Beginning Debate Teacher's Guide by CDE - SpeechGeek Market

Beginning Debate Teacher's Guide by CDE


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For Beginners 

You have a lot of textbooks you can choose from.  But let’s be honest,most of them are useless (and boring,which makes it even worse.)  You need a book that’s brief,easy to read, and - most importantly - shows your kids how to understand and win debates. 

BEGINNING DEBATE is for students who are just starting to learn debate.  Each chapter takes your students step-by-step through an introduction of what it takes to win at the novice and junior varsity levels.
The new edition has 17 chapters and 50 learning experiences.  

BEGINNING DEBATE includes quizzes, puzzles, word searches, discussion questions, worksheets, a crossword puzzle, and more.  “How To”advice is integrated into every chapter. 

(1) Why Debate
(2) Analyzing Debate
(3) Crucial Words & Ideas
(4) Rules And Speaker Duties
(5) Learning To Research
(6) Writing A Block
(7) Writing Your Affirmative Case
(8) Practice and Tournaments
(9) Flowsheeting
(10) Voting Issues
(11) Cross-Examination
(12) Delivery and Ethics
(13) Counterplans
(14) Improving Your Options
(15) Fallacies In Logic
(16) The Speech Squad
(17) Debate Sociology

The book is 178 pages long and well indexed. 

Reviewers describe the text as “magnificent”and “the best book ever offered for an introductory class”. 

Fourth Edition Features: New 30 page chapter on negative options and strategies, updated handbook and camp information, computer research references, follow-up readings, experiences and more. 



Chapter 6

Writing a Block


Whichever side you are on you will be more persuasive if you can put analysis and evidence together. Such a combination is much more persuasive than either working alone.
This chapter will help you learn how to combine evidence and analysis into structures that are effective. These combinations, known as "blocks", improve the quality of clash in your debates. And they help you learn more about organization and logic.

Writing Debate Blocks

Good debate includes the use of quotations and other evidence. Combined with analysis, organization and delivery skills evidence is a crucial way to defeat your opponents.
The time pressures in debate rounds often cause numerous and repeated errors. Good evidence is forgotten, tag lines grow long and vague, analysis is erratic or completely unexplained. To avoid these problems debaters started using "blocks''.
Blocks are prewritten arguments. They are presented in outline form with the analysis and evidence included in the block.
There are three types of blocks: affirmative extension blocks, negative blocks, and negative extension blocks. Negative blocks present attacks against the affirmative case. Both types of extension blocks attempt to answer common opposition attacks on your original issue or your original block. Blocks can also be divided into "generic" and "case specific" categories. Generic blocks are those that apply to two or more different cases while case specific blocks apply to just one case.

All blocks share certain things in common.

1.They attempt to defeat or preempt a key opposition argument.
2. They include easily understood tag lines or labels (almost always five words or less in length).
3. They integrate analysis.
4. They integrate evidence to support or explain analysis.
5. They are "word efficient." They attempt to say a lot in a small number of words. Evidence length is restricted to save time and increase coverage.
6. They are designed to impress the judge.
7.They are organized in a logical, easily understood manner.

 Extension blocks will be touched on again in later chapters. The remainder of this chapter will use negative blocks as our teaching tool, but remember that almost every organizational lesson that applies to negative blocks also applies to affirmative blocks and affirmative contentions.

Fitting Blocks to the Voting Issue

It is not worth writing a block unless it applies to a voting issue in the debate. Why spend the time to read a block if winning the issue will not win the debate? Each voting issue requires, in addition to the seven goals noted above, special components to match the specific needs of a "good" block for that area. Almost all the components are optional, but the more of them a block has the stronger it is likely to be.

1. Topicality blocks. This block will often be organized as follows:

Topicality attack #      : The affirmative violates the word(s)            

A. Violation. (Here is written a short explanation of how a word or phrase in the topic is violated)
B. Evidence supports our claim. (Here, evidence defining the work in a way that supports the negative is written into the block.)
C. Negative definition is best. (The logic and/or evidence is used to explain why the negative definition is better than the affirmative definition)
D. Standards for topicality. (In this optional section the negative argues how the judge should evaluate the issue.)
E. (This is an) Absolute voting issue. (Here the negative explains and/or evidences why if they win this issue they should be awarded the debate.)

