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The Evolution of Debate
As conceived by the National Forensic League in 1980, Lincoln Douglas debate was created as an alternative to Policy Debate. But it is clear that since those early days, the category has evolved in ways unexpected by the original creators. Surprisingly (or not), in many regions of the country, LD has morphed into a kind of one man policy debate and surprisingly (or not) public forum debate (another alternative to policy debate) is morphing into a kind of two man LD/Policy hybrid. What drives this? I have a theory that it finds its origin in two principle drives. First, debate is a competitive event and teams (and coaches) want to win. Second, teams will leverage what works in other kinds of debate in order to gain a competitive advantage. So it is natural, I think, that debate categories will merge within the constraints of the various category rules as techniques which win debates are incorporated. To be sure, even in traditional districts which do not tolerate such things as theory or kritiks debates, LD has evolved in ways which is intimidating to citizen judges and participants in other speech and debate categories. As a result, the judge pools are typically comprised of ex-LD debaters, coaches and parents of LD debaters.
The Rise of the Kritik
Given the realities of how debate has evolved, I have decided to write this article as a sort of tutorial for debaters and coaches who are forced to deal with these changes in weekly tournaments. Therefore, this article will focus specifically on the Kritik argument and its application in Lincoln Douglas debate.
Before I begin, a few disclaimers are in order. First, I am not well experienced in dealing with theory debate and kritiks in LD. In my area, such forms of argumentation are still frowned upon by many traditional coaches and judges and while some have entertained theories, they are exceptions to be sure. Therefore, the ideas I will present are simply a guideline. I will give you some ideas and techniques which may work but I encourage you to go far beyond my limited experience if that is your necessity.
Secondly, I recognize the emergence of critical and theory arguments in Lincoln Douglas debate are controversial and in fact met with anger in some areas. By addressing these topics, one should not assume that I endorse the trend nor encourage it. I simply acknowledge it and coach my team as I see fit considering the competition they are likely to face and educational value they will gain from debate as an extra-curricular activity.
What is a Kritik?
A kritik is a critique of the assumptions, mindset and discourse of debate. Because many of the early critiques were based on the theories of certain popular German philosophers, the debaters adopted the German spelling, "kritik" which is kind of fitting considering the fact such arguments were "foreign" to policy debate at the time when they began to be employed on the NDT National Circuit in the 1990s. Kritiks were originally conceived as negative arguments but increasingly they are being used by the affirmative to attack the assumptions which exist in the status quo since it is the duty of the negative to defend the status quo. Today, most kritiks are comprised of three principle arguments; the link, the impact and the alternative. Because a kritik questions the underlying assumptions or rhetoric upon which the activity of Lincoln Douglas debate is framed, it is considered apriori and traditionally demands that before the debate can proceed, the underlying issue must first be addressed. For example, it forces the Affirmative and thus judge to answer the question, how can we debate this issue when the very language used by the Affirmative is inflammatory and promotes undesirable assumptions, negative stereotypes, dehumanizes individuals or promotes a mindset which ultimately produces even bigger problems than the one being debated. In some ways, the kritik becomes an indictment of the resolution and the genre of debate as a legitimate forum in which to discuss the issue and for this reason, it is controversial since it shifts the burdens to another level completely. To be sure, the burden shift may be one the Aff and judge is unprepared to deal with.
Rather than go into a detailed discussion about the history and evolution of kritiks and what specifically is a kritik, I suggest the reader check any number of online sources for a much better understanding than I can impart in this article. I suggest a look at one of Bill Shanahan's introductory articles entitled "kritik of thinking", written 1993 (link: http://groups.wfu.edu/debate/MiscSites/DRGArticles/Shanahan1993HealthCare.htm) for some background.
Also see this link:
http://decorabilia.blogspot.com/2010/09/kritiks-in-lincoln-douglas-debate.html, Jim Anderson, 2010, kritiks in Lincoln-Douglas debate
for the application of kritiks in LD. Finally I urge you to read this article which appeared in the NFL publication Rostrum, which presents both the PRO and CON of kritik argumentation in LD (link: http://www.nflonline.org/Rostrum/Ld0205Woodhouse, The Use of Kritiks in Lincoln Douglas Debate, By J. J. Rodriquez & Cyndy Woodhouse, 2005
How Are Kritiks Selected?
