Critical theory is radicalizing high school debate

Every year, students across the U.S. participate in competitive debate, eager to learn about politics and think critically about government and policy. However, debate has strayed from its original purpose and has become dominated by critical theory arguments known as kritiks. Instead of engaging in topic-focused debates, debaters now ignore assigned topics and propose unrelated resolutions that advocate complex social criticisms based on various theories. Kritiks argue that the world is fundamentally broken and advocate for a revolution in society. These kritiks have become massively popular and have even infiltrated formats intended for public policy discussions. Judges who are familiar with critical theory are more likely to vote for kritiks, creating a cycle that reinforces the dominance of these arguments. While kritiks philosophically attack power structures, they often disadvantage students from less well-funded debate programs who may not be familiar with the dense philosophical arguments. This shift in the debate landscape is concerning because it promotes a worldview that rejects pragmatic policy discussions and sees American institutions as fundamentally flawed, leading to disengagement from electoral politics. Debate should be a space for true discussion, not one of radicalization.

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