I apologize for not updating more regularly, but NSDUpdate is blocked at Ben Davis High School. 

Here are the top 14 topics. This is not the final wording so your edits/thoughts can still be accommodated:

1.     The United States is justified in intervening in the domestic affairs of other countries to attempt to stop human rights abuses.
2.     The United States ought to guarantee universal health care for its citizens.
3.     Public colleges and universities in the United States ought to prohibit hate speech on their campuses.
4.     In the United States, unlimited independent expenditures intended to influence elections are detrimental to democracy.
5.     When making admissions decisions, public colleges and universities in the United States ought to favor members of historically disadvantaged groups.
6.     On balance, the privatization of civil services serves the public interest.
7.     In the United States, Article III federal judges should be subject to term limits.
8.     Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.
9.     Oppressive government is more desirable than no government.
10.   In a democracy, voting ought to be compulsory.
11.   The constitutions of democratic governments ought to include procedures for secession.
12.   Human genetic engineering for medical purposes is moral.
13.   Faith-based organizations ought to be exempt from employment law requirements that conflict with their religious doctrines.
14.   On balance, labor unions in the United States are beneficial.


by Dave McGinnis

Each year the National Forensic League assigns a committee to construct a list of 10 well-worded LD debate topics to be voted upon by the nation’s LD debate coaches. The committee begins with a list of topic ideas submitted electronically to the NFL. Over the course of three days, each suggested topic is discussed, analyzed, researched and reworded. In a series of votes the list is pared down until a final list of ten topics is produced and published at the end of the tournament.

The committee seeks input throughout the process. While only committee members may vote, the committee meetings are open (subject to available space), and community members are welcome to stop by and contribute to the discussion. The committee will be meeting at Ben Davis High School in Room B110.

Also, the committee will bring the lists of topics to the assembled coaches, students and community members throughout the tournament. As the lists are pared down, they will also be posted online. The NFL has set up an official site for viewing of the list, updates to the list, and commentary on the topics. It is: http://nflnationals.org/nfl-ld-topic-wording-committee-working-list/

Comments posted here on specific topics will be reviewed and considered by the committee. These may also be posted on other websites frequented by LD debaters.

The initial list consists of 146 topic ideas:

