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Theory in LD Debate Seminar Presented by Eric Melin and Jenn Miller for TSCA 2009

Explanation of a Theory Shell


Many thanks to Ari Parker whose explanation we, at times, borrowed below. Interpretation: Your interpretation of what counts as a fair or educational debate. Usually labeled as A Be specific!

Violation: This is where you articulate something your opponent is doing that violates your interpretation of what is fair or educational.

Standards: Theory standards operate similarly to case standards: both provide a criterion for measuring whether and to what degree an aim (a value like justice, or a theory concern as articulated in the voter, e.g. fairness) is being met. This should be the heart and soul of any theory argument. The best theory standards will establish three things: 1) The standard itself 2) The harms that come from violating the standard.

3) Why offense to this standard outweighs offense to other standards

Theory in LD Debate Seminar Presented by Eric Melin and Jenn Miller for TSCA 2009 *Standards debate should collapse down to a handful of possible standards: -Strategy skew: A strategy skew results from an unequal ratio of time to burdens

-Ground skew: Ground skew occurs when you are given either less ground or worse ground than your opponent

-Predictability (pre-round): Predictability deals with whether a position was sufficiently predictable before the round whether your opponent could see it coming

-Advocacy Shift (i.e. predictability in round): Supposedly, a position violates the advocacy shift standard if it allows a debater to change their advocacy in the next speech, hence making it unpredictable which position they will go for in the round.

Voter: The voter should establish two things:

1.Warrant the overarching goal we are trying to achieve when we seek to ensure that a round is
theoretically legitimate (this is akin to a value)

2.The impact of winning the theory argument.

Theory in LD Debate Seminar Presented by Eric Melin and Jenn Miller for TSCA 2009

Sample Shell: Multiple Necessary But Not Sufficient Arguments Bad


A) INTERPRETATION: Multiple necessary but not sufficient arguments are bad. B) VIOLATION: By running multiple necessary but not sufficient arguments (list a few from the flow) my opponent has skewed the round to her advantage. C) STANDARD: STRATEGY SKEW Allowing my opponent to run a ton of no-risk arguments skews my strategy on several levels: 1. This activity requires that a debater is allowed to clash with her opponents argumentation, but my opponents strategy circumvents this by forcing me to clash with every argument on the flow while she gets to pick one issue to go for later on. This puts me at an unfair disadvantage because I cant develop a cohesive strategy and positional responses when Im forced to fragment my time in X (where X equals number of multiple necessaries but not sufficients) directions whereas my opponent can devote all her time for the rest of the round in the position she chooses to go for. Her arguments should substantively be better than mine on the position she goes for because she gets more speech time to develop her arguments and she gets the benefit of waiting for me to mess up before declaring her strategy. In contrast, my strategy of defending one position is more fair for debate because it allows for clear clash and more equal time distribution-Im either winning my thesis or Im not.

2. There are an infinite number of arguments that question resolutional assumptions that she can
choose her multiple positions from, and I have no way to know before the round which part of infinity she will choose to advocate. This is problematic because it makes pre-round topical research useless to me because Im stuck defending the resolutions assumptions in addition to the resolution, and my opponent can win on whatever argument Im doing the worst on; I have to do a lot more to win than my opponent does because of their strategy. I have to give more time in answering each argument than she gave in developing them; and whichever one I will inevitably undercover (because of time constraints) shell pursue as the most important issue in her next speech. Their strategy puts me in a very uncomfortable double-bind: either I debate the multiple positions in which case I will grossly undercover (because of time-constraints) or I run this theory shell and waste a lot of my time just to make sure she doesnt abuse me later; regardless Im prevented from making substantive arguments that could have won me the round. So REAL abuse has already occurred in the round and the only way to rectify it is to vote on fairness. Strategy skew is the most important standard in the round because if I debate the round with a tactical disadvantage then your ballot no longer represents who did the better debating, but rather who did the best job ensuring no debate could occur. D) VOTER: FAIRNESS You vote on theory because: Fairness is of primary concern in competitive activities like debate because structural disadvantages to one player make playing the game unappealing for that player. For example, I wouldnt want to play football with you if all my touchdowns counted for 4 points and yours counted for 6. We should seek to encourage fair strategies in debate to keep the competitive integrity of the game. Voting down this strategy sends the message that it is unacceptable for future use. Additionally, I have proved real in round abuse in this round which necessitates that you vote on fairness because otherwise you are accepting that it is okay to unfairly skew my strategy and make it harder for me to win than my opponent.

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