Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Applying Kritiks in Lincoln Douglas Debate - part 2

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

This is the second of a two part series. (Click : Part 1)

More On the Link
In this particular case, we are planning to run a language kritik which means we want to criticize the selective language used in the Affirmative case and show how it leads to negative perceptions and yields impacts which arise, not from targeted killing as a foreign policy tool, but rather through the conditions constructed by the rhetoric used to justify the Affs case.  Therefore in order to create a "link" between the kritik and the Aff case, we must connect the kritik to some specific language or rhetoric employed by Aff.  This "link" between the Aff case and Neg kritik (or any Neg disadvantage) is essential for logical consistency.  If the Aff case speaks of securing the homeland, we use link cards which connect to the words "homeland" or "home" and if we can't find those direct links, we use links that are generically close enough the judge does not have to do a mental back flip to see the connection.  If the Aff case promotes a defense against terrorism, we use link cards which connect the language of fighting terrorism with security and the kritik.  If the Aff case presents a topic for which a reasonable link can not be found, it is best to forget the idea of running the kritik.  Nevertheless, even if the theme of the Aff case is moral justification based on a need for security, the securitization theme itself may provide enough of a link that a specific link is not necessary, as long as the judge can put two and two together.  But remember, if the judge fails at two plus two, it is your fault, not the judge's, since you have failed to convey a link and many judges are reluctant to mentally build your case for you.

As an example of a generic link based on "uttering" the word "security", I found the following card which can link the 1NC to Aff. (I did not "tag" the card):
Securitization and the Construction of Security. Mcdonald, Matt. European Journal of International Relations vol. 14 issue 4 December 2008. p. 563-587
For the Copenhagen School, issues become security issues (or more accurately threats) through language. It is language that positions specific actors or issues as existentially threatening to a particular political community, thus enabling (or indeed constituting, depending on interpretation) securitization. Indeed, rather than simply being one ‘site’ of security construction, Wæver (1995) located securitization itself in language theory, and particularly Austin’s articulation of the ‘speech act’. In this framework, language itself becomes security in the sense that particular forms of language — spoken or written in a particular context — constitute security. As Wæver argued (1995: 55), ‘the utterance itself is the act . . . by uttering “security”, a state representative moves a particular development into a specific area, and thereby claims a special right to use whatever means necessary to block it’. This reliance on language as the exclusive form of ‘securitizing move’ is problematic for two reasons. First, language is only one (albeit the most central) means through which meaning is communicated (Möller, 2007: 180).A range of authors in this context have suggested the need to take account of the role of images as potential forms of securitization. Second, an exclusive focus on language is problematic in the sense that it can exclude forms of bureaucratic practices or physical action that do not merely follow from securitizing ‘speech acts’ but are part of the process through which meanings of security are communicated and security itself constructed.

Or here is another untagged card which can serve as a link based on the generic rhetoric of fighting terrorism:
The Rhetoric of Security, YASEEN NOORANI, University of Arizona, Tucson, Source: CR: The New Centennial Review Date: April 1, 2005
It is important to recognize that the rhetoric of security with its war on terrorism is not a program for action, but a discourse that justifies actions. The United States is not bound to take any specific action implied by its rhetoric. But this rhetoric gives the United States the prerogative to take whatever actions it decides upon for whatever purpose as long as these actions come within the rhetoric’s purview. Judged by its own standards, the rhetoric of security is counterproductive. It increases fear while claiming that the goal is to eliminate fear. It increases insecurity by pronouncing ever broader areas of life to be in need of security. It increases political antagonism by justifying U.S. interests in a language of universalism. It increases enmity toward the United States by according the United States a special status over and above all other nations. The war against terror itself is a notional war that has no existence except as an umbrella term for various military and police actions. According to a report published by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army, “the global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious” (Record 2003, 41). This assessment assumes that the actions comprehended under the rubric of the “war on terrorism” are designed to achieve a coherent military objective. The impossible “absolute security,” feared by the report’s author to be the “hopeless quest” of current policy (46), may be useless as a strategic objective, but it is eminently effective in organizing a rhetoric designed to justify an open-ended series of hegemonic actions.

