More Reflections on Policy Debate in Japan

Through the tour many debaters have introduced other debaters to us by saying “He/She is my Junior.” This phrase refers to the dominance of student-run debate programs in Japan.

When a student reaches his or her senior year, he or she is expected to retire from debating and enter the tournament as a judge or coach of some kind. These seniors often take a junior team under their wing so to speak and help them out, give them advice and support them during the debate tournament. These are the people who are responsible for judging debates, and some other seniors run the tournament from the position of coordination and tabbing.

This system might be a bit scary to the professional coaching system of the U.S. But it seems to run very smoothly in Japan.

Furthermore, now that I've had a day or two to think about the evolution of policy debate in Japan, I think I have a handle on Topicality in a bit more detail.

Topicality is brought up by the negative, same as in U.S. Debating. But instead of it being an issue with the plan, it is more like a challenge to the Affirmative – basically saying, “Here's our interpretation, now you come up with something more reasonable than what you just heard.” This might explain why some topicality violations are strings of definitions and are named “Topicality One” and “Topicality Two” by the speakers when the arguments are being road-mapped.

On counterplans – it seems that the counterplan can be about almost anything as long as it is non-topical. Competitiveness is mentioned, but most of the debate is about net benefits. I saw one negative team tie the T violation to the counterplan to prove that the CP was non-topical (It was non topical under the negative definition in the T violation, therefore it was non-topical). I tried to explain why this is a bad strategy to a couple of debaters, and they were pretty convinced that if the T violation was “reasonable” then the judge would have to accept the counterplan.

All of this would make a fascinating study if these changes could be historically mapped, but I doubt the policy debate community keeps much of an institutional memory (U.S. Debate barely has one for strategic developments, but at least we had the forensic journals). It would be more of an oral history project that would involve interviewing many former debaters and trying to piece together these interesting theoretical differences from U.S. Debate.