18 thoughts on “The Art of Debate”

  1. I like a good debate, Ferret…do you?

    I’ve read about formal debate and debate techniques ‘after the fact’. Interesting reading, but not something I applied to my own debate.

  2. Debate calls for arguments strictly ‘on thread’ and never ‘ad hominem/feminam’. Isn’t that where so many bloggers come unstuck?

  3. Some people like a mass debate. As Woody Allen would have said, that is debating with people you love.

  4. Low Wattage: Hilarious and spot on.

    Ferret, my point was just thoughts about debate. When I asked “do you?” it was just conversationally. I recall just a couple of points from the material I read on the subject of “How to Debate Effectively” and “Rules of Debate”. It’s like a chess game…or can be. One of the items I recall is the need to predict the rebuttal of your opponent. Another is the need to objectively listen to the argument coming from the other side.

    Janus – entirely. I am amongst those who sometimes fail in that regard. Usually in response to ad hominem directed at me. It’s difficult not to bite!

    I’ll seek out the rules for formal debate and post them here…

  5. Voila. There are 10 rules for debate:


    “What is debate?

    A debate is a contest, or, perhaps, like a game, where two or more speakers present their arguments intent on persuading one another. Men have been debating with one another since the beginning of time when the serpent first debated with Eve the benefits of eating certain fruits in the Garden. We shall limit ourselves here with discussing formal contest debating between educational institutions, or, in the world of homeschooling, between families that choose to bypass educational institutions and educate their children at home.
    Why debate?

    “He [the student debater] learns to use a library, and to find the exact information he needs in the shortest possible time. He learns to be thorough and accurate. He learns to analyze; to distinguish between the vital and the unimportant. He learns the need of proving his statements; of supporting every statement with valid evidence and sound reasoning´┐Żand he learns to demand the same sort of proof for the statements of others. He learns to present ideas in a clear and effective manner, and in a way which wins others to his way of thinking. He learns to think under pressure, to “use his head” in a time of need, to make decisions quickly and accurately. In a word, the essential point in any debating situation is that of convincing the listener that your side of the proposition is desirable.” (from How to Debate by Harrison Boyd Summers)

    John Stuart Mill, in his Autobiography, said, “I have always dated from these conversations [in a discussion group similar to the ideal debate squad meeting] my own inauguration as an original and independent thinker.”

    “I think debating in high school and college is most valuable training whether for politics, the law, business, or for service on community committees such as the PTA and the League of Women Voters. A good debater must not only study material in support of his own case, but he must also, of course, thoroughly analyze the expected argument of his opponent. The give and take of debating, the testing of ideas, is essential to democracy. I wish we had a good deal more debating in our educational institutions than we do now.” John F. Kennedy, August 22, 1960

    “I truly believe I would have been as prepared for law school had I simply debated and not attended college at all. I have found that the practice of law´┐Żand I assume this is true of a large number of other jobs´┐Żconsists basically of trying to solve problems in an organized manner…. Debate… placed a premium on the factors that I believe are essential to effective problem solving, including…breaking an argument down into its smallest components and then marshaling factual data…for each element;…talking a problem through with others over a period of time that a contention or issue becomes fully perceivable;…verbally articulating ideas rather than just having a mental conception of them;…and, finally, and perhaps most importantly, coming to appreciate the stresses and rewards of competition.” Raoul D. Kennedy, Attorney in San Francisco

    “Debate trained me to analyze and articulate the complex national issues that confront our country today. Too, it was a tremendous help in campaign debates for my House and Senate seats… My intercollegiate debate training was the most valuable experience that I had at Penn State. I derived benefits from it far beyond the normal extracurricular activity that it encompassed.” Richard S. Schweiker, Former Pennsylvania Congressman and Senator, Former Secretary of Health and Human Services

    “If it is a disgrace to a man when he cannot defend himself in a bodily way, it would be absurd not to think him disgraced when he cannot defend himself with reason in a speech.” Aristotle from The Rhetoric

    “The wisest advice I can give to persons considering debate as an activity is: “participate.” In my opinion, hour- for-hour, the reward for time spent debating is greater than any other activity available to the typical student… In addition to the “academic” benefits, potential participants should be alerted to the life-long friendships they will develop, the opportunity to associate with competitive, creative and bright young people, as well as the favorable view of the activity taken by potential employers (particularly in the field of law).” Thomas F. Hozduk, Los Angeles Attorney