Here is an untagged card which links to the terminology of "homeland". I like this card as opposed to some of the others included in the downloaded Security K file, because it speaks generally to the issue of morality without addressing the Aff advocacy.
The Rhetorical Possibilities of “Home” in Homeland Security, J. Patrick Dobel, Administration & Society, 42(5) 479–503, © 2010 SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/0095399710377961, 
The exclusive institutional emphasis on home as a physical place preinhabited by blood and placeholders generates a distorted moral and bureaucratic dynamic where the coercive defense of home supersedes other moral claims. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft made this clear by stating, “We will use all means necessary to defend our home.” The self-conscious erosion of international standards of prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers, the intrusions into domains of privacy, or the backlash against immigrants reflects the overriding pressure of defense of home to erode vital moral commitments (Hirsh, Barry, & Klaidman, 2004; Schulz, 2003, chap. 2, 4). This exclusive emphasis welds home to physical location and delineates citizenship to resemble blood preferences for those living in the homeland. It also questions integrity of persons whose lives or ideas seem at odds with the ideology of physical security and border defense.

Putting it Together
Having acquired a series of links, properly tagged and highlighted, they should be inserted into the file, and the table of contents updated appropriately.  Policy debaters typically copy the cards to pages with their own header and footer so as to eliminate the camp identification (e.g. ENDI 2010) to reduce the possibility the opponent will pull her copy of the ENDI 2010 Security K file from her evidence and use it against you.  In addition, to the links, you should anticipate the kinds of counter-arguments Aff may present and find additional cards or write analytical answers and expand the 2NC portion of the file.  This is very important since you will be making more than one speech you need more to say to extend and defend your kritik.  Now, of course a lot of how to do this will arise from experience. There is really no wrong or right way to handle and organize your evidence and cards, as long as you can quickly pull out what you need, when you need it.

A Proposed Structure for the K
First I think it a good idea to establish the groundwork upon which the kritik is based. For this you can pull out the Framework cards and lay down the basis or simply read the 1NC cards placed at the beginning of the file.  This part of the kritik establishes the philosophical basis upon which you will assert a violation has been made by the Affirmative in their choice of the language of securitization.

Next it is appropriate to make the link and read the cards which, in effect, indicts the Aff case directly and clearly.

At this point (although it could have been done earlier) the impacts cards are read. You may choose one or several impacts depending on what you are prepared to defend and their relevance to the Aff case.

Now that you have effectively defined your criticism, cited Affs violation of it and expressed the negative fallout of the violation, it is necessary for you to direct the judge how to proceed and this is where the alternatives are presented.  This portion of the speech usually begins with a call to reject the Aff case entirely. The alternative, will show that by rejecting the discourse of the Aff it is then possible to proceed in a better way which results in elimination of the harms or other advantages.  Choose these cards carefully and if possible find your own.

What About Aff's Advocacy?
It should be pointed out, when running the kritik we do not address any of the traditional aspects of the Aff case.  We do not dispute definitions nor the V/VC structure and we do not directly attack their advocacy of (in this particular example) the moral permissiveness of targeted killing.  In fact, it is ill advised to look at the particular details of their case since you are claiming an apriori issue wrapped up in the language used to create their case. Therefore, we do not talk directly to the case nor the resolution.  We need to resolve the over-riding language issue first and that is why we are running the kritik in the first place.

Now I should point out, I advise against attacking the Aff case merely as a convenience due to time constraints.  If you can present the case with time remaining, or assuming you are speed reading, it is very legitimate to use other kinds of arguments to directly attack the Aff advocacy. In policy debate, the K is only one of an arsenal of tools in the Neg case, but policy is almost certainly spreed reading and has a 13 minute Neg block in which to drive home its case.  LD cases are not so lucky.

