Saturday, September 28, 2013

Values in Lincoln-Douglas Debate - part 2



This part two of a series - for part 1 click here.

The V/VC Framework

As discussed in part one of this series, Lincoln-Douglas debate is known as values debate since the opposing sides seek to defend a value premise, such as life, justice or morality through the support of their case.  In classic LD, the ability of each side to defend, uphold or promote their chosen value ultimately determines who wins.  The values are often abstract, subjective concepts; for example how does one measure if one side is more just or more moral than the other?  For this reason, the debaters present a value criterion - a value standard - as an aid for the judge to make that measure.  It is for this reason, we often see LD discuss the value/value criterion (V/VC) framework.  The value is what we want to achieve, the value criterion is how we can achieve it or how we know we achieve it.  The value criterion is linked to the value in such a way, that if we meet the standards of the VC we will achieve the desired value. So it is through the mechanism of the VC, the judge is able to decide how effective each side is in achieving their values.


Standards of Measure

Often coaches and various teachers of debate techniques and procedures will speak of standards, and especially with respect to judging.  I just want to clarify what I mean when I talk about standards in this article.  I will be saying things like "judging standard" or "evaluation standard".  A standard is a norm (rule, law) or an agreed convention or requirement.  In the physical sciences, when something is being measured, there must be some assurance the instrument which performs the measurement is accurately calibrated.  Typically, the instrument technician will use a "standard" which is a known quantity, size, weight, composition, etc.; measure it with the instrument; and if the instrument result is within an acceptable tolerance of error, the instrument is considered true or calibrated and so can be trusted when an unknown is measured.  The standard, then is a known quality so to speak and when the unknown is measured one can ascertain if it is larger or heavier or otherwise conforms to the standard.


Judging the Value

Debaters must always be aware of the fact, the case will be judged by an older, more experienced (life experience, not necessarily judging experience) person who has a very strong sense of duty to fairly determine a winner in the round. In order for a novice judge or any judge to determine a winner the judge must have a way of determining the winner.  Now I know, you as debater may think, well obviously the judge should listen to the debate and give the win on the basis of ... the side which better upheld the contentions? ... better upheld the value? ... had the greatest overall value? ... by all of these? by none of these?  It is the dilemma of the debater to know what evaluation standards the judge will use and it is the dilemma of many novice judges to know what evaluation standards to use.  I can assure you, because the judge is duty bound to pick a winner, she will use some kind of standard by which to decide, even if it is who spoke the most eloquently or sounded the most knowledgeable.  You don't want the judge pulling a standard out of clear blue sky and even if the judge tells you on a preference sheet, I judge based on contentions, or values, you need to understand that in many situations it is the default standard the judge will resort to unless you give them another way to evaluate the round and a good reason to prefer your evaluation standard.  Let me make this clear.  You must give the judge a reason to prefer your standard.

Here is an example. Let us assume you are advocating the affirmative for "Resolved: States ought not possess nuclear weapons" and you feel the most important consideration in the round should be the weight and seriousness of your impacts, and not the value framework.  Then you must give the judge a reason to prefer your standard, especially if the judge's default standard is the value/criterion clash. For example, you may say, "My value is the quality of life and my criterion is eliminating the risk of nuclear war.  Nuclear war results in widespread death and long term suffering. Life, justice, happiness, and other such values are meaningless when you are dead or when your day-to-day survival is marked by endless suffering. The magnitude of my impacts outweigh all other considerations. You should prefer the side which eliminates the risk of nuclear war and avoids these terrible impacts."


