Friday, December 30, 2011

Self-Defense and Domestic Violence

For more about Lincoln Douglas Debate including topic analyses, strategies, and links to evidence *click here*

In a prior posting, I mentioned that most societies and religions justify the killing of an individual in cases of self-defense. Perhaps that was a broad swipe, because I thought it reasonable to assume the domestic violence resolution for Jan/Feb 2012, Lincoln-Douglas should focus on the use of deadly force in non-confrontational situations.  My assumption is, unless one is an absolute pacifist, a person who kills another to save a life is morally justified.  Of course, this means, a life is in imminent danger of being lost and deadly force is the only course of action possible to prevent the loss of life.  In reality, there are many implications to the assumption that can lead to difficulty.

A Look at the Legal Defense
Whereas, I do not think this resolution requires a discussion of the legal aspects of deadly force as a defense against domestic violence, I think debaters can do themselves a great favor by looking carefully at the legal issues swirling around such cases.  I recommend the following two papers published by the Moritz School of Law at The Ohio State University.  The papers are relatively short, written in easy to understand language, and very nicely explain the issues lawyers face when defending such cases. In particular, the non-confrontational, self-defense, when a domestic violence victim kills a sleeping (or otherwise, at the time, non-aggressive) abuser.

The first, by Professor Joshua Dressler of The Ohio State University and the second by Professor Joan Krause of the University of Houston.  One interesting set of facts illuminated in both papers, and quoted below from the Krause paper reveals,
"In reality, few battered women kill their abusers, and fewer still do so in nonconfrontational situations. While it is difficult to identify all such homicides, a comprehensive study of appellate cases from 1902 to 1991 in which female defendants claimed to have killed their abusive domestic partners in self-defense estimated that 20% of such killings (roughly 45 cases) were nonconfrontational, with 8% (roughly 18 cases) involving sleeping victims. These figures are roughly consistent with a more recent study of self-defense cases between 1979 and 1999 in which imminence was at issue, which found that approximately 9% of such killings were committed by battered women in nonconfrontational settings."

The Aquinas Point of View
Thomas Aquinas taught that killing in self-defense is only justifiable when the one defending him/herself does not intend to kill the aggressor.  This upholds a principle of double-effect in which there is an intended act to preserve one's life and an unintended consequence of killing the aggressor.  Since one has a moral right, perhaps even a moral duty, to preserve one's own life, if an aggressor is unintentionally killed while preserving one's life, the killing of the aggressor is morally justified. Nevertheless, the actions taken to defend oneself must be proportional with the force being applied by the aggressor.  Aquinas's reasoning then extends to the idea one responsible for the protection of others has a utilitarian duty to render an unjust aggressor incapable of inflicting harm.  Thus, those who hold legitimate authority such as law-enforcement and armies can be morally justified in killing aggressors.  Another aspect of this, of course, arises when one considers the moral justification for making a drone attack on a terrorist encampment.  If the terrorists are merely assembled and not actively attacking anyone, is such an attack a legitimate and morally justifiable act?  The United States government obviously believes it is justified on utilitarian principles since such groups usually have an expressed desire to kill innocents, have a history of having done so or attempted to do so, and whose continued existence represents a potential for future harm.

There are lots of parallels in the above discussion with the domestic violence resolution.  First consider if you are in a confrontation with an aggressor, it can be argued you have a moral imperative to preserve your life and so any action you take to fulfill that imperative is morally justifiable as long as it is a proportional response and you do not intend to kill the aggressor.  So what if the aggressor has a long history of being extremely aggressive and each time you believe your life could be lost?  Like the drone attack on their terrorist encampment, do you have moral right, perhaps duty, to kill the aggressor if he is not actively attacking anyone?  Does the moral justification increase if you were responsible for the lives of your children and they were also routinely abused?

Framing the Debate
All of the foregoing presents problems for the debater regardless if they are Aff or Neg because it breaks the issue up into small scenarios which forces one to argue whether certain acts are justified under a relatively narrow set of conditions.  In my opinion, it is important to avoid this kind of debate since there are seemingly endless scenarios and case-studies which can present all kinds of complications and moral dilemmas which make it very difficult to properly prepare arguments for or against.  In fact, this is probably exactly what a defense lawyer may wish to do in light of prevailing law, in order to create a unique situation for one particular case which somehow over-rides the general principles.  By doing so, the defendant's use of deadly force may be excused.  But as I noted in a previous post on this topic, just because someone is legally deemed excused or non-culpable, does not mean they are morally justified in their action and in fact, the law usually acknowledges that a crime was, nevertheless, committed against the aggressor.

Neg Framework Example
Following is an example framework aimed at setting up a broad paradigm for judge evaluation as  possible response to a self-defense reference:
"In fact, one of the —maybe the most— elementary of moral principles is that of universality, that is, If something's right for me, it's right for you; if it's wrong for you, it's wrong for me. Any moral code that is even worth looking at has that at its core somehow." Noam Chomsky, Responsibility and War Guilt, 2007 (
Taking a life is not morally permissible.  The right to life is an inalienable, natural right which becomes ours at birth. To deprive one of their life denies them of their natural right to life and is therefore morally not permissible.  The observation is made, while philosophically and legally, society may deem certain types of homicide under very limited situations as justifiable or excusable; the natural right to life is nevertheless denied and so morally not permissible.  Self-defense is one such scenario.  Whereas one may reasonably assume, killing, either intentionally or unintentionally as an act of self-defense provides an excuse for killing, it is not a moral justification since one can never know if the aggressor may have intended to suddenly cease his aggression or realize the "error of his ways" but was killed at the moment of realization.  Moreover, since one can never ascertain with any certainty whether the defender was acting out of intent to kill the aggressor or did not intend to kill even if it was foreseen his action would kill, we must conclude that viewing any act of murder as unjustifiable is the only universal principle that can be applied and debated.  If Aff is allowed to focus on any number of unique case-studies or narrow examples, it unfairly burdens Neg since it is impossible to research and prepare an answer to every possible presumed exception to the rule. Moreover, Neg holds that unless the debate focuses solely on universal principles of right and wrong, the justifications vary across jurisdictions, societies and religions and so under an open framework, one individual's crime becomes another's justice depending on cultural, or religious norms.  In the interest of fairness, Aff can not be allowed to hold to any framework of situational ethics.

