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Debate is a method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than deductive reasoning, which only examines whether a conclusion is a consequence of premisses, and factual argument, which only examines what is or isn't the case, or rhetoric which is a technique of persuasion. Though logical consistency, factual accuracy and some degree of emotional appeal to the audience are important elements of the art of persuasion, in debating, one side often prevails over the other side by presenting a superior "context" and/or framework of the issue, which is far more subtle and strategic. The outcome of a debate depends upon consensus or some formal way of reaching a resolution, rather than the objective facts as such. In a formal debating contest, there are rules for participants to discuss and decide on differences, within a framework defining how they will interact.
Debating is commonly carried out in many assemblies of various types to discuss matters and to make resolutions about action to be taken, often by a vote. Deliberative bodies such as parliaments, legislative assemblies, and meetings of all sorts engage in debates. In particular, in parliamentary democracies a legislature debates and decides on new laws. Formal debates between candidates for elected office, such as the leaders debates and the U.S. presidential election debates, are sometimes held in democracies. Debating is also carried out for educational and recreational purposes, usually associated with educational establishments. The major goal of the study of debate as a method or art is to develop the ability to debate rationally from either position with equal ease.
Informal debate is a common occurrence, the quality and depth of a debate improves with knowledge and skill of its participants as debaters. The outcome of a contest may be decided by audience vote, by judges, or by some combination of the two.
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In parliaments and other legislatures, members debate proposals regarding legislation, vote, and make resolutions which become laws. Debates are usually conducted by proposing a law, or changes to a law. Members of the parliament or congress then discuss it and eventually cast their vote for or against such a law.
Since the 1976 general election, debates between presidential candidates have been a part of U.S. presidential campaigns. Unlike debates sponsored at the high school or collegiate level, the participants, format, and rules are not independently defined. Nevertheless, in a campaign season heavily dominated by television advertisements, talk radio, sound bites, and spin, they still offer a rare opportunity for citizens to see and hear the major candidates side by side. The format of the presidential debates, though defined differently in every election, is typically more restrictive than many traditional formats, forbidding participants to ask each other questions and restricting discussion of particular topics to short time frames.
The presidential debates were initially moderated in 1976, 1980, 1984 by the League of Women Voters, but The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was established in 1987 by the Republican and Democratic parties. Its primary purpose is to sponsor and produce debates for the United States presidential and vice presidential candidates and to undertake research and educational activities relating to the debates. The organization, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan corporation, sponsored all the presidential debates in 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. However, in announcing its withdrawal from sponsoring the debates, the League of Women Voters stated that it was withdrawing "because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter." In 2004, the Citizens' Debate Commission was formed in the hope of establishing an independent sponsor for presidential debates, with a more voter-centric role in the definition of the participants, format, and rules.
In competitive debates teams compete, and one is judged the winner by some criteria. There are many different styles of competitive debate, organizations and rules. One purpose is to train young people who may in future be required to debate and resolve matters.
Competitive debate is carried out at local, national, and international level.
In schools and colleges competitive debate often takes the form of a contest with explicit rules. It may be presided over by one or more judges. Each side seeks to win, following the rules. Each side is either in favor of ("for, 'Affirmative' "), or opposed to ("against, 'Negative' "), a statement (proposition, moot or Resolution). The "for" side must argue supporting the proposition; the "against" side must refute these arguments sufficiently to warrant not adopting the proposition; they are not required to propose any alternative.
Parliamentary Debate (sometimes referred to as "parli" in the United States) is conducted under rules derived from British parliamentary procedure. It features the competition of individuals in a multi-person setting. It borrows terms such as "government" and "opposition" from the British parliament (although the term "proposition" is sometimes used rather than "government" when debating in the United Kingdom).
Throughout the world, parliamentary debate is what most countries know as "debating", and is the primary style practiced in the United Kingdom, India, Greece and most other nations. The premier event in the world of parliamentary debate, the World Universities Debating Championship, is conducted in the British Parliamentary style.
Even within the United Kingdom, however, British Parliamentary style is not used exclusively; the English-Speaking Union runs the national championships for schools in a unique format, known as the 'Mace' format after the name of the competition, while simultaneously using British Parliamentary format for the national universities championships.
