BY ABHINAV TRIPATHY
Disclaimer: Everything in this article is simply my personal opinion; I don't speak on the behalf of the debate community, and I understand that many people feel differently about this issue.
Parliamentary debate has completely changed the way that I view politics in our society. When I joined debate during my freshman year, I was a naive student who completely ignored current events. After just one year of parliamentary debate, though, my knowledge of global politics and social issues increased exponentially.
When examining how my knowledge grew the most, I can see that the cases that were the most beneficial to my understanding of global politics were policy and fact cases. Policy cases were the most educational, because they forced me to find real world solutions to problems in our society. Fact cases forced me to practice effective research skills to support my side. I still use the research skills that I learned from fact cases for my papers and research assignments at school.
On the other hand, although value rounds are not useless, they are less educational than the typical policy or fact case, since they tend to be more hypothetical, and focus on situations that are extreme. For example, most value cases center on the idea that one idea is mutually exclusive to the other idea; they tend to rest on the assumption that only one side can be chosen, and the other cannot.
Finding such an extreme situation, however, rarely happens in the real world. In most situations, our society can usually find some sort of compromise on an issue. Saying that we can only choose one takes the realism out of debate, and puts us into a world where we are only discussing hypotheticals. In order to learn about how our world works and how we can actually impact our society, we need to focus on real issues; realism is what causes debaters to actually learn from debate.
In addition, many of the value cases that I've debated have been messy. Most teams that my partner and I have hit are well versed in policy and fact cases, but are inept at running value cases. This results from, again, the central flaw of value cases: they tend to be hypothetical.
Policy and fact cases tend to be straightforward, and have a direct path to follow. On the other hand, value cases can be interpreted in a multitude of different ways. Value cases don't deal with real world merits or burdens of evidence; they rest on certain assumptions. If one of the teams does not understand these assumptions, then the debate will be messy.
Now, I'm not going to claim that I have learned nothing from value cases, or that all of the value debates that I have been in were useless; however, what can make value cases better is focusing on real world issues. Instead of resolutions stating that this house should value environmental protection over economic growth, we should focus more on the value resolution that countries have a moral obligation to negotiate with terrorists for the release of their citizens. These types of debate are more clear cut, and deal with real world issues. They force us to tie in the knowledge that we know about current events, in addition to adding in the philosophical, analytical aspects found primarily in value rounds.
In the end, value cases are important to debate; however, they are only educational when they focus on real world issues over hypothetical situations and scenarios. If we want to make debate a more educational activity, we need to cut hypothetical value rounds and replace them with value resolutions that tie us into the real world.
Abhinav Tripathy debates for Washington High School.