Middle School Debate: Questions & Answers

The following is a list of questions we have received from teams and the answers we have given. Please direct any questions to [email protected]. This is not a substitute for original research and should not be treated as one. But we do want to make the resolution accessible to all schools. We will try to answer questions within 24 hours. Questions and answers may be rephrased for clarity before they are posted here; this page is the official ruling.

Questions & Clarifications
Yes. Affirmative teams may define the resolution’s terms in their initial speech. Definitions should not torture a word’s meaning. And they should result in the resolution being a meaningful break from the status quo.
Yes, but only if it negates the resolution. A counter plan negates the resolution only if the two plans are mutually exclusive. E.g., if the resolution is “Hire more police officers to protect schools,” then “Spend more on therapy/counseling and preventive programs” is not a permissible counter plan, because you could do both. But “Spend more on therapy/counseling and preventive programs instead” is a permissible counter plan.

A counter plan that is truly mutually exclusive with the resolution is essentially a disadvantages attack (p.3 of our current rules document).
The speaker responsibilities suggested in the rules are not an ironclad requirement. They are meant to get debaters thinking about what it means to support or negate a position, and are helpful heuristics in many debates. But the ultimate goal is persuasion through reasoned dialogue. The formalities should never detract from that end.
Not always, but it's usually a good idea. A plan grounds the debate, tying abstract theory to the real world. A good plan answers at least three questions: (1) who will do it, (2) how will they do it, and (3) what is "it"?

Suppose the resolution is a policy proposal, e.g., “The United States should enforce net neutrality.” The Negative team can't respond well if the Affirmative team doesn't say what they mean by that. A sample plan could be: (1) A federal agency like the FCC (2) will investigate and fine Internet Service Provider companies unless they (3) offer the same connection speed for all Internet content, without creating favored lanes for particular content.

Think of the plan as a preemptive strike against the common Negative argument that, even if the resolution is nice in theory, there's no way to implement it, so it's a dud.

Finally, if you have a plan, lead with it. Sandbagging it till later in the round unfairly forces the other team to guess at what you mean. And it prevents real dialogue. A skilled Negative team will use cross examination to get the answers they need, anyway.
Pre-prepared materials are highly encouraged and need not be memorized. There is no limit on how detailed your notes can be. Even the most advanced teams use bulleted notes for reference. We instruct judges to score substance most heavily, which lends itself to a notes-centric style.

The first speech for the Affirmative team is essentially a canned speech. We recommend bulleted notes rather than a full script, so you can make eye contact with the judge and it feels like more natural. After that, your “flow”—i.e., the pad of paper or Word document where you’re keeping track of everyone’s arguments in each speech—serves as your notes for the next speeches you give. E.g., if I’m the Second Affirmative speaker, as I’m listening to the First Negative speaker’s Constructive speech I’m writing down all their arguments in the 1NC column of my flow and my responses to them in the adjacent 2AC column of my flow. When I get up as the Second Affirmative speaker to give my Constructive speech, those notes are my outline and allow me both to keep my remarks structured and to remember as much as possible.