    “I didn’t make varsity cheerleader. I thought my life was over. I ended up joining the speech team instead. And within a year, I became real good. My event was Girls Extemporaneous Speaking. They would give you a topic, and a half-hour later you made a seven-minute speech on it…By my senior year, I was state champion. And I made it to the semifinals of the national competition. The six girls who were ranked ahead of me are probably all arguing cases before the Supreme Court…So I did find out my limitations. But in my smaller pond, I was a big fish. And I can’t imagine better preparation for what I do today.” (BTW, one of Jane Pauley’s teammates is now a homeschooling mother) Jane Pauley, National TV News Anchor

    “It was my experience with debating and public speaking in both high school and college that led me to become a lawyer, and ultimately, a member of Congress.” Paul E. Kanjorski, Pennsylvania Congressional Representative

    Debate is the ultimate mind exercise.
    Four types of debate:

    1. Parliamentary Debate. This is the debating that goes on in colleges and universities. For more information on this type of debate see the web pages we link to on our Trivium Pursuit Links.
    2. Lincoln-Douglas Debate (also called value debate) is modeled after the namesake for the activity. In an Illinois election of the mid-1800s, Abe Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas debated the slavery issue before audiences in different towns around the state. In LD debate two contestants will debate topics centered around moral issues or propositions of value or preference. Here are some examples of topics appropriate for LD debate: capital punishment; abortion; or euthanasia. Typically, all public and private schools will debate the same topic. A new topic is chosen every two months (the topics are chosen by some public school debate organization). The public/private school topic for November and December of 1996 was: Resolved, when in conflict, a business’ responsibility to itself ought to be valued above its responsibility to society. The topic for January and February of 1997 is: Resolved, In United State’s policy, the principle of universal human rights ought to take precedence over conflicting national interest. See also our links to LD Debate.
    3. Cross Examination Debate (also called policy debate or team debate). In this type of debate two teams (two students each ), one representing the affirmative position and one representing the negative position, will debate topics of public or government policy. Here are some examples: Resolved, that chain stores are detrimental to the best interests of the American public (1931); Resolved, that all electric utilities should be governmentally owned and operated (1937); Resolved, that the federal government should own and operate the railroads (1940); and, Resolved, that a federal world government should be established (1943). Typically, all public and private schools will debate the same topic all year long (some public school debate organization picks a new topic each year). The public/private school topic for the 1996-1997 school year is: Resolved, that the federal government should establish a program to substantially reduce juvenile crime in the United States. See also our links to Cross Examination Debate.
    4. Academic Debate. These are debates of a purely academic nature. An example of this type of debate would be creation/evolution debates.

    How to Get Started in Debate

    There are two things you will have to study if you want to participate in debate:

    1. The principles of debate´┐Żlogic, evidence, case construction, proof, refuting arguments, rebuttal, the brief, etc. Pick 3 or 4 debate books out of the debate bibliography located elsewhere on this web page and study them thoroughly (I especially recommend An Introduction to Argumentation and Debate by Christy Farris). View the debate video put out by Home School Legal Defense (watch it several times). Observe as many debates as you can. This will be difficult for some, but you might look into attending some college debates or government high school debates or private school debates. The more you observe and study the more familiar you will become with the procedures and terminology of debate.
    2. The current debate topic. Each year there will be a different topic. It is best if you can start studying in June the topic for the coming school year. Studying the current debate topic is the most important part and the most time consuming part of debating. You must study the subject thoroughly, to learn all that is to be known about it. The more time and effort you give to preparation, the more effective debating you will do. The following are a few ideas on how to approach the study of ANY debate topic. Some of this information is taken from How to Debate by Summers, Whan, and Rousse.

    We suggest that you follow these four steps:

    1. Read for background information about the subject.
    2. Prepare a comprehensive bibliography.
    3. Collect as much material as you can find.
    4. Read and study the material discovered.

    We will discuss each of these four steps in detail.
    1.Read for background information about the subject.

    First you want to get a good general knowledge of the proposition (topic) you are to debate. You need to study the historical background of the topic and why this topic is a matter of current interest. The reading order should be from the general to the specific, from background to present-day facts and figures, from books to magazines to newspapers. Naturally, in studying a question one will use all of these sources more or less concurrently, but for real understanding of the broader aspects one needs background material early in his research.

