Demand University Interscholastic League change the Spring 2020 UIL Debate Topic
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The Spring 2020 Lincoln-Douglass debate topic which students all over Texas will be required to debate is as follows -
RESOLVED: Gentrification is just.
I was shocked to find that this is the current topic that students and coaches are expected to practice and compete on starting in January. To be perfectly frank, there are no words that can encapsulate how unbalanced and horribly drafted this topic is. It is without a doubt the worst debate topic I have ever seen out of the 20 or so topics I have seen in my time as a member of this community. To begin, the topic lacks a clear actor which makes it near impossible to debate. It is inconceivable as a governmental action and it is even more unclear as a moral statement, which is supposedly the crux of LD Debate. It offers NO research boundary, establishes no jurisdictional bright-line (can we discuss gentrification in the US? Turkey? India? All three?), and above it all has a MASSIVE negative research bias. There is virtually no credible scholarship that would even remotely affirm this ridiculous and inane resolution. Arguments about the economic efficacy of gentrification aren't even valid since the resolution forces the affirmative to defend the "just" status of gentrification, not it's financial effects. This topic is overwhelmingly one-sided and affirming this resolution is academically fruitless in every regard. Looking up the phrase "Gentrification is good" for example pulls up nothing but short, one page opinion articles and unprofessional blog posts that have shallow or non-existent analysis. A search through legitimate academic databases brings up no pieces of viable scholarship. This awful, three-word resolution need only be compared to past resolutions in order for it's unique stupidity to be clearly highlighted. For example, the previous UIL topic was "RESOLVED: The benefits of genetically modified food outweigh the risks," which is not a particularly good topic either, but at least entails a weighing debate between two options and has a balanced research pool for two opposing sides. NSDA topics like "Resolved: In the United States, reporters ought to have the right to protect the identity of confidential sources," show how a good topic has a clearly defined actor (in this case the US Government), an explicit ought / rights claim, and a fair distribution of scholarship for both sides. The current Spring 2020 topic is horrible because it lacks all three of these things and will lead to awful debates that have no topical stasis point or substantive clash.
In addition to being epistemically valueless, this topic forces Urban debaters living in Texas cities to ACTIVELY DEFEND conditions of economic plight that push their families and schools to the margins. Gentrification is responsible for closing public schools and causing many students (disproportionally students of color, but also poor white students) to struggle in school due to stress over their living conditions. Imagine underfunded urban schools with significant student populations living in substandard housing having to defend this abhorrent and academically bankrupt resolution. The thought of such a scenario should disgust any student, educator, or debate instructor.
This topic is eerily reminiscent of the recent Eton College exam scandal wherein British students were asked in an exam to justify hypothetical government killings of street protesters. It is exceedingly obvious that this topic has been drafted to indoctrinate school children into accepting and defending the economically predatory actions of select private and state interests. No opposition to any past topic is as valid as opposition to this one and there was no public voting system in place for this topic, despite there being such systems for the UIL CX topic and LD topics from other framers.
The state of Texas has over 100,000 homeless students and gentrification is a direct factor which causes this number to rise even as we speak. Debate has the power to educate and empower future generations but resolutions like this damage critical thinking and problem solving and turn debate into a mindless scramble to defend the status quo. Please join me in opposing this disgusting and academically worthless resolution.
There is an abundant amount of time to redraft a resolution and topics dealing with Eminent Domain for example allow for the same ground without the problems mentioned above.
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