Kritiks vs Value Structure
Some coaches and LD specialists have commented that anything that can be run in a kritik can be run in a value/value criterion structure and in many cases they are probably right. While kritiks may be riding a crest of "new wave" popularity among LDers they are still, fundamentally a Neg, philosophical argument that a clever debater may be able to frame into a conventional case structure and make it work.  Doing so can create a pretty good argument in the example of the security kritik, but the importance of the K as an apriori issue becomes moot.  Taking this approach, now requires you to directly address the V/VC structure of the Aff case and leaves the burdens squarely in the realm of conventional LD debate.  Given that reality, perhaps the kritik framework is not so well suited if it is not possible to fully develop in the allowed speech time which must now allow for direct rebuttal of the Aff case.

Concluding Remarks
Unfortunately it is not possible to provide rich detail in the steps required to apply kritiks to LD debate.  A lot of the techniques will be discovered through effort and experience.  I would like to conclude with a few remarks.

1. Kritiks should not be used. But if you insist, they should not be used by or against novices.

2. Kritiks are a recipe for disaster if you do not thoroughly understand the K and what you are attempting to argue and if you are unprepared to go beyond the 1NC.

3. Know your judge. Find out if Ks and theory arguments are acceptable.  If not, don't even think about running one.

4. The use of kritiks are an art more than a science so there is no right or wrong way. Find something that works and refine it.

I hope this article serves more people than it confuses.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Applying Kritiks in Lincoln Douglas Debate - part 1

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

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: for some background.
Also see this link: 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: 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: 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 ( 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)

LD Targeted Killing - The Security Critique

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

The Security Kritik (Critique)
The March/April 2012 LD debate topic is now one month old.  If you debate in a region which tolerates the use of kritiks in LD, you may have already faced or you may consider using one of the several variants of the security kritik.  In a nutshell, the security K presents an a priori argument that the language of securitization creates a mindset which dehumanizes other people by characterizing them as potential enemies.  When a government uses this kind of language, it justifies the nation (i.e. the U.S.) assuming a defense posture and taking steps to defend itself even if the threat is imagined or constructed by way of rhetoric and building upon the fears of constituents.  Many variants of the security K are available across the web.

In general, I really like the security K because I think, properly done, it can be a cogent argument that even the most inexperienced judges can comprehend.  In fact, the clever debater can utilize the general framework and cards to present a very  legitimate and powerful neg case which need not be viewed as a kritik at all rather a philosophical justification for why we should be reluctant to support tactics like targeted killing since such tactics are the results of variant forms of racial/cultural profiling and dehumanizing mindsets.

The All Important Link
As with most "off-case" or Negative offensive arguments, the link is all important and potentially one of the weakest parts of any kritik or disadvantage scenario.  In a typical security K file, there are usually numerous links provided from which the negative can choose and most of them will have nothing whatever to do with the topic being argued by the Affirmative.  So why is the link important?  If you don't know the answer to this question, you probably should not be debating a kritik.  But, as a reminder, without a good link, Neg will establish an elaborate "strawman" argument which essentially claims Aff is saying something it is not and then proceeds to beat down the argument, Aff never made.  The bottom line is this.  If you want to prove certain forms of rhetoric should be rejected, you must at some point clearly show how the Aff is using such rhetoric. If certain ways of thinking are dangerous or undesirable, you must show how Aff is promoting such ways of thinking in her case.

Hegemony Links
In most cases, Aff will not be arguing that targeted killing is morally permissible as a means for a nation to increase hegemony or soft-power and so links to heg should not be used.  However, if the Aff takes a position, that targeted killing is necessary to maintain international order, it opens the door to a form of heg link because international rule or order can be viewed as an extended form of hegemony since some entity is writing the rules which dictate international norms.  Personally, I think it will be a difficult link to make, not because the general principle is incorrect but rather because the mindset of the judge.  I think many judges will view international norms as a majority expression of moral behavior and will very quickly be swayed by an Aff counter-argument that Neg is proposing a rejection of international law and perhaps embracing anarchy.

