T-Framework (also referred to as Framework, T-USFG, or T-FW) is a topicality argument designed to answer non topical critical affirmatives. In most topicality debates, both debaters agree that the affirmative should be topical, but disagree on whether the affirmative is topical. However, many critical affirmatives will contest whether the affirmative should have the burden to be topical in the first place. Because of this, T-Framework is a unique topicality argument, as most 2NRs on T-Framework will not focus on proving the aff is not topical, but rather on proving debates about the resolution are valuable and topicality is a norm worth preserving. Like most topicality shells, T-Framework arguments in the 1NC include definitions of words in the resolution to prove the affirmative has not defended the precise meaning of the resolution.
Core Standards and Offense
While many different standards and justifications for T-Framework have been read, most standards fall into 1 of 3 different core categories of offense: Fairness, Clash, and Skills. Most 2NRs on T-Framework will collapse to one of these standards.
This category of offense will argue that non topical affirmatives place an unfair burden on the negative. Common internal links to a fairness impact include:
- Limits - if the affirmative is not constrained by the resolution, they could defend anything in their 1AC. There is no way for the negative to reasonably anticipate and prepare for this massive amount of possible affirmatives, skewing the debate in the affirmative's favor.
- Ground - if the affirmative can defend anything, then they have a competitive incentive to defend uncontroversial proposals with very little ground for the negative. An admittedly hyperbolic example might be a 1AC that defends a truism like "racism is bad" or "2+2=4".
- Prep Skew (also referred to as the Library Disadvantage) - if the affirmative is not constrained by the topic, they can read the same or similar affirmatives topic after topic and specialize in only one type of argument or literature base. Even if the negative is able to engage with the affirmative, the deck will be stacked against them because the aff has far more experience , given the length of time they could have been learning and reading their 1AC.
However, unlike most theory and topicality debates where both debaters assume fairness is an important impact, many critical affirmatives will argue that ensuring the debate is fair for the negative is unimportant. Because of this, a crucial component of winning fairness offense when reading T-Framework is proving fairness is an important impact. Common arguments that attempt to prove this include:
- Competition - the reason debaters do things like spread, read new affirmatives, and make countless other strategic decisions is because the way we debate is ultimately motivated by a desire to win. Debate is distinct from a non adversarial forum like a book club or discussion group because its a competitive game where participants try to win, and all external benefits of the activity like education or friendships are byproducts of debaters trying to win. This model of competitive incentives can only function if all parties involved think they have a shot at winning, which requires some degree of fairness. The debater reading T-Framework would argue that the affirmative cannot disregard fairness, the thing that coheres debate as a competitive activity, while also appealing to the competitive aspects of debate by asking to win and by designing their strategy for the purpose of winning.
- Fairness Is a Side Constraint - by asking the judge to evaluate the arguments they read in a fair, non arbitrary way, the affirmative has ceded validity to the importance of fairness.
- Fairness Turns All Other Impacts - if the negative is unable to engage the affirmative and test their idea, or has no incentive to compete in the activity because they know they will lose, then any educational benefits of reading a non topical 1AC in debate are lost because that 1AC cannot be effectively discussed and tested.
- Fairness Is the Only Impact a Judge Can Resolve - the affirmative might criticize large problems with the topic, society, or debate as an activity, but the debater reading T-Framework would argue that a judge voting affirmative does nothing to resolve any of those problems. However, if the refusal to be topical skewed the negative's strategy and made the round unfair, then the judge voting negative would be able rectify that loss of fairness. In essence, even if the impact to fairness is quite marginal, it is the only impact that matters because it is the only impact the ballot has the potential to solve.
This category of offense will argue that non topical affirmatives reduce the negative's ability to robustly test and argue against the affirmative. The debater reading T-Framework would argue that this process of competitive deliberation between two well prepared opponents is the most educational model of debate and should be preserved. Common internal links to a clash impact are very similar to the internal links to a fairness impact. Arguments like Limits, Ground, and Prep Skew all try to prove that non topical affirmatives reduce the negative's ability to prepare for and engage in debates. However, the debater reading a clash impact would argue that this reduction in the negative's ability to engage and test the affirmative is bad in and of itself, not simply because it makes the round unfair.
Common impacts to clash include:
- Clash Turns the Affirmative's Impacts - many non topical affirmatives will advocate for some sort of method for combatting oppression. Debaters reading these affirmatives would argue that the judge should vote aff to endorse that method if it is effective. The debater reading T-Framework would argue that the method proposed by the affirmative will be ineffective in bringing about social change unless its advocates know how to rigorously defend it against criticism and convince people who disagree with the method that it is effective. These skills can only be acquired through forms of debate in which the negative can robustly contest and clash with the affirmative's method, forcing the affirmative to robustly defend their ideas.