Other Aff Arguments
Reading the Dressler essay, referenced previously, an interesting argument emerges that could favor the Aff.  Dressler suggests a viable defense for a person accused of killing their abuser could be built on the idea of "forfeiture of life".  This is the same philosophy which supports capital punishment. John Locke speaks of it and Hugo Bedau, writes many recent essays on the topic covering capital punishment (see:  or the book: The Right to Life, Hugo Bedau, (1968)) People create societies for mutual preservation of rights and so agree to give up certain liberties in exchange.  This is the social contract.  My freedom ends at the tip of your nose. I agree not to harm you and in exchange you agree to help me preserve my natural rights.  However, if I break my side of the contract, my violation can be considered so egregious that I forfeit my right to life.  When that happens I essentially cease to be human and so I may be killed without moral grievances.

Concluding Remarks
In general, it seems Aff will have the harder case to prove since the weight of law is against deadly force as a moral response to repeated domestic violence and most LD judges should be fully aware of many famous and perhaps regional cases of domestic violence.  In general, most societies will not tolerate vengeance killings, vigilantism or other forms of murder without "due process".  Self-defense presents a viable justification but perhaps only under a narrow framework and so Neg can prepare a specifically framed case to answer the "self defense" argument should it be the tact used by Aff.  As I write this, we are seven days from the first tournaments in our area which will run this resolution.  We shall soon see what comes of it and perhaps then it may be possible to address other ideas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Wishing You A Merry and Peaceful Christmas Season

I will resume posting updates and opinions very soon.

Leave a comment or a greeting and let me know what topics you are interested in.

Monday, December 19, 2011

PF Jan 2012 - Who Benefits From College?

For more about Public Forum Debate including topic analysis, strategies and links to evidence, *click here*.

The Obvious Case
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a benefit is something that promotes well-being and is synonymous with the word advantage.  The debater who researches deeply into the benefits of college education will find overwhelming evidence of the advantages enjoyed by those who elect to pursue a college education in spite of the costs.  Intuitively we know, if a student can persist, earn the degree and find the higher paying job, the advantages enjoyed will outweigh the costs.  There is simply no way to dispute this fact.  Of course, following that course of action is fraught with its own perils which could mean in the end, the costs were not worth it.  One could fail to persist, not earn the degree, or not find the job.  While a certain percentage of attrition is expected, meaning a certain number will drop out for various reasons, it is clear that many will end up underemployed.  That is, due to current economic conditions, many will not find work in their field of study, it also means many will accept jobs outside of their field of study simply because they are good jobs, which meet the needs of the graduate.  For them, the cost of the education is not outweighed by the benefit because the advantages of the education are not required.

The Future of the Job Market
A report by Georgetown University looks at the future of the job market from present through 2018 and concludes the requirement for a college educated workforce, will outpace the number of educated workers.  The projections indicate many of the common, labor, manufacturing, food service, and agricultural jobs currently not requiring any education beyond secondary school, will require a minimum of a college degree. The Georgetown study claims the current recession is "accelerating the shift to jobs requiring postsecondary education".  The study makes the following claim: "Demand for workers with college educations will outpace supply to the tune of 300,000 per year. By 2018, the postsecondary system will have produced 3 million fewer college graduates than demanded by the labor market." This disparity in demand and supply for college educated workers may present the key to winning the Pro argument.

The Root of Failure
Something can only be a benefit or advantage to you if you can obtain it and for many, admission to a college is not obtainable for three main reasons.  First, for some, they simply do not meet the academic requirements for admission.  At many schools, the standards a student must meet for acceptance are high.  Many are filtered out because they can not achieve an acceptable SAT or ACT score, some are denied admission because their high-school grade-point average is too low or their level of preparation is below the requirement most colleges feel are necessary if one is to have even a remote opportunity to succeed in college.  Second, and here is a major reason directly applicable to the question of costs, many students may be accepted but do not attend because they can not meet the costs.  The bottom line, college is very expensive and in order to achieve its benefits one must be able to afford to pay the costs up-front, either from personal finances or via loans.  Keep in mind that every loan has its own eligibility requirements, such as income and credit-worthiness and at least some level of promissory support from an eligible parent or guardian.  Thirdly, even if postsecondary education was fully open to any and all takers and even if it was free, there is simply no way our current universities and colleges could accommodate the student populations.  College classrooms only have so many openings, and the dormitories only have so many rooms.

The Unequal Benefit
Given the realities denoted above, it may be possible to frame-up a powerful Pro argument if one can successfully assert the benefits of a college education can only be cost effective when they are available to everyone equally.  This in fact, allows the Pro to agree with with Con only insofar as the college education is equally attainable by all the members of the society.  Since the net benefit is zero to a student who wishes to go to college but can not be admitted, even a $50 application fee represents a cost that can never be recovered.  In fact, the cost of postage to mail the application is enough to outweigh the benefits.  Trust me when I tell you, the Pro debater will find a wealth of evidence supporting the fact higher-education is not equally available to students of unequal socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.