Positive Peace Links
Positive peace arguments claim security is necessary to prevent war but I doubt many Aff cases are going to make such direct claims.  Nevertheless, I foresee cases where Aff may show how terrorism threatens stability and the loss of stability results in war.  Therefore targeted killing indirectly prevents war by promoting international stability. In general, the premise behind the Positive Peace type links is that Aff is promoting a form of "forced" peace through its tactics and this is probably NOT going to be the major premise of the Affirmative case.

Security Construction Links
As I see it, these links establish the idea that Aff is essentially constructing threats and then arguing a security mechanism must be established to prevent the threats.  Under such a mindset, threats are projected from interpretations of external situations.  In some contexts, it is a clever argument but in the context of a targeted killing debate it is a difficult link to make because Aff has empirical evidence that such threats are real and perhaps imminent and more than interpretations or theories arising from the analysis of international events.

Neorealism and IR Links
Personally, I find IR (International Relations) theories interesting and as a result have spent some time studying various theories which predict how nations align themselves and the forces which drive their responses to scenarios.  Nevertheless, unless you as a debater are well versed in such theories and are capable of expressing your ideas in a way the judge can comprehend, you may find youself in a difficult debate.  Not because the Aff can easily refute the premises but because the judge will not typically follow the reasoning of the argument unless you spent some minutes reviewing the concepts of the particular IR theory you are presenting.

Otherization and Centrism Links
If the Aff case attempts to justify targeted killing because the targets represent a threat to cultural identity or "western" ideologies then perhaps such a link can be used.  For example, a minor premise of the Aff case may claim that terrorism is a threat to "our way of life" and so we have a right or duty to protect our lifestyle.  If an Aff debater takes such a stand, you could probably take out such cultural-centric points of view without need to run a kritik and have no problem convincing a judge that such a premise is not a moral reason to target people for elimination. 

Homeland Security/Terrorism/Crises Management Links
I think it is safe to assume, the majority of Aff cases will be justifying the morality of targeted killing as a form of homeland security or terrorism prevention since the targets represent direct threats to the security of the people and these are the links you may want to consider.  Nevertheless, I would choose carefully because some of these links will directly speak of constructionist scenarios (see Construction Links above) and these are easily answered with practical examples of recent terrorist attacks.  Potentially powerful links exists in the terrorist discourse arguments when it can be shown that such links characterize individuals as aggressors when they may in fact be victims of aggression trying desperately to defend themselves from superior power.  To be sure, such an approach must be properly framed so to avoid the perception that Neg is justifying terrorism as a legitimate response to threat as most judges will find that a bitter pill to swallow.  In my opinion, the Neg needs to convey the idea that Aff's discourse and characterization of individuals as terrorists eliminates other potential ways of diminishing or eliminating threats to national security and that is why such discourse should be rejected.

A Word About Link Tags
(When I use the terminology tags, or tag lines - I am referring to the headline or brief explanation of the content of the card which is read prior to the actual evidence.)
I think the LD debater who intends to run a kritik type argument against targeted killing could benefit from ignoring the supplied tags and reading the cards within the context of having written an affirmative or better still having argued against affirmative positions for this particular topic. Familiarize yourself with what your evidence is saying, then tag your cards.  Proper tagging is essential and the tags written in camp files are directed toward specific arguments which may or may not properly express the concept you are trying to convey.  Consider rewriting your tags to suit your point of view in the context of the targeted killing debate and in some cases, tag your cards in round during prep time.

Since the beginning I have been thinking about the application of the security K to this LD topic.  Especially since it is a popular kritik in the present Policy debate topic, the arguments are familiar and some really good camp files are easy to obtain.  I have been reluctant to present it at the beginning of the month because I think the present topic is easily debatable on both sides of the issue and I encourage debaters to have a good understanding of the various points of view and available research rather than whipping out a "stock" camp file and preempting a debate with a K merely as a strategy to chalk up wins.  Sometimes K's are run simply to confuse and overwhelm an inexperienced Aff team.  On the other hand, this particular kritik presents a really good opportunity to learn how to run and defend against kritiks as it can be a very legitimate philosophical argument in the context of this resolution.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

PF Vaccination Topic - Evidence Abounds

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

Resolved: State mandated administration of childhood vaccinations is justified.