    The Reference Department of your library would be a good place to start. There are several sources you can consult for general background material. We will just mention a few:

    * The Encyclopaedia Britannica
    * The New International Encyclopedia
    * The Social Science Encyclopedia (provides a broad coverage of the social sciences)
    * The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
    * Facts on File (a weekly world news digest with index)
    * Editorials on File (twice-monthly newspaper editorial survey with index)
    * Chronicle of the 20th Century (a compilation of newspaper articles, headlines, captions, chronologies, pictures, and cartoons that tells the history of the 20th century in America)
    * Current textbooks on your topic

    Dave Morgan, a homeschooling Dad in Fresno, California, suggests interviewing a college or university professor who specializes in the topic you are studying. Call the history, political science, chemistry, etc. departments at your local college or university and ask if there is anyone with an interest or specialty in your topic. It would be beneficial to interview several people in order to obtain a wide range of opinions and views on your topic.

    We suggest you read one general book that would take the affirmative position on your topic and one general book that would take the negative position. In this way you will have a broad understanding of both sides.

    We also suggest you subscribe to a good daily newspaper. Keeping up with current events is very important to good debaters.
    2.Prepare a comprehensive bibliography.

    The second step in your study of topic will be that of preparing a general bibliography. A bibliography is a list of books, pamphlets, magazine articles, and other printed materials in which information may be found on a given subject. Excellent bibliographies on many subjects have already been compiled. If a bibliography on your topic is available you should try to obtain it. The major sources of published bibliographies are:

    * Bibliographies loaned to libraries: Library of Congress, Bibliographical Division, Washington, D.C.
    * Bibliographies available for purchase:
    * Bibliographies included in books prepared especially for debaters:

    You will also need to prepare your own bibliography to supplement these prepared bibliographies. Your bibliography will include:

    * Books and Pamphlets

    To find books relevant to your topic you can do a keyword search at your library (consult Subject Headings for suggestions on keywords). Other sources are: Subject Guide to Books in Print (books from Books in Print are rearranged under subject headings),

    * Magazine Articles

    Search using the computer or use Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. Check the Alternative Press Index (periodicals from a certain side of the political spectrum), the Social Sciences Citation Index, Congressional Digest (each issue is devoted to a single important question currently before Congress and consists of pro and con materials), Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (journal that covers several controversial topics)

    * Encyclopedias, Dictionaries and other reference works

    Who’s Who in America

    Statistical Abstract of the U. S.

    Statesman’s Yearbook

    * Court opinions
    * Newspaper Articles
    * Government Sources

    1. One should write one’s representative and senator early in the season requesting all available materials on the current topic.

    2. Special agencies. Among the most useful of these are:

    The Library of Congress, U.S. Office of Education, Government Printing Office

    * Internet Sources
    * Debate Handbooks
    * Private Sources and Personal Interviews

    Examples of this would be: American Medical Association, the AFL-CIO, The Foundation for Economic Education, the National Association of Manufacturers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Many others are listed in the World Almanac.

    We have found it useful to work on preparing your bibliography while at home using the internet. If possible log onto the card catalog of your local library (or a university or college library if possible) and do your research in the unhurried atmosphere of your own home. The WWW is also a valuable source for preparing your bibliography.

    3.Collect as much material as you can find.

    After you have listed all the references you can find on the topic, you must then get as much of the actual material as you can.
    4.Read and study the material discovered.

    After you have secured all of the material available, you will then read and study carefully the books and articles you have found. Try to learn as much as you can about the subject and to get the points of view of as many different authorities as possible. Be on the lookout for new ideas and new suggestions for arguments, arguments on both sides of the topic. Look for specific items of evidence, which might be used as proof. Take careful notes as you read. We will discuss how to take notes next.
    General Rules for Debate

    The following rules are taken from Competitive Debate´┐ŻRules and Techniques by George McCoy Musgrave (1957), from some of Chapter 1.

    Keep in mind that some of these rules MAY NOT APPLY to modern debate.

    Debate, like many competitive activities, has rules and customs with which participants and judges should be thoroughly familiar. Until 1945, the rules were largely unwritten; they passed by word of mouth from debater to debater and from school to school. It is not surprising, then, to find some disagreement as to what they actually are.

    In the last few years considerable progress has been made in the development of standards and procedures generally acceptable on a national basis. Widespread intersectional competition and national debate publications have accelerated this trend…
    The Teams

    The rules governing participants are these:

    Rule 1. There are two teams. Each team consists of two or three speakers.

