Space, health care, immigration, federal elections and poverty are five suggested debate topics for 2009-2010 


Forty-five delegates from 26 states, the National Catholic Forensic League, the National Debate Coaches Association and the National Forensic League attended the NFHS-sponsored Topic Selection Meeting August 1-3 in Austin, Texas. 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 2008 Wording Committee were: Frank Sferra, Colorado (Chairperson); Tom Lietz, Michigan; David Gardiner, Texas; Tara Tate, Illinois; Mike Wallmark, Oregon; Bill Murray, Pennsylvania and Pam McComas, Kansas.













The Texas University Interscholastic League hosted the annual meeting. Jana Riggins served as the local coordinator. The Texas UIL hosted a dinner cruise on Town Lake followed by bat watching the first night of the meeting for attendees and spouses.

Balloting for the 2009-2010 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 and the NCFL will conduct voting in November and December to determine the favored topic area. In January the NFHS will announce the 2009-2010 national high school debate topic and resolution. It will be posted on the NFHS web page at and sent to state associations and affiliate members.


Synopsis of Problem Areas and Resolutions for 2009-2010



Resolved: The United States federal government should significantly increase its exploration and/or its development of space beyond Earth's mesosphere.


Space, the "final frontier," captures the human imagination as few other subjects are able to do. As the space telescope and various probes continue to add to our knowledge about the universe, new areas for research continue to emerge. The application of space research has already changed our lives in numerous areas involving communication technology, electronics miniaturization, propulsion, and military capabilities. Advocates imagine that the exploration and development of space can lead to even more dramatic breakthroughs involving resource extraction and space colonization. Others emphasize the cost and technological barriers preventing the realization of these claims.
Affirmative case areas may include the use of space to improve medical technologies, space manufacturing in microgravity, space colonization, remote sensing for agriculture or climate research, laser systems for anti-missile defenses, space battle stations, among others. Negative teams may argue that the exploration and/or development of space will lead to space militarization, delay environmental efforts (creating a false sense that humans can escape the limits of Earth's resources), cause runaway federal spending, undermine international space programs, trade-off with private space programs, catch the attention of malevolent extraterrestrial beings, among others. Author: W. E. Schuetz, Texas.



Resolved: The United States federal government should establish a universal health care system in the United States. 

Health care is the most important domestic issue facing policymakers in the United States today. This topic offers an opportunity to expose students to divergent views on a crucial topic. The ongoing national debate over health care in the United States centers on three key problems: cost, quality and access. Total spending on health care has been rising at about twice the rate of national income, increasing from 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1970 to 16.2 percent today. Currently the United States spends about $2 trillion on health care, or $6,500 per year per person. This is $477 billion a year more than any other developed country. Despite spending much more, 47 million Americans have no health insurance. Affirmative positions would include cases dealing with single pay systems, international models, programs to fill in the lapses in coverage, Medicare and Medicaid expansion and others. Negative positions could include substantial case debate on empirical problems associated with existing single payer systems programs, state solutions, problems with rationing and the high cost of health care. Negatives would explore competitiveness, political scenarios, federalism, spending and trade off positions, as well as host of critical arguments on increased governmental intervention. As the 2008 election nears, the issue of national health care will only continue to grow increasingly important in the media and in the public debate throughout the country. Authors: Christa Bieker and John Goodman, Texas 



Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially decrease its restriction of immigration to the United States. 


In a myriad of post-9/11 political issues, none has been at the forefront of more controversy than United States immigration policy. In the wake of the major defeat of President Bush's immigration proposal, we stand at a crossroads in determining the future of foreign citizens who wish to immigrate to the United States. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services estimates over 35.2 million immigrants are currently living in the United States with another 2.9 million citizenship applications submitted per year. Affirmatives would be able to alter existing policies including the PATRIOT Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, create new policies or organizations to process immigration related issues, grant amnesty, increase asylum in one or more areas, and increase approved visa applications, among others. Disadvantages would include terrorism, crime, politics, economy, disease, drugs, social fragmentation, social services, cultural dilution, and hegemony, among others. The negative could also argue that the states or other nations are better suited to address immigration issues. International organizations like the UN or Amnesty International could be better suited to address global issues like refugee crises. Never far from the headlines, immigration offers an incredibly rich area for discussion. Author: Matthew Murrell, Texas




Resolved: The United States should substantially change its federal election system through one or more of the following means: legislation, court decision, constitutional amendment.


Our federal election system is the cornerstone of our democratic process. It begins after the previous election and may not end until weeks or months after the final votes are cast. Its participants include candidates, party officials, lobbyists, interest groups, the media, and, of course, voters. Though eight years have passed since major problems were exposed in November of 2000, little substantive change has occurred, voting technology problems remain significant and political passions have rarely run so high. Although one significant piece of campaign-finance legislation (McCain-Feingold) was signed into law by President Bush, critics argue that it ignores serious loopholes such as interest group attack ads. Specific affirmative case areas could include primaries, terms of office, political party processes, campaign finance, voting technology, the Electoral College, third parties, Federal Election Commission powers, voter civil rights, media limitations, and structural reforms such as changing Congressional proportions, electing federal judges, a bifurcated presidency, a unicameral legislature, or a parliamentary system. Negatives could dispute case impacts on a variety of philosophical grounds, including racial equality, freedom of expression, and disenfranchisement of various voting groups. Solvency issues might be raised with regard to voter participation, excess or inadequate party influence, denial of a convincing majority, and the role of fringe-party candidates. The fact that several key issues lie within state purview provides solid ground for counterplans. Disadvantages would include free speech and press rights, political gridlock, voter apathy, loss of influence by voters and/or states, increased power of lobbies, vote fraud, and, of course, federalism. Author: Randy Pierce, Missouri.




Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase social services for persons living in poverty in the United States.


Unfortunately, more than four decades after Michael Harrington identified those living in poverty as "The Other America," poverty is still an endemic problem in the United States. In 2005, close to 13 percent of the total U.S. population - about 37 million people - were counted as living below the poverty line, a number that essentially remained unchanged from 2004. Of these, 12.3 million were children. Poverty is associated with many harmful outcomes, including poor health, crime, educational difficulties, and other social problems. Poverty continues to plague our society despite over four decades of national effort and trillions of dollars in federal spending to combat it. In a nation as wealthy as the United States, such a high level of poverty is certainly appropriate for the examination and reflection provided by a variety of debates on the topic. Affirmatives advocating this topic will be able to defend a wide range of social services designed to both ameliorate the harms of poverty and to reduce the number of people living in poverty. These services would include expanding child care, health care, food stamps, housing assistance, mental health care, educational assistance, Early Head Start and job training, among others. Negatives would be able to debate against the harms of poverty, questioning the ability of various plans to solve the problems identified and offering many disadvantages, including spending, politics, federalism and net widening. They would also be able to counterplan many of the affirmative plans with the state counterplan. The negative would also have several critical options, including objectivism, statism, dependency, and even critiquing the use of the term poverty. Author: Chuck Ballingall, California


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