As promised, a little evidence to get you started.  I tried to supply links you should be able to view without requiring special access to research databases.  Many of the articles are PDFs, and some of the really big links actually open Word documents, so if you can not open a Word file, you may want to skip those.

Additional topic Analysis

Ethical Framework for Vaccine Mandates (Pro)

Personal Autonomy Bad (Pro)
(word doc)

Both sides of the debate
(word doc)

State mandates supported

Harvard Law Review updates Jacobson v Mass

Old but good info

The benefits

Personal Choice (Con)

Problems with mandatory vaccination and a case-study

Assaults personal liberty

Good international supoport for Con

ACLU critique of law enforcement efforts to control disease

Some strong opinions for Con

Professor George J Annas is a friend of the Con side (kinda)

This should definitely be in your Con file!

Bioterror anyone?

Monday, March 12, 2012

PF - Vaccination Topic - Justification and Burdens

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

Resolved: State mandated administration of childhood vaccinations is justified.

This is the third part of my analysis for this Public Forum Debate topic so if you have arrived at this page without first reading the other parts, click here for part 1, and here for part 2.

The Meaning of Justified
In part 3, I would like to dig into the Pro and Con advocacy and help you try to understand what I believe is the principle focus of this debate. The goal of the debate is to show that the action is either justified or not justified and so it reasonable we understand and establish a definition of justified.  A simple dictionary definition will tell us that justified means to prove a thing is "just, right, or reasonable". This is very broad. "Just" suggests a legal basis, "right" suggests a moral basis, and "reasonable" suggests a rational or common-sense basis.

The Legal Aspect of Justification
Typically, laws are designed to restrict unwanted behavior in societies, like a list of rules saying don't do this or don't do that.  But certain laws dictate specific things that must be done.  These are legal obligations or mandates. It seems bizarre, therefore to claim, a certain law mandates compulsory immunization and because it is a law it is legal, therefore it is justified. It seems intuitive the legal justification for mandating vaccinations must find its foundation in a natural law, not a man-made law. The natural laws arise from nature and reason and are the so-called God given laws. Positive laws are the man-made laws of societies and it is generally understood that most positive law is grounded in natural law principles. Nearly all of the great philosophers have issued commentary of the place of natural laws and natural rights. For those who wish go deeply into the subject I can suggest the following source as a starting point:

The Moral Aspect of Justification
Something that is "right" is morally good or ethical. One can easily understand that moral behavior is often culturally defined and something considered "right" in one place may be abhorrent in another.  Additionally there may be situations in which a culture considers an action moral and the same action in another situation may be immoral.  Nevertheless, that is not an objectionable argument in the context of this resolution because the resolution specifies "states" and a state can be presented as a self-governing society bound within certain geographical borders.  So a state is a collection of similar individuals with common ideals and goals who have agreed to bind themselves together under a common government for the good of all.  So it is not unreasonable to see that a sort of collective morality can emerge from such an entity.

The Reasonability Aspect of Justification
Certain things just make sense whether mandated or not, whether considered moral or not.  For example, it just makes sense to cooperate with people when disaster strikes.  Reasonability is the mechanism that many philosophers believe that people use to understand what are the natural laws and what is moral.  It arises when rational, thinking people come to the understanding that certain things are desirable for all. Things which supersede cultures, religion and even formal education.

The Pro Burden
Clearly Pro must prove the administration of state mandated childhood immunization is justified and while both sides can uniformally agree on the definitions of "administration" and "state mandated" and "childhood immunization" only Pro can establish a justification for the act.  Therefore, the method behind the justification will very much depend on the definition chosen for justification.  Is it based on reasonability, natural law or morality or some combination of these?  Regardless, of the chosen definition, the case must convey the message that not mandating childhood vaccinations would violate the fundamental principle upon which you are trying to establish justification.  Therefore it makes sense to choose principles which are universal, transcultural, and desirable by all.  Certainly the desire to live without the threat of debilitating or lethal disease is one of the those principles however that alone will not win the debate unless you can prove that mandated childhood immunization is the key to achieving the principle.