    When the debate is arranged, agreement is reached as to whether two- or three-man teams will be employed. Two-man teams now predominate…
    The Speeches

    Rule 2a. The speeches and speaking time are divided equally between the two teams.

    The tournament rules or debate contract specifies the amount of time allocated to each speech. The total speaking time generally runs about one hour including questioning periods.

    Rule 2b. Each team has two or three constructive speeches.

    It is customary for each member of the team to be allowed one constructive speech. Thus, if two-man teams are employed, there are two constructive speeches per team. If three-man teams are employed, there are three constructive speeches per team.

    Rule 2c. Each team has from one to three rebuttal speeches.

    In standard debate, it is customary for each participant to speak in rebuttal. … The number of rebuttal speeches is, of course, specified in the pre-debate correspondence or tournament rules.

    Rule 2d. The affirmative gives the first constructive speech, and the constructive speeches alternate: affirmative, negative, affirmative, negative.

    Rule 2e. The negative gives the first rebuttal speech, and the rebuttals alternate; negative, affirmative, negative, affirmative.

    Thus, the affirmative has both the first and last speeches of the debate. This arrangement is designed to compensate for the affirmative’s burden of proof, explained later.

    Rule 2f. In Oregon type debate, each team has one or more questioning periods, in addition to the constructive speeches and rebuttals.

    There are several versions of cross-examination debate. The arrangement to be used is agreed upon when the debate is being planned.
    The Topic

    When the topic is worded, whether by the national committed or by the local debaters, the following rule is applied:

    Rule 3a. When worded as a proposition of policy, the topic requires the affirmative to support some specified action by some particular individual or group.

    The proposition of policy takes the form, “Resolved, that the United States should grant statehood to Hawaii.” Other wordings are possible and have been used in the past, but they have proved less satisfactory. The national high school and the national college topics have been phrased in this manner for so many years that other wordings are now generally considered improper except for international debate. The material in this book is based on the presumption that the topic is worded as a proposition of policy.

    Of course, there are other requirements for a good topic. It should be interesting, clear, have one central idea, and not be one-sided. But even if these requirements are not met, it can still be debated; such requirements must be considered matters of good technique rather than rules.

    Occasionally a contest hinges on the definition of a word or phrase in the topic. The rule is this:

    Rule 3b. The affirmative has the right to make any reasonable definition of each of the terms of the proposition.

    A “reasonable” definition generally means the definition intended when the proposition was phrased, or the technical definition of the term as used by professionals in that field. If the affirmative’s definition is not reasonable, the negative should challenge it at the earliest opportunity.

    Rule 3c. If the negative challenges the reasonableness of a definition by the affirmative, the judge must accept the definition of the team that shows better grounds for its interpretation of the term.

    The judge is not expected to exercise his own taste in the matter, but to listen to the evidence and logic of the teams and to support the definition shown to be more reasonable.

    Rule 3d. Once the negative has accepted the affirmative’s definitions, it may not later object to them, even though it later develops that they are unreasonable. Failure of the negative to object to the affirmative’s definitions in the first constructive speech following the definitions is equivalent to acceptance of them by the negative.

    If the negative wishes to quarrel with the affirmative’s interpretation of the topic, it must do so at once. Otherwise the debate might literally be half over before the teams have decided what they are arguing about. If the negative, through oversight, accepts or fails to object to an unreasonable definition by the affirmative, it should not later be heard objecting that the definition was unreasonable.

    “Trick” definitions are not encouraged. Unusual definitions are sometimes employed successfully by getting the negative to agree that they are reasonable before it realizes that they are not, but since strategic cases are always possible without resorting to such definitions, it is better to avoid them. They lead only to bickering and quibbling.

    One practice, which has much to commend it, is for the two teams to agree on the definitions of any controversial terms in their pre-debate correspondence. These definitions are then included in the debate contract or tournament rules, and are announced by the chairman at the start of the contest.

    Of course, all this does not mean that either team is required to define formally any term of the proposition. High school debaters do seem to prefer formal definitions, picking out the terms one by one (“By federal government, we mean…”). College debaters, on the other hand, often prefer to define the entire proposition by explaining the plan they are supporting. Either method is, of course, appropriate in either high school or college work.

    The old argument about the meaning of the word “should” in the proposition still arises. Here is the generally accepted definition:

    Rule 3e. The phrase “should adopt” or its equivalent means that the affirmative must show that the plan, if adopted, would be desirable. It does not in any way obligate the affirmative to show that the necessary approvals could be obtained.

