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Lesson 1: An Introduction to the Concept and Context Surrounding Kritiks in Debate

A Kritik is a debate position that challenges basic assumptions. The name is telling; a kritik is a criticism of an assumption or mindset of your opponent. Typically, these positions will focus on power structures that exist around us and how they cause the problems we ought to address. In simpler terms, these positions focus on the “isms” in society: racism, sexism, classism, ableism, and much more. 

Kritiks, commonly referred to as Ks, began as foundational arguments made by debaters on the negative. They can be quite similar to disadvantages (DAs) and counterplans (CPs). If you are not familiar with those arguments, a disadvantage is an off case position where the negative explains how the affirmative triggers a disadvantageous scenario. A counterplan is exactly like it sounds—the negative argues that instead of doing the affirmative, we should do something else that is better and more effective. Kritiks have developed into versatile arguments that can be read on the negative or affirmative. Students have found ways to incorporate the power of Ks into their debate strategies; therefore, students should be prepared to respond to them in round. 

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Why do people read Ks? While this is by all means not an all inclusive list, there are three popular reasons. 

First, students find it interesting! Perhaps governmental policy alone is not enough to hook your average high school debater. However, policy as it affects minority populations might sound more intriguing and relevant to some students. 

Second, Ks, just like DAs and CPs, have strategic value. Imagine you spent your whole affirmative explaining why voting affirmative would help save us all and stop extinction, and then in the next speech, your opponent says extinction is good or focusing on saving everyone actually dooms us all. That forces you to drastically change your 2AC strategy. Additionally, sometimes certain debaters are unfamiliar with the scholarship of a K. When you do not understand something, you usually do not respond to it well. K debaters can take advantage of your lack of knowledge. 

Third, Ks can be used to spark activism in debate. Students have used their Ks to increase representation in outrounds, spark conversations about how to improve the debate community, or even expand their efforts outside of rounds through petitions and movement building. Debate allows students to strengthen their voices. As a result, as more students strengthen their voices on issues of inequality, this also can translate to strong activism inside and outside of debate.