In formal debating contest, there are rules enabling people to discuss and decide on differences, within a framework defining how they will interact. Informal debate is a common occurrence, but the quality and depth of a debate improves with knowledge and skill of its participants as debaters. Deliberative bodies such as parliaments, legislative assemblies, and meetings of all sorts engage in debates. The outcome of a debate may be decided by audience vote, by judges, or by some combination of the two. Formal debates between candidates for elected office, such as the leaders debates and the U.S. presidential election debates, are common in democracies. '''
Rule-based competitive debate is often encouraged in high schools and colleges. Often, it takes the form of a contest with explicit rules. It may be presided over by one or more judges. Each side seeks to win, by following the rules, and even by using some rules to break other rules, within limits. Each side is either in favor ("for, 'Affirmative' "), or opposed to ("against, 'Negative' "), a statement (proposition or Resolution) which if adopted would change something with the exception of some high school and college debate where moots may hold no outcome ie. the moot "ignorance is bliss". Some of the rules are broad and must be followed in a general way. For example, those in favor of the proposition are
To further illustrate the importance of rules, those opposed must destroy these arguments, sufficiently to warrant not adopting the proposition, and are not required to propose any alternative solutions.
The major goal of the study of debate as a method or art is to develop one's ability to play from either position with equal ease. To inexperienced debaters, some propositions appear easier to defend or to destroy; to experienced debaters, any proposition can be defended or destroyed after the same amount of preparation time, usually quite short. Lawyers argue forcefully on behalf of their client, even if the facts appear against them. However one large misconception about debate is that it is all about argument; it is not.
Competitive Debate is an organized activity with teams competing at the local, national, and international level. It is popular in English-speaking universities and high schools around the world, most notably in South Africa, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Many different styles of debate occur under a variety of organizations and rules.
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 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, Australia, India 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.
In the U.S. the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) is the oldest national parliamentary debating organization, based on the east coast and including all of the Ivy League, although the more recently founded National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA) is now the largest collegiate sponsor. The National Parliamentary Debate League (NPDL) is the umbrella organization for all parliamentary debating at the secondary school level in the United States. And in Canada, the Canadian Universities Society for Intercollegiate Debating (CUSID) is the umbrella organization for all university-level debating; at the secondary school level, the Canadian Student Debating Federation (CSDF) has the same function.
Topics in parliamentary debate can either be set by the tournament or determined by the debaters as the "Government" side begins. In many forms of the activity rhetoric and style, as well as the more traditional knowledge and research, can play a significant role in determining the victor with marks shared equally between matter and manner. It has been widely labeled as the most democratic form of educational debate.
Each team is comprised of 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.
This 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 POI's 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 style of debating where two teams of two debaters advocate or oppose a plan derived from a resolution that usually calls for a change in policy by a government. Teams normally alternate, and compete in rounds as either "affirmative" or "negative". In most forms of the activity, there is a fixed topic for an entire year or another set period. In comparison to parliamentary debate, policy debate relies more on researched evidence and tends to have a larger sphere of what is considered legitimate argument, including counterplans, critical theory, and debate about the theoretical standards of the activity itself. While rhetoric is important and reflected in the "speaker points" given to each debater, each round is usually decided based on who has "won" the argument according to the evidence and logic presented. Additionally, in certain segments of the activity, debaters may "spread" (speak very rapidly), in order to present as much evidence and information as possible and counter the other side.
Policy Debate is mostly practiced in the United States (where it is sometimes referred to as Cross-Examination, or CX debate), although it has been attempted in Europe and Japan and has certainly influenced other forms of debate. Its evolution has been towards what some see as a more esoteric style.
Classical debate is a relatively new debate format, first created and primarily practiced in the state of Minnesota. It was formed as an alternative to Policy debating. Certain judges and coaches felt that the development of Policy had led it to become an extremely specialized form of debate with heavy reliance on near-incomprehensible speed in speaking and less emphasis on real-world arguments in favor of "strategic" arguments that often bordered on the near-absurd. With a structure similar to that of Policy, Classical debate emphasizes logic and real-world discussion. For this reason, it is often nicknamed "Policy Lite".
As opposed to Policy, where each Affirmative proposes a new plan, classical debate is simpler: one resolution is chosen at the beginning of the season, which the Affirmative affirms and Negative negates. The emphasis on depth instead of breadth provided by the restriction can make for interesting rounds that often come down to arguments that might otherwise pale in other formats.
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 "sign posted". Much of extemporaneous debate is similar to policy debate; one main difference, however, is that extemporaneous debate focuses less on the implementation of the resolution.
Lincoln-Douglas debate, a form of United States high school debate named after the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858, 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 kritiks have all reached more than occasional, if not yet universal, usage. 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). 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 hosts an annual Youth Forum, during which the Karl Popper World Championships are held. Nations from all around the world attend this Forum for the tournament, as well as the 2 week debate training camp.
The first speaker of the Proposition (Prime Minister) opens the debate, followed by the first speaker of the Oppostion (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.
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 Republicans and Democrats to "ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners." 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 organisation, 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.
All forms of debate, whether consciously or not, make certain assumptions about argumentation theory. The core concept of argumentation theory is the notion of advocacy. In most cases, at least one side in a debate needs to maintain the truth of some proposition or advocate some sort of personal or political change or action. A debate could also potentially be between two or more competing propositions or actions. Or debate could also be a purely performative exercise of charisma and emotion with no assumption of fixed advocacy, but it would possibly lose much of its coherence.