    For example, the constitutionality of the proposal is irrelevant; it must be presumed that the Constitution could be so amended if necessary. Similarly, the claim that too many voters or too many members of Congress are opposed to the bill for it to pass is irrelevant; the only question to be settled is whether or not the plan would be desirable if adopted.

    On the other hand, the negative may choose to claim that the plan is not practicable´┐Żthat if it were put into effect it would not work, either immediately or at some future date. The plan certainly wouldn’t be desirable if it didn’t work, so this is a legitimate negative case which the affirmative must meet.

    Rule 3f. The phrase “should adopt” or its equivalent obligates the affirmative to recommend that action be taken in the reasonably near future.

    Ordinarily, no time limit is specified in the topic. Nevertheless, one is implied. The affirmative may allow a reasonable amount of time for working out the details and establishing the administrative functions, but delay until conditions have changed in some significant respect, or until (say) Great Britain tries the plan first, is not permissible.

    If no such requirement as this existed, the affirmative might recommend that action be taken twenty years from now, when the plan could be adopted under highly favorable circumstances. The negative’s position could be identical, and no debate would ensure. therefore, the affirmative must support reasonably prompt action.
    Positions of the Teams

    Sometimes the right of a team to recommend certain action is challenged. The limitations are not severe, but they should be clearly understood.

    Rule 4a. The affirmative must advocate everything required by the topic itself.

    If the affirmative fails to meet all of the requirements of the proposition, it fails in its burden of proof and consequently must lose the debate.

    Rule 4b. The affirmative may work out the details of its plan as it sees fit. It may take on the burden of proving anything else it desires.

    Of course, the more the affirmative advocates, the more it must prove, so the usual technique is to recommend as little as possible. However, if the affirmative does wish to recommend and support more than is required of it by the topic, the negative has no right to object. The affirmative is assuming the burden of proof for the entire enlarged plan, and if it fails to meet this responsibility, the negative wins.

    Rule 4c. The negative may offer any counterplan that would be in order in a legislative assembly discussing the proposition.

    The ideal counterplan is one that offers some change in principle from the affirmative proposal, and gives sufficient grounds for rejecting the affirmative proposal. The counterplan actually offered, however, may be something less than ideal, and therefore it is important that each participant clearly understand what is permissible and what is not.

    A counterplan which closely parallels the affirmative recommendation, differing only in minor respects, is adequate only if the negative shows that the difference between the two is so important that the affirmative plan should be rejected in favor of the negative proposal.

    A counterplan based on surprise may, if successful, catch the affirmative unprepared. In the moment of anguish that comes when the affirmative realizes that it has no answer, there may be charges that the negative proposal is out of order. Actually, surprise in itself is perfectly legitimate. No proposal is ever out of order simply because it was not anticipated by the opposition.

    Facetious and irrelevant counterplans are clearly out of order. Such plans would be useless in any event because they would not give logical grounds for rejecting the resolution.

    Following legislative practice, disputed matter is admitted if there is doubt as to its admissibility.

    Rule 4d. The affirmative must explain, upon demand by the negative, the major features and policies under which the proposed plan is to operate. If the negative recommends a counterplan, it has the same duty.

    Neither team may leave its plan so vague as to prevent a reasonable attack by the opposition on grounds of practicability. For instance, when advocating a federal union of the nations of Europe, the affirmative, upon demand, must explain the basis for the selection of representatives from member countries´┐Żthat is, population, area, natural resources, literate population, or other method.

    On the other hand, there is no obligation to explain minor details. The affirmative does not have to know how many representatives Luxembourg will have, so long as it explains the basis of Luxembourg’s representation. If the negative can show that the decision of the affirmative about an apparently minor detail of the plan is vitally important, then the affirmative must explain how that part of its plan will work; but if the negative attack is of the “hit-and-run” variety, the affirmative is under no obligation to answer each of these minor objections.

    Sometimes an affirmative team decides to leave as much as possible to a commission or legislative body to decide so that the negative will have limited grounds on which to attack. This is permissible with regard to minor details, but if the negative demands an explanation of the major features of the plan, the affirmative is obligated to provide it.

    Once a team has made known its position on major or minor issues, or even on small details, it is governed by the following rule:

    Rule 4e. No revision of position of a team is permitted during the debate.

