2022 Social Justice Debates

U.S. National Championship

Morehouse College

Atlanta, GA

March 25-27, 2022

Please find below the 2022 Social Justice Debates National Championship Topic, Selected Scholars, Topic Statement, Tournament Schedule, Judge Handbook, and Tournament Rules.

All judges, coaches, and students should check-in upon arrival at the Leadership Center - Bank Of America Auditorium, 830 Westview Dr SW, at Morehouse College.

We look forward to hosting you!


The adoption of a mandatory racial desegregation policy for K-12 public schools is desirable.

Selected Scholars

 Professor Sheryll D. Cashin

 Professor Rucker Johnson

 Topic Statement 

“[U]nless and until we complete the unfinished business of the civil rights movement, meaningfully integrating our public and private realms in a way that gives all Americans, especially those who have been most marginalized, real choices and opportunities, we will not solve the conundrum of race and class inequality in America.” 

--Sheryll Cashin author of “The Failures of Integration”, 2005 

“True integration has the redemptive power to heal divisions. It can serve as an incubator of ideas, provide catalytic effects, and exert a gravitational pull to bring people together across racial lines . . . But without continual advancement, our current pattern of historical amnesia is destined to repeat its cycles. We must reckon with our racist past and present in the service of an inclusive future.” 

        -- Rucker C. Johnson, “Why School Integration Works”, 2019 

In Brown v. Board, the US Supreme Court declared that segregation in public education violates students’ right to equal protection under law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, setting off a decades of mandatory school desegregation policies and related court decisions.  Cashin, the author of The Failure of Integration, summarizes this history as follows. “In 1954, 0 percent of black children in this country attended a majority white school. By 1988, 43 percent of Black kids did. So we were fulfilling the promise of Brown. We were increasing in integration every year from the mid-'60s to the late '80s. We were closing the achievement gap between black and white kids. And then, in 1988, we begin to retreat. And in the '90s, the Supreme Court through three opinions signaled to lower courts that it was time for federal courts to get out of the business of policing schools' desegregation. And school segregation levels are about where they were in 1968. So we kind of lost 50 years of progress.” 

Schools today are as segregated as they were in the late 1960s before busing began. Currently, more than 70 percent of black and Hispanic students attend predominantly minority schools; more than 30 percent attend schools that are greater than 90 percent minority. The average white student attends a school in which more than 80 percent of the students are white. Some take these disappointing results as proof that the Supreme Court lacks the capacity to produce social change.  Segregation plays a prominent role in the education of Black students. Segregated schools are, on average, unequal in many critical dimensions that create material barriers to equal education.  According to Professor Cashin, we have replaced the old Jim Crow caste system, which was solely based on race, with a new caste system at the intersection of geography, race and poverty.  

In 2021, we know that de facto segregation is pervasive throughout K-12 public schools.  This year’s social justice topic challenges student-scholars to confront the difficult question of whether the current school desegregation problem is a problem for which we should seek a mandatory remedy. 

The phrase “mandatory desegregation policy” in the topic requires affirmatives to defend  a policy that directly mandates public school desegregation.  Providing voluntary programs such as an incentive-based desegregation policy is potential negative ground in the debate. 

By “desirable” we mean that the Affirmative should advocate that such a policy or plan would be a useful, beneficial, or necessary course of action to desegregate public schools.  While affirmatives are welcome to argue that on a principled basis public schools should be desegregated, arguing this alone would be insufficient to demonstrate that a policy proposed to accomplish this goal would be desirable. 

Finally, affirmatives must directly mandate a school desegregation policy.  In other words, affirmative ground does not include arguing for integrating housing, for example, under the theory that such a policy would lead to educational integration. 

There are numerous options available for the Affirmative to advocate.  For example, historically busing has been used as a strategy to address segregated public schools.  A reasonable affirmative case could also include arguing that Supreme Court decisions in this area have been incorrectly decided, and the correct decision would enable the creation of a mandatory desegregation plan that would be desirable. In the pivotal 1974 case, Milliken v. Bradley, the Court limited the scope of desegregation remedies to districts found to have engaged in de jure segregation. It proceeded to muddle through until the 1990s, when, despite continued racial imbalance, it directed lower courts to begin withdrawing from the supervision of school districts.  Noted constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, for example, has suggested that if key desegregation cases had been decided differently, “the nature of public education today would be very different.”[1]  It would be acceptable for an Affirmative advocate why judicial action, through the Constitution or by overturning certain precedent, is desirable to deal with the segregation problem in public schools.  