The British Parliamentary debating style involves 4 teams; two "government" or "proposition" teams support the motion, and two "opposition" teams oppose it. In a competitive round, the teams are ranked first through fourth with the first place team receiving 3 points, the second receiving 2, the third receiving 1 and the fourth place receiving no points. This is the style used by the World University Debating Championships, or WUDC.
The Canadian Parliamentary debating style involves one "government" team and one "opposition" team. In competition, the motion is traditionally "squirrelable". This means that the assigned motion is not intended to be debated, and may even be a quote from a film or a song. The government team then "squirrels" the motion into something debatable by making a series of logical links between the proposed motion and the one they propose to debate. This makes the debate similar to a prepared debate for the government team and an impromptu debate for the opposition team.
In the United States the American Parliamentary Debate Association is the oldest national parliamentary debating organization, based on the East Coast and including all of the Ivy League. The more recently founded National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) is now the largest collegiate sponsor.
Derived from the Oxford Union debating society of Oxford University, "Oxford-Style" debate is a formal, competitive debate format featuring a sharply framed motion that is proposed by one side and opposed by another. A winner is declared in an Oxford-Style debate either by the majority or by which team has swayed more audience members between the two votes. Oxford Style debates follow a formal structure which begins with audience members casting a pre-debate vote on the motion that is either for, against or undecided. Each panelist presents a seven-minute opening statement, after which the moderator takes questions from the audience with inter-panel challenges. Finally, each panelist delivers a two-minute closing argument, and the audience delivers their second (and final) vote for comparison against the first.
This style of debate is prominent in Britain at schools level. Two teams of two debate an affirmative motion (e.g. "This house would give prisoners the right to vote",) which one team will propose and the other will oppose. Each speaker will make a seven-minute speech in the order; 1st Proposition, 1st Opposition, 2nd Proposition, 2nd Opposition. After the first minute of each speech, members of the opposing team may request a 'point of information' (POI). If the speaker accepts they are permitted to ask a question. POI's are used to pull the speaker up on a weak point, or to argue against something the speaker has said. However after 6 minutes, no more POI's are permitted. After all four have spoken the debate will be opened to the floor, in which members of the audience will put questions to the teams. After the floor debate, one speaker from each team (traditionally the first speaker), will speak for 4 minutes. In these summary speeches it is typical for the speaker to answer the questions posed by the floor, answer any questions the opposition may have put forward, before summarising his or her own key points. In the Mace format, emphasis is typically on analytical skills, entertainment, style and strength of argument. The winning team will typically have excelled in all of these areas.
The International Public Debate Association (IPDA), inaugurated on February 15, 1997 at St. Mary's University (Texas) in San Antonio, Texas, is a national debate league currently active in the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Kansas, Alabama, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Florida, and Oklahoma. Among universities, IPDA is the fastest growing debate association within the United States. Although evidence is used, the central focus of IPDA is to promote a debate format that emphasizes public speaking and real-world persuasion skills over the predominate use of evidence and speed. To further this goal, IPDA predominantly uses lay judges in order to encourage an audience-centered debate style. Furthermore, although the main goal of the debater is to persuade the judge, IPDA also awards the best speakers within each tournament.
IPDA offers both team debate where two teams of two debate and individual debate. In both team and individual debate a list of topics are given to the two sides thirty minutes before the start of the round. A striking negotiation ensues to pick a topic. The sides, one affirming the resolution and one negating the resolution, then prepare an opening speech, a cross-examination of the other side, and closing remarks for the round.
While most member programs the International Public Debate Association are associated with colleges or universities, participation in IPDA tournaments is open to anyone whose education level is equivalent to seventh-grade or higher.
Australasia style debates consist of two teams who debate over an issue, more commonly called a topic or proposition. The issue, by convention, is presented in the form of an affirmative statement beginning with "That", for example, "That cats are better than dogs," or "This House", for example, "This House would establish a world government." The subject of topics varies from region to region. Most topics however, are usually region specific to facilitate interest by both the participants and their audiences.
Each team has three members, each of whom is named according to their team and speaking position within his/her team. For instance the second speaker of the affirmative team to speak is called the "Second Affirmative Speaker" or "Second Proposition Speaker", depending on the terminology used. Each of the speakers' positions is based around a specific role, the third speaker for example has the opportunity to make a rebuttal towards the opposing teams argument introducing new evidence to add to their position. The last speaker is called the "Team Advisor/Captain". Using this style, the debate is finished with a closing argument by each of the first speakers from each team and new evidence may not be introduced. Each of the six speakers (three affirmative and three negative) speak in succession to each other beginning with the Affirmative Team. The speaking order is as follows: First Affirmative, First Negative, Second Affirmative, Second Negative, Third Affirmative, and finally Third Negative.
