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Throughout the Years debate has been a constantly changing process. Essentially, time limits have been the only static element in an activity that has in many ways changed radically. Today, for example, the comparative advantages case and turnarounds to disadvantages are accepted practices in the activity. These changes in the process have had the effect of increasing the probability of affirmative victory. The debate community has also continuously selected broad topics which tend to concede yet more ground to the affirmative. It is often very difficult for negatives to find a counterplan which is generic or nontopical under a wide topic. Often the innovations in the debate process result from a perceived imbalance in the activity. The comparative advantages-case, turnarounds, add-ons and broad topic have evolved because there was a need to increase the likelihood of affirmative victory. These changes in the activity have attained their objective. At the championship level of high school debate it is not uncommon to find the affirmative winning a decisive percentage of rounds. This imbalance is heightened in rounds judged by college debaters. often the negative debater finds him/herself dumbfounded by a judge's, decision. Many judges vote affirmative in instances either when the affirmative has minimal significance or because of a negative failure to win a disadvantage. The time has come to rectify this imbalance, and increase the likelihood of negative decisions. The negative must attempt to regain the ground lost to the affirmative because of changes in debate. One alternative that merits thought by the disgruntled negative debater and his/her coach is the "topical counterplan." The concept is quite simple -- the negative is allowed to argue topical counterplans to the affirmative examples. This would allow the negative to suggest that a different branch of the federal government should be the agent implementing the change, or that an alternative change would be a superior alternative to that advocated by the affirmative. The standard for comparing the systems is the competitiveness of the two alternatives in question. At this point, I would like to stress that the negative should not use the topical counterplan, or any counterplan unless they are competitive with the affirmative policy alternative (see Steve Mancuso's article for a discussion of competitiveness). Although the strategy

chosen should be adapted to the specific team and judge in question, the topical counterplan does serve to markedly increase the choice of options available to the negative. This essay will outline traditional arguments against the topical counterplan, respond to the arguments, and provide a rationale for the topical counterplan. An affirmative may object to a topical counterplan by claiming that the function of the activity is to discuss the merits of adopting the resolution. 1/ With this perspective, the affirmative woul7 assert that any acceptance of the resolution dictates an affirmative ballot. In reality, we have not debated the merits of the resolution for years. With the advent of policy debate, the debater found him/herself discussing the values of an affirmative example. The policy systems paradigm expects the affirmative to defend an example, not the entire set of examples contained within the topic. Debate resolutions are so broad that there is very little value in endorsing them in their totality. After a year of debating a resolution a logical conclusion would be that some of the examples are valid and others are not. Therefore, how could one evaluate the truth of the resolution? Does one count the total number of true and false examples, or sum the advantages and disadvantages of all examples of the resolution? This is hardly an exercise with any intellectual value or real world application. Secondly, since debate resolutions are policy propositions, they are never "true" or "false" (this is a function of a proposition of fact) -- they are desirable or undesirable based on the system of values adopted. The more specific a policy alternative is, the more thoroughly its desirability can be evaluated, hence debating specific plans are preferable to debating general resolutions. To open the discussion to the value of the entire resolution would subject the debate community to superficial analysis, such as counter warrants. The problems of this approach were aptly pointed out by Ulrich and Keeshan in their most recent article. 2/ Counter warrants tend to reduce the clash in any given round. The negative merely has to guess which of the infinite number of resolutional alternatives the affirmative has failed to show are desirable. The policy presented in first affirmative becomes secondary to the convoluted disadvantages presented in second negative. This policy (counter warrants) reduces the clash in the round to the responses delivered in IAR and the answers provided in 2NR. Another argument in support of the resolution serving as the basis for discussion is

that it divides the ground between the affirmative and the negative. This position makes an implicit assumption that there is an intrinsic value or direction to a resolution. As recent topics have pointed out, there does not necessarily have to be direction in a resolution. Under the energ .y topic, for example, one affirmative could increase the use of nuclear power and another affirmative team could embody the resolution by banning it. The trade topic allowed the affirmative to either increase or decrease protectionism. This year an affirmative could change the due process requirements of PL94-142 (Handicapped Education Act) which would increase parental influence over education. A second affirmative team could reduce parental influence over schools by protecting school libraries from censorship. In debate the affirmative alternative and the resolution are no longer synonymous. The assumption that the resolution divides the affirmative and negative springs from the belief that the affirmative example and the resolution are one. The lack of direction in topics renders this assumption meaningless. This non-directionality of resolutions leaves the negative with very little non-topical ground to argue from. The more options the resolution encompasses, the less negative choice there is. Non-directionality renders suspect the idea that the resolution can be affirmed even as a broadly ideological statement. If examples of the resolution diametrically contradict each other in terms of their effects and underlying values, the logical and analytic feasibility of endorsing the resolution as a whole seems rather tenuous. Such contradictory examples suggest that the resolution is already being used as a problem area to be discussed, rather than as an actual statement meriting consideration in their own right. A second objection of the topical counterplan is that affirmative topicality and negative non-topicality serve as absolute rules of the game. Regardless of the merits of a given resolution, the burdens of topicality and non-topicality remain with the combatants. The affirmative would claim that without this rule debate could not commence. This position assumes that the burdens of topicality are analogous to the ethical burdens assumed in a falsification question. Falsification is a clearly ethical question, and an absolute rule which is deserving of its position in debate hierarchy. Topicality, however, differs dramatically from falsification. For a discussion of topicality entails argumentative clash, not an absolute rules question. There is nothing intrinsic to the presentation of an argumentative position that can be considered as a violation of any ethical code. Topicality is the last in a long line of absolute voting

