate than commissions counterplans or lopez
C. PICS Inevitable- if their argument is true than the aff will always lose no matter what the topic- specific research cases will lose to pics out of specific researchers or research vessels. If the standard for accepting pics is so low prefer our interpretation because at least the pics will be LARGER giving the aff some chance”
3. Definitions are, on this topic, largely irrelevant. Lets be honest- most of the definitions both sides are reading on T are really really bad. This means you should move away from arguments about the definitions (whose source is better etc.) and shift more into debating the effects of the definitions. The wording of this topic is just not great from a T standpoint- most of the words aren’t really defined in the resolutional context very well. Take Aquaculture as an example. Many people seem to think “regulations” are not “development”. Most aff cards on this come from a marine biologist perspective- to them debating ocean development means SUSTAINABLE development, so they think management of marine resources IS a kind of development. Now you could have a debate where one side said “gov definitions best” and the other side said “scientist definitions best”- but in reality that is not actually what is happening. There is no “official” USFG definition anymore than there is an official “scientist” definition. So if you are aff in this instance what you need to do is explain why your interpretation is better via reference to case lists/the world of debate it produces. One example if this could be just to focus on the politics of regulation vs deregulation, that would look something like this
“The negatives interpretation may provide fewer cases, but those cases are worse for debate. The ocean is widely deregulated now- cases like oil drilling are impossible because there is no uniqueness to disads- we already do a lot of drilling. Regulation reverses this- forcing the affirmative to manage the ocean excludes cases like more drilling because they aren’t a regulation- the affirmative is forced to take an action that runs the opposite direction of must status quo action- this means there will be better links to spending/politics, and better uniqueness for any topic. There may be more types of sustainable development, but they are all easier to debate- PREFER THIS over a strict limits standard- even if the topic is just oil, ice breakers, and NOPP- that is a limited topic but one that is AWFUL for the negative because those cases are almost impossible to beat on substance. ”