- Clash Prevents Dogmatism - dogmatism is the practice of unconditionally believing in certain ideas, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Debaters reading T-Framework would argue that reducing the negative's ability to contest non topical affirmatives creates an echo chamber in which the ideas proposed by these affirmatives are never exposed to rebuttal, therefore encouraging dogmatic belief in those ideas. By allowing the negative to prepare for and robustly challenge these ideas through a stasis point for preparation like the resolution, debaters would be forced to consider many conflicting, well argued ideas. Certain theories, like the marketplace of ideas, would suggest that in this environment, the best ideas would win out.
An important distinction between the clash standard and the skills standard is the fact that clash doesn't pass a referendum on what kind of content or skills debate should teach us. Many critical affs are written to criticize the idea we should use debate to learn about the government, the law, international relations, or other common topics in traditional policy debate. Clash offense doesn't argue that debates should be about the state, the law, or any one type of content. Rather, it argues that regardless of the topic we choose to debate about, that topic should be attached to a predictable stasis point for preparation like the resolution because debates in which both sides have robust preparation produce the highest quality clash and most nuanced testing of ideas.
This category of offense will argue that non topical affirmatives prevent important discussions about the law, policymaking, international relations, and other topics that are commonly found in topical policy debates about the resolution. The debater reading T-Framework would argue that these discussions produce Portable Skills that debaters can use to impact the world outside of debate in positive ways.
Common impacts to skills include:
- Political Engagement - by learning about the intricacies of the judicial system and the legislative process, debaters can use that knowledge to help enact beneficial judicial and legal reform, or advocate for desirable policy proposals. Debaters making this argument will often cite empirical data that identify strong correlations between political education through activities like debate and political advocacy and engagement later in life.
- Movements - many non topical affirmatives will argue that legal change and policy reforms are ineffective, instead advocating for revolutionary action and social movements as a means for causing change. Debaters reading T-Framework would argue that those movements require members who understand the intricacies of the law and the government in order to effectively combat oppression caused by the law and the government (basically the idea behind the adage "know your enemy").
- Critical thinking - some scholarly literature suggests that analyzing complex concepts like international relations, debating about policy proposals, and predicting the actions of nations and individuals helps create critical thinking and creative problem solving skills. Debaters reading T-Framework would argue that policy debates about the resolution are the best way to foster these skills, which have countless applications later in life.
Miscellaneous Arguments and Terms
Topical Version of the Aff (TVA)
A TVA is an argument that can be made alongside any topicality shell, but it is especially important with T-Framework. A TVA is an explanation of how the (usually educational) benefits of a non topical affirmative can still be accessed under the negative's topicality Interpretation. In other words, how the supposed benefits of debating about something other than the topic can be accessed while debating about the topic. Because of this, the TVA is a powerful defensive argument that can mitigate the benefits of affirmative's Counterinterpertation to T-Framework.
The TVA often looks like an example Plan Text, sometimes with a Solvency Advocate, paired with an explanation of how that plan text mimics the affirmative's advocacy. Generally, the more similar the TVA is to the 1AC, the better.
Switch Side Debate
Switch side debate refers to the practice of defending different sides of an issue over the course of multiple rounds. Since debates about the resolution require switch side debate (after all, sometimes debaters have to defend the resolution, and other times they have to refute it), debaters reading T-Framework will often leverage switch side debate as:
- A Defensive Argument used to answer affirmative arguments that defending the resolution prevents the discussion of certain important topics or the use of certain types of critical literature. If it is the case that topical affirmatives are incompatible with a certain form of critical theory, then that form of critical theory can be read on the negative to criticize and disprove topical affirmatives, proving that debates about the resolution permit the affirmative discuss topics and theories they see as important in at least 50% of rounds.
- An Offensive Argument used prove the affirmative's model of debate encourages dogmatism, since switch side debate and the forced consideration of ideas we disagree with is only possible when debating about the resolution.
Third and Fourth Level Testing
Third and fourth level testing refers to the process of questioning, criticizing, and ultimately improving ideas over a long period of time through repeated deliberation. Debaters reading T-Framework would argue that this form of testing is only possible when both debaters have a stasis point for preparation like the resolution, as the resolution allows all debaters to prepare in depth arguments on a single issue, and then compare those arguments through dozens of rounds over the course of a season.
Truth testing refers to the argument that because non topical affirmatives prevent the negative from anticipating and preparing against the affirmative, the affirmative's claims in the 1AC will not have been tested and adequately challenged by the end of round, which means judges should not evaluate those claims. In essence, for the same reason that a debater who has been knocked unconscious would not be expected to answer arguments made by their opponent because they are physically unable to do so, the negative should not be expected to disprove the claims of a non topical 1AC because they had no way to prepare rebuttal to those claims because the aff was unpredictable.
Jurisdiction refers to the argument that because the National Speech and Debate Association sets a Lincoln Douglas resolution to be debated, it is a constitutive rule of debate that the affirmative must defend that resolution. Therefore, since judges do not have the jurisdiction to violate the constitutive rules of debate, they do not have the jurisdiction to vote for debaters reading non topical affirmatives.