issues. The practices of plans in second affirmative only and debaters maintaining the same speaker positions serve as additional proof of how "absolute rules" evolve to little more than amusing historical anecdotes. A third objection to the topical counterplan is the loss of the inquiry and research functions of debate. I believe the opposite would result with the advent of the topical counterplan. The affirmative debater and his/her coach would have to consider all alternatives to their example of the resolution. The out-of-round kibbitzing that occurs amongst members of the debate community would be enhanced by the introduction of the topical counterplan. Students would not discuss fully all the possible alternatives to the problem they isolate. Resolutions would no longer shield the ill-prepared debater from meaningful discussion. The affirmative would be forced to fully discuss and research the policy they present in a round. However, the team would not be compelled to research an unlimited area, for the topic itself would serve to limit the focus of study. The introduction of topical counterplans into the debate process would not relieve the negative from its research burden that results from a wide topic. The negative team could not offer the same counterplan round after round, for the option presented must be competitive with that presented by the affirmative. The negative cannot offer any federal/national alternative to the example cited by the affirmative. The standards of competitiveness would demand that distinct policies be compared. Constrained by a standard of competitiveness, the negative will be forced to research the problem area more thoroughly. A fourth objection to the topical counterplan is that it would allow the negative to make minor alterations in the affirmative plan. By subjecting debate to the consideration of minor alterations, the real world implications of debate would be lost. I do not believe that the topical counterplan would reduce debate to the mere exchange of trivial facts and figures. If the alternative presented by the negative does not compete with the example claimed in first affirmative, there is no reason why the affirmative could not incorporate the minor alterations into their plan, or why both plans could not be adopted simultaneously. In a round where a topical counterplan is introduced, it would be assumed that presumption would be with the affirmative interpretation. For it is the affirmative that

defines the problem area by presenting their interpretation of the resolution in the first affirmative. The affirmative policy option serves as the basis of discussion, thus it gains presumption. Just as in a traditional debate round it is assumed the status quo will resolve a problem, in a round in which a topical counterplan is presented the affirmative plan serves as the best solution to a problem until it can be proven to be inferior. It is the negative's responsibility to prove that there is a significant difference between their policy and the affirmative's. This criticism is analogous to the situation where an affirmative proposes an arguably insignificant alteration from the present system their example of the resolution. The debate community has accepted cases with less and less significance as "reasonable" interpretations of the re solution. At the 1981 collegiate National Debate Tournament, for example, a case that attempted to find one supposedly dead man in Russia was considered worthy of an hour's discussion. It should be apparent that the problem of what is significantly different" is not on that the negative has forced upon debate. In any given round the judges could stipulate that to be legitimate a counterplan must be substantially different from the affirmative alternative. This standard is no softer than many others employed in debate and it serves to address the problem of trivial changes. If the negative does not envelop itself in a quagmire of trivial argument serious discussion of regulatory issues would be enhanced by the topical counterplan. For example the negative could propose a judicial solution to a problem in a resolution which dictated federal action. The approach taken to solve a problem is often as important as is the-discussion of the effects of a given policy. Raising the issue of administration would also force the affirmative to defend the plan particulars presented in first affirmative. Perhaps the discussion of significance that would ensue with the acceptance of the topical counterplan could serve to clarify the "presumption" question. (At what level of change does one accept an alternative solution to the problem area?) The advantage to debate from the acceptance of a topical counterplan is enhanced clash in rounds. With the ability to choose the best of options negative ground is reasserted. For example, under the energy topic if the affirmative instituted nuclear power the negative could now offer solar power as an alternative to solving the energy crunch. Presently the negative is often forced to defend inferior non-resolutional alternatives. To preclude the negative from advocating a competitive topical

