Traveling through life with a timer and sneakers

Musings on the January PF Topic Vote

While we haven’t received an email from the National Forensics League, the three Public Forum topics are up for voting for January. And the choices are…

  • Resolved: The United States fed­eral gov­ern­ment should legal­ize marijuana.
  • Resolved: In the United States, elec­tions for fed­eral office should be financed exclu­sively with pub­lic funding.
  • Resolved: In the United States, plea bar­gain­ing under­mines the crim­i­nal jus­tice system.

I was beginning to do research on the topics and write out my deliberations before voting and then realized I could write them out here just as easily as on a piece of paper (and maybe save a tree in the process?).

The first thing I can do is rule out the marijuana topic. I recognize kids may want to debate it. We wanted to debate it 12-15 years ago when I was a high school debater. It was worn out then and the debate really hasn’t evolved much. The research is still skewed, there are still lots of biased sources around. For selfish reasons, I would love to see a more unique topic proposed. Additionally, having seen a number of PF rounds this year, I could easily see students turning this into a medical merijuana debate which isn’t what the broad topic proposes but is an easy way out of a fair number of arguments. And the medicinal debate has been beaten to death.

Let’s move on to the Plea Bargaining topic. I think this topic is pretty interesting. However, it is a rehash of a 2007 Lincoln-Douglas debate topic and let’s be honest, how many debaters are going to complain about that. Because heaven forbid we ever see a topic repeat in our history. There definitely have never been political battles about similar topics, or wars over similar… oh wait….

But on a serious note, I do worry the topic is a bit broad for a 37 minute debate. The criminal justice system is pretty huge. Which means we will probably have lots of counterexample wars where winning arguments on both sides lack comparable quantifications and pass by each other like ships in the night, forcing judges to cherry-pick what they want to vote on.

I recognize the complaints from people who think the public funding for elections smells like the lobbying topic. I think some of those arguments could be made here (see above sarcasm as to why I don’t care about that argument), however I also think this resolution poses some real world, real time questions. This is especially true with the mid-term elections just ending and the run for the 2012 presidential campaigns getting heated up.

You can guess how I voted. Now I can only hope that in the month my team debates multiple tournaments every weekend, that I get to see some amazing debates!

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