The context in which the Australasia style of debate is used varies, but in Australia and New Zealand is mostly used at the Primary and Secondary school level, ranging from small informal one-off intra-school debates to larger more formal inter-school competitions with several rounds and a finals series which occur over a year.
WUPID is an invitational tournament that employs the BP or Worlds format of debating. It invites the top 30 debating institutions in accordance to the list provided by the World Debate Website administered by Colm Flynn. If any or some of the teams cannot participate than replacements would be called in from the top 60 teams or based on strong recommendations from senior members of the University Debating community.
WUPID was first held in December 2007 with Sydney University being crowned champion. The second installation in 2008 saw Monash taking the trophy home. The third WUPID will be held in University Putra Malaysia (UPM) in December 2009. The first two tournaments were co-hosted by Univerisiti Kuala Lumpur (UNIKL).
WUPID was the brainchild of Daniel Hasni Mustaffa, Saiful Amin Jalun and Muhammad Yunus Zakariah. They were all former debaters for UPM who took part at all possible levels of debating from the Malaysian nationals to the World Championship.
United Asian Debating Championship is the biggest debating tournament in Asia, where teams from the Middle East to Japan come to debate. It is traditionally hosted in southeast Asia where participation is usually highest compared to other parts of Asia.
Asian debates are largely an adaptation of the Australasian format. The only difference is that each speaker is given 7 minutes of speech time and there will be points of information (POI) offered by the opposing team between the 2nd to 6th minutes of the speech. This means that the 1st and 7th minute is considered the 'protected' period where no POIs can be offered to the speaker.
The debate will commence with the Prime Minister's speech (first proposition) and will be continued by the first opposition. This alternating speech will go on until the third opposition. Following this, the opposition bench will give the reply speech.
In the reply speech, the opposition goes first and then the proposition. The debate ends when the proposition ends the reply speech. 4 minutes is allocated for the reply speech and no POI's can be offered during this time.
Policy debate is a form of speech competition in which teams of two advocate for and against a resolution that typically calls for policy change by the United States federal government or security discourse. It is also referred to as cross-examination debate (sometimes shortened to Cross-X, CX, or C-X) because of the 3-minute questioning period following each constructive speech and the physical examination proceeding the first rebuttals. Affirmative teams generally present a plan as a proposal for implementation of the resolution. The negative will generally prove that it would be better not to do the plan or that the opportunity costs to the plan are so great that it should not be implemented.
Extemporaneous debate is a style that involves no planning in advance, and two teams with a first and second speaker. While a majority of judges will allow debaters to cite current events and various statistics (of which opponents may question the credibility) the only research permitted are one or more articles given to the debaters along with the resolution shortly before the debate. It begins with an affirmative first-speaker constructive speech, followed by a negative; then an affirmative and negative second-speaker constructive speech respectively. Each of these speeches is six minutes in length, and is followed by two minutes of cross examination. There is then an affirmative and negative first-speaker rebuttal, and a negative and affirmative second-speaker rebuttal, respectively. These speeches are each four minutes long. No new points can be brought into the debate during the rebuttals.
This style of debate generally centers around three main contentions, although a team can occasionally use two or four. In order for the affirmative side to win, all of the negative contentions must be defeated, and all of the affirmative contentions must be left standing. Most of the information presented in the debate must be tied in to support one of these contentions, or "signposted". Much of extemporaneous debate is similar to the form known as policy debate. One main difference, however, is that extemporaneous debate focuses less on the implementation of the resolution.
Lincoln-Douglas debate is primarily a form of United States high school debate (though it also has a college form called NFA LD) named after the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. It is a one-on-one event focused mainly on applying philosophical theories to real world issues. Debaters normally alternate sides from round to round as either the "affirmative", which upholds the resolution, or "negative", which attacks it. The resolution, which changes bimonthly, asks whether a certain policy or action conforms to a specific value.