alternative may very well beg the real policy questions. Many a judge has found him/herself listening to a noncompetitive position, including the foundation and study counterplan. The judge is forced to serve as head of a national foundation, or the lead researcher for the National Academy of Sciences. Jurisdictional problems and tedious fiat questions would be removed from debate. The topical counterplan could serve as the rationale for rejection of the affirmative example. Even if judges lack the jurisdiction to implement a topical counterplan (a somewhat preposterous judgment since s/he is assumed to have the ability to implement a topical plan), the counterplan is still a reason reject the affirmative plan. By this rationale the affirmative plan should be sent back to the committee ( and personally rejected) until it is given in its optimal form. The topical counterplan mitigates against the huge advantage that is provided affirmative by directionless topics. The negatives would now enjoy the same educational benefits of a wide topic that the affirmative currently enjoys. The enhancement of the policy making paradigm in debate is also a justification for the topical counterplan. Lichtman and Rohrer note: "The process of policy argument inherently requires a comparison of Policy systems to determine their relative merit." 3/ In this Paradigm the affirmative team wins the judge's ballot if their policy Option is superior to other options. Action is taken only after it can be proven that the policy in question is superior to all other alternatives. 4/ In a comparison of policy choices, the topical counterplan allows the negative to engage in meaningful argumentation, as it removes frivolous discourse from the round. The artificial constraints of the topic often reduce the negative to defending inconsistent and often unthinkable alternatives. The topical counterplan in many cases would make the notion of fifty states acting in union less attractive. The debates would resolve around a discussion of two probable alternatives to a problem. Even if they choose to propose a topical alternative, a smart negative team would not so readily concede the issue of topicality, regardless of the arguments presented in defense of topical counterplans. The negative should present a standard of reasonableness in determining the non-topicality of a counterplan. The standard for reasonableness states that all a negative need be is non-topicality of a counterplan. The standard of reasonableness states that all a negative need be is topical at some level. In

recent years, the standard of reasonableness has come to be accepted norm in determining the topicality of the affirmative plan. To be fair to the negative team, a similar standard of topicality should apply to both sides of the advocacy question. Essentially, there exists three justifications for a standard of reasonableness. First, there is no one correct interpretation of the resolution, therefore, application of one set standard would vary and be arbitrary -from round to round. The negative, like the affirmative, need only provide a reasonable definition of the proposition. A second justification is that a wide topic enhances the]educational function of debate. Although there are problems with this concept, the benefits derived are enormous. The student learns about a wide range of subjects, and hopefully not at the expense of argumentative depth. The solution to the problems incurred by a wide topic is not found in a return to more sterile topics but rather an alteration in today's Sys tem. Should the topical counterplan be unacceptable, a loose standard of reasonableness for counterplans would seem to be appropriate. A final. justification as to why the negative can offer a "reasonably" non-topical counterplan is that the judge grants an advocate presumption in terms of the ground on which s/he stands. Thus, the counterplan would only have to be Don-topical at one of several levels that would be presented by the negative in a round. A strict standard (meaning any hint of topical implications) of topicality would be an unfair standard to impose upon the negative. A counterplan should be accepted if it is reasonably non-topical or simply topical by effects. If a problem lies entirely within the jurisdiction of the federal government, any solution to the Problem would be considered topical. For example, if the topic called for alteration in Human Services by the federal government, the negative would be limited in their position against a Social Security case. Social Security falls only within the jurisdiction of the federal government and the federal topic could prohibit the negative from any federal agent. The negative would be reduced to a defense of the present system. Any counter action by the negative would effect the federal jurisdiction over Social Security, thus it would be topical. By the effects standard, a negative team could never win a counterplan unless topical alternatives were allowed. The effects standard also tends to be extremely subjective. The effects standard requires some level Of solvency before topicality can be determined. The judge must determine the level of solvency the counterplan achieves and determine if that

solvency level is significant, before the question of counterplan topicality is addressed. This standard allows a semi-short counterplan to be topical one round and not the next, thereby leading excessive subjective argumentation into the debate setting. As stated earlier, the affirmative team ha, been gaining more of an advantage from recent debate theory applications. The topical counterplan could be a useful tool for the negative in gaining loss ground during the present era of broad topic . A questioning of the theoretical underpinnings of counterplan topicality finds them to be extremely suspect, as they increasingly assure affirmative success at the expense of the theory-bound negative team. The topical counterplan would seem to enhance competition and make for better debate. Notes 1/ James W. Paulsen and Jack L. Rhodes, "The Counter-Warrant as Negative Strategy: A Modest Proposal," The Journal of the American Forensic Association, XV. (Spring, 1979), page 205. 2/ Marjorie Keeshan and Walter Ulrich, "A Critique of the Counter-Warrant as a negative Strategy," Journal of the American Forensic Association, 7 (Winter, 1980), p. 199. 3/ Allan J. Lichtman and Daniel M. Rohrer, "A General Theory of the counterplan," The Journal of the American Forensic Association, XII: 2 (Fall , 1975), p. 72. 4/ Ibid.