Copyright 2006

Dr. Daniel R. Fruit, AS, BA, BS, MA, MS, MPA, EDD

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Intro. to Debate British Style [Parliamentary]

A. Introduction

Did you ever notice that people in Congress, the Majilis, or the United States just love to argue? However, they do it more effectively than you do. This is because they're trained to do this. The style of debate they use is called Parliamentary debate.


B. Parliamentary Style Debate

Sometimes called "British style debate," the name "Parliamentary Debate" usually describes this style of debate. There's a pretty simple reason for this: it's considered much like the debates that go on in the British Parliament, one of the oldest governing bodies in the world. Because of this origin, the "FOR" side, or "PROPOSING" side is called the "Government side," and the other side is called the "OPPOSITION," the same titles used in the UK system.


C. Where can you see it in the World and in Wonderful Kuwait?

Basically any country other than the US and its closest allies will use Parliamentary style debate. Thus, one can see it in England, Wales, Scotland, etc. In addition, all of the former British colonies follow the same style, i.e. Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, etc. One can make the fair generalization that anywhere they called football "football" instead of soccer, they debate this style. Most schools that follow the British system, like Harry Potter's school, have "houses," and each house has its own debate team along with its Quidditch team.

The format used at the World Debating Championships uses a variation on British style, with a bit of American style thrown in to make it more fair. Accordingly the Kuwait National Team which represents Kuwait in the World Debate Championships uses World-style. Sure enough, the schools that compete for the local title of champions uses the same style. Sure enough, the schools that participate in this event (held November 16th) include BSK, KES, ESG, NES, as well as FAIPS the best of the Indian Schools. Note that the team represents Kuwait, not Kuwaitis. The vast majority of those selected for the team hold Indian or Pakistani passports. In six years of participation, only 1 Kuwaiti ever earned selected to the team and only a few Arabs.

By the way, the American national team at these championships is about as bad as the American "soccer" team was at the World Cup.


D. The General Idea IS an IDEA

The idea in Parliamentary debate is to prove an idea, which differs from American style debate. Since the FOR side only attempts to prove an idea, it need not give a lot of details of how that idea would work in the real world. This lets members come up with a LOT of different kinds of ideas and evidence. Perhaps not surprisingly, really well-composed sides tend to say words that sound as though they've written a good persuasive essay or an oratory.

The AGAINST side, the opposition, also has a pretty wide open ground to defend. While of course they must attack what the for side says, they must also come across with idea of their own as to why the for side is wrong.

One might think of it this way. It's like each side is presenting an essay they've memorized and practiced; it just happens that another side is present trying to argue with them. It's rather like you trying to convince your father to a videogame parlor while your sister is determined that he take her shopping.


E. Its all a Show

As mentioned earlier the CONTENT, what is said, much resembles a really good essay that just happens to have another side standing around kicking it to pieces. However, in every debate, any group of debaters, typically called a "SIDE" in Parliamentary debate, wants to WIN. Surprisingly, a team with excellent content may NOT win in Parliamentary debates (!!!).

This is due to the scoring system. About HALF of the points in Parliamentary style debate come from WHAT is said, but the other half comes from HOW it's said. The judges look for things like style, poise, eye contact, etc.. The more assured speaker, the higher the score in those categories. In 1960, a famous debated pitted two American presidential candidates: John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. Everyone who heard the debate thought Nixon won, but everyone who WATCHED it thought Kennedy won. In Parliamentary debates, Kennedy always win.

A good analogy for British style debate relates it to oratory. Oratory is the art of presenting a speech in a convincing, emotional manner. To prepare for oratory not only involves writing a great speech but also preparing every gesturing, practicing the tone of one's voice. In other words, makes an appealing presentation. One can think of Parliamentary debate as oratory with interruptions which is, by the way, exactly what happens in the British Parliament [but not the American Congress]. Speaker make speeches through interruptions and must respond to the other side.


F. The proposition

The proposition is what the FOR side wants to convince the judge of. Some propositions below give you a good feel for the sort of things debated.
(1) This House holds that marriage should be illegal to anyone under 21.
(2) This House would abolish capital punishment [the death penalty].
(3) This House believes the War on Terrorism has failed.
(4) This House believes Dr. Dan deserves a 100 KD a month raise [just kidding on that one].
(5) This House would ban the payment of athletes.

