A one v. one debate over a value laden topic.
Ex: Capital punishment is justified
The topics are intended to be argued as propositions of value and values are evaluated through value criterion. This means that, unlike other forms of debate which keep the value structure inherent in all argumentation hidden, LD debate requires you to make it explicit.
A value in LD is any abstract idea that you feel is important.
A value criterion is a way to know if you achieve that value.
Value - Economic Gain
Value Criterion - How much money is in my bank.
LD debate is well respected in academic circles because of its transparency in argumentation and its emphasis on philosophical and ethical frameworks. When done correctly it is a demonstration of the clash of values that give rise to human conflict. As such, many LD topics reflect common value conflicts like "Life vs. Quality of Life" "Freedom vs. Security" "Letter of the Law vs Spirit of the Law" etc.
The emphasis on discovering the "essences" or "real conflict" behind the arguments enhances critical thinking and aides students in learning to counter argumentation through logic and theory rather than through research and speed reading evidence.