An ideal situation in debate is when the judge looks to you for a standard by which to rank the other team.
If you can establish a line for the judge to choose who won, and set it so that you’re the clear winner, the round is in your hands.
This post will teach you how to set up a standard that the opposing team will have to meet in order to win the round. It will show you how to communicate this to the judge so that they’re certain to end up voting for you when the opposing team inevitably fails to live up to your standard.
So, you mean a criterion?
Well, a fairly common tactic in debate is for the negative, affirmative, or both teams to provide a “criterion”, which is basically the “lens” that the judge should use when deciding who won. One common criterion is “net benefits”. Essentially, whoever proves that the world is better with their side wins. Pretty simple.
Some teams, especially on the affirmative side, like to make very specific criteria, such as “Justice. Whoever proves that their side is more just should win the round”.
A standard, as I define it, is not the same as a criterion.
There are several issues with using a criterion.
- They’re often unfair and too narrow of a focus (Justice, for example, isn’t the only thing that the round is about).
- If not unfair/narrow, they are frequently obvious. (Net benefits is the default way of judging anyway. Saying it has literally zero impact on the round. How did you expect the judge to decide, flip a coin?)
- They can be confusing for a judge. What’s a “criterion”? Why do I have to follow your criterion?
- It never really ends up being a big deal in rounds. Most teams don’t follow up, and even if they do, they do a poor job of it.
How to make and use a standard
Standards give you some of the intended benefits of the criterion, plus more.
Here’s what a sample one would look like:
In order to win this debate round, the affirmative team needs to prove these two things: 1. That all four problems they identified will be fixed. 2. The agency they are tasking with enforcing these new rules will do its job effectively.
This is good to bring up in the 1NC on negative, or 2AC as affirmative.
All you’re doing is listing 2-3 things that the other team has to prove in order to win. Of course, you want to choose things that are reasonable, but also difficult for them to prove.
(In the above example, it’s reasonable to ask them to prove both of those things, but it can be difficult to prove those. This gives you an advantage).
Once you’ve made the standard, follow up in your last speech by reminding the judge of the standard you set forth, and show the judge how the opposing team has failed to reach that standard.
So the phrase to remember is: In order to win this debate round, the [neg/aff] must prove [x], [y], [z] etc.
Don’t miss a single tip: sign up for my email list below!