Silicon Valley 5 scaled

Perspective: The Topic on the Flyer Matters

An Overwhelming Vote

January 31, 2023 – When I was teenager, I certainly had a few meaningful areas in my life that I felt concerned and passionate about on any given day. Mostly, I considered my grades, and whether I was setting myself up for success in college and beyond. However, I was also thinking outside of the campus walls, concerned by the disparities and dichotomy of resources I observed in my hometown of Memphis. What weighed most heavily on me was what this imbalance meant for young children in the under-resourced areas and their futures. I was troubled by the lack of equity and the roadblocks to basic needs and services that seemed so obvious and plentiful in more affluent areas.

My classes always became much more interesting when these passions and areas of interest intersected with projects or opportunities at school. I was more eager to delve into the assignment, seeing it as a chance to showcase a reflection of myself and my community — and to explore what mattered most to me in this formative time of my life.

I imagine it was a similar relationship of thought that brought a 14:1 vote from our league partners (the most overwhelming consensus to date) for the 2023-24 National Policy Debate Topic selection.*  The league votes were also in line with the overall topic voting, as Economic Inequality won by a vote of 37-10 over climate change (which also speaks to a most relevant topic). Economic Inequality was also the preferred topic in the initial round of voting that narrowed the topics down from five to two. For its vote on the national ballot, NAUDL solicited feedback from all 22 partners, with leagues surveying 152 coaches across the network before submitting their preferred topic votes.

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase fiscal redistribution in the United States by adopting a federal jobs guarantee, expanding Social Security, and/or providing a basic income.

The Economic Inequality topic paper was one of the stronger papers presented at the national Policy Debate Topic Meeting this past August. Sara Sanchez, NAUDL’s Director of Programs and Communications, was privileged to be in the group that evaluated the paper and helped to workshop the final wording, noting how deliberate the team was in constructing the resolution (e.g. reasoning how “adopting a federal jobs guarantee” or “providing a federal jobs guarantee” would make sense in the literature). The thoughtfulness and caliber of the paper is critical in ensuring that, ultimately, a topic is chosen that can stand up to a full season of debates. In this year’s case, the relevant topic selection not only bodes well for enthusiasm across our leagues, but it should also help in the recruitment of new debaters. An impactful topic on a debate team flyer goes a long way in making the activity more enticing for students considering the team.

As much as Economic Inequality was well within my cultural awareness at 18, it holds even greater influence now in my chosen career path and in my work at NAUDL. No question, I look forward to seeing how students in the Urban Debate Network will advance this topic. I am sure their cases will highlight the related and complex matters of the subject, i.e. the disappearing middle class, the disproportionate distribution of income in our country, and how these issues impact access to higher education, affordable health care, safe housing and generational wealth for a great deal of the population.

As I say so often, I learn so much from these bright debaters – and while I am always impressed with their research and preparation in presenting their arguments, it is their dynamic approach to the solutions that gives me hope.

To learn more about the topic selection process, click here. To support the future leaders and decision makers that our network serves, donate here.

* Each summer, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) facilitates the national Policy Debate Topic Selection Meeting to finalize the ballot for the subsequent season’s topic. As a NFHS partner, NAUDL is one of four debate organizations (along with the National Speech and Debate Association, the National Catholic Forensic League, and the National Debate Coaches Association) that join state activity associations to vote on the topics placed on the national ballot. In that role, we represent the voice and priorities of our league partners (some of which also participate in the meeting and may hold the votes for their respective state organizations), their coaches, and the students we serve.

Urban Debate Back to Top