  1. Resolved: In the United States, the slaughtering of horses is not morally permissible.
  2. Justice requires the repatriation of cultural artifacts to their countries of origin.
  3. Resolved:  The Lincoln Douglas Topic Committee should strongly consider the implication of the resolutions they write on how it impacts the arguments being made in debate rounds
  4. Resolved: That the government of a nation should hold the safety of its citizens above their liberty
  5. Resolved: That harming another individual is morally worse than allowing them to be harmed
  6. Resolved: The United States has a moral obligation to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign nation to attempt to stop its government from committing crimes against humanity.
  7. Resolved: It is morally permissible to torture a known terrorist to get vital information to save innocent people.
  8. when in conflict, a lesser developed nation’s right to develop ought to take priority over its obligation to protect the environment.
  9. Should the U.S. keep fighting in War Zones that don’t affect them such as Somalia.
  10. Resolved:  Colleges and universities have an obligation to prohibit hate speech on their campuses.
  11. When in conflict, protection of the environment outweighs the needs of economic development.
  12. Resolved: Prisons in the United States ought to prioritize prisoner re-assimilation into society over prisoner incapcitation.
  13. Resolved: International aid ought not be based on a country’s human rights record.
  14. RESOLVED: When forced to choose, Governments ought to prioritize Public Health concerns over those of individual liberty.
  15. Resolved: The Right to Die is an Ethical Entitlement Inherent to All Individuals
  16. Resolved: Voting rights be extended to children above the age of 13
  17. Resolved: The United States is morally obligated to spread democratic values even at the cost of national interest.
  18. Resolved: The United States ought not deport juvenile illegal immigrants.
  19. The act of mercy killing is morally permissible
  20. Nationalism is a vice that needs to be overcome by all human beings.
  21. The use of genetic engineering for medical purposes is morally permissible.
  22. It is morally permissible to forcibly implement democracy upon another country.
  23. Resolved: Abortion is morally justified as a result of rape.
  24. Resolved: In the United States, public universities ought to favor historically disadvantaged groups in admissions decisions.
  25. Resolved: States ought to enhance criminal penalties for hate crimes.
  26. Enhanced Interogation is justified to promote national security.
  27. The international community is morally obligated to intervene in the case of abusive regimes.
  28. The hacking of data under a security premise is an morally justified act.
  29. Honesty in human communication is more important than civility.
  30. Resolved:  Convicted criminals should not be subjected to the double jeprody being held responsible in civil courts.
  31. Resolved: It has ought to be just, to protect Native American burial grounds.
  32. Resolved: It is morally permissible for the United Nations Human Rights Council to violate the sovereignty of one of its member states for the purpose of preventing future crimes against humanity.
  33. Resolved: The United State ought to prioritize energy production over issues of foreign policy.
  34. Resolved: individuals rights
  35. Resolved: In the United States, the government ought to have the right to arrest anyone suspected of terrorism.
  36. Resolved:  The United States ought to counsel the United Nations Security Counsel for approval before taking military action on any threats to global democracy.
  37. Resolved: Individual claims of privacy ought to be valued above competing claims of societal welfare.
  38. Resolved:  When they conflict in the United States, religious freedoms ought to take precedent over societal good.
  39. It is morally permissible to allow for creationism to be taught alongside evolution.
  40. Resolved: In the United States, marriage should be recognized by the state regardless of sexual preferences.
  41. “Stand Your Ground” laws are unjust.
  42. It is morally permissible for the US army to hold a draft for gathering troops when needed.
  43. It is morally permissible to aid someone committing violence, should they threaten you or one close to you.
  44. That the media ought to value the privacy of individuals above truth seeking efforts.
  45. It is morally permissible for Justices of the Supreme Court to engage in judicial activism.
  46. That the acquisition of nuclear weapons by nations previously without them is morally justifiable.
  47. Resolved: Stand-your-ground laws are justifiable when threatened.
  48. Resolved: Morality is best upheld by democratic government
  49. Resolved: the right to join a labor union should be a fundamental human right.
  50. Resolved: In the United States, the perpetrators of hate crimes should receive additional punishment
  51. Governments ought to provide health care coverage for their citizens.
  52. Be it resolved that physician assistant suicide is a morally permissable action.
  53. In the United States, the feminist movement’s drawbacks outweigh its utilities in achieving and/or maintaining equality for women.
  54. The captain of the California acted morally on the night of the Titanic.
  55. Civil war as a means to achieve democracy is justified.
  56. Resolved: It is morally permissible to genetically modify human embryos.
  57. An unjust government is preferable to no government at all.
  58. Age discrimination laws are unjust.
  59. Using progressive LD tactics in an official NFL certified round is justified.
    It is a moral obligation of a debater to uphold the traditional standards of lincoln douglas debate.
  60. Civil war as a means to achieve democracy is justified.
  61. Resolved: It is morally permissible to genetically modify human embryos.
    Resolved: It is morally permissible to genetically enhance human embryos
  62. An unjust government is preferable to no government at all.
  63. Age discrimination laws are unjust.
  64. Using progressive LD tactics in an official NFL certified round is justified.
    It is a moral obligation of a debater to uphold the traditional standards of lincoln douglas debate.
  65. Resolved: Oppressive government is more desirable than no government.

66. Eminent domain for private economic development is just.

67. Resolved: The United States federal government should correspondingly decrease taxes for the parents/guardians of private school minors.

68. Resolved: Government ought to encourage and/or institute moral standards and values.

69. Gay marriage ought to be equal in every state

70. Resolved: The use of recalls against elected officials serves as a crucial component of democracy.

71. Assisted suicide is morally justified when the victim is suffering.

72. Resolved: America should legalize Marijuana.

73. Resolved: The United States government should increase bank regulation.

74. Resolved: The Upper Class constituting the way of life for others.

75. Resolved: Capitol punishment ought not be used as a method of justice

76. Resolved: allowing innocent people to be harmed is preferable than giving into terrorists demands.

77. In light of the long string of individual-oriented, abstract moral topics (and corresponding lack of any governmental/International Relations oriented debate) which no one voting for the topic could have anticipated as well as the large public outcry against the current topic (see here), I hope that the National Forensic League will seriously consider taking quick action to resolve the current dilemma. Two options would be adopting the targeted killing resolution suggested in the hyperlinked website or adopting the 2nd-place topic. At the very least, I hope the LD topic selection process will be revised in the light of this debacle so that future topics aren’t so at odds with the community.

