As most Northern California debaters anticipate next weekend’s Jon Schamber Invitational, our first tournament in the area lasting longer than a day, chances are we won’t be found wondering about the topics, or preparing for rounds on abstract concepts of justice and morality. While those ideas might be woven into the debates, the topics themselves are already at hand: I) militarization of police in the United States, II) EU politics, III) space exploration, IV) West African engagement, and V) the Glass-Steagall Act and banking regulations.

How do we know? Topic areas-- in my opinion, a truly invaluable tool... so useful, in fact, that I’m for once praising something about the parli community, rather than advocating something new. With the release of topic areas before the tournament actually begins, we are guaranteed many more educational rounds, since people actually knew what to research before the tournament.

Granted, of course, guessing current events issues isn’t generally that difficult, but having the specific topic on hand to research, prepare for, and otherwise learn to understand helps tremendously-- especially when the topics are highly specific themselves.

By telling us to research these areas, the tournament furthermore grants itself the ability to give us detailed resolutions, since we can be expected to generally understand at least what the topic is, rather than just learning in round. From this understanding come the rounds with international actors, clear policies, and Supreme Court decisions, which the University of Pacific generally provides at the Jon Schamber Invitational. And, through the specificity of the resolutions, debates no longer must hinge on unweighted evidence; rather, they can actually focus on the topic at hand, and reduce the amount of topicality shells which must be run on vague resolutions poorly defined by the affirmation. Really, topic areas are the saviors of the negation.

[T]hrough the specificity of the resolutions, debates no longer must hinge on unweighted evidence. . .

That’s not to say, however, that they don’t help the affirmation as well. Affirmative teams also gain more specific policies to run, saving themselves in advance from the tediousness of topicality from definition issues... and with more informed debaters, both sides, truly, can gain more in terms of education than they might have from a simplistic round on the importance of privacy over security, or vice versa.

While vagueness has its place, being able to spend a few tournaments a year, at the very least, focusing on specific policies and specific ideas, is an incredibly educational opportunity, and presents a stark contrast with the normal resolutional fare-- thereby increasing the breadth of our experiences, in addition to the depth of our knowledge.

Sierra Maciorowski debates for Sonoma Academy, and is the opinion page editor for Point of Information.