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2013-2014 NFHS Five Suggested Policy Debate Topics



Export Controls, India, Latin America, Russia and Southeast Asia are five suggested debate topics for 2013-14

Thirty-five delegates from 23 states, the National Catholic Forensic League, the National Debate Coaches Association and the National Forensic League attended the NFHS-sponsored Topic Selection Meeting August 3-5 in Boston, Massachusetts. Nine topic reports were presented by authors who over 11 months researched each topic area. State delegates and participants deliberated for three days to determine the final five topic areas.  



 Serving on the 2012 Wording Committee were: Russell Kirkscey, Texas (Chairperson); Randy Pierce, Missouri; Pam McComas, Kansas; Duane Hyland, Virginia; Ruth Kay, Michigan; William Murray, Pennsylvania and Chuck Ballingall, California. 

  The National Debate Coaches Association, the National Forensic League and David Glass hosted the annual meeting and a reception the first night of the meeting for attendees and spouses. David Glass and Stefan Bauschard served as the local coordinators.  

Balloting for the 2013-14 national high school debate topic will take place in a two-fold process. During the months of September and October, coaches and students will have the opportunity to discuss the five selected problem areas. The first ballot will narrow the topics to two. A second ballot will be distributed to determine the final topic. Each state, the NFL, NCFL and the NDCA will conduct voting in November and December to determine the favored topic area. In January, the NFHS will announce the 2013-14 national high school debate topic and resolution. It will be posted on the NFHS web page at www.nfhs.org and sent to state associations and affiliate members. 


Synopsis of Problem Areas and Resolutions for 2013-14 



Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially strengthen its export controls on military and/or dual-use technology toward one or more of the following: China, India, Israel, Russia, Taiwan. 

  In an era where both domestic and international technology transfers are becoming necessary for a variety of reasons, many continue to inquire if current export controls are adequate to protect U.S. technology from misuse. The U.S. faces many challenges in export control policy including threats from nations that illegally acquire technology. A fair division of ground exists in the literature base between those who want to prioritize security concerns and protect technology and those who want to reduce export controls to stimulate growth in the technology sector.  Furthermore, the topic offers debaters the opportunity to investigate a unique foreign policy tool which has been debated only in small areas of past topics. Affirmatives would have opportunities to investigate the role U.S. technology plays in international terrorism, proliferation, security and human rights issues.  For example they could strengthen controls on computers and microprocessors to China or Taiwan to prevent missile proliferation. Another affirmative case area could reverse the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement to prevent the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to India.  Affirmatives could also stop all current or future arms sales to Israel. Negatives would have the ability to highlight the impacts of export controls on trade, international relations, immigration and domestic technological competitiveness.  For example, negative teams would have ample ground to read relations disadvantages to each of the countries listed in the topic, or negatives could read a business confidence disadvantage.  Negatives would have access to counterplans on alternate export control mechanisms like sanctions or quid-pro-quo mechanisms.  Solvency debates will also be diverse on both the type of technologies and the types of controls. 



Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its diplomatic engagement toward India in one or more of the following: nuclear non-proliferation, trade, terrorism. 

The region of South Asia has become one of primary focus for American lawmakers. Anchoring the region is India, a nation with a complex history of relations with the United States. There is no doubt of the strategic importance of India in the global order. India ranks second highest in global population with just over 1.1 billion people and is expected to overtake China for having the world’s largest population by the year 2050. Combined with having one of the largest economies in the world and a place among the nuclear powers, India has staked its claim as a rising global power. In November 2010, President Obama stated, "India is not simply emerging. India has emerged." Despite its importance on the global stage, India has eluded the national high school debate community as a primary topic of discussion. This resolution focuses high school debaters on three important areas that emphasize foreign policy interactions between the United States and India: nuclear non-proliferation, terrorism and trade. The India topic provides a rich and extensive literature base. Affirmatives will have an ample set of plan mechanisms to choose from including persuading India to join international nonproliferation regimes, negotiating a bilateral investment treaty and further negotiations on the development of joint U.S.-India counterterrorism efforts in the region. Negative teams will also find their ground to be extensive. Aside from traditional disadvantage ground, such as politics and spending disadvantages, a negative will find plenty of ground in China's reaction to the affirmative plan. Furthering United States engagement with India will certainly implicate U.S.-Sino relations. Negatives can also engage in counterplan debates that are more coercive approaches to pressure India than through diplomatic engagement. Solvency debates will be extensive and diverse as negative teams will be able to generate in-depth arguments on the type of engagement the affirmative advocates. 



Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic engagement toward Cuba, Mexico or Venezuela.  

Emerging from a 19th century dominated by European colonialism and a late 20th-century existence as a proxy battlefield for the Cold War, Latin America is arriving on the world scene in ways that are likely to reshape the international political landscape. This resolution focuses on the nations of Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela, each having its own unique dynamic which provides fertile ground for a year of debating. Cuba features a long-standing leftist government that will undergo a transition in the not too distant future, while Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is fighting to hold onto power in his country. Mexico has a long-standing relationship with the United States but has seen a power shift back to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which had run the country as effectively a single-party state for seven decades. Because of the prevalence of Mexico in the news and Cuba in the study of American history, novice debaters should be able to make their entry into the topic relatively easily, while issues related to indigenous peoples and deeper discussions of capitalism will provide fertile educational ground for advanced and kritik-oriented debaters. Affirmative cases may examine the role of embargoes and sanctions, remittances from immigrants, foreign assistance and issues regarding the drug economies. Negative arguments may address the efficacy of foreign assistance, non-economically oriented solutions to issues raised by the affirmative, kritiks of capitalism, the state and the United States specifically and the effects of these policies on United States hegemony. 



Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its engagement toward the Russian Federation in one or more of the following:
nuclear arms reduction, missile defense cooperation, trade barrier reduction. 

The United States’ relationship with Russia is of strategic importance, both in terms of national security and economic stability. Despite this significance, Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian studies at NYU, writes: “And yet, in the United States, there is virtually no critical discussion, certainly no debate, about American policy toward Russia.” Russia has remained on the periphery of debates in recent years, but a more in-depth evaluation focused on the three core issues facing the two superpowers would be timely and educational: nuclear arms reduction, missile defense cooperation and trade barrier reduction. In a post-Cold War world, military concerns are still of vital importance but encompass more than the security of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. Additionally, increasing economic interdependence coupled with Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization make trade relations between the two nations equally important. History proves that engagement is achievable but is not without its challenges. Affirmative positions may include: reduction(s) in tactical nuclear weapons, greater reduction(s) in strategic nuclear arms, reduction(s) in ICBMs, confidence-building measures to de-militarize the expansion of NATO along Russia’s borders, commitment not to build or direct military installations near Russian borders or strategic forces, trade agreement focused on energy and non-energy sectors, bilateral investment treaty. Negative positions may focus on: weakened deterrence and military readiness, perception of appeasement, effect on Putin’s and Obama’s credibility, NATO cohesion, democracy promotion, pressure on human rights abuses, critical analyses of international relations. 



Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its military presence and/or economic engagement in Southeast Asia. 


President Obama's “Asian Pivot” put the U.S. back in Southeast Asia, a region that China views as its sphere of influence. Professor Donald Weatherbee, an expert on the region, identifies this area as a zero-sum game for influence between those two powers. Southeast Asia is “the third engine” for Asian growth, already surpassing Europe as the U.S.'s trading partner, and has multiple nations with projected economic growth greater than that of India or China. However, the region is rife with sweatshops, sex trafficking, piracy, terrorism, pollution, energy shortages and political corruption. The Congressional Research Service identifies U.S. interests in the region as promoting stability, ensuring freedom of sea lanes, enhancing trade and investment, supporting treaty allies and promoting democracy/human rights in the region. Recent events such as standoffs in the Spratley Islands and the South China Sea have left U.S. allies wondering if the U.S. has abandoned them to be absorbed into China's growing hegemonic sphere. Affirmative military positions could increase the presence of troops, bases or technology in the region to combat piracy, project power or train local forces for challenges such as terrorism. Affirmative plans promoting economic engagement could advocate increasing development aid or expanding opportunities for trade and economic growth. China is a key position for negative teams because it views U.S. involvement as an expansion of the containment doctrine; even increased economic engagement would jeopardize the region's trade with China. In the past, U.S. engagement has emboldened local nations in their dealings with China, creating incidents that have heightened the chance for war. Development disadvantages, international relations arguments, the interaction between economic growth and environmental decay, local corruption/misuse of aid and actor arguments, all serve to make the topic extremely balanced for debate.  



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