Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Transitioning to Policy - The Affirmative Constructives
Prior to doing the affirmative round, the 1AC speaker should read the case many times and check the time it takes. The speech is eight minutes and you want to try to fill your allotted time. If the case is too long, figure out how to cut it without loosing the most important arguments. This usually requires highlighting the evidence differently in order to cut out unnecessary words. It may be necessary to drop entire parts of the case in order to meet the time constraint. Conversely, if the speech is short, consider adding additional solvency or advantages in order to fill the time. No matter what is required, the team should put forth their best evidence in the 1AC.
If it is necessary to reduce the length of the case to meet time constraints, there are several considerations. First of all, in most debates, inherency is rarely attacked so the inherency contention can usually be reduced to one or two key cards which firmly establish that plan is not being done in the status quo. Determining whether to cut solvency or advantages out of the case can be a little more difficult. One of the key considerations in most policy debate cases are the impacts. When looking at solvency, case will usually reduce or eliminate some harms which left unabated will result in some harmful impact. At the same time, the advantages will also reduce or eliminate some impacts. You must decide which have the biggest impact. Afterward you should look at the links. For example, with solvency you want to be quite sure that nothing in the status quo will achieve the same solvency. Only by implementing your case will the harm be solved. Finally consider that often, the Neg will know and be prepared for your solvency claims well in advance if you are running one of the standard "camp" cases. On the other hand, advantages can be less predictable and so require more work from the Neg to attack them. Given the choice between cutting solvency or advantages, the debater should probably favor solvency (a stock issue) over advantages.
I also recommend the 2AC be prepared as much as possible, prior to the round. Debaters should have the equivalent of a 2AC expando file in which is held case extensions, and blocks for the most common off-case arguments that Neg will read. The more you can prepare in advance, the better off you will be in the long run. I recommend the debater who reads the 2AC, pencil-in the read time at the top of each extension and block to make it easier to estimate the amount of time that will be required to read everything as it is pulled out of the file. This also will give you an idea of where you can make strategic cuts to some of the blocks so you can extend and answer everything needed in the 2AC.
This is the case which will be presented in an eight minute speech. Assuming all of the necessary preparation has been done, it is simply a matter of reading through it. The most difficult part of the 1AC, assuming there are no major obstacles to reading, will be the cross-x which follows. The best defense against an aggressive cross-x is to know your case inside and out. Understand what the problems are that must be solved, understand the advantages, understand the terminology, and most importantly understand how you will respond to questions such as how much will it cost, how long will it take, and are there other ways to achieve the benefits? Nothing I have said is much different if you are transitioning from LD or PF since, the first speech in the round is always prepared in advance and read within the allotted time. Debaters moving from LD and PF should already understand how important it is to know your case well and be aware of the attempts of the opposition to force you into a concession or denial during the cross-x.
Understanding the 1NC
Following the cross examination of the 1AC, the Neg team will deliver the first negative constructive. This case will generally consist of two parts: off-case and on-case arguments. The Off-case arguments will typically consist of one or more of the following; topicality, disadvantages, counter-plans or kritiks. Many of these off-case arguments can be answered with pre-written blocks in your 2AC file. If topicality is read, you will need to understand the definition and interpretation of the word or words they are challenging. If they run disads or CPs pay very close attention to the links and make sure you understand precisely how the Neg claims their arguments link to your case. Be sure to get a copy of the counter-plan text. If they run a kritik, you will need to understand the nature of the kritik. What exactly is being questioned by the kritik? A kritik usually has a link, and implication which is similar to an impact and may have an alternative which could be nothing more than a call to reject the affirmative advocacy. Any part of the Neg off-case not understood by listening and looking at the cards, should be clarified when the affirmative cross examines the 1NC.
