9. Policy Debate (G6-12)

Policy Debate is a form of debate in which two teams (Affirmative and Negative) argue for and against a resolution that typically calls for policy change by the United States federal government. It is also referred to as cross-examination debate (sometimes shortened to CX) because of the 3-minute questioning period following each constructive speech. Affirmative teams generally present a plan as a proposal for implementation of the resolution. The negative will generally prove that it would be better not to do the plan or that the opportunity costs to the plan are so great that it should not be implemented.

This is recognized as one of the most difficult and challenging type of debate because it involves in-depth research, practice, and speed. Because of its high recognition, more college scholarships are given to policy than any other types of debate. This is truly a debate that trains the mind of future elites.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Learn to question premises.
  2. Learn to deduce from logical reasoning.
  3. Learn to infer from examples.
  4. Learn to refute seemingly true statements.
  5. Learn to theorize with logic.
  6. Learn in depth about the given topic.
  7. Learn to research and cut evidence.
  8. Learn to write coherent Pro & Con cases.
  9. Learn to take notes with symbols and speed.
  10. Learn to argue with speed in a persuasive manner.
  11. Learn to work in teams and win/lose with grace.
Class Details:
  • Age Appropriateness:  6th grade and up
  • Class Duration & Frequency: 2 hours, once a week
  • Payment Policy: Pay in advance and no refund

Q: What is the difference between “public forum debate” versus “policy debate”?


    I know many students and parents don’t understand the difference between PF and Policy, so let me try to explain in a simple manner.

    Public Forum debate is rather a recent addition to NSDA, an easier modification of policy debate because too many judges were complaining that they didn’t understand policy debaters, as policy debate – over almost 100 years of U.S. debate history – has become esoteric for average audience. NSDA also needed to make it more inviting for students to start debate, so they created PF debate to lower the bar and the fear factor of beginners.

    PF topic changes every month because it is meant to move quickly from topic to topic, so no need to dig deep, but policy debate topic changes once a year because it is meant to be a deep learning experience. Arguably, one year of policy debate is worth getting 2-3 PHDs as students will research, analyze and debate over thousands, as opposed to hundreds of evidences for PF.

    PF includes 1) current news, 2) historical background, 3) politics, 4) argumentation with logic and verbal skills.

    Compare this with Policy debate that includes, everything PF does 1,2,3,4 and

    5) law making process in Congress, Senate, executive branch;

    6) budget and funding policies and execution for federal and state governments;

    7) theory arguments about all aspects of policy debate such as counterplans; and

    8) psychology + philosophy from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Derrida, Virillo, Wilderson, Neoliberalism, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Schmitt, Lacan, Foucault, Baudrillard, and every ancient and contemporary philosopher you have ever heard will be taught.

    So to simply put, there is no “ism” in PF, as everything is simple and it is about what is happening TODAY, but in policy debate, there is a lot of Ph.D. level “isms.” For example, ableism, anthropocentrism, biopolitics, capitalism, colonialism, Eurocentrism, exceptionalism, false heroism, feminism, imperialism, objectivism, orientalism, monologism, racism, subjectivism, territorialism, transhumanism, lately model minority (about Asian Americans) are taught and debated in policy debate under the argument title of “Kritik.”

    While colleges recognize top PF debaters favorably and admit them more to their campuses at a higher rate compared to other extracurricular activities, debate scholarships are almost solely given to policy students, not PF students, because in the U.S. collegiate level, it is policy that is more widely practiced, not PF. ADL’s current coaches Tyler, Brennan, Dylan, Andrew, and former coaches Julian and Mike were also recipients of college policy debate scholarships, and ADL is extremely lucky to have such top policy coaches.

    Because I insisted and I personally love policy debate, ADL is the ONLY place you can learn policy in the entire Asian continent: There is no policy debate in China, Japan, and Korea because they believe it is too difficult for Asians. Another reason why they don’t want to teach policy in any other part of Asia is because policy is less profitable for business minded institutions because it requires more expensive coaches, judges, research time, and all else.

Q: Is it more difficult to win in the U.S. with policy debate? 


    No, opposite is true.

    First, policy debate is a smart choice because the chance of winning with policy is higher as too many kids are now doing PF in the U.S. because PF is much easier.

    Second, for PF, speaking ability is more emphasized and in policy intelligence is more emphasized. So in a nutshell, PF is more for native kids who can speak fluently and policy is more suitable for Asians who may not speak eloquently, but can argue points strategically.

    Third, judges for PF are least impressive – any average individuals or even parents, anyone without any debate experience. But for policy, they cannot do that, so they hire the best judges who understand policy, so the judging is not so much based on luck, but merit.

    In sum, there is less chance your kids can win doing PF in the US, while there is a bigger chance your kids can win in Policy. There are just way too many PF kids in the US – too competitive.

    So, you might ask what about Benson, Eric. Kelly, Allen, and Brandon who won in PF debate at TOC in 2016, 2017, and 2018? Well, actually they were all policy debaters who temporarily switched to PF, so they were exceptional in strategies and rebuttal skills. This proves, even PF debate, at its highest circuit such as TOC, is more policy-like, requiring more evidence and real debate skills as opposed to mere flowery persuasion.


    2020 Proof: Grade 6 Draven and Jordan are the youngest Novice Policy Champions of California Peninsula High School Tournament! See Results

    2019 Proof: ADL policy middle school students have won the Michigan High School Tournament! See Results

    2019 Proof: 1 ADL policy team went and broke at Yale (Fiona/Jenny), and team broke! See Results

    2019 Proof: All policy teams broke, and Champions were ADL students! See Results

    2018 Proof: Most of policy teams win at Stanford and Berkeley! See Results

    2018 Proof: Policy debaters amazing accomplishments at Gonzaga! See Results

    2018 Proof: All policy teams broke, and Champions were ADL students! See Results

    2018 Proof: All policy teams won, while all PF teams lost! See Results

    2014 Proof: Look at this! 16 PF kids ALL LOST and 6 policy kids ALL WON! See Results

Q: If one chooses to do policy, does that mean one must quit public forum debate?  


    Policy kids don’t quit PF, but they do both, just like Eric, Benson, Kelly, Brandon, Allen, Brian, Ginny, and the two Kevins. Policy kids find PF very easy to do temporarily for NSDA China, Korea, or Japan tournaments, but PF kids can NEVER suddenly change to policy.

    Vice versa for debate coaches: Policy coach can teach any form of debate because policy encompasses all other forms of debate, but PF coach cannot coach policy. This is why, once you have done policy, coaching MUN, World Scholar, Parliamentary, or any other format is easy for a policy coach, as there is no other debate more fully developed, more complex, and more challenging than policy debate. Policy debaters and coaches are at the top of debate practice and expertise, respectively.