78. Resolved: it is morally permissible to murder those who threaten democratic ideals.

79. Resolved: the death penalty is morally and/or logically permissible

80. Resolved: democracy is the only solution.

81. Resolved: it is morally permissible for the United States Federal Government to biopolitically control those who would otherwise undermine the State’s security

82. Resolved: it is morally permissible for Occupy Wall Street to turn violent

83. Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a deliberate response to repeated domestic violence.

84. Violence in response to political repression is not necessary to install democratic principles. I believe this resolution accesses one of the most interesting fields of international events in recent history. It covers both democratic promotion efforts that originate from abroad (such as US efforts in Afghanistan) as well as internally generated actions (revolutions, the “Arab Spring”). It distills an extensive policy literature into a fundamental conflict of moral and ethical principles relating to government. I would argue that a number of values and criterial structures can be deployed on either side of the topic, but its wording also leaves it open to alternate interpretations to foster a diverse argument base. A recent concern has been balancing resolutions affirmative to counteract the large negative wins bias at many tournaments. This topic gives the affirmative a low and specific threshold to meet: they have to prove a lack of necessity. The negative is bound to a positive burden, which will prevent a number of dastardly negative strategies – as well as ensuring that each side will actually have to engage the crux of the resolution.

85. Violence in response to political repression is not necessary to install democratic principles. I believe this resolution accesses one of the most interesting fields of international events in recent history. It covers both democratic promotion efforts that originate from abroad (such as US efforts in Afghanistan) as well as internally generated actions (revolutions, the “Arab Spring”). It distills an extensive policy literature into a fundamental conflict of moral and ethical principles relating to government. I would argue that a number of values and criterial structures can be deployed on either side of the topic, but its wording also leaves it open to alternate interpretations to foster a diverse argument base. A recent concern has been balancing resolutions affirmative to counteract the large negative wins bias at many tournaments. This topic gives the affirmative a low and specific threshold to meet: they have to prove a lack of necessity. The negative is bound to a positive burden, which will prevent a number of dastardly negative strategies – as well as ensuring that each side will actually have to engage the crux of the resolution.

86. Government ought not be able to foreclose personal choices that do not affect the safety of other people. While potentially too broad, and covering some of the same ground as the drug abuse topic from 2010, this topic also includes things like abortion – smoking – homosexuality – etc, while avoiding forcing either side to directly defend or attack those personal choices. An affirmative case could talk about specific personal choices, or make broader arguments for the role of personal choice in government through the social contract, democratic ideals, checks on tyranny, and a number of key political and human rights. If we are willing to discuss repeated domestic violence (although I prefer the term intimate terrorism), it would incredibly hypocritical to refuse to discuss things such as pornography, sexual fetishes, smoking/not wearing seatbelts, etc. Especially since these things are in many ways far more public of issues than RDV, and in many cases will be less graphic and horrifying to discuss in the abstract.

87. The limited rights of minors in the educational system of the US is unjust. A very relevant topic in my opinion, considering that debate is about giving students opportunities to speak out and be heard. This seems like something we MUST confront considering cases like the infamous “Bong hits for jesus” (Morse v. Frederick) and the contingent status of most rights granted to minors in the US. Authors like Henry Giroux and Paulo Friere consider censorship and forms of education on very in depth levels, and it is possible to reach into classical philosophy and nearly every other school of thought in order to address the status of education of the young. This topic would also allow for a legal debate, but does not necessitate it.

88. . It is morally permissible for agents of the law to apply violence in order to force the compliance of protestors. This topic is not US specific, but engages a number of recent events as well as international events such as the responses in Egypt to protests. It will engage police brutality, as well as things like the Kent State incident in which the national guard killed several students – thus connecting important events in history with the status quo. It doesn’t require the affirmative to defend police brutality, and not even lethal force. Only violent force. This is sort of a re-wording of my #1, but takes an opposite tack in certain ways and doesn’t require a situation of political repression to be relevant.

89. Labor rights are a necessary component of a just society. A debate that is more important than it might seem, since many in our government believe that labor groups and the rights they advocate for are destructive and a force for corruption and evil. This country has a longstanding history of labor disputes and the evolution of labor laws, and there is no reason that we shouldn’t engage this debate in the status quo. There is a ton of literature on both sides, and many students are completely ignorant about the long history of struggles and debates over labor rights.

