What are topic strikes?

Favored in elimination rounds, topic strikes are a way to reduce unfair or heavily biased topics by both teams in the debate. In this article, we will provide an introduction to topic strikes.

For formats that provide impromptu rounds, such as World Schools, Parliamentary and HSPDP, topic strikes are a fantastic way to ensure a higher level of equity in the round. Oftentimes, a frustrating aspect of debate is defending a stance with which one's personal beliefs do not align.

Topic strikes remove the necessity of one debating a topic that is particularly harmful or biased by allowing each team to remove one topic from the three potential topics.

At most tournaments that offer topic strikes, a side will be indicated through tabroom pairings. So, going into the topic strike, the sides (proposition vs. opposition) are determined before the round begins. Thus, when preparation time for the round starts, the two debating teams meet, and each eliminates a topic they are not comfortable debating on a given side. Usually, there are three topics provided. The proposition/affirmative/government team strikes a topic first, with around one minute to make their decision. After the proposition strike, the opposition/negation team also has the ability to strike a topic after one minute of consideration. The final topic that has not been eliminated by both teams is the set motion for the round and will be debated. Occasionally, instead of allowing the proposition team to strike first, the judge or facilitator will flip a coin to determine the side that makes the first pick.

However, a few tournaments do not predetermine sides before a topic strike begins. In this case, the facilitator will flip a coin. Whichever team wins the coin toss can choose either their side or the topic. If the winner of the coin toss chooses the side, then the opposing team selects the topic and vice versa.

Topic strikes are essential to upholding equity and quality at a tournament.

Oftentimes, topic selection committees fail to account for how a harmful topic can impact the debaters and audience in a round, so a topic strike allows the debaters advocacy in eliminating such topics.

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