A meritocracy is an ideological construct where the "most common definition of meritocracy conceptualizes merit in terms of tested competency and ability" (see: The simple fact is, each college can only accommodate a fixed number of students and so a selection process is applied based on the perceived merits of the applicants and thus one should recognize, the selection criteria is governed by a meritocracy. However, as we are reminded by Dr. Matt Bloom Of Notre Dame University, "Another potential problem of meritocracies is called the “41st chair problem.” It refers to the French Academy of Sciences during the Renaissance period that elected as members and immortals the 40 people who purportedly were the most distinguished members of French society. The 41st chair refers to those people who were never elected into the Academy, people like Descartes, Rousseau, Pascal, Molière, Flaubert, and Proust. History suggests that the contributions and greatness of the 40 chair holders are not significantly different from the occupants of the 41st chair, yet at the time of the Academy, election was viewed as the result of a meritocracy."  Whether the 41st chair is truth or myth can be argued, but it nicely serves to illustrate the concept that a selection process based on relative merits is discriminatory on one or more levels or at minimum may reject individuals who otherwise could attain the benefits of education to the betterment of society.

There is a reality about the college admission process which is not often spoken about openly.  Neal Gabler of the Boston Globe, reports, "The admissions system of the so-called “best’’ schools is rigged against you. If you are a middle-class youth or minority from poor circumstances, you have little chance of getting in to one of those schools. Indeed, the system exists not to provide social mobility but to prevent it and to perpetuate the prevailing social order."  Pulitzer Prize winning author, Daniel Golden, in a series of articles written for the Wall Street Journal and in his book, "The Price of Admission", describes how college admissions are often driven by a kind of elitist, affirmative action which reduces the number of places available to outstanding students of normal means.  A study of meritocracy in college admissions is very enlightening and will reveal quite clearly the kinds of criteria admissions offices must apply to screen potential candidates.

Who Benefits?
If the debater can see the implications of how meritocracy, discriminates between thousands of college applicants each year, then it begs the question, who benefits from the college education?  Clearly, and as the Con will no doubt overwhelmingly show, nearly everyone who attains the education benefits.  But what we must see, is as employers and the demands of the market-place increasingly require some level of college education, then those who for reasons beyond their control are denied the education, are increasingly harmed and the gap between those who benefit and those who do not grows.  Therefore it can be argued that any system which demands certain levels of achievement and then denies certain groups the ability to achieve those standards, harms society. This is a cost that far outweighs the benefit.

There are many things which benefit those who can attain their advantages.  On the basis of an economic evaluation one may conclude the benefits merit the costs.  One only need to look at slavery in 18th century America as a perfect example.  Nevertheless, when one realizes there are other costs besides economic which are even more weighty in our evaluation of justice and the factors which harm society, no amount of money will ever compensate for the negative impacts.  As the demand for college education increases, the polarization of our society will increase and that may be a cost which far outweighs the benefits.

Following are a few of the many articles and sources I consulted when researching this essay:

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Transitioning to Policy - The Negative Constructives

The Negative Strategy
The goal of the Neg case is to prove the plan will not work or make things worse than they are in the status quo.  The Neg strategy determines the approach to be used in meeting that goal. Setting up a Neg strategy depends on many factors, most notably, the overall philosophy of the team as led by the coach, the dynamics of the 1AC and the skill of the debate team.  Some teams for example, operating under the philosophy of their coaches, may limit the kinds of arguments that can be run depending on the experience of the debaters.  Some coaches may not allow novices to run kritiks or counter-plans.  Be sure you understand the expectations of the coach before determining your Neg strategy.  When devising the Neg strategy you will be determining what arguments, both off-case and on-case you are going to make and you will formulate some hierarchy of importance to the arguments, realizing at some point it may be to your advantage to kick-out or drop the argument.  In fact, you may decide to run a series of arguments specifically aimed at creating more work for the Affirmative with the intention of kicking out later.  Be careful though, as some judges do not like it when a team carries arguments forward with the intention to kick out.  Judges see it as a waste of their time to flow the arguments for nothing. Nevertheless, it is a valid strategy.

When deciding what arguments to run, care must be given to avoid repetition and contradictions.  In the beginning of your transition to policy debate before you have much experience with Negative cases, it could be a good idea to review the kinds of Affs that may be run and design a generic strategy to deal with each.  For example, certain types of disadvantages can be linked to a broad spectrum of affirmative cases.  Using a disad which is easily linked to many affirmatives means there will be fewer disads you need to become familiar with and still be effective.  Typically each "camp" disad file will contain a series of link cards which apply to various kinds of Affirmatives. In addition there are usually a few "generic" link cards which can be applied to unfamiliar affirmatives.  Counterplans are the same.  If CPs will be a part of your overall Neg strategy then identify the kinds of cases you can link the various counterplans to and thus maintain a few CPs that you know really well rather than many with which you are marginally familiar.

As the season progresses and you see the same teams week after week, you can begin to create specific strategies for dealing with those team's cases.  Teams generally make incremental changes to their cases throughout the debate season, electing to radically change at some strategic point in the season usually prior to the major qualifying tournaments. Your experience in dealing with these cases will give you clues about how to attack or discredit the key elements of their Affirmatives.

When deciding on a Neg strategy you should remember that even though you may be able to bury the Affirmative in arguments as part of the Neg block, you still must narrow your side to accommodate the 2NR.  The 2NR will be your last time to speak so you will want to focus on the most important issues leaving time to wrap it up with voting issues.  This means, of course, that it will be unlikely you can carry all of the arguments of the Neg block to the end of the round and so you must give consideration to this fact from the very beginning and have a pretty good idea which arguments you can kick if required.  You must also give some consideration to the fact that some judges will be lenient to the 1AR and allow some new arguments which may also impact your 2NR and overall Neg strategy.

