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Lincoln-Douglas Debate is a debate activity contested primarily between high schools students. Lincoln-Douglas, or LD, is endorsed by the National Forensic League, National Catholic Forensic League, and most state forensics organizations. Lincoln-Douglas is commonly defined as a "value debate" opposed to other styles of debate contested at the high school level, such as Policy Debate or Public Forum Debate. Debaters compete based on prescribed resolutions, which generally change every two months. The National Forensic League's Wording Committee dictates the resolution debated on most local and national circuits, however, some national events may choose other topics (i.e. National Catholic Forensic League's Grand National Resolution).
A Lincoln-Douglas Debate consists of five speeches and two cross-examinations. Additionally, debaters are granted preparation time, generally consisting of a total 3-5 minute periods, depending on the tournament. However, some leagues and tournaments may alter times and rules (i.e. allowing for "flex prep").
The six speeches are:
1. AC - 6 Minutes - Affirmative Constructive
2. NC - 7 Minutes - First Negative Speech or Negative Constructive
3. 1AR - 4 Minutes - First Affirmative Rebuttal
4. 2NR - 6 Minutes - Second Negative Speech or Negative Rebuttal
5. 2AR - 3 Minutes - Second Affirmative Rebuttal
In between the AC and NC, along with in between the NC and 1AR, cross-x is allowed. This is a three minute period where the debaters ask questions to each other. It may be taken away through flex-prep.
Resolutions change every two months under National Forensic League Rules during the regular season. Additionally, the National Forensic League's National Speech Tournament uses its own resolution only for the event. The second biggest forensics league, the National Catholic Forensic League, also creates its own resolution for use during the annual Grand National Tournament. However, NCFL uses the NFL's resolution during qualifiers, usually contested during March or April.
Past resolutions include:
- Resolved: Inaction in the face of injustice makes an individual morally culpable. (NFL Nationals 2000)
- Resolved: On balance, violent revolution is a just response to oppression. (NFL Nationals 2001)
- Resolved: Laws which protect citizens from themselves are justified. (NFL Nationals 2002)
- Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above punishment in the U. S. criminal justice system. (NFL Nationals 2003)
- Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified. (NFL Nationals 2004)
- Resolved: A nation's citizens' rights ought to take precedence over its security. (NCFL Grand Nationals 2004)
- Resolved: The pursuit of scientific knowledge ought to be constrained by concern for societal good. (NFL Nationals 2005)
- Resolved: The primary purpose of formal education ought to be to impart knowledge. (NCFL Grand Nationals 2005)
- Resolved: In matters of collecting military intelligence, the ends justify the means. (NFL Nationals 2006)
- Resolved: When in conflict, an individual's freedom of speech should be valued over a community's moral standards. (NCFL Grand Nationals 2006)
- Resolved: A just government should provide health care to its citizens. (September-October 2006)
- Resolved: A victim's deliberate use of deadly force is a just response to repeated domestic violence. (November-December 2006)
- Resolved: The actions of corporations ought to be held to the same moral standards as the actions of individuals. (January-February 2007)
- Resolved: The United Nations' obligation to protect global human rights ought to be valued above its obligation to respect national sovereignty. (March-April 2007)
- Resolved: Judicial activism is unjust in a democracy. (NCFL Grand Nationals 2007)
- Resolved: On balance, violent revolution is a just response to political oppression. (NFL Nationals 2007)
- Resolved: A just society ought not use the death penalty. (September-October 2007)
- Resolved: In the United States, plea bargaining in exchange for testimony is unjust. (November-December 2007)
- Resolved: It is just for the United States to use military force to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by nations that pose a military threat. (January-February 2008)
- Resolved: Hate crime enhancements are unjust in the United States (March-April 2008)
- Resolved: It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people. (September-October 2008)
- Resolved: In a democratic society, felons ought to retain the right to vote. (November-December 2008)
- Resolved: The United States ought to submit to the jurisdiction of an international court designed to prosecute crimes against humanity. (January-February 2009)
- Resolved: Vigilantism is justified when the government has failed to enforce the law. (March-April 2009)
- Resolved: States ought not posses nuclear weapons. (September-October 2010)
- Resolved: The abuse of illegal drugs ought to be treated as a matter of public health, not of criminal justice. (November-December 2010)
January/February 2011 - Resolved: In the United States, juveniles charged with violent felonies ought to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system. March/April 2011 - Resolved:The United States is justified in using private military firms abroad to pursue its military objectives.
The AC or Affirmative Constructive is a six minute speech.In general, the affirmation has the job of affirming the resolution, or proving it true. For example, if the resolution is "Resolved: That judicial activism is unjust in a democracy.", the affirmation must prove the statement to be true. The affirmation usually has less flexibility in choosing competitive ground than the negative, who may utilize different options for proving the resolution false, such as the "Kritik." The affirmative usually begins the speech with a short quotation in order to catch the judge's attention. However, the quotation usually has no relevance to the debate itself. Following the quotation, if the affirmative chooses to have one, the debater sets up his or her framework.
The framework generally consists of definitions, a value, a criterion, spikes, and other competitive elements. In the past, the framework, which appears at the beginning of the case, was a short portion playing a smaller role than the contentions. However, many contemporary debaters choose to top-load the framework in the hope of the negative dropping arguments. Thus, many contentions are less developed or shorter as a result of the time constraint.
Following the framework, the affirmative debater sets up one or more contentions. The purpose of the contention is to show the judge and other debater why the resolution is true while impacting to the affirmative framework. However, some debaters find it advantageous to prove their arguments, or contentions, true by impacting to the negative's framework during the 1AR. The contention is often split into sections in order to allow for easier signposting. These sections are called subpoints, often titled as Subpoint A, Subpoint B, etc. Most debaters only use two or three subpoints in order to avoid over labeling and dividing.
The first negative speech is unique in that usually, part of the speech is pre-prepared. On the other hand, the negative must also attack the affirmative case during the same speech, so must conserve time to do so following the prepared speech, or constructive. However, some speeches, such as the kritik, use the entire seven minute period to explain the position. The speech may include subtle references or no references to the affirmative constructive if the negative chooses to explain a difficult advocacy or counter-advocacy during the entire 7 minute period.
Many negative constructives include a value, criterion, and contentions. Under the basic structure, the negative constructive will generally be short, using a single contention or thesis to impact the framework. Moreover, the framework is generally shorter as the negative often will not put forth any definitions, unless the affirmative's definitions seem to be abusive.
The first affirmative rebuttal is a 4 minute speech in which the debater must defend his or her own case and attack the negative. Thus, since the affirmative debater has numerous arguments to defend and tackle, the 1AR often allows the affirmative to kick arguments. By kicking arguments, the debater no longer has to provide responses to negative arguments on the argument. However, if the negative debater has placed offensive arguments or turns on the argument, the affirmative debater should respond to the offensive arguments. If the affirmative chooses not to do so, the savvy negative debater will explain the impacts of the drop and show why he or she garners offense off of the point. Additionally, the affirmative debater must cover the value and criterial debate, and also defend portions of his or her framework addressed during the 1N. However, some debaters may kick the entire framework or portions of the framework during the 1AR. By doing so, arguments which the negative has impacted to the affirmative framework will fall out of the round, thus allowing a better chance of victory in rare instances for the affirmative debater.