    This rule is designed to prevent teams from wriggling out of contradictions between speakers by simply saying that they had revised their attitude in the meantime, Furthermore, it simplifies the proceedings and enables everyone concerned to follow the debate more easily; one can readily visualize the difficulty in pinning anyone down if speakers were permitted to shift their position whenever they chose.

    When a team shifts ground on some issue, the judge should consider the point won by the opposing team. The only exception would be made when the revision is relatively minor and when, except for the shift of ground, the team making the point has a clearcut superiority on that particular issue.

    A great deal has been written and said about the burden of proof, and certain misconceptions have arisen about the duty of the affirmative. The rule is simple:

    Rule 5a. He who asserts must prove.

    This principle applies equally to the two teams. Of course, the affirmative must show that its plan is desirable, which means that it must show that some benefits will result; otherwise it has failed to give reason for adopting the plan, and has lost the debate. The commonly heard statement that “the affirmative has the burden of proof” means that and nothing more.

    On the other hand, if the negative wants the judge and audience to accept the idea that there are certain defects which outweigh the plan’s good points, then it must assume the burden of proving that such disadvantages actually will result.

    If the negative introduces a counterplan, it has the burden of showing how it is better than the affirmative’s proposal; the affirmative then has the duty of establishing any alleged objections to the counterplan. In every instance, he who asserts must prove.

    Rule 5b. In order to establish an assertion, the team must support it with enough evidence and logic to convince an intelligent but previously uninformed person that it is more reasonable to believe the assertion than to disbelieve it.

    The amount of proof required in debating is generally less than that required in law. In law, the jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty in order to convict him; in debating, an assertion is established if it is supported by the weight of evidence and logic, even though there still may be room for doubt.

    One further distinction is this: In law the jury may disbelieve evidence, even though its accuracy is not disputed. In debating, the judge is measuring the relative skill of the two teams, not deciding the “bedrock merits” of the matter in question. Therefore he is required to accept as valid all arguments backed with reasonable proof (as defined above) until overthrown by the opposing team.

    A debate coach once remarked, “The implications here are pretty strong. Does this mean that the judge cannot penalize a team which uses a bare-faced lie as proof? Why not manufacture your evidence?” His point is well taken. Manufactured evidence is so rare in debate as to be almost non-existent, but conceivably it might happen some time. In that event, the following rule would cover the situation:

    Rule 5c. Facts, presented in a debate as such, must be accurate.

    If the judge is certain that the evidence is deliberately falsified, he is justified in giving the decision to the other team on this point alone. More often, it is simply a matter of interpretation of evidence, and if some error in logic is present, it is up to the other team to find it and point it out.

    Rule 5d. Any restatement or quotation of an opponent’s argument must be accurate.

    A word-for-word quotation, in context, is ideal. This is ordinarily possible when the quotation is short or when one of the members of the team knows shorthand. Under most circumstances, however, the debater finds it necessary to paraphrase his opponent’s remarks; for this purpose he needs careful notes and an understanding of his opponent’s intent.

    Misquotation, whether deliberate or not, unfairly places the other team in a false position and should be studiously avoided.

    Rule 5e. Visual aids are permissible in debate. Once introduced, they become available for the opponents’ use if desired.

    On international questions, one team may desire to point out certain areas on a map. If this be done, the map may also be used by the opposing team. Consequently, it should be left in plain view of the audience, not rolled up and tucked under a table after the first speaker is through with it.

    Rule 5f. One-sided visual aids must not be exhibited while an opponent is speaking, unless the opponent specifically requests that this be done.

    Some teams prepare an outline of their case on a large poster, and exhibit this poster during the first constructive speech. If this be done, the poster should be removed at the end of the speech so that it does not distract from the attention given the next speaker.

    If the next speaker feels that the constructive speech could be refuted more effectively with the poster in front of the audience, he may ask that it be put up again, in which case his request is, of course, granted.

    Preferably, visual aids should be introduced in the constructive speeches, rather than held until the rebuttals.
    Refutation and Rebuttal

    The rebuttal period is a time for refutation and summary; in fact, such emphasis has been placed on summary that some writers now refer to the “rebuttal-summary” period. Sometime one team believes that it has completely refuted the other team’s arguments before the final speech starts, and then it may be devoted entirely to summary.

    In all fairness to the opposing team, the constructive arguments of a team should be established in the constructive speeches, to allow time for the opposition to answer. Consequently, the following rule is well established:

    Rule 8a. No new constructive arguments may be introduced in the rebuttal period.

