2021 LD Analysis from Coach Joe for NCFCA and Stoa

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! National tournaments are just around the corner, Spring is in the air, and resolutions are out for next season! There’s a lot to be unpackaged in the new resolutions. Voting is open right now for both leagues and there is plenty to be discussed! Let’s cover some key observations for all 6 of the resolutions and provide a bit of analysis in order to supplement your vote…


Imposing conditions on humanitarian aid is morally justified.
Let’s talk about framework – every LDer knows that a good clash requires clear definition on both sides of what exactly is being debated and how the resolution can be solved. Very little in this resolution can be readily understood and thoughtfully deciphered. “Morally justified” provides an ambiguous, and nigh-on-impossible standard. “Imposing conditions,” sounds like a topicality specialist’s dream. “Humanitarian aid” is also nebulous at best. While there are advanced scenarios that may provide space for thoughtful debate, they are few and far between. Overall, this resolution is aspirational, but not practical.

In the context of innovation, the proactionary principle ought to be valued above the precautionary principle.

At my day job, I work with electric vehicles. Seemingly every day a new autonomous driving startup raises a billion dollars in venture capital funding. At the same time, very few people are in the market for or invest in electric vehicles, because “The technology just isn’t there yet.” Which group will win out in the end?

Innovation and American ideals go hand in hand. But why not have your cake and eat it too? The core of this resolution asks us to determine if we should run before we walk, or if we should crawl, but why not learn both? Definitive applications and concrete advantages will be hard to come by with this resolution. The framing is well-thought out and the topic is brimming with interesting case studies and opportunities for clash, but be prepared for the inevitable balanced negative as the season progresses.

When in conflict, a corporation’s responsibility to its shareholders ought to be valued above its responsibility to its stakeholders.

What, truely, are we debatinghere? I’m still not certain. This resolution reads like a gotcha question on a business 101 test. Shareholders and stakeholders alike have both vested and explicit interest in the performance of their corporation. Typically they work together to ensure that the train of capitalism continues on its merry journey of wealth creation. The scope of conflict here is so incredibly narrow and overly nuanced that I cannot in good faith recommend voting for this resolution at all.


Resolved: Hegemony is superior to the balance of power in international relations.

If you love history or running application heavy cases, this resolution is the one for you. The sheer number of empires, monarchies, and dictatorships in the history of the world gives us enough to write a new case each week. But breadth of scope fails to make up for the poor balance of power (pun intended) inherent in this resolution. International relations and diplomacy has been the driving force behind maintaining some semblance of order on the global scale for millenia. Only the narrowest and most watertight affirmatives will stand a chance here.

Resolved: In criminal justice it is more important to protect innocence than to punish guilt.

This resolution is both inherently interesting and timely. It puts to question the basis of our modern systems of justice. Foundational principles of dignity and safety will be put to the test. There’s a good chance that this resolution will receive many votes simply because the topic is a current cultural lightning rod. I can’t and won’t critique that course of action. It is simpler to grasp than both of the last two years’ resolutions. That simplicity will make it easier to have good debate but may ultimately limit the evolution of ideas over the course of the year. In the inevitable individual vs group clash that will ensue, the affirmative will have a distinct advantage.

Resolved: In the field of biomedical engineering, restraint ought to be prioritized over scientific advancement.

I will be shocked if any less than a solid 50% of debate rounds make use of Jeff Goldblum’s iconic quote from the original Jurassic Park should this resolution be chosen – “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they stop to think if they should.” Biomedical engineering is simultaneously an ethically complex and approachable topic. While you will find plenty of room for good value clash in this engaging subject matter, it does toe the line of being too narrow and theoretical to make for good high school debate. In contrast to the last few years’ application-heavy resolutions, it could provide a nice change of pace.

Meet Joe! One of our newest, Lasting Impact! Coaches… Joseph Sigwarth is an NCFCA Alumni from Region VI. He competed in speech and debate for four years, during which time he began his own club and eventually went on to compete on the national level. During his college career, he served four terms in student government, lobbied at the statewide and national levels, and student taught policy debate. He currently coaches two debate clubs in Northern Virginia, where he lives and works. Coaching the next generation of communicators is a privilege and a challenge that he enjoys immensely. His greatest joy is seeing his students set and achieve their own challenging goals.

It’s not too late to set up a coaching appointment with him this season… or join one of our Lasting Impact! Clubs he will be coaching this fall!