Perhaps I am making the Pro burden overly complicated but I can envision a two-part advocacy for the Pro. Foremost, the establishment of a universal principle of justification and secondly firmly establishing that without the mandate, the principle can not be adequately upheld.  One possible approach is establish a philosophical framework for justification through definitions and observations and then proceed with the task of establishing mandated childhood vaccinations as the means to achieving the justification through normal contentions, evidence and logic.  I think Pro will have an easy time with the data, evidence, statistics, etc.  The problem will be the link to justification.  Perhaps that will be clearer when we look at the Con burden.

The Con Burden
In general, I think Con has a much broader ground than Pro but that does not mean Con is going to have an easy time in this debate.  Pro can bring a lot of good scientific evidence to bear in support of her position so if Con allows the debate to become a war of statistics or studies, there will be big problems for Con.  It seems reasonable to think Con's principle focus should be upon the ethical difficulties of compulsory immunization while diminishing the impacts of Pros advocacy.  The ethical difficulties of mandatory immunization are centered in personal freedom which can be a compelling natural rights framework. One of the problems Con will face is not knowing what kind of framework, Pro will build so it will be difficult to make direct attacks unless Con is very skilled.  A reasonable tactic to establish a (potentially) competing framework in support of the Con advocacy that natural rights must  not be infringed by positive laws.  Con's case would then focus on directly showing how public health mandates violate those rights.  Con should not stop there, however.  Remember, Pro will need to prove that such mandates directly support their own principles of justification.  Since it may be very difficult to go toe-to-toe trying to refute the Pro evidence, it is better to attack the link between Pro's mandate and its justification.

Cautions for Both Sides
No matter which side you happen to fall under after the flip of the coin, I think you must be extra vigilant to make direct attacks on the framework and links which form the foundation of the opponent's case. Do not rely on your own case to carry the day without making strong attacks directly on the opponent.

For Now...
I have felt a certain urgency to put this article out there for debaters as soon as possible, but I feel after several days have passed and looking at the topic a little more fully I may have additional comments which I will share.  For sure I may have more to say about variations on the different advocacies which I recall from the LD topic was debated.
Happy research PFers.  This can be a very interesting topic.  I will come back to this page in the next day or so and post links to specific evidence <Click here>.

PF - Vaccination Topic - General Information

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

Resolved: State mandated administration of childhood vaccinations is justified.

Clarifying Meanings
State mandated administration, simply means that a function is obligatory by order of the state and in this case the function is the administration of childhood vaccinations.  Administration can have several interpretations but I don't think it matters all that much.  Administration is the act of administering and to administer can mean, to employ or bring into use and it can mean to manage one's affairs.  In either case, there is really little to be gained from getting tricky with definitions.  We are talking about governments requiring compulsory immunization and that is really the core of the debate.  A secondary issue may or may not revolve around how the vaccinations are performed.  The phrase, childhood vaccinations can also carry several definitions, neither of which is particularly significant, in my opinion.  Given that a vaccination is an inoculation against disease, we could say childhood vaccinations are those given to people of childhood age or we could broaden that to say they are the class of inoculations which should be administered to children regardless of whether they were or not.  The only difference is, under the second definition one can claim that adults who missed the childhood vaccinations should also be forced to receive them. Regardless, I think it is a secondary issue at best.  The major debate will center around whether or not states are justified in mandating such actions as a general principle.  The details of administration are not that important.