On the other hand, opponents of the resolution may argue that the affirmative proposal is not necessary or beneficial, or both.  Opponents might argue that other alternatives exist to mandating segregation of schools, which could include everything from turning to an Afrocentric school model or adopting a voluntary desegregation plan for public schools.  For example, even though New York City has tried to desegregate its schools in fits and starts since the 1954 Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the school system is now one of the most segregated in the nation. But rather than pushing for integration, some Black parents are choosing an alternative: schools explicitly designed for Black children.  Afrocentric schools have been championed by Black educators who had traumatic experiences with integration as far back as the 1960s and by young black families who say they recently experienced coded racism and marginalization in integrated schools.[2] 

Negatives may also choose to advocate a counterplan or counterproposal.  To prevail via a counterproposal, negatives have the burden of winning both that the counterproposal is superior to and competitive with the Affirmative proposal.  In other words, the negative has the burden of winning both that (1) the counterproposal is more desirable than the Affirmative’s proposal and (2) it is either impossible to implement both the proposal and counterproposal at the same time or that implementing the counterproposal alone is more desirable than implementing a combination of the proposal and counterproposal or elements thereof.   

 The 2021-20222 Social Justice Debates challenges debaters to engage this national dialogue by answering the question of whether we should once again mandate a desegregation policy for our public schools.  


(All Times are Eastern Standard Time)

Friday, March 25

5:00 p.m. Registration/Check-In

5:30 p.m. Judge Briefing

6:00 p.m. Round 1

7:30 p.m. Film Screening – “Debaters Without Borders”

8:30 p.m. Post-film discussion with filmmaker

Saturday, March 26

9:30 a.m. Registration/Check-In

10:00 a.m. Morning Judge Briefing

10:30 a.m. Round 2

12:00 p.m. Lunch Break/Afternoon Judge Briefing

1:30 p.m. Round 3

3:00 p.m. Round 4

4:30 p.m. Quarterfinals

Sunday, March 27

10:00 a.m. Registration/Check-In

10:30 a.m. Judge Briefing

11:00 a.m. Semi Finals

12:15 p.m. Finals

1:00 p.m. Sunday Brunch/Awards

Judge Handbook 

Sunday Judges & Elimination Round Judges


Each round will last about an hour and will involve two competing teams of two debaters each. You will be judging on a panel of 3 jurists. Although the debate format is specified below, the debaters will be responsible for timing and attending to the order of their speeches and/or there will be a timekeeper in each round. Your only responsibility during the round is to listen with an open mind and take notes on the debate.

The Social Justice Debates provide college debaters a rare opportunity to test their skills debating for judges from both inside and outside of the college debate community, including distinguished professionals and topic experts. Please do not worry if you do not have experience judging college debate rounds. The most important thing to remember when judging a debate is that if a team convinces you they have won the round, they have won the round!

The primary question you should ask yourself as a judge is which team has done the better debating on the question raised by the tournament topic. First and foremost, this question asks which team has been more effective in meeting their basic burdens of advocacy and rejoinder. This means “constructing” complete and persuasive arguments supported by logic and evidence, as well as directly responding to the key arguments constructed by their opponents. Secondarily, judges should consider factors such as public speaking skills, organization, and command of the subject matter.

There is no single formula for determining which team did the best debating. In short, you are attempting to assess which team presented the most powerful advocacy when considering all of the many factors that advocacy entails.

Although judging is subjective, it is important that you do not allow personal bias or beliefs about the issues being debated to influence whom you choose as winner. Indeed, you may conclude that a team has been more powerful in making its case even if you do not personally agree with the team’s arguments.

Topic Interpretation

Although it is discouraged and should be disfavored by judges, debaters will sometimes attempt to interpret topics in a manner that “tilts” the playing field to their advantage. A topic statement provided above has been provided to all judges and all teams to clarify the topic’s intended meaning. As a judge, you should attempt to interpret the burden the topic places on the Affirmative and Negative teams in a manner consistent with the topic’s plain language and the context provided by the topic statement. When in doubt as to the plain meaning of the topic, you should adopt a “centrist” interpretation of the topic that allows both teams a fair chance to engage the core questions raised by the topic as described in the topic statement.

