Policy Debate I

Policy Debate: Rules & Overview

Speech Time

High school

College

First Affirmative constructive (1AC)

8 minutes

9 minutes

Cross-examination of First Affirmative by Second Negative

3 minutes

3 minutes

First Negative Constructive (1NC)

8 minutes

9 minutes

Cross-examination of First Negative by First Affirmative

3 minutes

3 minutes

Second Affirmative Constructive (2AC)

8 minutes

9 minutes

Cross-examination of Second Affirmative by First Negative

3 minutes

3 minutes

Second Negative constructive (2NC)

8 minutes

9 minutes

Cross-examination of Second Negative by Second Affirmative

3 minutes

3 minutes

First Negative Rebuttal (1NR)

5 minutes

6 minutes

First Affirmative rebuttal (1AR)

5 minutes

6 minutes

Second Negative Rebuttal (2NR)

5 minutes

6 minutes

Second Affirmative rebuttal (2AR)

5 minutes

6 minutes

Policy debate focuses on the advocacy of a plan or policy action. The affirmative team should outline the harms in the current system or some sort of need. Then they should present a policy that would satisfy the need they have outlined. In addition the affirmative may discuss additional advantages to the policy. The negative team may argue that the affirmative policy fails to meet the need they have outlined (i.e. the affirmative does not solve). The negative also has the option to present disadvantages to the policy (the policy may solve the problem, but it will create new problems). Other ways do exist for structuring an affirmative case or negative strategy, but in the end the debate should focus on whether or not a particular policy is an appropriate course of action.

Stock Issues
Often, judges view the round in terms of stock issues, or major questions that both teams need to address. They are:

  • Inherency: Does the plan exist in the status quo (the way things are now)?
  • Harms: What’s the problem with the status quo?
  • Significance: How big is the problem in the status quo?
  • Solvency: Does the affirmative plan solve the problem?
  • Topicality: Does the affirmative plan meet the terms of the resolution? Is it an example of the resolution? In the traditional view, the affirmative has to successfully defend the argument that their plan meets all five of the stock issues: it can’t exist already (inherency), it has to address an important problem (harms and significance together), it has to fix that important problem (solvency), and it has to be an example of the resolution, to ensure a fair debate (topicality). If the negative can prove that the affirmative violates any one of the stock issues – for example, that the plan won’t fix the problem (solvency) – then the negative wins the debate.

Disadvantages
Sometimes an affirmative plan can solve for all five of the stock issues and still be a bad idea. For example, an affirmative plan to dissolve the entire U.S. prison system would certainly remedy the problem of excessive detention, doesn’t exist in the status quo, and very substantially decreases the government’s ability to detain without charge. However, there are still extremely good reasons not to vote for such a plan: prisoners might run rampant on the streets; people would be less afraid to commit crimes since they would know that there were no prisons to punish them for breaking the law; lots of prison staff would be out of employment, and so forth. A disadvantage is a somewhat more structured way of arguing that the negative consequences of a plan provide a reason not to vote for it. Disadvantages have several important parts:

  • Uniqueness: is the disadvantage happening in the status quo? If a disadvantage argues that an affirmative plan will cause the economy to stagnate (stop growing), then it can be proved non-unique if an affirmative effectively argues that the economy is already stagnating and, hence, the plan wouldn’t make the economy any worse than it already is.
  • Link: does the plan cause the problem to happen? If a disadvantage argues that releasing detainees held at Guantanamo Bay would cause terrorism to increase, the negative has to prove that prisoners there are involved in terrorism and that their captivity is important to preventing terrorism.
  • Impact: does the plan cause something bad to happen? If a disadvantage argues that limiting the government’s ability to conduct sneak and peek searches under Section 213 of the USA PATRIOT Act would impair the government’s law enforcement ability, the negative has to prove that law enforcement by the government is a good thing.

Cross-Examination

The questioner shall control the use of the time and may interrupt the respondent, but may not comment on the answers or make any statement of his/her own views.

Judging Policy Debate

Judges are expected to carefully and fairly decide the outcomes of a debate. Any judge who cannot fairly decide a particular debate should notify a tournament director, competition coordinator, or other responsible person and remove herself from judging. Judges are never assigned to judge students from their own school.
Judges are ultimately responsible, however, for making sure that they will judge debates in a fair manner. There are two outcomes for a debate. The judge must decide the winning side of the debate. That is the team that argued successfully on the topic. If the proposition team proves its case, the judge should reward the proposition team. If the proposition team did not prove its case, the judge should declare the opposition team as the winner. There are no ties in debates. Neither can two teams win a debate or both teams lose a debate.
In addition to deciding the winning team in the debate, a judge must award individual points to each of the four debaters. Student are rated on a scale of 0-30 points, with “30” points awarded for a perfect performance. The judge should consider public speaking, argumentation, and teamwork skills in assigning individual speaker points. It is possible to give the same speaker points to more than one student.
After careful deliberation of the outcome of the debate, the judge will complete a ballot, a record of the debate, given to her by the tournament host. The judge will then announce the outcome of the debate to the participating teams. The judge will explain the reasons that a particular side has won the debate.

The judge will provide some constructive criticism to help debaters improve in future debates. The judge will the complete the written ballot, providing a detailed description of the reason(s) for the outcome, as well as listing any additional comments to help debaters improve their public speaking and debate skills.

Source: NJFL Tournament Manuel 2011

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