The 1NC
This is the speech where the Neg strategy begins to unfurl.  The 1NC is an eight minute speech in which you will choose to run a series of Off-case and On-case arguments.  Your approach to the on-case arguments can have a significant effect on your off-case strategy.  For example, if you plan to run a counterplan and claim the counterplan achieves the same solvency or advantages as the plan, you can contradict yourself if your on-case attacks claim there are alternate causes for harms or advantages. Additionally you can make your CP advocacy very difficult if your on-case attacks can be applied by the affirmative to your counterplan.  You need to be very sure your on-case arguments do not contradict your off-case, especially in all of the areas where your off-case will intersect the affirmative ground.

There is no point in reviewing the various kinds of off-case arguments as you can learn about them from many sources, including your coach, and online sources. The transitioning debater will be familiar with the concepts of the 1NC but will have little or no experience managing counter-plans; and limited to no experience managing kritiks and theory arguments including topicality, especially if transitioning from PF.  Most transitioning debaters will have experience dealing with impacts and impact analysis.  Therefore, running disadvantages are a good way to familiarize yourself quickly with Neg arguments and introduce the more advanced kinds of arguments when you have success with disads. In many respects, disads are a very good foundation for CPs and kritiks since CPs often realize their net benefits through disads and there are similarities between K's and disads.

The 1NC will need to deal with an Affirmative cross-x, so like any cross-x, the 1NC speaker needs to be very familiar with the Neg arguments, especially understanding how they link to the affirmative case.  Be prepared to deal with standard impact questions about time-frame, magnitude and so on.  Negative must give the impression the disadvantages are certain and imminent when the plan is enacted.

The Neg Block 2NC and 1NR
Preparation for the Neg block begins before the round begins and is refined when the 1AC is read.  The Neg team will want to split the block. For many teams, this means one speaker will handle the off-case and the other will handle the on-case.  Care must be given to limit the number of arguments to be covered by the 1NR, not only because it is a five minute speech but also because that speaker will need to deal with any issues which arise during the cross-x of the 2NC by affirmative and may need to pickup or clarify anything the 2NC fails to cover.  Prior to the 2NC the Neg team should have a good idea which of their off-case arguments should flow to the end of the debate.

The 2NC
Assuming the 2NC will cover the core of the Neg off-case, the 2NC should probably begin with an overview that refocuses the debate on the Neg arguments and clarifies the uniqueness, links and impacts.  This overview should be very concise, clear and comprehensive.  This is usually followed by once again moving across the flow, argument-by-argument, rebuilding and extending your evidence, warrants and impacts. This speech must drive home the impact analysis and once again refocus the the debate on the immediacy and certainty of the impacts when the plan is enacted.  Much of 2NC speech can be prepared before the tournament based on your experience and anticipation of what kinds of answers, affirmative will bring against your Neg case.

Discussion of the 1NR will continue in the next part of this essay.

The Negative Transition
Debaters moving from Lincoln-Douglas or Public Forum will likely have more difficulty adapting to the Neg side of the debate. This is mainly due to the fact that many of the common Neg arguments in Policy debate do not have direct equivalents in the other categories.  I believe, however, that arguing disadvantages can be learned quickly and these will lead nicely into the more advanced kinds of Negative arguments.  Regardless of which category you are migrating from, your experience in dealing with clash will be invaluable.  Analysis is still an important part of any debate and when all else fails, a sound analytical argument can still win the day.

* Click here for the affirmative constructives *

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Transitioning to Policy - The Affirmative Constructives

Affirmative Setup
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.

The 1AC
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.

The 2AC
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.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Transitioning to Policy - Intro and What to Expect

This series is aimed at the experienced Public Forum or Lincoln-Douglas debater who wants to switch to Policy Debate.  Usually a coach will see more examples of policy debaters seeking to move into other forms of debate but policy debaters are often recruited or enticed from other debate formats.  No matter which way one decides to transition, the move can be somewhat akin to moving to another country.  The culture is different so don't expect that the language, skills and methods used in one category will always work well in the new category.  Quite often, they do not and the result can be a sort of "culture shock".  For those planning to move into policy debate, hopefully this series will minimize the shock.

Many courses, books and essays already exist on the world-wide web which start at the beginning and explain, what is policy debate, what is the structure of a round and speech times allowed, what are the stock issues, etc, etc.  If you are a novice debater, I suggest you start there and begin to read.  If you are an experienced debater, I do not necessarily recommend asking your existing policy debaters about how to make the transition to policy.  If your team has a policy coach, talk to him or her before consulting potential team-mates. It is best, if your team has a coach who understands not only policy, but also the category you want to leave as that coach is more likely to be capable in showing you how to adapt your current skills rather than starting from scratch like a novice.

Team Work
If you are an LD debater, one of the first things you will need to adapt to, is working with a partner.  PF debaters are already experienced with partner debate.  In some respects, working with a partner is easier than going alone. A well organized team can feed each with information the partner may have missed and may setup the other for maximum effectiveness.  In my opinion, this does not mean partners need to hang out with one another when not debating.  They do not need to be friends.  They just have to know how to work together at the right time to accomplish a common objective and so they will need to be able to trust one another to do their respective parts when the time comes. Because of the trust issue, partner debate can also be more frustrating, especially when saddled with a partner who does not do their part.  But these are usually the kinds of issues that should be managed by your coach since it is always considered bad form to publicly blame your partner for team failures.

