This part two of a series - for part 1 click here.
The V/VC FrameworkAs 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.
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.
Standards of Measure
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.
Judging the Value
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 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.
The Value Criterion
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 ClashObviously, 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/VCSo 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.