2. Inherency blocks. This block will often include the following components:

Inherency Attack #      :                  (usually the same name of a program or policy) defeats affirmative inherency.
A.                   exists and solves. (Here the negative identifies a program, policy, or attitude and proves that it exists and can or is having an impact.)
B. A trend exists. (This optional component shows that the policy is solving the problem.).
C. The trend will continue. (This optional component explains or evidences how or why current policies will continue to grow and/or succeed.)
D. This is a voting issue. (This may include analysis and/or evidence as to why the negative deserves to win if it defeats inherency.)

3. Harm and Significance Blocks. This block will often be organized as follows:

Harm attack #_ : The affirmative has no significance.
A. The problem is being solved. (The statistical or evaluative evidence proves a small or reducing problem.)
B. This trend will continue. (This optional component uses analysis and/or evidence to explain why things will continue to get better.)
 C. This defeats affirmative harm significance. (This optional issue explains why or how the affirmative is no longer significant.)
D. This is a voting issue. (Here is placed analysis and/or evidence to explain why if the negative defeats significance that they deserve to win the debate.)

4. Disadvantage Blocks. This block is often the most complete and complex type of block because many judges are willing to vote for the negative if they clearly win a large disadvantage. Therefore many of the "optional" subpoints included below are often heard in a debate.

Disadvantage #     : The affirmative case causes                   (A horrendous impact or harm is named in the blank spot.)
A. Causal link exists. (Here the negative identifies the plan plank that will lead to the disadvantage. Sometimes evidence is introduced to explain the implication of the plan facet.)
B. Threshold is near (or) threshold is linear. (This optional factor tries to prove that even a small change in the direction that the affirmative is trying to prove is enough to cause the disadvantage to occur. "Linear" means that any change causes some harm, and the greater the change the larger the impact or size of harm.)
C. The disadvantage is unique. (In this optional component the negative explains/evidences why the disadvantage won't happen in the present system but will happen with the affirmative plan.)
D. Horrible impact(s) result. (This is the negative payoff. Here the negative analysis and evidence shows that a significant harm/impact will result from adopting the plan.)
E. Decision rule should apply. (This is a very optional element. The negative argues that the subject of the disadvantage is so critical that it should be the only or most important voting issue in the debate.)

5. Solvency Blocks. This block attempts to show how and/or why the plan will not solve the harm the affirmative has presented. Of all the issues in a debate the solvency attack, or "PMN" (for plan-won't meet need), is easiest to think of while the debate is occurring. For those who want to prewrite a solvency attack the PMN might look like this:

#        :              prevents solvency. (The flaw you can identify is labeled and put in the blank spot.)

A. Solvency requires                    . (Here you identify one factor necessary for a successful plan.)
B.                will not occur. (Here evidence and/or logic explain why the necessary factor will fail or is not included in the plan or is not proven to work in the affirmative's solvency evidence.)
C. Solvency is a voting issue. (This optional element is desirable but sometimes hard to prove. Of course if your logic or evidence shows that zero solvency results then many theory books and logic would support the claim that this is an absolute voting issue, but many PMNs merely reduce but do 
not eliminate the affirmative solvency so some advantage still remains.)

6. Justification Blocks. This block will often be organized as follows:
Justification attack #      :                          is not justified. (The word or phrase from the topic that is not justified is placed in the blank spot.)
 A. The topic includes the word(s)                      . (Again, the word or phrase not justified is inserted in the blank spot.)
B.                   defined. (In this optional subpoint the word or phrase is defined if it has not been adequately defined and if its meaning need to be clarified.)
C. The affirmative does not justify                          . (Here logic and/or evidence either points out that the affirmative case gives no reason for including this work or phrase in the resolution, or the subpoint explains why the affirmative attempt is inadequate.)
D. Equal or superior options exist. (Here logic and/or evidence argue for an alternative word or phrase. If the topic calls for "a policy" why not "a program" or "policies”? If the topic says "federal government" why not use the states or the United Nations instead? This is an optional subpoint).
E. Justification is a voting issue. (In this optional subpoint logic or theory evidence explains why this is a voting issue.)