    A constructive argument is generally an alleged advantage or disadvantage in one of the proposed plans. All such arguments must be brought out in the constructive speeches.

    Constructive arguments introduced in the rebuttal must be disregarded by the judge, with only one exception:

    Rule 8b. New constructive arguments may be introduced in the rebuttal period if the rebuttal is the first opportunity to answer a direct question and if these new arguments answer the question.

    The long-standing policy against new constructive arguments in the rebuttal period exists to protect teams from the last-minute introduction of new arguments by their opponents. If a team lets down the bars by an indiscreet question, it no longer deserves this protection; accordingly, the opposition may, if it desires, take advantage of the situation by introducing new constructive arguments in rebuttal. Such instances are rare because most teams find it desirable to introduce their constructive arguments early enough in the debate to support them with adequate evidence.

    Rule 8c. Refutation may take place in any part of the debate and is not limited to the rebuttal period.

    The above rule is so well understood that its mention would be unnecessary were it not that sometimes young debaters claim otherwise. “Refutation” includes the introduction of new evidence, when used to counter a point raised by the opposition.

    Rule 8d. Either team, when advocating a plan of action, must explain that plan early enough in the debate so that the opposing team has a constructive speech in which to reply.

    Advantages and disadvantages in a proposed plan of action are generally considered new constructive arguments; and new constructive arguments are not permitted in rebuttal (Rule 8a). Therefore, each team must give the other an opportunity to bring out new arguments of this kind before the rebuttals begin.

    From the standpoint of the affirmative team, the rule is not particularly important. The affirmative can delay the explanation of its plan until the second constructive speech if it chooses, since the negative still has a constructive speech in which to bring out the defects of the plan before the rebuttals.

    From the standpoint of the negative team, however, the rule is significant. Where there are only two constructive speeches per team, the negative must propose any counterplan in its first constructive speech. If the negative waits until the second constructive speech to introduce the counterplan, the affirmative is forced to ignore it or present new constructive arguments in rebuttal.

    If the affirmative is on its toes when the negative violates this principle, it can refuse to discuss the matter, pointing out that the negative left it no constructive time in which to bring out the disadvantages. The judge then considers the counterplan irrelevant, out of the debate, and does not consider it in his decision. This, in effect, penalizes the negative.

    If, on the other hand, the affirmative chooses to meet the counterplan in the short time remaining, it does so knowing full well that it will be working under a handicap. Therefore, if the affirmative elects this course it is not entitled to any special sympathy; the judge simply reaches his decision on the basis of the arguments presented.

    The last affirmative rebuttal presents special problems of its own, since it is the last speech of the debate and the negative has no opportunity for reply. One such problem is covered by this principle:

    Rule 8e. The affirmative must, if possible, reply to the major negative arguments before the last rebuttal.

    Suppose this rule were not followed. Suppose, for instance, that the affirmative had opportunity to answer some important negative argument earlier in the debate, but failed to do so until the last speech. The negative, having no speech in which to reply, is unfairly handicapped.

    If the negative rebuttalist anticipates this problem, he can make the affirmative look very bad by pointing out, as he summarizes, that the affirmative had opportunity to answer this argument earlier, and they did not do so, so any new defense dragged out at the last minute is under suspicion.

    Suppose, however, that the negative does not anticipate the problem, and the affirmative does step out of bounds in that final speech. Suppose, for example, that the final speech contains a serious misquotation, or inaccurate facts that seem rather important, or new constructive arguments. What protection does the negative have? What can it do?

    There are two methods for preventing unfairness of this kind. Either (1) the judge must be required to recognize and discard such material from the last rebuttal, or (2) some method must be developed to permit the negative to call the attention of the judge and audience to the situation. Since the negative team can recognize inaccurate quotations or facts more easily than the judge, the following rule seems to provide the preferable solution:

    Rule 8f. If the negative believes that the affirmative is making unfair use of the last rebuttal, it may ask for the floor to point out the situation. The affirmative may then defend the statements in question or correct them and apologize.

    If the judge determines that the negative charges are true, he penalizes the affirmative by throwing out the arguments in question. If he determines that the negative charges are unjustified, no action is necessary. It seems preferable for the judge to state, before the affirmative speaker resumes his remarks, whether the arguments are to be thrown out or not, for only in this way will the affirmative rebuttalist know whether to continue in the same vein.