Time-frame and Scope
It is worthy to note, the resolution does not provide any information about particular kinds of targeted diseases except perhaps those most commonly described as childhood diseases, and it does not provide any kind of time-frame.  This means the mandated program could be permanent or a specific campaign aimed to a particular public health emergency and goes away when the emergency has ended.  The fact, the resolution does specify "childhood" vaccinations does seem to suggest, the debate should be limited in scope.  In the U.S. for example, childhood vaccinations are generally limited to Varicella (chickenpox); DTP (diphtheria, tetanus,pertussis); IPV (inactive polio vaccine); MMR (mumps, measles, rubella), Hib (a form of influenza) and several others.

The Rationale for Immunization
So why mandate childhood vaccinations?  Anyone who researches this topic will be overwhelmed with information and statistics supporting the use of childhood vaccinations and advocating compulsory administration.  Clearly, the disease rate is reduced in states and countries which require vaccinations. In the United States, the Federal Government does not mandate immunization but the 50 individual states do mainly as a condition for admittance into public schools. (see:

Exceptions are made for children who may be allergic or have compromised immune systems or for parents who cite certain religious or philosophical objections.  In those areas of the country where there are a high number of exemptions, the disease rate increases accordingly. Some of these diseases are highly virulent, meaning they spread quickly and easily to others and each is particularly devastating to the health of the victims.  Without modern medical attention, some of these diseases have a high probability of permanently injuring or killing the victims.  In some cases, the diseases (measles for example) can be much more harmful to adults than children.  Because children are grouped closely together is school settings, infections tend to race quickly through the local population, hence the requirement for vaccination prior to entering school. The other thing to consider is the cost of dealing with these diseases.  There is a financial impact in terms of drain on the health-case system, lost time, lost productivity, etc.

The Argument Against Mandating
Well perhaps there are several important arguments against mandating vaccinations.  The most important centers around the issue of personal freedom.  People tend to feel very suspicious when the state claims the right to inject something into one's body or the bodies of one's children.  This can be viewed as an invasion of privacy and infringement of personal autonomy and the right to choose what one allows into their body.  Does the Government always have one's best interests in mind?  Look at Project MKULTRA or look at this article detailing a U.S Government sponsored experiment in Guatemala:

The most reasonable argument against mandated programs is common sense.  It can be claimed that most well-informed and caring parents will choose childhood vaccinations to protect their children because they are known to be effective and what parent would not want to protect their children?.  In fact, in most other countries around the world, vaccinations are NOT mandated by the state.  People are free to choose and most will opt for the protection of immunization. Of course, many European countries have government sponsored health-care so the cost of receiving childhood immunizations is not an issue.

Herd Immunity and a Dash Of Controversy
Herd immunity is based on the idea that some non-immunized members of a population will be protected from disease if a sufficient percentage of the remaining population is immunized.  This was observed and studied in cattle populations in which farmers were able to protect their herds from disease even when some number fewer than 100% were immunized.  The level of inoculation in which herd immunity becomes effective is typically cited at around 80-90%.  During the 2009 LD season when this topic was debated, herd immunity arguments where very popular when coupled with the argument that most people would opt for voluntary immunization. This USA Today article may be of interest:

And now for the controversy.  In 2009, there were a rash of rumors and some evidence linking MMR vaccine with autism in children.  The claim was MMR vaccination caused autism in certain children and so the vaccination was thought unsafe.  This led to fear among many parents that perhaps the government mandated vaccines required more study and many parents refused to have the vaccine administered to their children.  At that time, debaters countered the argument with a trove of CDC and health industry studies which claimed the evidence linking autism to childhood vaccinations was flawed or non-existent and even if there was a link, the benefits of immunization far outweigh the risks.  So I will leave you with this article dated from one year ago:

In the next part, I will discuss the Pro and Con strategies and present some evidence for both sides.
<Click here for part 3>

Saturday, March 10, 2012

PF 2012 April Topic Analysis

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

Resolved: State mandated administration of childhood vaccinations is justified.

This is a topic that is very familiar. Let's see...oh, yes. Lincoln-Douglas November/December 2009 - Resolved: Public health concerns justify compulsory immunization. It was a pretty good LD topic where students learned about things like herd immunity and alleged links between certain vaccinations and autism, but I am getting ahead of myself.  So let's see if I can find those old files and while I am looking, begin with the Supreme Court case of Jacobson v Massachusetts.


