Reforming Lincoln Douglas Debate – Part II

Building upon the assumptions addressed in Part I, I think we should revisit the purpose of LD debate to make sure any proposals are consistent with the intent of the format. Citing from the ever disparaged Wikipedia (but sufficient for our discussion here): Lincoln Douglas debate (commonly abbreviated as LD Debate, or simply LD) is sometimes also called values debate because it traditionally places a heavy emphasis on logic, ethical values, and philosophy.
Lincoln-Douglas Debate
While LD claims to have that values and philosophy emphasis, my argument is that the current 32-minute format (not including prep) with speed/compression highly discouraged in many circuits does not allow for sufficient discovery in logic, ethical values and philosophy. Instead of advocating speed, which many would argue would further alienate the format from its audience (as well as leaving it little more than 1-person CX kritik debate), I propose a different direction: restructure the speech format and provide an appropriate amount of time for deeper discovery.

Before presenting my model, I should detail some observations I’ve made in judging rounds about how time is actually used so that we can seek optimization as well as expansion. Simply doubling speech times will not help us if the structure is inefficient. Some consistent findings include:

  • First speeches: AC is canned as expected, and so is 50% to 70% of the NC. As introductory speeches, both need to state the debater’s position, major arguments and framework respective to the resolution and the debate.
  • Cross-Ex: I’ve seen some make effective use but in almost every round judged, I feel as if at least a minute of time was unnecessary. Never have I felt time pressure in cross-ex.
  • Rebuttals: The current format is problematic for the Aff, splitting its time as book-ends around a seven minute negative rebuttal. The aff has no capacity to provide any meaningful analysis and depth.

Given those dynamics, I’ve drafted out a model which I believe optimizes some of the inefficiencies while providing expansion in areas to encourage greater depth so that ethical analysis and the discussion of logic and philosophy can occur at a more substantial level.

Model: Values-60 Format (Lincoln Douglas Debate, 60 minute one-person debate)

Time allocation:
AFF: 20 minutes
NEG: 20 minutes
CX: 10 minutes
PREP: 10 minutes (5 per team)

Model dynamics:
1. Shortened Initial Affirmatives: Canned constructive speeches can be done in a shorter duration in order to allow for depth and exploration in later speeches. The initial constructives are intended as opening speeches to state each speaker’s position.
2. Second Constructives: Provide both Aff and Neg constructive speech time to introduce arguments. In LD today, the Aff can never truly respond constructively to a Neg’s position with new, critical arguments against their position, seriously impairing debate. Indeed, how can LD support a values approach that declares no presumption to either side when the affirmative has no capacity to ever constructively address the Negative values? Second constructives are critical to viable LD.
3. Shortened initial CX: These initial blocks are for clarification on definitions and cases, as well as to ensure clash on the second affirmatives.
4. Extended rebuttals: With a single debater being given times in rebuttal greater than policy, the need for speed should be reduced. No longer a constructive round, spread should be contained by the extent of ground established in the constructives. Instead, extensive analysis of the values and underlying philosophical framework should be encouraged with this time.

Speech Distribution
1AC (5 min): Opening speech for the affirmative outlining their position in the round.
CX (2 min): Clarification of definitions, case, etc. on the Aff case.
1NC (5 min): Opening speech for the negative outlining their position in the round.
CX (2 min): Clarification for the Aff on the Neg case.
2AC (6 min): Aff constructive development and responses to Neg. Aff should begin framing the core issues for the round in their framework.
CX (3 min)
2NC (7 min): Neg constructive development and responses to Aff. Neg should be selecting its core issues within its framework to carry into rebuttals.
CX (3 min)
1AR (4 min): First affirmative rebuttal to provide rebuttal analysis.
NR (8 min): Negative rebuttal to provide analysis and then give judging rationale.
2AR (5 min): Second affirmative rebuttal to wrap up analysis vs. neg rebuttal and provide its judging rationale.

Total speaking time for each debater: 20 minutes (compared to 13 minutes per individual in CX).

Goal: Through the format outlined above, it would be intended that following the introduction of both debaters cases, second constructives allow each debater to take off the gloves and get into the debate round. The opponents case should be fully examined (given the time, a direct refutation is possible, leaving several minutes for analysis and comparison to their case). Those speeches alone should encourage clash and separate readers from debaters. In the 1AR, the affirmative has a short time to give their input on where the round is at following the second constructive exploration, giving the judge their perception on what major issues the debate is focused on. The negative has a single rebuttal, giving it both the analysis time of the 1AR and the round framework (“voters” but hopefully in a more developed format than many rounds tend to express in the current short-timeframe model) advanced by the negative. This leaves the final affirmative rebuttal, limited by the time budget to specifically advancing its framework and having brief differentiation between its model and that of the negative.