G. The Format of Debates...and the Format of Our Debates

In the debates a team of team (UK) or three (World, Australia) debates on each side. Each speaker gets a chance to speak for a certain number of minutes, and the two sides alternate. As in all debates, the FOR (government) side always makes the LAST speech to give it a chance to answer all of the attacks on its position.

The LAST speech on each side, called the summary or REBUTTAL, is meant to kind of summarize that sides speeches and why it thinks it won the debate. By the way: many times that last speaker starts out with exactly that line: "This is why I won this debate."

We will use a cut-down version of this format for our speeches.

1 For 5 minutes*
1 Against 5 minutes*
2 For 5 minutes*
2 Against 5 minutes*
3 For 5 minutes*
3 Against 5 minutes*
BREAK 2 minutes
Summary Against 3 minutes
Summary For 3 minutes
* points of Information possible minutes 2-4


G. Points of Information

Without Points of Information, the format above WOULD resemble two sides reading an essay. During the time marked "Points of information," the MIDDLE of each speech, ANY speaker from the other side can rise and say, "On a point of information...." This means that you want to interrupt the other side with a question, hopefully a challenging one.

The speaker can say one of three things: "Declined (meaning No!), "In a minute," meaning he'll come back to it, or "Accepted," which means he'll answer NOW.

How each sides handles POIs is important. Whichever side is NOT speaking wants to try to challenge the other side. The side speaking, whenever possible, wants to easily answer these questions and not get too bothered by them. This is often the exciting part of the debate!

Sometimes, the questioning an answering gets out of hand. If that happens, the judge will warn the questioning side to stop asking so many questions or the answering side to answer.


H. What is in a Speech

Except for the LAST speeches, that summarize the debates, all of them kind of follow the same outline. However, the later the speaker, the more he/she will tend to talk about what was said in the speeches before. Here's a quick outline.

1 Proposition (FOR)
A. Define the motion
B. Give an outline of what all speaker'll say
C. Give 1 reason for your position w evidence.
D. Give another reason with evidence.
E. Summarize your speech.

1 Opposition (AGAINST)
A. Challenge the other sides Definition (if helpful)
B. Give an outline of what all speaker'll say
C. Give 1 reason for your position w evidence.
D. D. Give another reason with evidence
E. E. Summarize your speech.

ALL OTHER Speeches
A. Respond to whatever was said before for against/your side.
B. Give 1 more reason for your position with evidence.
C. Summarize your speech.

ALL Rebuttals
A. Summarize what went on before
B. Say why your side has won the debate


The judges in the debate will decide who won or lost. In a Parliamentary debate, this almost always equals the team with the higher point total. Thus, they'll add the points below.

World Style Debate Score Sheet

Judge: _____________________ Round/Date ___________
For ____________________ Against __________________


Names: For 1_______________________
Speaker _____ Content and Rebuttal___

Names: For 2_______________________
Speaker _____ Content and Rebuttal___


Names: Against 1 _______________________
Speaker _____ Content and Rebuttal___

Names: Against 2 _______________________
Speaker _____ Content and Rebuttal___
The winning side is _______________

Intro. to Debate American Style [Policy]

A. Introduction

Scene: The Security Council of the United Nations
Time: 1962

US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson: I'm going to ask you, Ambassador, one more time DOES the Soviet Union have missiles in Cuba. (pausing) Don't wait for translation. Answer the question! You've held the world hostage for a week. Does the USSR have offensive missles in Cuba?

Russian Ambassador (fumbling): This is not an American court. I don't have to answer your questions.

US Ambassador: I'm waiting, and I'm willing to wait until Hell freezes over!

Stevenson never got his answer directly. Sorensen, the Soviet Ambassador, was RIGHT. He didn't have to answer Stevenson's question because it WASN'T an American court.

Get ready for American style debate because it comes, NOT from the Parliament or the UN, but from American courtrooms!