Cross Examination

Cross examination is an essential element of the debate format chosen for this weekend’s competition. It is also an element that requires debaters to cooperate in good faith with their opponents to some extent, which may be a complicated proposition in a competitive debate. Cross examination can be an invaluable tool for moving debates “forward” by clarifying areas of agreement, isolating areas of dispute, and allowing rigorous examination of opposing arguments. Cross examinations may be far less productive, however, if debaters waste cross examination time and avoid having their arguments clarified and scrutinized by answering questions that haven’t been asked, filibustering, and otherwise failing to directly and succinctly answer questions to the extent possible. In such cases, debates may even become hostile as cross examiners may be forced to talk over their opponent to prevent their opponent from dominating the cross examination period.

In a court of law, judges will often instruct hostile witnesses (i.e. witnesses who are bias or adverse to the cross examiner) to directly and succinctly answer questions to the extent possible so as to avoid wasted time and to allow cross examiners to clarify the facts and arguments relevant to the judge’s or jury’s decision. “To the extent possible” is an essential qualifier to this requirement. Debaters should be allowed reasonable time to answer “open” questions or any other questions that cannot be answered in a straightforward manner.

Equity Statement

While a judge may not consciously privilege the arguments or positions of particular groups of people over others, studies have shown that decisions nevertheless may be influenced by societal biases or prejudices in regards to, inter alia, race and gender. Daniel Kelley and Erica Roedder (2008) have found implicit bias in a number of settings analogous to debate including job hiring practices, grading, and sports officiating. Deborah Tannen (1998) has shown that in the field of competitive argument men are sometimes presumed to be more reasonable and less emotional and that these presumptions may lead a judge to implicitly give more weight to a man’s argument than a woman’s. We therefore ask each judge to consider their implicit biases in evaluating participants’ arguments and performance before making their decision.


1st Affirmative 6 Minutes

Cross examination by 2nd Negative 4 minutes

1st Negative 6 minutes

Cross examination by 1st Affirmative 4 minutes

2nd Affirmative 6 minutes

Cross examination by 1st Negative 4 minutes

2nd Negative 6 minutes

Cross examination by 2nd Affirmative 4 minutes

2 minutes of preparation time

Affirmative Rebuttal 6 minutes

2 minutes of preparation time

Negative Rebuttal 6 minutes

Students will compete in teams of two debaters each.

Teams will be assigned to affirm or negate the topic.

On teams of two, each speaker will give one 6 minute speech, be cross examined for 4 minutes, and cross examine an opposing debater for 4 minutes. In addition one speaker on each team will also give a 6 minute closing rebuttal. Over the course of the four preliminary rounds, each speaker on teams of two must give two closing rebuttals for their team and their partner must give two closing rebuttals for their team.

Thank you again for the generous commitment of your time to this program and the wonderful students involved in it!

Additional Instructions for Preliminary Rounds Judges

Elimination rounds will be judged by panels of topic experts who will be given the SJD topic, topic statement, and judge handbook provided above. This means that as a prelims judge you are preparing students to debate before topic experts who will be using the published topic, topic statement, and judge handbook to guide their decision making process. Your most important task as a prelims judge is to judge rounds in a manner that prepares the students advancing to elimination rounds to excel in these debates.

Judges are asked to interpret the research questions raised by the topic in a manner consistent with the topic statement. Students are responsible for analyzing the topic and topic statement and understanding the research questions raised for debate. Students may quote from the topic statement as necessary to establish the parameters of the research questions raised by the topic.

Debaters are asked to provide direct, succinct responses to direct questions in cross examination. Filibustering, answering questions that haven’t been asked, and otherwise failing to provide direct, succinct answers to direct questions should result in lower speaker points and--in very close debates--assigning a loss. (Obviously open ended questions may require open answers.)

Students introducing evidence should be ready to provide copies of relevant portions of the introduced sources to their opponents for review upon request.

Speaker points should be assigned on a scale of 90-100 with no ties. Judges should be "reluctant" to give speaker points between 97-100; i.e., absent an exemplary performance reflecting high level research, argumentation, delivery and performance, judges should not give speaker points in this range. "Very Good" performances should receive scores in the 95-96 range. "Good" performances should receive points in the 93-94 range. Performances reflecting a serious lack of preparation or need for obvious improvement should receive scores in the 90-92 range. No ties. Half points are allowed.

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