Yardstick Debates

A yardstick debate is known by several names: a measure debate, a burden of proof. These are the goals to be achieved to prove the debate.

It is usually flagged by key terms in the topic such as “too much” or “too little” or ____________.

However, often the yardstick may be implicit in the topic without an obvious reference. The yardstick refers to a certain level or criteria that need to be met in order for a team to succeed in its argument.

Examples of such debates include:

If the debaters are in doubt about whether the debate incorporates a yardstick, they should at least define the burden of proof and scope of the debate – often the yardstick will come out of considering these points.

In a yardstick debate the onus on the affirmative is to establish what level is too much or too little.

This is best done in defining the topic. If the yardstick is “too much”, then the affirmative must show evidence that exceeds the level of the yardstick set: if the yardstick is “too little”, then the affirmative must show evidence below that of the level set.

The negative in a yardstick must also work towards the yardstick set. If the topic is “too much”, then the negative may argue issues below and up to the level set. If the topic is “too little”, then the negative must demonstrate above the set level.

For example, in the topic “That there is too much leisure time”, the affirmative should define how much leisure time is too much eg over 3 hours a day, 20% of waking hours, etc.

For the topic “There is too little funding for charity”, the yardstick could be a set amount of the GDP, etc.

However, it should be noted that while a yardstick might be set, it is the issues that affect the yardstick that should be debated, not the level of the yardstick itself unless the initial value was unreasonable.

Debates can easily be sidelined when teams argue over the level rather than the issues that contribute to the formation of the yardstick.

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