The Value Criterion

The value criterion is one of the most important parts of the value framework upon which the case is built.  The purpose of the value criterion is to give the judge the standard which she should use to evaluate the case.  Consider the round where the affirmative and negative side each have the same value.  In fact, one never knows going into the round if that will be situation or not.  If the judge is faced with debater 'A' defending life and debater 'N' defending life, how does the judge pick a winner?  The obvious way is on the basis of which debater does the best job of defending life and how that is measured is by applying the supplied value criterion.  For example, debater 'A' tells the judge, "my value is life, which is the most important value so you should vote for the side which reduces the risk of nuclear annihilation, because only by reducing the risk of nuclear annihilation do we protect the value of life".  Debater 'N' may say, "My value is also life, the most important value of the  round, and you should vote for the side which deters war because by deterring war, more lives will be saved."  Thus we see two different criteria seeking to protect life, now the judge can determine based on the facts of the cases, which side succeeds.  On one side the evaluation is based upon the fact that wars will happen but without nukes there can be no annihilation, the other side is saying nukes prevent wars from starting in the first place.

In classic LD debate, the value criterion then serves as a weighing mechanism for the judge. It takes the form of, "the side which best accomplishes such and such, will best achieve the value of..."  In order to be fair in classic LD, that "such and such" criterion must be doable by both sides.  It is the only way a judge can weigh which side does it better. Of course, each debater is free to choose any desired criteria and nothing says you must chose a criterion that is equally winnable by both sides.  Obviously you will want to choose a criterion which suits your case and favors your position.  But if you choose a criterion that cannot be used by the opponent, it will reduce the clash which is expected in a competitive event.

The Clash

Obviously, since the LD judge is being asked to use the value criterion of each side as a standard for evaluating a winner, it is logical to assume both debaters will clash over the value criterion.  In the example given about nuclear disarmament, debater 'N' will use the debater 'A' value criterion and claim "I also reduce the risk of nuclear annihilation through deterrence, protecting life while at the same time possessing a powerful incentive to negotiate peace treaties which protects even more life." Conversely, debater 'A' may claim, "my opponent's criterion is deterring war but I also deter war.  If both sides have no nuclear weapons it does not mean that war is inevitable as history proves.  There is deterrence through conventional weapons, diplomatic incentives and globalization. which is just as effective in protecting lives".

Debate implies there will be clash. Judges expect clash and will be very quick to criticize the lack of clash on their ballots.  I think, quite often when there is no clash in the round it arises from two possible causes.  One, there may not be clear standards enumerated by the debaters or second, the debaters may simply fail to center the debate around the declared standards.

Attacking the V/VC

So let us assume you are getting it and you are understanding how to set up a V/VC framework in your case and you understand its purpose.  It is also important to understand how to debate it.  Of course your entire advocacy is centered around maintaining your framework in the face of opposition.  There are several useful strategies for attacking the opponent's V/VC framework.  First and foremost, and only if the opponent's value is not the same as yours, you can attempt to show how your value is the superior value.  For example you could argue there is no reason to prefer life if there can be no justice or what good is justice if there is no safety.  But don't just say it, explain it to the judge.  Another useful technique is to absorb the opponent's value or claim your side is preferred because not only do you achieve your own value which the opponent can not, but you also achieve the opponent's value.  Finally you can attempt to show the opponent is incapable of achieving her own value or at least incapable of achieving it to a significant degree.

When looking at the opponent's value criterion it is useful to try to prove the opponent's VC fails to achieve the opponent's value.  For example, "my opponent's value criterion is deterring war and he claims that possessing nuclear weapons deters war and yet, my case has shown that nuclear states continue to be involved in wars, and the possession of nuclear weapons is not an effective means to deter war thus he fails to achieve his value".  Another effective strategy is show how the opponent's VC also links to your own value and by meeting his standard, your own value is supported.  If you can couple this argument with the claim the other side's VC is ineffective in achieving the other side's value, you will deliver a powerful one-two punch.



18 comments:

  1. I am in my second year of Lincoln-Douglas Debate. I really liked your list of LD values. Could you make a list of LD criteria. I know that it would help me and the novice on my team. Thanks!

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    1. Doing a list of criteria is not so easy. The criteria is very dependent on the case and can literally be just about anything that connects the case to the value. Some criteria get repeated by students but they are not always effective because they sound "canned". I will give it some thought.