Though established as an alternative to policy debate, there has been a strong movement to embrace certain techniques that originated in policy debate (and, correspondingly, a strong backlash movement). Plans, counterplans, critical theory, postmodern theory, debate about the theoretical basis and rules of the activity itself, and critics have all reached more than occasional, if not yet universal, usage. Traditional L-D debate attempts to be free of policy debate "jargon". Lincoln-Douglas speeches can range from a conversational pace to well over 300 wpm (when trying to maximize the number of arguments and depth of each argument's development). This technique is known as spreading. There is also a growing emphasis on carded evidence, though still much less than in policy debate. These trends have created a serious rift within the activity between the debaters, judges, and coaches who advocate or accept these changes, and those who vehemently oppose them.
Policy and Lincoln-Douglas debate tournaments are often held concurrently at the same school.
Each year, the International Debate Education Association (IDEA) hosts an annual Youth Forum, during which the World Karl Popper Debate Championships are held. Nations from all around the world attend this Forum for the tournament, as well as the 2-week debate training camp.
Karl Popper debate, named after the famed philosopher, is a widely used debate format in Eastern European and Central Asian high schools. Originally created by the Open Society Institute as a more flexible team debate format, Karl Popper debate has risen greatly in popularity as the first format that many high school students learn. It focuses on relevant and often deeply divisive propositions, emphasizing the development of critical thinking skills, and tolerance for differing viewpoints. To facilitate these goals, debaters work together in teams of three, and must research both sides of each issue. Constructed similarly to the Oregon-Oxford debate format, each side is given the opportunity to offer arguments and direct questions to the opposing side. The first speakers of each side have 6 minutes to present their constructive cases, or in the negative's case a rebuttal. The other 4 speakers each have 5 minutes to deliver a speech supporting their team's main arguments. There is also an allotted 3 minutes after each of the first 4 speeches for cross-examination, during which the opposing team has a chance to clarify what was stated in the preceding speech.
Impromptu debate is a relatively informal style of debate, when compared to other highly structured formats. The topic for the debate is given to the participants between fifteen and twenty minutes before the debate starts. The debate format is relatively simple; each team member of each side speaks for five minutes, alternating sides. A ten-minute discussion period, similar to other formats' "open cross-examination" time follows, and then a five-minute break (comparable to other formats' preparation time). Following the break, each team gives a 4-minute rebuttal.
Public Forum combines aspects of both Policy debate and Lincoln-Douglas debate, with shorter speech lengths, but longer periods, called "cross-fires", of interaction between the debaters. The basis of this type of debate is to appeal for anyone who is eligible to become a jury member unlike Policy debate or Lincoln-Douglas debate which requires experience in debate to judge.
This is a new, specifically French format. Two teams of five debate on a given motion. One side is supposed to defend the motion while the other must defeat it. The debate is judged on the quality of the arguments, the strength of the rhetoric, the charisma of the speaker, the quality of the humor, the ability to think on one's feet and, of course, the teamwork.
The first speaker of the Proposition (Prime Minister) opens the debate, followed by the first speaker of the Opposition (Shadow Prime Minister), then the second speaker of the Proposition and so on.
Every speaker speaks for 6 minutes. After the first minute and before the last minute, debaters from the opposite team may ask Points of Information, which the speaker may accept or reject as he wishes (although he is supposed to accept at least 2).
The French Debating Association organizes its National Debating Championship upon this style.
With the increasing popularity and availability of the Internet, differing opinions arise frequently. Though they are often expressed via flaming and other forms of argumentation, which consist primarily of assertions, there do exist formalized debating websites, typically in the form of online forums or bulletin boards. The debate style is interesting, as research and well thought out points and counterpoints are possible because of the obvious lack of time restraints (although practical time restraints usually are in effect, e.g., no more than 5 days between posts, etc.). Forums are Moderated and welcome online debaters in a friendly format so all may speak their pros and cons. Many people use this to strengthen their points, or drop their weaker opinions on things, many times for debate in formal debates (such as the ones listed above) or for fun arguments with friends. The ease-of-use and friendly environments make new debaters welcome to share their opinions in many communities.
Some online debate communities and forums practice Policy Debate through the use of uploaded speeches and preset word counts to represent the time limits present in physical debate. These virtual debates have the advantage of long periods of theoretical prep time, as well as the ability to research during a round.
There have been two World Online Debating Championships, run by Debatewise and IDEA.
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