Feb
02
2011

What Should We Debate Next Year?

Cynthia and Lydia Debating

This year debaters are arguing Russian foreign policy. What should they debating next year? We want to hear from you!

Remember when we were teens? The “cool” kids were the jocks, while the debaters were the nerds. Not among homeschoolers today. The “jocks” among homeschool circles are the debaters!

And it is an awesome activity that teaches speaking, thinking, persuasion–really, everything you’d want to teach a child prior to graduation. It’s all wrapped up in debate.

Yesterday, the organization that writes rules and runs a national tournament (Stoa) released its ballot for the resolutions members may vote on for next year. Members are able to vote for 1 of 3 possible policy resolutions. Here are the choices:

  • Resolved: That the United States federal government should substantially reform its revenue generation policies.
  • Resolved: That the power of government to engage in search and seizure within the United States should be substantially reduced.
  • Resolved: That the United States federal government should substantially change one or more of its policies on land transportation within the United States.

The voting doesn’t take place till February 10, but I thought I’d ask you: Which resolution should we vote for? And why?

About Chris Jeub

Chris is the father of 16 children, busily running the family businesses and learning the depths of love along the way.

  • Peggy

    My vote would be to reduce the government’s power of search and seizure, mostly because of an incident recently where a friend of ours who sells/buys/repairs computers received a computer from a client to repair that had illegal documents on it, but feared calling the police as he knew they would seize all the computers and parts in his house. His computer business is his sole income and it saddened me that he was stuck between doing the right thing or losing everything. I don’t know what he ended up choosing to do, but I really wish he had had other options. So, just from a personal standpoint, that would be my choice.

  • Tom

    We really appreciate STOA and all you are doing, Chris, to help our students become deeper thinkers and more effective communicators.

    None of these really excited us this morning. Perhaps they’ll grow on us.

    – I’d hate to spend the year (especially an election year) listening to anti-tax arguments. I like topics that are less pre-polarized, especially in the league like STOA.
    – I prefer not to have negative resolutions like number 2. I prefer reform resolutions where we might hear a wider variety of viewpoints.
    – Land transportation? I’m too ignorant of what the Federal Gov’t might have jurisdiction over to imagine why this might be interesting or important in the grand scheme of things. I can see endless Constitutionality arguments.

    No one wants to debate things like poverty, civil rights, food and drug regulation, etc?

    • Anonymous

      You’re welcome, Tom! When you dig a little deeper, I think you’ll find a ton
      of great ideas to debate. Vance Trefethen is queuing up analysis of each of
      the resolutions to publish on Monument Publishing’s blog. We have 10 days to
      drill down on each of them. Real quick…

      A) The “anti-tax” resolution is worded in such a way to go beyond taxation.
      “Revenue generation” is broader than just taxation. Even so, I’m one to lean
      toward solutions in our tax code, so these debates would be very
      interesting.
      B) Search & Seizure is a great topic, imho. It’d be interesting to see
      values kicked around a policy round, for one. For two, this is something our
      government has overreached in the past decade. It’d be interesting because
      students would have to come up with policies that protect individual rights
      while protecting United States citizens. It’d have some great debates.
      C) Constitutionality would definitely be on the table, but they wouldn’t be
      endless. The resolution keeps the debaters focused on the policies, not the
      values.

      Just a few thoughts.

  • matt

    Either search and seizure or land transportation. It seems to me that the land transportation resolution would result in a wider variety of cases.

  • Jesse B.

    #1: We currently have policies that generate revenue? News to me… Taxation doesn’t even generate revenue, it just take from others’ revenue. Not a good resolution for conservatives.
    #2: My confidence level in debaters to have truly interesting cases with this resolution is very minimal, and I can’t handle another sob-story-plagued resolution. No go.
    #3: YES. It’s topical, broad yet focused, and a good median between “let’s save the whales!” and “let’s disband the government!” This resolution is hip, cool and totally in the mood of February. Besides, I’ve got a new green tie that I’ve been wanting to wear to a tournament…

  • Travis Herche

    I love option 3. It’s tremendously relevant and has just the right ratio of width/specificity. To top it off, it’s really fun!

  • James Byrnes

    Personaly, I think that option three is the one to use. I can relate better to 3, and I think there is a better and wider variety of cases that someone could use within that category.

  • “Coach Vance” Trefethen

    Here’s my analysis of the resolutions being proposed for Stoa for next year:

    Resolved: That the United States federal government should substantially reform its revenue generation policies.

    I agree that the wording could be improved, but I think
    it gets to a reasonable resolution anyway. This res
    is broader than I think people realize (maybe too broad).
    One does not have to be anti-tax to run a case here,
    though there are certainly any number of anti-tax cases
    you can run. The problem with pure “anti-tax” cases is
    that this resolution, parsed carefully, does not allow
    you to change revenue SPENDING policies. If AFF says
    “abolish the income tax” – great, Neg runs disadvantages
    of how the army will shut down, our embassies will close
    the Post Office stops, the Border Patrol goes away, etc.