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. I am glad you find the blog useful. The "undefeatable" case is an elusive fantasy. In fact the case is only about 25% of what it takes to win. Instead you should concentrate on becoming a topic expert (both pro and con); learn how to make good, fully warranted arguments; be well prepared with possible answers to opponent challenges; and practice, practice, practice. There are no substitutes for work. Sorry.

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  3. hi do you still respond even a year after? i need some help

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    1. I am on hiatus for the summer but I still monitor user comments. If it's a simple question, I can help, but if it requires research, I will not be doing any research until later in the year.

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    2. my topic is whether or not the US can use military force to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons from countries that are a military force. My value is self defense, but i cant think of any criterion. Can you think of any on the spot. This is my first LD debate and I am somewhat lost. Thanks!

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    3. Coming up with a criterion is difficult since I don't know your case but I can make some suggestions. Consider changing your value to security. Security is at the lower tiers of Maslow's hierarchy of needs and is essential to human prosperity. It is a true value. It is then possible to uphold security through self-defense or preemptive actions which protect security. Of course, there is the legal aspect of proper use of self-defense which may be bothersome in a debate round but I think you can make a reasonable argument that nuclear weapons in the hands of certain parties may be deemed a legitimate threat in which preemptive self-defense is warranted.

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  4. I'm really loving your resources for my 2nd year coaching.

    I'm wondering how this fits in with all these cases that I see that utilize a philosophy like "utilitarianism" as a value-criterion. Frankly, your description makes far more sense and I think I can better teach it to my students, but it's not necessarily what I'm seeing locally.

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    1. Considering that utilitarianism is a kind of moral philosophy which provides a mechanism to know if an action is moral, it could be considered a criterion. But moral philosophies make horrible values, in my personal opinion. Having said that, util can be very difficult in cases where one must determine correct or moral actions for an individual based upon a standard of utility because a clever opponent will have a handful of very difficult dilemmas which can easily confound a util moralist. On the other hand, util is a very good standard for determining if a government or collective entity is moral or good. Note, these opinions are based on what we hear in our local circuit which may be quite different in other districts and very often in our circuit students don't get it. I hope this answers your question.

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  5. this is my LD resolution, when in conflict, an individual's right of self-determination ought to be valued above public health concerns. Does this involve just health issues or health and other issues? Also, what are some values I can use? I have privacy, individualism so far

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    1. Since the resolution says, when in conflict, it is clear to me the conflict can only occur in the intersection of the two domains; that is, self-determination and health concerns. That pretty much limits the debate to self-determination with respect to public health concerns. However, health concerns can be the full spectrum of public health issues, including disease, pregnancy, suicide, substance abuse, sustenance provisions, environmental issues and probably any of the health concerns arising from war, revolution, or other acts of governments in so far as any those concerns may conflict with self-determination. AFF values can include autonomy, property (rights), dignity, health. NEG values can include duty of governments, common good, community, social well-being, health.

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  6. Hi there, I seem to be having some trouble with this resolution. Resolved: In the United States criminal justice system, jury nullification ought to be used in the face of perceived injustice. I have chosen the values justice and security for the AFF and NEG, respectively. However, my main issue lies with the formation of a criterion for my case. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Nathan. Without knowing your case it is difficult to answer. I will be detailing Aff and Neg positions on the topic within the week. If you can't wait until then, my suggestion is summarize into one sentence, how your case supports your value. Embedded in that summary you will probably find your criterion.

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  7. Mr. Kellams,
    Your site has helped me a lot with debate. I'm a novice, currently writing my aff case for the current LD resolution (adolescents ought to have the right to make autonomous medical choices). My value is Liberty, but I can't think of a suitable criterion. Do you have any quick suggestions? Much appreciated, thank you.

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  8. I'm not sure if many experienced debaters are currently active on this site, but if you are, please help me! My question is: How do I find evidence that my value should be valued above all others? In this case, my value is human life. Any response would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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