CNDF Basics 6 - Framing and Modelling
By Rena Su
When you look at something like a news report or hear a politician’s speech, there will be bias. There will be a story that they want to present to you. Usually, there will be language or content presented aimed to sway you to think of issues such as the news or the politician’s candidacy under a certain light. In a CNDF debate or any debate for that matter, it is very much the same case. You want to present your side under a certain light and sometimes set the scope for the entire debate. However, making the debate biased towards your side goes beyond your word choice or examples. Here is where framing and modelling come in.
In short, framing is a term that refers to the act of painting the debate in a certain way that helps your side. For example, emphasizing cars as a brilliant invention that makes our day to day lives more convenient is completely different compared to speaking of them as a means of massive pollution. Modelling refers to the side proposition of the debate setting the scope of the debate (e.g. Which country/countries? What is your side representing? What do you define the terms in the topic? What’s the timeframe?). Modelling is important as it can add or nullify entire arguments. This article will cover both of these terms along with how you use them.
Why Frame the Debate?
Framing is essentially a conscious effort to implement bias into the debate that favours your side. One of my major mantras as a debate is that Framing Matters ™ and that’s for good reason. Framing can change the outcome of an entire round by either introducing or changing how the judge views a given issue.
When you, your opponents, your judge and your partner all walk into one room together, nobody is going to view the issue in the same way. Therefore, you need to paint a precise image of exactly how you want the rest of the room to view a certain issue. By emphasizing certain issues and detracting attention away from other ones, you can put your side at an advantage in terms of arguments.
How to Frame?
In framing, you want to begin with an idea of what exactly would harm your side and what would benefit it. Whenever you are given a side and a motion, there will always be justifiable points on either side. Then, you work on building a form of bias around the things that you want your side to emphasize. A good process to start off with can look like this:
The ABCs of Framing
Analyze - What can you win on in this motion? What types of arguments are the other side going to bring up?
Brainstorm - Who and what are going to be affected by the motion? What type of story do your contentions tell? What can the other side frame the issue as?
Choose - Choose your battles. How exactly do you want to frame this round? Why?
As an example, let’s look at animal testing.
Everyone in a given round walks into a room. You are placed on side opposition for THW (This House Would) ban animal testing. Though you initially didn’t like the idea of defending animal testing, you quickly realize that framing is one of the key components of winning you this round.
Animal testing is very harmful to the animals themselves and there was no doubt about that. You realize that you cannot win the debate when you’re fighting against side proposition when it comes to animal wellbeing. However, what you can do is frame animal testing as a necessary evil that reaps benefits.
You use ABCs of Framing:
Analyze: You cannot win on animal rights and you happen to be quite disadvantaged if the focus is put on animals.
Brainstorm: Who is going to be affected by the motion? While there are the lab rats being affected, there are also the people whose lives depend on the products that lab rats test for. What is being affected? Manufacturers of cosmetics or medicine, along with the scientists that make medical breakthroughs. The other side will almost certainly focus on the animals.
Choose: You want to frame this round to your advantage by shifting the focus away from the animals being tested and towards the people whose lives benefit from resulting innovations.
You tell the judge that when animal testing is banned, products like medications or cosmetics will be harder to test. Subsequently, it is harder to prove that a certain medicine works. Scientists would have to work their way around this limitation and waste more time, money, and effort for drug trials. Certain medications may never even reach the countertops of pharmacies if they can’t prove that they are safe.
In this example, you frame animal testing in a positive light by shifting the focus away from animals themselves and towards societal good. This is a strategic example of how framing can dramatically change the outcomes of a round. As always, Framing Matters ™.
Countering Opponent Framing
In any given round, you will not be the only one trying to push forward your agenda using framing. More often than not, your opponents will use some form of framing to benefit their case. In CNDF debates, how do you counter the other side’s framing? Approaches fall under two main categories, which are often used together.
1. Strengthening Your Own Framing
This approach consists of you or your partner making your framing more prominent during the round. There are many ways you can do this, such as reminding the judge of your framing through repetition or elaborating on your framing during rebuttal.
2. Weakening Your Opponent’s Framing
In order to weaken your opponent’s framing, you most likely want to attach the framing to rebuttal. What exactly makes your opponent’s framing less true or less important? You want to answer this question for your judge.
CNDF modelling happens during the start of the round. Before presenting their contentions, the government (proposition) side’s first speaker tells the rest of the people in the round what the scope (such as countries or people) and the definitions of the debate are. A model can change the amount of arguments that can be run, along with providing more context for refutation.
Example Models in CNDF Debate
The motion for the round is THW ban advertising
A potential model for this can be: ‘We define banning advertising as the legally forbidding the use of any branded design to sell a product, from billboards to packaging. We define this house as Western Liberal Democracies.”
Another potential model can be: ‘We define banning advertising as the use of any digital media to promote a company, person or product. We define this house as the US.
A third potential model can be: ‘We define banning advertising as making any current and future advertisers pay fines for promoting their products. We define this house as the European Union.
These examples show how one debate topic can result in vastly different debates and fundamentally define a round.
What Makes a Model Good? What Makes a Model Bad?
One of the fundamental factors that differentiates between a good model and a bad model is clarity. There are plenty of opportunities to be confusing in debate, but modelling should never be one of them. Models should be clear and concise, lasting around 20 seconds and a couple of sentences.
Another key factor of a good model is that it can be debatable. Throughout different rounds, you want to disadvantage your opponents. However, you still want to set up a model that the other side can hold a debate using. If you define banning advertising as taking down advertisements for hate groups, for example, then the debate favours your side too much to be a balanced and engaging round.
Squirreling is a very common term that comes up in CNDF regarding models. A squirrel refers to a model that deviates too much from the original topic. Squirrels are seen negatively in the circuit as they do not promote a fair debate representative of the motion the debaters have prepped for. An example of squirreling (while using the advertisement motion as an example) can be defining word advertising as colleges sending brochures to prospective students. That definition limits the debate and changes the meaning of it. Do NOT squirrel even if it seems strategically clever.
In future articles, we will investigate other ways to define a round and delve deeper into concepts such as framing and modelling. For any questions, send us a DM @equalproposition on Instagram or an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rena Su is a co-founder of Equal Proposition.