Public Forum was created without an explicit rubric for judging. Only general guidelines are available on PF ballots: the NFL ballot published in October 2012 offered:
- Judges should decide the round as it is debated, not based on their personal beliefs.
- Debaters should advocate or reject the resolution in manner clear to the non-specialist citizen judge (i.e., jury). Clash of ideas is essential to debate.
- Debaters should display solid logic and reasoning, advocate a position, utilize evidence, and communicate clear ideas using professional decorum.
It’s no surprise that debaters have developed a more specific strategy for guiding the judge’s decision. Some debaters with Policy and Lincoln-Douglas experience point to tools such as Value Criterion and Topicality for guidance. The ideas and advances of PF debaters have evolved into Framework, sometimes called a Standard or Observation. This tool structures the round and explains to the judge how assign a win. Framework isn’t something that affects the last speeches, it affects the whole debate. It serves the purpose of giving the judge an explicit way. Framework adapts to each resolution and provides topic-specific ways to judge a round. While your case will tell the judge what to think about in the round, your Framework will tell the judge how to think about the round.
Framework helps narrow down a broad topic into a more manageable debate, centering the round and the judge’s focus on certain issues. Your Framework should focus in on the central ideas of your case and compare these to your opponent’s case. Comparative structures help the judge weigh the competing arguments in the debate. Imagine the topic is a white board. If you drew a large circle on the whiteboard, the circle is like a Framework – it focuses your attention on part of the overall picture. Your arguments and your opponent’s arguments should be written within the circle in order to “fit” into the Framework. Or another way to think about Framework is a set of rules. While PF rules govern how the round should occur, Framework governs how the topic should be discussed.
Josh Zoffer, from the 2009 NFL National Champion Public Forum Debate team, gave an excellent lecture on Framework that can be found here (NFLtv is no longer functioning, so it was posted on another speech and debate blog where it is still live). His analysis is foundational to the current use and practice of Framework in Public Forum today.
In Beyond Resolved, I cover the types of resolutions, goals of Framework, types of Framework, as well as practical tips on using and attacking Framework. This post is the tip of the Framework iceberg.
Check the blog later this week for a post on Framework in the January 2014 topic on the development assistance to the Sahel.