The selection and application of kritiks to various LD resolutions and arguments, requires one to be familiar with the various kritiks in existence, bearing in mind that new kritiks are being written every year. There are probably hundreds of different kritiks in existence, but since many of them were designed to address specific arguments or resolutions they are not useful nor particularly well known. In addition, may kritiks are so obscure and convoluted in their presentation, few debaters or judges can comprehend them. For the most part these kritiks remain on the fringes and are not likely to be seen in most debate rounds. Nevertheless, there are common and popular kritiks which are reworked and adapted year after year in policy debate. Typically a collection of twenty or fewer, popular kritiks continue to make the rounds. Debaters and coaches who use or face kritiks during a season would take time to examine each of these kritiks and determine their suitability to various LD resolutions. It is critical therefore to gain a fundamental understanding of the premise of the various kritik and in some cases this may actually require additional resources in order to truly understand what is being argued. These resources may include, speaking with others who have run or defended against the kritik, use of online debate forums, or by seeking out written commentary on the philosophical premises being presented. In most cases, such deep research should not be required and most often will be done when one encounters a really obscure or unfamiliar kritik.
Where Are Kritiks Found?
Since kritiks had their origin in policy debate and continue to thrive in policy, repositories for policy debate evidence are a source of kritik files which can potentially be used for LD debate. I say potentially because policy debate evidence will be very much orientated toward the current policy resolution so much of the evidence and most of the links will be focused toward the most common policy debate cases being run on a given year. Policy debate evidence is typically birthed in summer debate camps which are partially organized as debate case file factories and each of the major camps assemble packets of evidence in the form of case files, negative files, disadvantages, topicality, kritiks and counterplans and each of these files will usually also contain various counter-arguments. Many of the cards and arguments used in policy are resurrected year after year to the point that most experienced debaters can immediately identify evidence strictly by its citation because in the course of a four year debate career they may have heard that card read, many, many times. In the past debate camps used to sell their camp evidence files as a way to cover their camp costs, but through the years, kids attending the camps began sharing the evidence files online. Eventually the camps stopped selling the files and now most of them are available freely. One such repository is the at National Debate Coaches Association (NDCA), Open Evidence Project (Link: http://www.debatecoaches.org/page/open-evidence-project) where camp files are organized by arguments and camps.
Nowadays, LDers also go to debate camps and often these camps are the place where new ideas evolve as debaters, coaches and instructors share methods and techniques. Presumably, LDers also generate the equivalent of camp files for proposed LD topics for the coming year. While I do know how certain policy debate camps were conducted, I have no direct experience with LD debate camps. Presently, I am not aware of open evidence repositories where LD cases and evidence files are shared though they undoubtedly exist somewhere. What this means, is many will pull theory arguments and kritiks from policy debate open evidence repositories and that means, the LDer will need a fair amount of additional work to adapt the evidence to particular LD topics. The amount of work required depends on the quality of evidence file and how specific or generic the links and evidence happen to be.
A Practical Example
The Security Kritik for The Targeted Killing Resolution
For an example, I have gone to the Kritiks section of the NDCA (www.debatecoaches.org) Open Evidence Project and downloaded a particular Security Kritik. The downloaded file is found by selecting the site link to the 2010-2011 topic, choosing Kritiks, then selecting the "Security Kritik - ENDI" file. Why this particular file? Even though the file is over a year old, I know from past experience, this particular file contained many generic links which can be adapted to a variety of international securitization topics. If you download a current security K from, say the 2011 policy debate Space topic, I am certain you will end up discarding most of the cards as they will deal very specifically with the policy topic. As you begin to research and evaluate the many kritiks and theory files, you should focus on those files which tend to be more generic and less oriented to a very narrow interpretation of a debate topic.
The Organization of the File
The file begins with a nicely organized table of contents organizing the cards into a Security kritik 1NC, and Links, Impacts, Alternatives, Framework and 2NC sections. Notice that some cards are titled "AT:" and in fact every card in the 2NC sections is prefixed "AT:". This is policy shorthand for "Answer To" and provides specific answers to common Aff rebuttals against the security kritik. You will also be interested in the section labelled AFF. Here, are answers and arguments useful to the Aff in refuting the security K.
The links are the specific evidence which connects the premises of the security K to the Affirmative case. You should look at the cards very carefully and determine which are suitable to the various kinds of cases being run by the Affirmative teams in your region. Specific links, if they exist, are always better than generic links and finding specific links is research you should do to make your kritik better. Study these link cards then go research and find your own that are specific and put them in your kritik file. Discard link cards which are not applicable in any way to the topic.
Enhancing the File
Continue to familiarize yourself with the other sections of the file and when necessary do independent research to find cards and evidence for each of the sections which enhance your ability to make specific arguments against common Aff cases. This is especially effective if you succeed to find links and impacts related directly with targeted killing.
So What About the Moral Permissiveness of Targeted Killing?
I will talk about it in part two of this discussion and I will try to layout a very generic example security K structure. In part two I will try to present the techniques for adapting the kritk in a little more detail. (Click : part 2)