Debate: An introduction
We live surrounded by arguments. We also engage in argument every day:
– Madrid will win the Spanish soccer league this year.
– We should order a pizza.
The word argument often characterized as something negative. However, an argument is simply as an attempt to convince an audienceabout some idea. We make arguments to persuade other people to take our side on a particular issue.
Arguments are the driving force of everything from science to politics. They are serious business as because you navigate your life and your social relationships with others by convincing them of your opinions or being convinced by theirs.
We will organize a debate in order to become better at the business of argument because everyone knows how to argue, but few people know how to argue well.
So let’s start by answering the question: What makes a debate?
Debate is a form of exchange of ideas and opinions with the purpose of convincing some third party who is watching the debate.
Debates are normally on a fixed topic or proposition. The function of a topic for debate is to constrain the issues that will be debated. Debate topics usually deal with issues in controversy.
What is an argument?
Arguments are the most basic building blocks of debate. All argument are not created equally, some are more successful than others. The question for debaters is how to make successful arguments and how to make these successful arguments work in debates.
Argument is different from a simple assertion. An assertion is, most simply, an statement that something is so:
– Economic growth is more important than environmental protection.
All arguments have three basic components: A-R-E: Assertion, Reasoning, and Evidence.
Assertion: The minimum driving age should be raised.
Reasoning: Raising the driving age will save lives by reducing accidents.
Evidence: Young drivers have three times as many crashes as old drivers.
Organizing a debate
There are as many different styles of debate. In class we are going to concentrate in a basic style called the parliamentary debate.
A parliamentary debate is a contest between two groups of debaters. One side makes a case for the proposition, while the other side opposes the proposition team. For this reason, we call one side the proposition side and the other side the opposition side. The proposition team always opens the debate by delivering the first speech.
The proposition team’s job is to support a motion for debate (the motion is also known as the topic, proposition or resolution). The opposition team argues against the proposition’s support for the motion.
The Order of the Speeches
In our parliamentary debate there will be six speeches.The first four speeches are known as constructive speeches. The constructive speeches are used to construct arguments for their side and to respond to arguments made by the other side. The proposition and opposition constructive speeches establish the core arguments for each team’s side of the topic.
After the constructive speeches are over, the rebuttal phase of the debate begins. Every debate has two rebuttal speeches. In these speeches, each side summarizes the major arguments for their side and proposes the reasons why their team should win the debate.
The order and timing of the six speeches is as follows:
- First proposition constructive speech 5 minutes
- First opposition constructive speech 5 minutes
- Second proposition constructive speech 5 minutes
- Second opposition constructive speech 5 minutes
- Opposition rebuttal 3 minutes
- Proposition rebuttal 3 minutes
The proposition team opens and closes the debate.
There is a judge, or panel of judges, for each debate. The judges should signal the ends and beginnings of the speeches normally with hand
signals or cards indicating remaining time.
Speaker responsibilities – walking through a parliamentary debate
In parliamentary debates, debaters cannot use quoted evidence. They can only speak from notes they’ve made during the preparation time prior to the debate or from notes they’ve made during the debate.
Each speaker position involves responsibilities for effective presentation, defense, and refutation. In addition, parliamentary debaters are members of teams and some responsibilities of speakers involve shared efforts with teammates. Let’s have a look at the responsibilities:
- First speaker, proposition: The opening speaker in the debate makes a case for the proposition. To make a case, a speaker offers a logical proof.
- First speaker, opposition: The opposition team provides clash in the debate. Clash is simply what happens when arguments directly oppose each other, or clash against each other.
- Second speaker, proposition: The second constructive speech for the proposition team is that team’s last opportunity to introduce new arguments and issues.
- Second speaker, opposition: This is the final constructive speech in the debate for the opposition team.
- Opposition rebuttalist: This is the summary speech for the opposition team, the last opportunity this side will have to explain winning arguments.
- Proposition rebuttalist: The proposition has the final speech in the debate. This speech should effectively summarize the entire debate.