5 responses to “Reforming Lincoln Douglas Debate – Part II

  1. I just read the response to this on a facebook group, so I apologize in advance for being late to comment. I really do like the framework of your style. As a current LDer on a midwest circuit (SW MO) who has finished in finals 5/6 tournaments, I’ve had just about more rounds than anyone this year. And I do have problems with the format. On the current AFF, the flow is left up for grabs, trying to cover a 3 1/2 min neg case and respond to their arguements against yours in a 4 min rebuttal. As far as the neg goes, the flow helps, bit it sucks watching your opponent give the last 3 minute speech, but that can’t be avoided. As far as your structure goes, I do like it, but maybe a minute shorter or two on the 2AC’s, or let neg 2AC remain the same and drop the second rebuttal time to make the times equivocal. That’s just my opinion however, as a 50 minute LD might be much, and if a change were to occur in LD, speeches shouldn’t be going 8 minutes, as to make the actual talking engaging, instead of redundant. As much as I despise PF debating, the shorter speech times to make it interesting to watch, though it does leave one feeling empty.

    • Thanks for the comments Stewart. I’m curious how the circuit is down in SW Missouri. We’re in extreme SW Iowa and subsequently compete predominantly in Omaha and Des Moines.

      50 minutes for a round is pushing it a bit, and I think you’re right that some shaving could go on some of the speeches. Actual speaking time was only 20 minutes per side. Having talked about the model with some other LD coaches at Iowa’s state this weekend, I found the aspect of most interest was the inclusion of the extra constructives, giving the affirmative a chance to actually engage the negative on the constructive side of the round and giving the negative further opportunity to react and explore other ground. This could lead to some interesting consequences I didn’t really explore but see consistently in policy (e.g. “new in two” which I hear abuse claims of constantly yet remind debaters that it wasn’t that long ago that 1NC was “on-case” and 2NC was “off-case”).

      How much do you tend to use cross-ex time? I’m rarely seeing more than 2 of the 3 minutes used, even in elimination rounds. I’d love to see more offense in cross-ex other than “ok, what was your second contention” especially when we’re not seeing policy speeds. Incidentally, what is the speed like for LD in SW Missouri?

  2. Well, the SW MO district is very tough. For starters, we have (in the past few years) consistenly had top 5 finishes come from the district. The LD speeds, in Champ LD, aren’t near the speed reading that policy provides, but it is definately read quickly, especially in outrounds. To better answer though, you CANNOt flow the speed if you haven’t done flowing exercises. Simply put, that is.

    As far as Cross-Examination goes, a lot of people outside the larger schools do waste minutes of time asking ‘and tagline for this was..’ questions. In outrounds it gets much better, and you see deep questions specifically targeted at philosophies, moral judgements, arguments, etc, and many can get quite intense.

    As far as the whole district goes though, we are philosophy heavy, do very little resolution Kritiques, and only use evidence when providing support for statistical claims, generally. We’re very much true to the ‘value’ part of the debate.

    The extra constructives though are the part I do like best, and while 50 minutes might be much, I do think enhancing the time to 40+ would be extremely beneficial, because I see debaters all the time miss out on key points due to time, or are forced to speed reading, which takes away from the debate itself. Overall, still think its a fantastic concept.

  3. Alright… If we are looking at a minor change, I would suggest moving 1 minute from 2AR to 1AR.

    However, I like your idea better. But I think you would NEED to change 2 minutes of the 2AR to the 1AR.

    Also, if you’re looking to cut time, you could cut 1 minute out of the first constructive (if it’s only going to be your value/criterion positions anyway) and you could probably cut a minute out of 2 rebuttals. So perhaps like this:

    1AC: 4 MIN
    CX: 2 MIN
    1NC: 4 MIN
    CX: 2 MIN
    2AC: 6 MIN
    CX: 3 MIN
    2NC: 7 MIN
    CX: 3 MIN
    1AR: 5 MIN
    1NR: 7 MIN
    2AR: 3 MIN


  4. Per Luke’s model:

    Aff: 4+6+5+3 = 18 mins
    Neg: 4+7+7 = 18 mins

    That’s rather interesting. The 2AR becomes increasingly public-forum like, and the Neg has a solid NR while the AR also has the same time as policy to deal with all the constructives.

    I like that – in fact, I think we might try some rounds on that model to see what happens. The real trick I’ve seen is getting non-policy LD’ers to understand how to handle extended constructives. There’s almost a false sense of security (but also a real constraint) in not having more constructive development time.

    If you have the capacity to run scrimmage rounds and try it out, let me know how that works for you. I think the flows would be rather interesting to see. I judged semi’s with two outstanding LD judges in the Nebraska circuit two weeks ago at Fremont and we had counter-advocacy from the Negative that I believe is important in balancing the ground in cases where the resolution is one-sided. The affirmative ran an abuse argument on the “counterplan” (it truly was counter-advocacy since we’re dealing with normative discourse), but there was an element of truth in his claim. Having nothing but 1AR provides an affirmative zero offense against counter-advocacy. New arguments that point out serious problems with that negative strategy simply can’t exist since we’re already in rebuttals.

    LD needs to embrace counter-advocacy as a supplement but it has to have the constructive space in which that can occur. Let me know if you have a chance to try that out in a scrimmage round.

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