2Outline WHAT is topicality? WHY does topicality matter? HOW is topicality debated and WHEN should I read it?HOW is topicality answered?5. HOW do judges determine the winner of a Topicality debate?
3What is topicality?Topicality is the practice of defining and interpreting the words in the resolution
4WHAT IS TOPICALITY?This year’s resolution: Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially decrease its military and/or police presence in one or more of the following: Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, Kuwait, Turkey and/or South Korea.
5WHAT IS TOPICALITY? Topicality is structured in 4 parts – Interpretation – our interpretation of (the word in the resolution) is that it means (whatever you think it means). This is supported by (the definition) .Definitions are found in dictionaries, policy analysis and legislation.
6WHAT IS TOPICALITY?B. Violation – The reason the Affirmative doesn’t meet your interpretation. Examples – *’Substantially reduce’– A substantial reduction is 90% - - the plan leaves more than 10% of troops. *Military and police presence – The plan removes bases, not troops, and troops are military presence.
7Why DOES topicality MATTER? “Limited agreement is the starting condition of contest and debate. There can be no argument except…within a context of agreement. Contest is meaningless if there is a lack of agreement about what is being contested. Debaters must have some shared ideas about the terms of their disagreements.” – Shively
8WHY DOES TOPICALITY MATTER? C. Standards and Voting Issues – Standards represent WHY topicality matters. A few standards/voting issues are particularly popular; 1. Predictability – their Aff is based on an unpredictable understanding of the resolution. Without being able to predict the Aff, we can’t research or prepare. Debates without research or preparation are less educational and fair.
9WHY does topicality matter? 2. Ground – since their affirmative isn’t based on the resolution, we lose the ability to read our best arguments. This hurts equity because they artificially claim the best ground for themselves and exclude our best arguments. 3. Education – their interpretation of the topic removes debates about the most relevant and valuable parts of the topic. We do debate to learn, which means this is the greatest offense imaginable.
10WHY DOES TOPICALITY MATTER? 4. Fairness (also known as competitive equity) – Their interpretation would allow the Aff to do anything and the Neg very little to say in response. The topic is supposed to evenly and fairly divide ground. 5. Limits – our interpretation sets a clear, reasonable limit for what is and isn’t topical. Limits are good because they ensure predictable, fair ground for both sides.
11WHY DOES TOPICALITY MATTER? 6. EXTRA Topicality – the affirmative does things BEYOND the resolution, which are unpredictable and unfair. Example: they add a tax to fund the plan. 7. EFFECTS Topicality – although the EFFECT of the plan would be a reduction in military presence, its immediate action isn’t topical. Example: Banning the military would result in a removal of military presence.
12WHY DOES TOPICALITY MATTER? The most important reason … A judge’s jurisdiction is to affirm or reject the resolution. It is an affirmative burden to be prove the resolution true. If the Affirmative isn’t topical, it isn’t within a judge’s jurisdiction to vote on and the Aff loses.
13How is topicality run?It is run as an ‘off case’ position in the 1NC. It looks likeInterpretation – substantial means 90% <insert evidence for definition>Violation – they only reduce 50% of U.S. military presence.Standards –GroundEducation, etc
14WHEN SHOULD I READ TOPICALITY? When an affirmative is cheating or you think they might cheat – examples: “Our affirmative is too small to trigger the link,” “Our affirmative doesn’t effect troops which means it isn’t controversial,” etc.When the rest of your strategy is inefficient – topicality isn’t a mean accusation; it’s a tool in an arsenal of arguments.
15WHEN SHOULD I READ TOPICALITY? 3. When you want a Plan B – sometimes things don’t work out. Having a backup argument that you could win the debate on alone is incredibly helpful. 4. When you want to put time pressure on the 2AC – topicality can be very confusing, and takes time to understand and answer. Remember – Topicality is a no-risk option. If an Aff proves they’re topical, it only proves they’ve met their burden, not that the plan is a good idea.
16HOW IS TOPICALITY ANSWERED? The 2AC is commonly structured to make the four following arguments –“We meet” – our affirmative is an example of their interpretation, not a violation of it.Examples: We actually do remove 90% of presence, we do remove the bases as well, etc.
17HOW IS TOPICALITY ANSWERED? 2. Counter-interpretation – instead of interpreting the word to mean X, we should interpret it to mean why.Examples: Substantial is 50%, not 90%.Military presence is just troops, not bases.
18HOW IS TOPICALITY ANSWERED? 3. Our interpretation is better than their’s – it creates better ground, it’s more fair, it’s more educational, etc. Common comparisons include – They over-limit the topic, learning about more issues is better, they only focus on negative ground and not affirmative ground, etc.
19HOW IS TOPICALITY ANSWERED? 4. Their argument isn’t a reason to reject us –Potential abuse isn’t a voter – even if we could’ve cheated, we didn’t. We shouldn’t be punished for what we didn’t do.We’re reasonably topical – even if we don’t meet the BEST interpretation, we meet a good one, and good is good enough. Topicality is an all-or-nothing issue, meaning we should be very careful before excluding an entire area from the topic.
20HOW DO JUDGES DETERMINE THE WINNER? The classic decision is made between competing interpretations and reasonability. Competing interpretations means that the judge looks at the reasons to prefer the Neg’s interpretation and the reasons to prefer the Aff’s interpretation and determines which is best. Why is this good? It’s the most objective way to determine Topicality.
21HOW DO JUDGES DETERMINE THE WINNER? Reasonability has two common meanings; The more common, but less effective version, amounts to “good is good enough.” This means that if the Aff is reasonably topical, they should win. The less well-known but more developed version is that it would be unreasonable to exclude good literature.