Finding the Evidence

Most handbooks provide organized evidence. Your more experienced squad members will often share some of their evidence. The previous chapter introduced you to doing library research to find evidence. Your teacher or coach will often have some evidence or articles on the topic you can use. These sources are very useful for less experienced debaters to begin building blocks with.
Three handbook firms produce prewritten blocks. All of the CDE handbooks are in block form. About 1/4 of the Baylor handbook and their casebook series are in block form. And Squirrel-Killers handbooks are formatted in what could be called loose or starting block form.

How to File Negative Blocks

Step 1: Divide blocks into 2 groups: generic and case specifics. (Generics: can be used against 2 or more types of cases).
Step 2: Take case specific blocks and divide alphabetically by the name of the case (e.g. all El Salvador blocks in 1 pile, all debt default blocks in another, etc.).
Step 3: File your blocks by case specific areas.

A. If you are filling in block notebooks file them behind tabs. The tab has the name of the case on it. Tabs and blocks are placed in alphabetical order. Use 3-hole punch.
B. If you are filing with folders put the name of the case on the folder tab and files them alphabetically.
C. On cases where you have 8 or more case specific blocks insert subdividers, dividing by voting issue (e.g. one divider will say "topicality" and all topicality blocks will be behind it).
Step 4: Divide generic blocks by voting issue. (E.g. all disadvantages in one pile, all topicality in another, etc.)
Step 5: Take all your topicality attacks and divide them by what word or phrase they attack in the resolution. (E.g. all "a.' in one pile, all "policy" in one pile, etc.).
 Step 6: Now insert subdividers/tabs that give the title of each attack within each topic word area. For example, you take your pile of topicality attacks on "Latin America" and insert tab dividers for each attack you have there-printing a brief description of the attack on the tab. Include extension blocks behind these tabs.
Step 7: Put topicality attacks behind main tabs. Remember that "main tabs always hold the left position in your notebook and subdivisions fill the other positions. If you are using folders remember to write labels at the top of each file folder.
Step 8: Check to be sure that your mainhead tabs are in the same order as the words appear in the topic.
Step 9: Now go to your generic disadvantage pile. Create mainhead tabs for each disadvantage (or label your file folders).
Step 10: Put the disadvantages where you have extension blocks and insert subdividers with tabs. Note what is extended on the tab (e.g. links, uniqueness, impact, etc.). If you are using file folders put the original block in the first folder and extensions in the file folders immediately behind.
Step 11: Repeat the above process for your other generics. 
A. If you use notebooks use reinforcers for the holes in the blocks you expect to use often
B. If you use file folders don't skimp on subdividing.

Learning Experiences

Experience #1

Imagine that you are debating the topic, “Resolved that prison overcrowding should be reduced.” The affirmative plan plank #l calls for the building of more prisons. Using your own logic and some or all of the following evidence build the most complete disadvantage that you can.

Joan Mullen in '05 (V-pres., Mangr. Law & Just. in Abt. Assoc., inc., ANNALS, AAPSS, 478, March, p. 38)
"There are also incalculable, but nonetheless real, opportunity costs, since funds devoted to prisons are unavailable for other public purposes, such as health, education, fire or police protection, even tax relief."

Joan Petersilia in '07 (Clark Found. Rsrchr., EXPANDING OPTIONS FOR CRIMINAL SENTENCING, RAND-pub., Nov., p.3)
"Evidently, people are realizing that without higher taxes, more dollars for prisons means fewer dollars for other vital social services such as transportation, education, and health care."