When transitioning to policy you may be doing it because another debater whom you know has encouraged you to join as his or her partner, but sometimes, you have no real choice about who your partner will be.  Hopefully, you and your new partner will at least have mutual respect and for one another and if the existing partner is already an experienced debater, you do well to adapt to policy as quickly and efficiently as possible as this is the best way to develop mutual respect and cooperation and prevent the experienced partner approaching the round like a maverick with a helper instead of as a team.

As an experienced debater you should already be familiar with how to flow.  In policy debate, flowing is an essential skill.  Unless you are a very prolific flower (one who flows), you will soon find out policy flowing will require much more paper and if you flow on computer, you will need to update your flow template.  For those who do flow on computer, when I speak of sheets of paper, it will typically be the equivalent of a "tab" on your electronic flow sheet.  In PF or LD the constructive speech may be flowed entirely on one or two sheets and you will probably have one flow for the affirmative (Pro) and one for the negative (Con).  Policy debate is usually flowed differently.  Each contention of each constructive speech is flowed on a separate sheet.  So if the affirmative constructive is comprised of an inherency contention, a solvency contention and three advantages, the affirmative flow will consist of at least five sheets of paper.  If the negative constructive consists of a topicality challenge, and two disadvantages, you will have three additional sheets containing the negative position (called "off case" arguments).  Neg's on-case arguments will be specific attacks against the affirmative case and so will be flowed on the affirmative case flow.

Obviously, as you gain more experience, you will develop your own flowing style so this discussion only serves as a guideline.  It is not critical to policy success for you to flow the way I suggest.  But it is critical to policy success to develop a technique which allows you to effectively capture all of the key arguments.

Finally, I would like to point out that depending on your district and the category of debate you are planning to leave, the importance of evidence in policy debate can not be overstated.  Evidence is almost always "carded" which means each card will appear as a single document (perhaps several pages long) with a tag-line (headline), author, date and source citation, and the body of the evidence itself.  When flowing, it is important to capture the author and date citation as this will become the unique identifier of the evidence in subsequent speeches.  You will hear statements like "Extend our Smith '11 evidence" or " stated on our Jones '09 card...". Therefore it is important to know what Smith '11 or Jones '09 say and in which context they where presented.

In-Round Conduct
Another big change you will notice from PF and LD debate is how debaters and judges conduct themselves in the round.  Bear in mind, each district enforces NFL rules of conduct differently so what I say here may not be universal but it does apply to many of the policy rounds in my district in contrast to what is seen is PF or LD round.  First, things may be more distracting than what are you used to.  Sometimes the speaker's partner may interject with a comment of clarification.  This is especially common during cross-x.  At times the judge may interrupt, asking for some clarification, usually prior to the speech and he may shout "clear" in the middle of the speech if the clarity of the speech becomes difficult to comprehend. Also expect you partner or the other team to be actively moving around, shuffling through papers or tubs.

Prior to the round, the opposing team may ask what you are running.  They may want to know your plan text, the specific affirmative and may expect greater details such as which solvency arguments or advantages you are running.  This is often awkward for some teams when they are asked because they don't know how to respond.  In my opinion, each team in conjunction with their coach should determine what their philosophy will be with respect to case disclosure at the beginning of each year and review that philosophy prior to state and national qualifying tournaments.  Arguments can be made either way about the legitimacy and fairness of disclosing prior to a round.  One fact is perfectly clear, they will soon know every detail about what you are running so whether or not to disclose is matter of team philosophy which often extends to a circuit-wide, defacto expectation.  Personally, I see no issues against disclosure prior to the round.  I also see no problem with disclosing before the season begins but I think there is a strategic advantage to not disclosing new cases prior to the major state and national qualifying tournaments.

Road-mapping or sign-posting or whatever you call it when you tell the judge and other team the order of your speeches is critical. In the case of judges or teams that flow on paper, the order of the speeches is required so the judge can arrange each flow in the proper sequence and avoid shuffling through a lot of flows while you are speaking.  So you should expect some amount of delay while the order is clarified and expect the derision of the judge if you fail to stay in order.  In my opinion, it is a very smart practice, to announce each change in the flow as it is about to occur "...and now on to heg..." or "...on to the terrorism advantage...".

If either team uses paperless debate, there will be allowances in time as the team about to speak prepares a flash drive or viewing computer with the speech and hands it over to the other team.  Most judges will allow this "flashing" operation and other kinds of technical issues to be resolved outside of prep time.  I think most judges and teams consider the minor inconveniences of "flash" time are far outweighed by the conveniences of paperless debate.

You should also expect a member of the opposite team may be taking each of your cards the moment you finish reading them and there is no reason you can not do the same.  Speeches are usually delivered at a high rate of speed and so it is not unreasonable to take the cards and enter the citations and key arguments directly into your flow.  In fact, I would encourage any novice policy debater (as a transitioning debater would be) to setup a desk right next to the speaker's podium and just take each card as he reads it or have the speaker set the cards right on your desk. Even the best debaters miss things, so take the card and fill-in your flow.

Judges do not have the luxury of taking the cards as they are read.  For this reason, some teams are now beginning to flash their speeches for the judge. Don't be surprised if the judge asks to see your or the other team's evidence.  Judges may be more vocal about things than you are used to. They will insist on a proper road-map, they may make some comments or suggestions between speeches.  Many judges will give oral critiques after the round explaining various aspects of the round from his or her point of view and quite often judges will disclose the winner.  But the delivery of oral critiques and disclosure is strictly a matter of personal preference with each judge so it may not always happen and you should not be upset if does not.  Finally a word about ballots.  Many judges do an excellent job filling out their ballots but sometimes you will see very little helpful information on the ballot.  You may see very truncated and brief comments such as "cow" (case out weighs) or "rfd: oral" (reason for decision given orally). As frustrating as that may be to you and your coach, some judges will not provide more.