90. A just democracy requires transparency of procedures as a check on unconstrained power.

91. It is morally permissible for an individual to break the law in order to respond to injustice.

92. Politicians ought not base their platforms on religious beliefs

93. National security is not an excuse for the violation of civil liberties

94. Art is a necessary part of moral virtue.

95. Cyberbullying ought to be prosecuted as a felony charge.

96. Corporate personhood is not beneficial to free market operations.

97. Militarization of space is unjust.

98. Environmental concerns outweigh the individual rights of people.

99. There is only one correct way to conduct oneself morally.

100. On balance, open transnational borders are better than closed borders

101. Resolved: Cats are better than dogs

102. Resolved: The United States should significantly reduce military aid to Pakistan.

103. Resolved: The United States has a moral obligation to prevent hunger.  (this could be modified to narrow the scope either to foreign countries or within the US)

104. Resolved: The United States government should prioritize hunger as a social welfare issue in policy-making.

105. I was hoping you would consider transhumanism or the ethics of human augmentation as a potential topic for LD? This topic would provide for complex and layered arguments, and would be interesting to discuss the ethical implications of augmentations.

106. Resolved: Democratic principles justify compulsory voting.

107. Resolved:  It is a moral obligation for NATO to recognize Mexico as a soveirgn country and protected.

108. When in conflict, the right’s of the victim must be prioritized over the rights of the accused.

109. It is morally permissible to kill one innocent person to save the lives of more innocent people.

110. Military conscription is unjust.

111. when in conflict, globalization ought to be valued above national sovereignty.

112. oppressive government is more desirable than no government.

113. oppressive government is more desirable than no government.

114. the possession of nuclear weapons is immoral.

115. an adolescent’s right to privacy ought to be valued above a parent’s conflicting right to know.

116. when they are in conflict, a business’ responsibility to itself ought to be valued above its responsibility to society.

117. when in conflict, American cultural unity ought to be valued above cultural diversity.

118. laws which protect citizens from themselves are justified.

119. when in conflict, the safety of others is of greater value than the right to privacy of those with infectious diseases.

120. when called upon by one’s government, individuals are morally obligated to risk their lives for their country.

121. when in conflict, the spirit of the law ought to take priority over
the letter of the law.

122. a victim’s deliberate use of deadly force is justified as a response to physical abuse.

123. competition is superior to cooperation as a means of achieving excellence.

124. communities in the United States ought to have the right to suppress pornography.

125. members of the United States Congress ought to value the national interest above constituent’s interests when the two are in conflict.

126. the individual ought to value the sanctity of life above the quality of life.

127. affirmative action programs to remedy the effects of discrimination are justified.

128. the American criminal justice system ought to place a higher priority on retribution than on rehabilitation.

129. Resolved: The religion of a political candidate ought to play a part in his or her election.

130. Resolved: The pursuit of feminist ideals is detrimental to the achievement of gender equality.

131. Resolved: an unjust government is better than no government at all.

132. Resolved: civil disobedience is justified in a democracy.

133. Resolved: That the protection of human rights should have a higher priority in shaping America’s foreign policy.

134. Resolved: violent revolution is a just response to oppression.

135. Resolved: affirmative action programs to remedy the effects of discrimination are justified.

136. Resolved:  Individual freedom should be prioritized over the needs of the society.

  • Based on Ayn Rand and Utility; Libertarianism vs. other

137. Resolved:  on balance, individuals ought to have a greater obligation to themselves than to their community (March/April 1997)

138. Resolved:  Genetic implants are morally permissible.

  • Bionic, mechanical enhancements – mechanical enhancements

139. Genetic engineering :  Human genetic engineering is morally justified.

140. Resolved:  an oppressive government is more desirable than no government.

141. Resolved:  the public’s right to know ought to be valued above the right to privacy of candidates for public office.

142. Nothing is politically right that is morally wrong.

143. It is unethical to prioritize the needs of one’s nation over the needs of other nations.

144. The welfare of a country’s citizens ought to be prioritized over military/security expenses.

145. Artists have a moral obligation to consider the impact/use of their art.  (movies, video games, lyrics, etc.)

146. Laws which protect citizens from themselves are justified.