When Dropped Arguments Count

By: Sean Leonard, Rutgers University 2016

Whether you’re pretending it didn’t happen on your side, losing horribly to one in PMR that you missed throughout the round, or delivering an explosive LOR with one at the crux of your offense, a dropped argument will make or break many of your rounds. Yet, perhaps just as important, is identifying when focusing on a dropped argument will help you and when it may actually hurt you.

What is a dropped argument?

A dropped argument is an argument made by one side that is left unresponded to by the other side. When an argument is dropped, in the eyes of the judge, it is true in the round. Most drops occur from the PMC because it usually has the most constructive material. However, if new points relevant to the clash of the round are brought up in LO, MG, or MO, then they can be just as important.

What makes a dropped argument important?

Basically, the importance of a dropped argument is directly correlated to the amount of relevance it has to the clash in the round, and the constructive material. If the PM has a random sub point amongst three or four other subpoints dropped, then that generally won’t be the reason for decision (RFD). However, if that same sub point directly dealt with the philosophical clash of the round, and was extended by the MG, then it can. Another important aspect of a dropped argument is whether or not it had been extended by your partner. If a new point is brought up in LO, left unresponded to by the MG, and then the MO also forgets to mention it, then the argument seems less powerful. If this point is also very important to the clash of the round, then it can be outweighed, but a major opportunity has been missed if the MO doesn’t extend the point, considering government cannot respond to it in the later stages of the debate.

What should my speaking position do with dropped arguments?

Prime Minister: Keep track of which points in your PMC were not dealt with by the LO. If anything is particularly important, try to remind your partner to mention that the drops were made. If your partner extends the argument, and the MO fails to  respond, then attempt to incorporate the point into your PMR. Pair it with whichever point of crystallization is most similar, and then listen closely to LOR and make sure that the LO doesn’t attempt to sneak a response to the point in. Remember, whatever what said in that point is now true in the round, so use it a much as possible in weighing against similar arguments made by the Opposition team.

Leader of Opposition: Firstly, try not to drop anything important from PMC. If there are a ton of sub points, and you don’t think you can respond to every one, group them. Mention each argument and give a blanket response to the sub points. This is rather minimal, but better than outright dropping a point. Then, while flowing, pay attention to whether or not the MG drops any of your main points. If they drop something substantial, and something you think that the clash ought revolve around, tell your partner to extend it. Then, after your partner mentions it in their speech, attach the dropped argument to a relevant point of crystallization, and use it in whatever weighing of arguments you believe appropriate.

Member of Government: The MG’s position in dealing with dropped arguments is far more preventative than the other positions. Basically, you just want to make sure that you don’t drop any of the LO’s constructive material, as well as extending any dropped portions of your partner’s constructive material in the round. A dropped point from PMC becomes significantly more powerful if the MG also mentions it, and the MO neglects to do so.

During tight calls, the MG can’t drop anything. You must respond to all of your case, and any new material the LOC contributed that they claim demonstrates your case is tight. This is essentially the only constructive speech your team has during a tight call, and if you miss anything the opposition is probably going to blow it up and you will lose the round.

Member of Opposition:

 The MO has two responsibilities when dealing with dropped arguments.

First, an MO deal with any arguments the LOC missed. Sometimes a PM will bring up arguments from their first speech, and identify them as dropped arguments even if the MG didn’t extend them. It doesn’t happen that often, but dealing with it in the MO avoids the risk altogether. You should also offer responses to anything the MG extended.

Second, the MO should look for any drops from the MG, and then make those points important. Even if the LO didn’t make a point substantial, and then MG didn’t feel like responding, the MO can impact that point in new ways to make it relevant offense in the round. Just make sure not to add new argumentation on top of that argument, because that will allow the PM to respond to it in PMR. Simply keep the argument the same as it was before, and begin telling the judge why it’s important to the clash in the round, and adding impacts and examples to it.

What should I avoid when using dropped arguments?

While having a dropped argument is an good tool, you should use it responsibly. If something was a random argument you spent 15 seconds on in your speech, and you bring it up in your rebuttal as if it was the crux of your case, it will make you look defensive. Make sure that your dropped arguments are relevant to the clash of the round, and continue to weigh them appropriately against your opponents arguments. Simply because an argument on your side was dropped does not mean that their arguments regarding that subject no longer exist, which also means that you’re responsible for weighing as well.

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