Speaker Order
Each team must decide on a speaker order. Speeches are delivered in the following order (speakers A & B are the first and second for Aff, speakers a & b are the first and second for Neg):

Speech Speaker  CX  Speech Speaker  CX
 1AC      A     b    1NC     a      A
 2AC      B     a    2NC     b      B
                     1NR     a
 1AR      A          2NR     b
 2AR      B

Most teams arrange themselves such that Affirmative speaker 'A' does the 'b' speeches when the team is running the Negative position. Likewise, the speaker who delivers the Affirmative 'B' speeches also delivers the Negative 'a' speeches.  Deciding which team-mate should speak first depends on several key considerations.  The speaker who reads the 1AC, will be the same who delivers the 1AR.  The 1AR is considered one of the toughest in the round because the 1AR has 5 minutes to answer the Neg block (the 8 minutes of 2NC and 5 minute of 1NR).  Whereas the 1AC is simply read, the 1AR requires a good deal of debate skill in order to narrow the debate to the key issues, and quickly answer the neg block.  This speech can not be well prepared in advance.  So, if you choose or are assigned to the 1AC, you give the following speeches when Aff; 1AC, CX of the 1NC, 1AR and when Neg; CX of the 1AC, 2NC, 2NR.  The other team-mate will give the following speeches when Aff; 2AC, CX of the 2NC, 2AR and when Neg; 1NC, CX of the 2AC, 1NR.  The speaking positions are a strategic consideration best worked out with the policy coach.  You may choose a different arrangement other the one suggested here when running Aff vs. Neg.  The only rule stipulation is, which ever arrangement is decided, you must stick to it until the end of the round.

LD Variations on the 2012 Domestic Violence Resolution

For more about Lincoln Douglas Debate including topic analyses, strategies, and links to evidence *click here*

Identifying the Victims
When the resolution speaks of victims, we naturally assume the victims are the individuals who suffered domestic violence and that would be a valid assumption.  However, since the noun is plural, it opens up some interesting possibilities which allows all sorts of variant approaches to cases.  I thought it would be interesting to explore some of these possibilities.

The Plural Victim
One can easily claim most instances of domestic violence will involve multiple victims.  Primarily there is the victim who is suffering directly from the violence. Then there are usually other victims who suffer indirectly by knowing about or witnessing the violence.  Children or adults in the same house will probably be aware of the violence and suffer as a result. Also relatives of the primary victim outside of the domicile, who are aware of the abuse may also be suffering.  So if an individual, primary victim is justified in the use of deadly force, would the same apply to the other, indirect victims who are also suffering?  Davis and Briggs of Medical University South Carolina claim:
"Children who witness domestic violence (i.e., violence between parents, guardians, or caregivers) are often referred to as the "forgotten" victims since interventions generally target the adult victim or perpetrator (Groves, Zukerman, Marans, & Cohen, 1993). Most of the research in this area sugge[sts] that children exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk for emotional, behavior, academic, and social problems (Kolbo, Blakely, & Engelman, 1996; Pfouts et. al., 1982). More specifically, children exposed to domestic violence may exhibi[t im]mediate and long-term problems with anxiety, depression, anger, self-esteem, aggression, delinquency, interpersonal relationships, and substance abuse (Carlson,1990; Jouriles, Murphy, O’Leary, 1989; Silvern, et al., 1995; Sternberg, et al., 1993)."
Certainly on one level when one examines the ancillary effects of domestic violence it may lead to further justification for the primary victim to use deadly force to stop the abuse, but imagine the justification scenarios when the indirect victims begin to use deadly force to protect themselves.

The Suffering Society
Expanding the plurality even farther, it is not hard to see the entire community or society as a whole suffers when there is an instance of repeated domestic violence occurring.  Domestic violence leads to increased medical costs, losses to productivity through lost work, and since victims often flee the home, domestic violence is a cause of homelessness.  Additionally, some legal jurisdictions are recognizing that domestic violence is a crime against society and not just the victim because of the ripple-effect arising from domestic violence and its effect on "health care, child welfare, mental health and social service systems".  Again we can reasonably ask ourselves, if the primary victim is justified in using deadly force, is society justified in executing the perpetrator even if the result is not the murder of the victim?

Identifying the Abuser
Another interesting twist on the resolution can arise when we seek to identify the abuser.  If repeated domestic violence is occurring that is morally permissible to resolve by the use of deadly force, some entity must be perpetrating the domestic violence.  Typically we assume the abuser is a domestic partner or someone in the household, intimately involved with the victim.  But can one make a reasonable case the perpetrator is an another entity altogether.  The U.S. Constitution Fourth Amendment provides, 
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Yet some argue this provision is routinely violated in the effort to prevent terrorism.  Other countries do not have the same rights to protection against the abuse of power as the U.S.  Therefore, we can make that case in some circumstances, the state is the abuser which repeatedly abuses individuals through coercion and often violence.  Anytime the authorities enter a domicile to execute its power the potential for abuse exists and one may question whether deadly force is a justifiable response to domestic abuse by the state.

Violence and Intimidation Via Media
Last year debaters dealt with the issue of cyber-bullying and distinctions were drawn between threats which occurred outside of the home and those which occurred inside the home through social media, such as text messaging and internet.  When anyone or any entity invades a home with intimidating or threatening messages, is it a form of domestic violence.  Under many definitions, domestic violence does not necessarily mean physical, violence resulting in bodily harm.  It may be possible to argue that school-mates, individuals in cyber-space and society via radio and television perpetrates domestic violence through media messages.  Again, can a case be made that such abuse can be answered with deadly force?

Topicality Issues
Certainly, the affirmative debater must be sure to present a topical case and while we may be guided by presumptions as to what is topical, it is quite possible one can face certain challenges to topicality.  For example; moral permissibility is not legal permissibility, so cases which do not address the morality of the resolution are non-topical.  Victims is a plural noun. A case which does not address multiple victims may be deemed technically non-topical. Deliberate response suggests a response that is intended.  A case which talks about accidental or unintended response to domestic violence may be deemed non-topical.  Repeated means a case which does not address an acceptable level of repeat offences of domestic violence are non-topical.  The question is, what exactly constitutes "repeated"; more that once per day or more than once in a decade?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

LD 2012 Jan/Feb Topic Analysis - part 2

For more about Lincoln Douglas Debate including topic analyses, strategies, and links to evidence *click here*

Morally Permissible
We had an interesting discussion about various definitions of the words and phrases in the resolution; domestic violence, deadly force, and deliberate response. Trying to understand what exactly was intended when the resolution was written brought to mind an old book and subsequent movie called "The Burning Bed", based on the true-life story of a battered housewife who killed her husband by pouring gasoline and igniting the bed upon which he was sleeping.  The housewife was later found not guilty by reason of insanity.  So the issue then comes to one of the most important phrases in the resolution, "morally permissible".  The idea of something being permissible basically means it is allowed, but that begs the question, allowed under what authority?  Does permissibility arise from the fact the act is moral, implying all moral acts are permissible, or does it arise from an external authority like society?

One's approach in answering that question will probably be the single most important factor in establishing the case framework.

Does Legal Mean Moral?
I suppose people of a society would assume their legal codes reflect the moral code of the society as a whole and so it would seem that things which are legally permissible are also morally permissible. But one does not need to look too deeply to find examples where this assumption fails.  At one time in the United States, slavery was considered legally permissible but we agree it is not morally permissible to enslave another human being.  But the issue of permissibility goes much deeper than that.  In some societies, honor killings are considered legally and morally permissible. Honor killings may even be considered a form of domestic violence.  But in most societies, honor killings are viewed as morally reprehensible.  In my opinion, the debater must be vigilant for arguments which are based on legalities as opposed to morals.  Societies hope their legal codes reflect the ethical norms of the society but it should not be assumed unless one holds to a framework there is no moral right or wrong apart from that established by the majority.

Ethical Philosophy
In the obscenity case Jacobellis v. State of Ohio, argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 1960s, Justice Potter Stewart was famously quoted as saying (paraphrased) hard-core pornography is hard to define but "I know it when I see it".  The same is true of morality.  Its hard to define but each of us has a standard which demarcates right from wrong and moral behavior would be right behavior.  By implication permissible behavior is that we deem to be right behavior.  Determining whether or not an act is morally permissible requires the establishment of an ethical philosophy. 

Anyone who has any appreciable LD Debate experience has probably already been exposed to the common ethical philosophies of deontology and consequentionalism.  Deontology, supports the idea of a rules-based ethical framework which establishes universal code of conduct that can be rationally known.  For example, and most well known, is Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative which provides three standards one can apply to determine if a course of action is not only morally correct, but morally obligated.  Conversely, consequentialism is an evaluation of whether the ends justifies the means. Under this philosophy, an action can be justified if it maximizes a desirable result for the greatest number of people.

I think another interesting approach, though perhaps not commonly known to many LD judges, is the principle of pragmatic ethics. This tends to shift the burden of ethical behavior from the individual to society and establishes an ethical framework in which moral standards are relative and tend to evolve in such a way that all of society advances morally.  Pragmatic ethics provides a good explanation for how something may be deemed acceptable in a given time and later deemed unacceptable as the morality of the society progresses. It also provides a convenient link between moral code and legal code, in my opinion, pragmatism can argue that changing laws are a true reflection of how ethical norms advance.

Affirmative Burden
Affirmative will advocate that it is morally permissible to intentionally use deadly force against a person given the conditions set forth in the resolution, namely, as a victim of repeated domestic violence.  I personally believe, the Aff must be fully prepared to advocate the "burning bed" scenario in which the victim carries out a non-confrontational attack against the abuser. Those situations in which the victim, acting in self-defense, repels a physical attack with deadly force will not be the principle issue of the debate as I think Neg will have a difficult time arguing an act of self-defense is not moral permissible.  Therefore, it seems, Aff must present a moral justification for killing or intending and attempting to kill an abuser and one possible way to do this, is show the victim is essentially acting out of self-defense as is often advocated in "battered woman syndrome" type cases.  Nevertheless, the best cases, I would think, will avoid the legal, psychological and medical issues and establish an acceptable moral framework in which such acts can be justified on strictly ethical principles but this would take a really skilled case.  Aff will face numerous studies which refute the grounds of the psychological or medical factors and must contend with Neg absolutist moral framework which may claim that killing is immoral under any circumstances.  Here are few suggestions for affirmative arguments:

  1.  People have a right to protect themselves if society does not
  2. Self-defense is a legitimate response to domestic violence
  3. Allowing deadly force elevates the issue of domestic violence as public concern
  4. It is permissible because it does not harm the public interest
  5. Domestic violence is a threat to society

Neg Burden
Like any other LD resolution, I think the best course of Neg is present its own framework and then attack the Aff framework.  Neg may choose to take an absolutist approach and claim that killing in general is wrong and killing under these circumstances is particularly wrong.  I also believe, it would be perfectly legitimate for Neg to argue that allowing such behavior harms society.  Utilitarian principles are used to establish laws under which society operates and it is impossible to legislate parameters such as, the frequency of the violence and the degree of the violence, which constitutes a justification for deadly force.  It is difficult to decide when deadly force exceeds proportional justice.  In other words, would all forms of deadly force be acceptable if such actions are permissible?  It would also be legitimate to argue that alternative actions could be taken rather than kill the perpetrator but I do think that suggesting such alternatives opens up a rabbit-hole which may push the debate away from the core moral permissibility debate.  Some possible Neg contentions:

  1. Killing is never justified
  2. Allowing deadly force harms society
  3. Deadly force is not proportional justice
  4. It violates the right to due process
  5. There are better ways to handle the problem

Sunday, December 4, 2011

PF January 2012 - Ideas for the Pro Case

For more about Public Forum Debate including topic analysis, strategies and links to evidence, *click here*.

The Value of Higher Education
An article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled, "The High Cost of College: an Increasingly Hard Sell", (William Strauss and Neil Howe, 2005) 
"The common assumption is that a college education "always pays," but that assumption is based on retrospective data from the late 90s and earlier on the relative earnings of adults now in their mid-20s, 30s, and 40s. According to census data, when adjusted for inflation, the median earnings of workers age 25 and older with only a bachelor's degree have fallen for four straight years. Today's heavily indebted college graduate does not necessarily have an edge over someone of the same age who spent those same four years building a résumé, gaining experience, establishing connections, and earning and saving money. Imagine what would happen to colleges if word starts to spread, over the next 5 to 10 years, that many of those who chose to forgo higher education are more successful at age 30 measured by incomes, homes, savings — than their better-educated but heavily indebted peers."

This nicely sums up the Pro position but there is another over-arching argument which claims the high-premium being placed on higher education is actually devaluing university degrees.  Indeed, only a generation or two ago, the percentage of high school graduates continuing to college was much smaller than it is today.  Students could choose alternate paths to achieving their employment goals.  The fact of the matter is, we still need ordinary workers doing ordinary day to day jobs that do not require advanced educations. In addition, there is the simple reality that not everyone is suited for college.  A large percentage of students will never complete their education and many that do will never find the high paying jobs that are the lure of higher education in America. Bryan Caplan, writes in the Magic Of Education 
"...literacy and numeracy are a big deal. But the "obvious" story is far from complete. Think about all the time students spend studying history, art, music, foreign languages, poetry, and mathematical proofs. What you learn in most classes is, in all honesty, useless in the vast majority of occupations." 
So if it is true the vast majority of what students learn in college is worthless in the real world, why is this worthlessness becoming more and more expensive?

One possible explanation stems from what Bryan Caplan calls "the signaling model" of education. The degree signals to employers that graduates are "smart, hard-working and conformist", but if that is all the degree does, there must be cheaper and more reliable indicators for suitability of potential employees.

Down With the BA
Caplan and others seem to be saying for the majority of students, college is not a good value, especially considering that most graduates are essentially retrained to adapt to real-world careers. Many employers do not really care what courses you took, nor what special knowledge you may have taken from the hours of course work, lectures, reading and testing since most of it had no real-world value to them anyway.  The value seems to rest in that fact you have accomplished something of symbolic value rather than practical value and as more and more students achieve that goal, its value as a measure of suitability to employment becomes diminished. As a result employers "ratchet up" the requirements in order to better distinguish the field of candidates. Certainly if everyone had the requested degree, employers would need to key-in on other criteria for employment which takes university credentials out of the picture altogether.

The Pro Case
One of the first opportunities Pro has to make a case, is look at the rising cost of education with respect the rate of return and the rate of return with respect to high school education. Professor Richard Vedder writes, 
"For most, the argument goes, college is a good investment. In 2005, the average earnings of full-time year-round workers with bachelor’s degrees, $65,281, were $27,251 higher than for comparable workers with high school diplomas. The discounted present value of that lifetime earnings differential (from 35–40 years of working), is several hundred thousand dollars, vastly more than the cost of four years of higher education, even allowing for the loss of income from not working a job while attending college...It takes more resources today to educate a postsecondary student than a generation ago. That is not true for most goods and services, where productivity advances assisted by capital formation and technological advances have lowered the resources needed to produce a single unit of output. Relative to other sectors of the economy, universities are becoming less efficient, less productive, and, consequently, more costly." 
Vedder concludes: 
"The high school/college earnings differential may have stopped growing, so the investment return to college will start falling unless costs are contained. Our colleges and universities were not created in a day, nor will reform and change come easily. But we must begin the process if higher education is going to better promote the advance of our civilization and our material prosperity."
Another opportunity for advocacy is an examination of what happened to students after they graduate.  One could claim the higher salaries earned by graduates is not universally applicable. In fact it may only apply to a small percentage of graduates. An examination of the Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that 60 percent of graduates from 1992 to 2008 worked at relatively low-skilled jobs occupied by high-school graduates or less. This certainly suggests the value of higher education is only in place for a limited number.

The following papers, articles and reports, used as sources for my essay can be found on the web and will get you started in your research. Good luck.

  1. "The High Cost of College: an Increasingly Hard Sell", Strauss, William & Howe, Neil, 2005, The Chronicle of Higher Education
  2. "The Great College Degree Scam", Richard Vedder, 2010, The Chronicle of Higher Education
  3. "Down with Four-Year College Degree", Charles Murray, 2008, Cato Unbound
  4. "The Magic of Education", Bryan Caplan, 2011,
  5. 'How Higher Education is Breaking the Social Contract and What To Do About It", Daniel Yankelovich, 2009, Forum for the Future of Higher Education
  6. "Should the Obama Generation Drop Out?", Charles Murray, 2008, The New York Times
  7. "Over Invested and Over Priced", Richard Vedder, 2007, Center for College Affordability and Productivity
  8. "The Case Against College", Marty Nemko, 2004-2011