    The judge makes no distinction between the last rebuttal and any other speech unless the negative points out some unfairness.

    The time consumed in appeals and their settlement is not counted.

    One basic principle underlies debate judging:

    Rule 9a. The team doing the better debating is the winner.

    Conceivably, more than one process might be employed to determine which team does the better debating. Indeed, since the beginning of intercollegiate debating a number of such methods have been proposed and utilized. Probably the most universally acceptable criterion would be this:

    Rule 9b. The team doing what the proposition requires is the winner.

    Debate topics are worded so that one team must succeed and one team must fail in meeting the requirements of the proposition. The successful team, having done the better debating, is declared victorious.

    When the topic is expressed in the usual form as a proposition of policy, the judge’s criterion for determining the winning team may be expressed in this form:

    Rule 9c. The decision is given to the affirmative if it succeeds in showing that the proposed plan should be adopted. The decision is given to the negative if the affirmative fails to show that the proposal should be adopted.

    The judge must remain strictly neutral and impartial with regard to the subject matter for debate. He cannot aid one team or the other by injecting his own personal opinions into the decision. This principle is applied in several ways:

    Rule 9d. The judge must base his decision entirely on the material presented, without regard for other material which he may happen to possess.

    Arguments or evidence which occur to the judge, but which are not employed in the debate, have no place in the decision. However, if the judge happens to possess some significant facts not employed in the debate, it would be helpful for him to mention them after his decision, as a suggestion for future use.

    Rule 9e. The judge is required to accept as true all arguments backed by reasonable proof (as defined above) until such arguments are overthrown by the opposing team.

    The judge has no right to consider an argument weak unless the opposing team shows that it is, or unless the team making the argument badly asserts it and fails to support it with adequate evidence or reasoning.

    Rule 9f. The judge must not accept ideas which are not backed by reasonable proof.

    Unsupported assertions and purely emotional appeals must not be considered. The use of emotion is legitimate in driving home a point, and is to be encouraged in many instances, but the point must also be supported by evidence or logic if it is to be considered.

    Impartiality also applies to the judgment of the debate techniques employed. Harlan puts it this way:

    “The danger of using coaches for judges is that they have their own ideas about how best to prove each side, and, regardless of how good your proof might be, if you do not prove it as they would, there will be a tendency to discount your arguments.”

    Perhaps this does not apply to the majority of coaches who serve as judges. But in those instances where the coach-judge does swerve from impartiality, the criticism is valid. Each team has the right to make use of whatever arguments it desires, and the judge may not penalize a team for failing to make use of an argument or type of case he considers good. The entire decision must be based on what the teams accomplish, not on what the judge personally believes a good debate case on that subject to be.

    Rules of debate exist to define the procedure and the playing field. They are similar to rules of football in that violation means a penalty of some sort but not necessarily loss of the game. Of course, in a tight situation the penalty could, in either game, mean the difference between victory and defeat.

    Rules of debate are designed so that the teams suffer the natural consequences of their actions. There is no parallel in debate to football’s five-yard penalty, but there is a close parallel to an out-of-bounds run in football: If the runner goes out of bounds, the play is stopped at that point; any gain made off the playing field is disallowed. In debate, any gain made outside of the established procedure is disallowed.

    Suppose, for example, that a team brings up new constructive arguments in rebuttal. Since there is a rule against it, the judge would be required to disregard such arguments. This means that the offending team has wasted some of its time, which is the natural penalty one would expect. No additional penalty is placed on top of this natural one.

    Again, suppose that a team makes assertions without proof. Since there is a rule which says that he who asserts must prove, the judge will decline to accept unsupported assertions. This is the natural penalty for violation of the rule. No additional penalty is inflicted.

    This may be summarized as follows:

    Rule 10. Any gains made outside of the established procedure are disallowed.”

  6. Well there’s never any point in arguing with a woman you’re all so illogical.
    I mean have you read any of Araminta’s stuff…!!!???

  7. When Mrsoldmovie and I debate it works on two levels. I allow her to make all the small decisions, should she buy a new coat, where should we go on holiday, should we buy another car, can I have an increase in my pocket money. Whereas she lets me make all the BIG decisions, should we bail Greece out, should Red China even be in the UN, is Brown a good PM, I find adopting this system makes for an easy life and I’m satisfied because I’m the BIG player. Poor Mrsoldmovie, she has never even challenged this, not once.

Add your Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: