UTNIF Blog

Teaching a Broad Topic – Nico Juarez

by admin.

(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.

How We’ll Teach the Kritik – Nico Juarez

by admin.

Most people understand the kritik to be made of three elementary parts: A link, an impact, and an alternative. However, beyond this, there often isn’t a lot of explanation about how the K functions besides as an indictment of some assumptions made on the part of the affirmative. In the 2 weeks session, we’ll go a lot deeper into the theory of what a kritik is and how it needs to be run. 

In the case of the different parts of a criticism, we’ll look at what links mean about the affirmative and how different kinds of kritik links mean different things. We’ll not only explain the various kinds of kritik links, but how those links change the nature of the kritik. In this way, we’ll come to understand kritik links as changing how even the same sort of kritik can be run in very different ways. In terms of the impacts, we’ll be looking at various different ways to do impact calculus and how kritik impacts can compete with the affirmative at different scales—either on the same level of the plan or advocacy or beyond it. Finally, we’ll go in depth about what alternatives are. What, for example, makes the kritik any different from a critical counterplan? Parsing out the distinctions between a counterplan advocacy and an alternative will allow students not only to explore various different types of alternatives, but explore how kritiks are not just counter-advocacies, but different ideas about the purpose and method of debate as well as different theories of change. Exploring these parts in depth will allow students to not only master the kritiks they are familiar with, but explore and develop critical literature in order to construct their own kritiks and deploy the same literature base in a variety of different ways.

Beyond this, we’ll be taking a student-centered learning approach to different kritiks. Some students will want to learn the capitalism kritik and others will want to hear about Afropessimism and settler colonial theory while others will want to learn the intricate philosophy of Gilles Deleuze or Jean Baudrillard. Whether your interests are Nietzsche or queer theory, we’ll allow students to decide what kritiks they’re interested in so that they get the most out of their work, ensuring that everything they learn is translatable to the upcoming debate year. 

Finally, for those less interested in the kritik, we’ll learn how to answer kritiks not only be exploring common answers to kritiks, but by examining how to answer the kritik on its own terms. In this way, we hope to reveal the kritik/policy divide to be largely artificially created and make sure that no matter your preferred debating style that you can deploy the tricks of kritiks to beat your opponents. 

We can’t wait to see you this summer!

The Social Aspects of Online Camp – David Kilpatrick

by admin.

Each year, the most challenging aspect of improving debate success for the following season is maintaining a strong summer routine. There are a million things to do during the summer, people are exhausted from schoolwork, and the quarantine situation has many feeling especially down. Typically, summer camps provide much of the structure for bridging the long gap between end of season championships and season openers, but given quarantine, even more self-motivation will be needed than normal. 

A few things might seem obvious, almost obligatory – daily speaking drills, researching the topic area with specific arguments in mind, and giving practice speeches. While these crucial activities have become a staple at every debate camp across the nation for a reason, in my experience coaching debate, the two most important qualities of the most successful debaters have been: 1) thinking about debate constantly and 2) learning to get enjoyment out of the activity. One of the most important elements of debate camp has always been the social aspect. Meeting debaters from across the state or even country who share similar goals, having lots of fun getting to know each other, and talking about debate with peers at every moment of the day. 

All of this seems challenging in an online format, but I think we can help facilitate as close to an in-person camp experience as possible. Maintaining some level of structure with regular lectures, intra-lab discussions with lab leaders, and group chats with peers will go a long way to get you into that “thinking about debate all the time” mindset. Technology will help you connect with other debaters across the state and foment novel discussions about the topic, critical thinking skills only achievable through group coordination, and build relationships that will become stronger throughout the year as tournaments begin again that will last a lifetime.