B. Parliamentary Style Debate

Sometimes called "American style debate," the name "Policy Debate" usually describes this style of debate. In policy debate, a policy, in other words, a government program, is under "trial." The FOR side, or Affirmative wants to ATTACK that policy, while the AGAINST side, or NEGATIVE wants to defend that side. It's just like a courtroom only instead of a person, one government program is "on trial."


C. Where can you see it in the World and in Wonderful Kuwait?

One can find policy debates at any country closely allied to the United States and using an American style court system. Accordingly one sees it in the Philippines, sometimes in Canada, Liberia. In terms of numbers, far FEWER countries use policy debates, but their population about equals that of the Parliamentary-debating countries. If they think a football is not round, they use American-style policy debates. Most American schools have debating teams, and nearly every lawyer, which makes up 90% of all American politicians debated at one time or another.

In Kuwait, you will find this style of debate at EMAC and ISAAC schools. Last year, ASK hosted the EMAC tournament and all of the schools knew the style. Further the Kuwait Debate League, at BBS, uses this style, and almost every school with a non-British director debated in the League at least one season, including AAG, ESG, AIS, UAS, FAIPS, IPC, etc..

The Americans host no "world championship," but each state holds its own championship, and the state winners compete with the winners about as good as the national winners in the other style.


D. The General Idea IS attacking or defending a POLICY

The idea in Policy debate is to attack or defend a governmental policy. Those policies, even the silliest ones, takes years to write and use the best governmental minds. As a result, it takes a lot of research just to UNDERSTAND the government's policy, let alone attack it. As a result, Policy debates usually pick a single policy, and different teams attack/defend different parts of it. For example several years ago, the League used the topic of US Arabian Gulf Policy. That's a very BIG topic area. As a result, most affirmative (attacking teams), only attacked that policy towards one country.

On the Against NEGATIVE side, again, it takes a LOT of research simply to understand the policy. However, because of this, the negative need only DEFEND that policy, NOT offer its own ideas. So basically, it defends the policy as it is, in other words, the "STATUS QUO," the current policy.


E. Its NOT a SHOW. It's a CASE.

The best lawyer, sure enough, can move a jury to tears. However, when that jury goes to the other room to decide the case, they spend a lot of time in discussion. A lot of THAT discussion is about NOT being too moved by emotion. Instead, they're moved by convincing evidence and logic. Would you want to condemn a man to death if the evidence doesn't convince you?

As a result, American style debate is much LESS interested in style than in substance. Only 15% of the score actually comes from presentation. The rest comes from logic and argument.

To return to the Kennedy-Nixon debate, Kennedy's relaxed manner, good looks, and speaking style convinced a lot of television viewers. On the other hand, almost everyone who listened on the radio thought Nixon won. In American style debate, Nixon wins almost always.

Finally, a very important point. The negative is ASSUMED to win unless the affirmative convincingly wins it case. This is because the negative has behind it all of the research and experience of the government, just as no court would condemn a man unless completely convinced.


F. The resolution

The resolutions in American style debate have a different look. For example.

(1) Resolved: That the US should substantially change its policy towards Iran.
(2) Resolved: That the US should make a policy that encourages space exploration.
(3) Resolved: That the Kuwait government should substantially reduce its dependence on oil revenue.
(4) Resolved: That Al-Bayan should substantially revise its policy towards student admission.

G. The Plan

There's a saying in America: "Put your money where your mouth is." this is reflected in American style debate. If the FOR (affirmative) side only needed to show some problems, harms, with the status quo, it would almost always win. In American debate, the affirmative must also put out PLAN to change that policy. Again, this takes a lot of research and thought, the reason why American debaters generally stick to the same topic a whole season. The affirmative's job is to then (1) convince the judge that the current policy is SERIOUSLY flawed in one way and (2) to propose a BETTER solution.


H. The Format of Debates...and the Format of Our Debates

American style debates are more specialized in terms of each debater. American style debates specifically refer to a set of specific parts of the status quo, called STOCK ISSUE. There are a total of NINE stock issues. In our debates, we will only use SIX of those issues.