Preparation for the 2AC begins during the 1NC speech and perhaps even sooner if the Neg's cross examination of the 1AC provides any clues about what the Neg strategy will be but by the time the cross examination of the 1NC is finished the 2AC case should be ready to go. If necessary, take additional prep time but keep it to a minimum. The on-case arguments will be specific attacks against your solvency or advantages. Make note of any case arguments they do not attack and be sure these will be extended in the 2AC if time permits. There are typically two ways to extend your case arguments. Usually you will need to make some very brief analysis about why the Neg's attack fails to take out your argument and then extend by either reading an additional, supporting card or by extending the existing cards. When extending your existing cards, it is never necessary to re-read them. In fact, some judges get annoyed if you do. Simply ask the judge to extend your such-and-such card. Which way you choose to extend the case arguments will depend on the kind of attack and how damaging you think it was to your evidence. As I said before, your best evidence should be in the 1AC so it is more likely the attack will focus on the links which connect your solvency or advantages to your case. Debaters that move to policy from either LD or PF should have experience with setting up a speech to answer Neg attacks and extend case arguments. It is really not all that different in policy debate except for the fact the terminology is different. By this I mean, while the kinds of answers you will give are not much different than LD or PF, they are signalled to the judge and opposing team through the use of certain key words, such as "non-unique", "turn", "limit", "counter-interp", etc. To be sure, while it is not critical to frame your answers into a standard "policy debate"-like shell it will make it a lot easier for the judge to figure out what you are talking about in relation to the arguments made by the Neg. For this reason, I recommend having pre-written blocks and shells to guide your flow and choice of words. Soon enough, this structure will be second nature.
I would like to make a few comments about coverage in the 2AC. It is important that you cover everything introduced by the Neg. For this reason, many teams will address the off-case arguments before extending their own case but be sure to leave time for case extension. You will want to carefully manage your time to make sure you cover everything. Answers to off-case arguments are usually very concise and to-the-point. If you spend too much time on a particular argument you risk dropping something else later on. While I think it is very important not to drop anything in the 2AC you may be able to spend a minimal amount of time answering arguments by cross applying your own evidence to cover several the Neg has introduced. For example, if you have a hegemony advantage which avoids nuclear annihilation, you may be able to cross-apply that argument to several neg arguments by claiming your heg advantage is the most important impact in the round and there is no point in discussing certain off-case arguments if nuclear annihilation is imminent. The strategy works and can buy you more time for other arguments.
Finally, since the 2AC is a constructive speech, it is often a convenient chance to introduce new arguments, such as a new advantage or two if time permits. Consider that proper time management and keeping very concise answers in the earlier parts of the speech affords you time to introduce these arguments as a way of disrupting the negative strategy just prior to the neg block. Any new arguments you introduce will need to be covered in the Neg block so it is wise to make the Neg team's job as difficult as possible.
By the time you are finished with the 2AC you should have every one's attention back on your case. You achieve this by applying evidence from your case to blocking the Neg as much as possible and extending your case, emphasizing the importance and immediate need to implement the plan.
Understanding the Neg Block
The next two speeches, following the neg cross examination of the 2AC, are known as the Neg block as in "block of time". The 2NC and 1NR are given back-to-back and must be covered by the Aff in the five minute 1AR. The best you can hope for, is the Neg decides to drop some arguments made in the 1NC but this is unlikely and in fact there is a possibility they will introduce additional arguments in the 2NC. This is of course, a legitimate thing to do, though some judges and debaters frown upon it knowing the burden on the affirmative is difficult enough. The neg strategy usually includes splitting the neg block most commonly to prevent both neg speakers from covering the same ground.
The Neg block is broken up by the affirmative cross examination after the 2NC but you must use this cross examination opportunity wisely. For example, be careful about what deficiencies you point out about the Neg position because this will signal the 1NR to stand up and answer these problems. Secondly, remember that while you are cross examining the 2NC, the 1NR is prepping so it is a good idea to limit your cross-x time to avoid giving the 1NR "free" prep time.
The Affirmative Transition
In general, debaters joining the policy team from other categories should be able to find many similarities between the techniques used in policy and the techniques they are already familiar with. The constructive phase of the round and its cross examinations are pretty much standard across all genres of debate with the exception of time constraints and stylistic differences. As pointed out, one of the key things to learn quickly is the standard terminology and structure of arguments which in many ways is much more rigid than what is found in LD and certainly PF. Adapting to a more rigid structure may have its challenges but there are also advantages because it serves to help you understand the case being presented against you once you begin to catch on to standard "boiler-plate" verbiage which is prevalent in policy debate right now. Some of the more complex off-case arguments will certainly be new to you. While kritiks do exist in some LD circuits, they are not common and there is no real corollary to the counter-plan in LD although sometimes, one is exposed to plans and counter-plans in PF. As a general rule, however, plans are prohibited in other forms of debate.