    You really have to reform it. Change
    the income tax to a flat tax. Change the tax brackets,
    establish a national lottery (NFL teams used to use that
    for funding back in the 1970s when I was debating), etc.

    Another area is reforming the IRS itself. Change the
    way taxes are reported or collected. For example, stop
    IRS browbeating of taxpayers through some kind of reform,
    or change the presumption of guilt, where the taxpayer
    must prove he did his taxes correctly rather than the
    government proving he didn’t. Or even just applying the
    5th Amendment to taxpayers, and not require them to
    testify against themselves by requiring disclosure of
    income.

    This resolution isn’t my favorite, but it could be interesting
    and educational.

    Resolved: That the power of government to engage in search and seizure within the United States should be substantially reduced.

    This one’s my personal favorite, based on my experience with
    it 10 years ago when S&S (Search and Seizure) was part of
    the NFL resolution when I was coaching in that league back
    then.

    S&S has a direct link to the Constitution, since this phrase
    comes directly from the text of the 4th Amendment. It means
    students will have to learn about Constitutional law and
    court decisions, something not often found in recent years in
    TP rounds and long overdue.

    The variety of cases will be widespread and interesting, with
    lots of different justifications, harms, advantages etc. The
    deeper philosopical issues of privacy, security, and whether
    and how much it’s possible to expect privacy in the digital
    age / terrorism age / internet age. And the impacts of
    S&S go beyond just privacy. Innocent ives are lost, for example, when
    police conduct violent drug raids or use SWAT tactics.

    Case ideas include: Asset forfeiture, “no-knock” searches,
    airport security, internet cyber security, wiretapping,
    “stop and frisk,” drug testing, school property, and many more.

    Resolved: That the United States federal government should substantially change one or more of its policies on land transportation within the United States.

    My second favorite next to S&S, this one could also provide
    lots of interesting cases, as well as probably a lot of
    squirrely things that no one really wants. “Land” transportation
    was added to broaden it out from the original way it was
    written when it was proposed, and also to restrict it away
    from airport security (if you want TSA/Airports, vote for #2),
    giving voters a clear choice.

    Land transportation in the US includes truck safety, highway
    subsidies, rail subsidies, AMTrack, urban road planning
    subsidies (Smart Growth), speed limits on interstate highways,
    and maybe even CAFE standards or ethanol (ug), hydrogen cars,
    automobile safety, Mexican trucks via NAFTA, and a lot more.

    Chris, I agree with you that it’s good to have the resolution
    voted & discussed early. It gives students and parents a lot
    of time to decide what format of debate they want to do next
    year and to plan ahead. Also gives the Blue Book team lots
    more time to get ready!

    • Anonymous

      Now THAT’S an analysis! Thanks Coach Vance. We’ll rework this for the Training Minds Ministry site, but thanks for posting your initial thoughts here.

      I, too, think all the resolutions are great, but I lean toward the actual topics that I’d prefer debating. What do I really think should change? In order: A, B, C. But now you have me thinking…

  • Bradfordly

    I’m tellin’ ya, it is really difficult to post analysis after coach Vance. I guess I’ll give it a try…..here goes….

    1: I’m thinking this one is either a close second or tied with the last one. I like the broad resolutions and economics so this one really appealed to me. I can see how some of the cases would get pretty anti-gov and tax and stuff, but at the same time I think there is some very substantial debate over how the gov gets their money and possibly now much they’re allowed to get. Also, there is a lot of room for economics. Not only will the teams have to consider logic and evidence but also whether or not their cases follow and are applicable to the common laws of economics. There are definitely lots of plan advocates for certain points of view and it think this would make for lots of great debate along with a broad range of topics (and research).

    2: …no way…..and that’s pretty much it. Yea this could apply to lots of different situations as coach Vance pointed out, but its too narrow and its set in the negative tense. That leave the Aff team very little to work with and makes the negatives job a heck of a lot easier. All the Neg would have to say is that measures the US gov are fine as it is and the Aff team would be fighting up hill from there. tough spot if you ask me. Bottom line: too narrow and too negative. Easy Negs and difficult Affs. Not interested.

    3: I don’t see alot of greatness int this one. It’s just neutral. Not too good not too bad. Middle ground. But the first two things that come to mind are: First, transportation definitions. This could very easily get really hairy. Think about it. It could turn into a definition war. If I wanted to debate definitions I would’ve done LD. End of story. Second, the fact that it says one or more of its policies. This means I can run a Comp/AD case at you with a multi prong shell and extend mini cases all wrapped into one. Not cool. All you would have to do is put a criterion in front of it and say that if one of your plans work, then its worth voting Aff. Not fun to deal with. Could easily be abusive as well. And you couldn’t push T on the multi cases either b/c the res allows for it. Lame sauce…
    On a better note, I think Travis and Jesse are right in saying that it would definitely be a fun and intriguing option. It does indeed have an excellent balance and is interesting. Could have some great potential.

    And that’s all for now. Just my analysis and opinion. Can’t wait to see which one gets voted in!
    -Bradford