As in British style debate, there are REBUTTALS. Only EVERY speaker gets to have a rebuttal, but here we'll only give 1 rebuttal to each side. As in British style, the LAST speaker on each side gives the most important rebuttal. Typically that speech decides the debate!

We will use a cut-down version of this format for our speeches. Note that in American style debate there are almost always only TWO to a side.

1 Affirmative 5 minutes
1 Negative Cross 2 minutes
1 Negative 5 minutes*
1 Affirmative Cross 2 minutes
2 Affirmative 5 minutes
2 Negative Cross 2 minutes
2 Negative 5 minutes*
2 Affirmative Cross 2 minutes
BREAK 3 minutes
Negative Rebuttal 3 minutes
Affirmative Rebuttal 3 minutes


G. Cross Examination

Remember the Soviet ambassador? He was really relieved that he was NOT in American courtroom. This is because in the UN there are only POINTS of INFORMATION, like in Parliamentary debate, NOT a Cross-Examination.

In a Cross-Examination, the one speaker gets several MINUTES of asking questions to the other side. The other speaker cannot escape by saying "declined" or "in a minute." This "Cross X" is usually the most exciting part of the debate because of this. The questioner will try not only to destroy the other side's idea but also to find every weakness to follow up in his own speech.


H. What is in a Speech

In American-style debate, each speaker has a somewhat more specialized function as all debates tend to follow the same overall function. It's traditional that the strongest speaker logically follows the other speaker, especially as the former can prepare some or all of his speech ahead of time.

The following are outlines for the speeches.

1st Affirmative
A. Gives definitions
B. Gives three harms with evidence in the Status Quo
C. Gives 1 need per harm
D. Reads the Affirmative's plan [not prove]
E. Summarizes his speech.

1st Negative
A. Defends the Status Quo (2 minutes)
B. Attacks harms/needs, definitions
C. Summarizes

2nd Affirmative
A. Patches up any holes found by the 1st
B. Explains the plan in depth
C. Gives a working model of how the plan would work.
D. Gives EVIDENCE that the plan will work.
E. Summarizes

2nd Negative
A. A. Attacks harms/needs again IF practical
B. Attacks the Plan in depth
C. Summarizes

Rebuttals (both sides)
Summarizes why the side has won

I. Definitions of Issues listed above

Status quo: the current system
Definitions: KEY words of the resolution defined [not "an," 'the"]
Harm: a SERIOUS problem caused by the current system
Need: some way of defining a better system
Plan: A set of steps to solve the Harms
Working model: an example of something similar to the affirmative's plan that works
Solvency: proof that a given plan will work.


J. Evidence

Much more than in a Parliamentary debate, evidence is important. Just thinking up general examples is not enough to convince the public to change a policy or keep one. There needs to be PROOF with bibliographic information. A lot of Cross-X is about evidence, and, sure enough, it decides a lot of debates. This is another reason why Americans tend to use the same topic for a whole season: it takes time to assemble convincing evidence from good sources.

Earlier, this reading compared Parliamentary debate to writing an essay or writing an oratory. American debating is much more like writing a research and presenting it.



As in American style debate, the judge will score all of the speakers. HOWEVER, this does not decide which side won or lost.

For the affirmative to win the debate it must convince the judge that:
(A) a serious problem exists with the current system
(B) their plan will solve that problem or, at least, be better than the current system

If the debate is extremely close, as said before the negative wins. HOWEVER, the negative cannot simply attack the affirmative. They MUST also defend the current system.

The winning side, then, is the most logically convincing. This may, or may NOT be the same side with the higher point totals. It sometimes happens, particularly in a negative win, that the affirmative has much better speakers, but their proposed action has one serious flaw which prevents the judge from voting for it. Thus speaker points indicate the quality of the speakers, NOT the winners and losers.

American Style Debate Match Scoring Sheet

Speaker:_1st Affirmative________________
cross x _x ________
TOTAL _____________

Speaker:_2nd Affirmative________________
cross x _x ________
TOTAL _____________


Speaker:_1st Negative________________
cross x _x ________
TOTAL _____________

Speaker:_2nd Negative________________
cross x _x ________
TOTAL _____________


In my opinion, the better debating was done by _________ representing the _________ side.