(For reference, this year’s topic is “The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in one or more of the following: forensic science, policing, sentencing.”)
It’s undeniable that this year’s topic is incredibly broad. Before we get into how we’ll respond to that broadness, let’s take a quick moment to examine the ways that the topic is not very limited.
First, the usage of “criminal justice reform.” Criminal justice reform does not exist as a term of art very much in the literature surrounding the topic. While “criminal justice” provides a limit on what can be reformed, the idea of reform is incredibly broad. Reform does not necessarily imply reducing or increasing so the topic is inherently bidirectional. Affirmatives will be able to justify increasing the sentencing of some crimes or decreasing police monitoring of certain groups. The bidirectional nature of the topic means every lab will have to prepare to answer both types of affirmatives. Second, “policing” as a verb is not synonymous with “the police.” To this end, affirmatives will be able to change all manner of things related to regulating, controlling, or keeping order. Combined with the bidirectional nature of reform, policing massively increases the potential affirmative ground. While there are other aspects of what makes affirmative ground large, these two areas show how large the topic will be.
In order to teach such a broad topic, we’ll be looking at not only what we believe will be the most popular affirmatives—going into detail around the various laws and practices about forensic science, policing, and sentencing., but also we’ll be looking at how the negative will be able to respond to affirmatives even if they are not familiar with the specific area of the affirmative. To this end, we’ll make sure that students are not only familiar with the largest areas covered by the topic, but also receive instruction in making arguments that can apply to a broad swath of affirmatives. We are confident, given this, that students will leave the camp not only well-informed about the topic areas, but with enough skill to respond and improvise against new affirmatives they haven’t encountered.