Joan Mullen in '05 (V-pres., Mangr. Law & Just. in Abt. Assoc, inc., ANNALS, AAPSS 478, March, p.38)
“The one-time capital costs of construction may range from $40,000 to a staggering $100,000 per inmate space. Adding financing costs can easily triple the outlay. Continuing operating costs may then require up to $20,000 per space per year.”

Joan Pertersilia in '07 (Clark Found. Rsrchr., EXPANDING OPTIONS FOR CRIMINAL SENTENCING, RAND-pub., Nov., p. V)
“Prisons are extraordinarily expensive to build and operate. Construction costs typically range between $50,000 and $75,000 per cell, and it costs an average of $14,000 per year to incarcerate a prisoner in a state or federal prison. In some states, the average is as much as $30,000 per year per inmate.”

Experience #2

Imagine that you are preparing on the negative for the topic: "Resolved that the federal government should support union efforts to help the elderly." Their case is mainly telling all the advantages of medical and welfare programs for the elderly. Using logic and the evidence below write a complete justification attack.

AMERICA'S OLDER POPULATION, Paul E. Zoph, Jr. 2006, p 292
"Furthermore, given the necessarily impersonal nature of governmental programs, they can do little to reduce loneliness, facilitate communication between the generations, or provide loving environments."

 JOURNAL OF LABOR RESEARCH, Bennett and Dilorenzo, Spring 2007 p.179 
"Two earlier articles in this journal presented evidence that unions receive millions of taxpayers' dollars each year and that much of this money is diverted, sometimes illegally, to promote unionism."

Experience #3

Imagine that you are introducing a topicality attack. Subpoint C of your attack says that your definition is better than the affirmative definition. The second affirmative constructive responds by saying that they only have to be reasonable and they introduce two good pieces of debate theory evidence that supports them. Read the block below and then discuss the following questions:

1. Who is right? Does the Affirmative have to be best or just reasonable?

2. What criteria should be used to determine which definition is best?

3. What criteria, if any, should be used to determine if a definition is reasonable?

4. Even if you win this C subpoint what other issues do you need to win in order to get the judge to vote for you.

Best Definition is Best


James Unger, ROSTRUM, October '81, p.8
"The new standard (best) provides for a superior educational concentration upon the use and meanings of words. Both sides would now be forced to examine the proposition, not in an attempt to discover the most esoteric or individualistic of definitions, but rather to uncover and build upon the most central reasonable, and acceptable approaches. Such linguistic inquiry would be of immense value to all debaters. "


James Unger, ROSTRUM, October '81, p. 7-8
"The radical nature, in the best sense of the term, of this approach needs to be stressed. It totally eliminates the current emphasis on a single threshold concept of acceptability, i.e. 'reasonability,' and puts into its place a comparative assessment which requires both teams to discover the superiority of one of their definitions through a process of comparison and contrast. In doing so, it places topicality argumentation on a more rational and equitable level with all other portions of the debate process.


With the best of all definitions, we will be debating the true intent of the resolution, instead of the reasonable, if not topical, affirmative case.


By narrowing the topical cases, limitation insures in-depth consideration of issues and guarantees clash.


Precise and narrow definitions are needed to ensure communication and understanding.

Henry Cohen, Bureau of Contracts, New York, 2001, Public Construction Contracts and the Law, p. 154.
"Certainty is an essential element in all contracts, otherwise it is impossible to determine as to what the parties have agreed.''


Michael Pfau, Director of Debate, Augustana College, Debating United States Justice System, 1983, p. 110

“The ‘better definition’, is that definition which is superior in analytical and evidential support, drawn from the relevant subject matter area, as introduced in a particular round.”

Experience #4

Select a strong affirmative case that you have either a copy of or very good notes on. Then use handbooks, evidence from your coach and senior debaters and any other sources you can find to write an inherency block and a PMN. Make sure that at least one piece of evidence in each block was researched by yourself in the library and be sure that both blocks follow the seven general guidelines at the start of the chapter as well as the specific guidelines listed in the inherency and solvency sections of this chapter.

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