An Introduction to the Philosophy

The Value of Justice and Justification
In my opinion, this particular resolution made a very good LD topic in 2009 and now it is resurrected in PF, slightly reworded and no less debatable.  I have mentioned before in these pages, the lines between LD and PF are becoming blurred and perhaps this resolution proves it.  The value of justice is very commonly upheld in LD debates and generally is centered on the idea that justice is giving "each his due", be it good or evil and is very closely related to the idea of proportionality. But that is not quite the interpretation one applies to the word "justified". Whereas, we could say, a thing which is just is justified, it carries a much bigger sense that justified means something that is wholly reasonable and legitimate.

What is being Justified?
This debate seeks to answer the question of whether or not state mandated administration of vaccinations is legitimate, reasonable, just or whatever your definition of justified seeks to prove.  A few things need to be realized.  First, we are dealing with states, as in governments, and second, no particular state is named.  That means we are debating the general idea of whether or not such mandates by states are justified and not a specific state or case.  This is an important distinction to make because, in general, the rules which determine the legitimacy or morality of state's actions are not necessarily the same as those which determine the same for individuals.  It can be argued, for example that parents should have complete freedom to choose whether or not their children should be immunized and it is not a question of state directives.  Nevertheless, despite such sentiments, states have another responsibility rooted in utilitarian principles and to understand this requires an examination of some of the philosophical principles behind statehood.

The Conflict of General Welfare and Individual Rights
I think most people have a general concept of what it means when one claims the state has a duty to provide for the "general welfare".  It deals with the idea that states have a duty to secure the general well-being of its citizens. On the other hand, we realize that in most legitimate states, individuals have certain rights and privileges. These include the natural rights, which are the inalienable, so-called, God-given rights which no state should infringe (life, freedom, etc) and then there are the liberties which state's grant as a  benefit of being citizens of the particular state (the liberty to buy and sell, travel freely, etc).  The individual rights then are a mix of the natural rights and liberties granted by the state.  There arises in the course of time conditions in which the state's duty of providing for the general welfare conflicts with individual rights and when this occurs, which should take precedence? This is classic LD, when two values conflict which should be considered more important?

The Duties of States
Most philosophers agree, states have a duty to promote the general welfare and provide for the common defense of the citizens.  The philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau says, "As long as a number of men, having joined together, consider themselves a single body, they have only one will, which is directed toward the common security and well-being. The forces that move the state are then simple and vigorous; its principles are clear and illuminating; there are not tangled, conflicting interests; the common good is always so obvious that it can be seen by anyone with common sense.”. Modern philosopher Mortimer J. Adler concurs, “The man-made law of the state derives its authority from justice in each of three ways: (1) by the enactment of measures that protect natural rights; (2) by legislation that prescribes or safeguards fairness in transactions among individuals; (3) by regulating matters affected with the public interest for the general welfare of the community.”  We see emerging from these philosophies, the idea of the common will which should be seen as the will of the majority; the idea that whatever serves the best interests of the greatest number of individuals should be promoted.  This is the basic concept of utilitarianism: maximize happiness for the greatest number of people and so is a consequentialist theory meaning its value is measured in its outcome: the ends justifies the means.

The Defense of the Citizenry
Few would question the duty of the state to take all necessary steps to protect the citizens from an external threat such as another nation or terrorist group determined to damage the well-being of the people.  The state's duty to preserve itself and maintain the well-being of its citizens justifies warfare and at times the compulsory conscription of citizens to serve in the military.  When a nation begins to draft citizens to provide for the general welfare of the state, those individuals are compelled to comply to the will of the state even though it violates their individual autonomy and freedom of choice.  So the question arises, what if the threat was a health threat? Would the state be justified in taking necessary steps to reduce the threat?

In the next few days I will elaborate on this topic in a series of articles.

Link to General Topic Information: <Click here>