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What's the best debate format? Show more Show less
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Competitive debating has become one of the most popular extracurricular activities for both high school and university students. Around the world, people engage in many different formats of debating, from the formal, cooperate Model United Nations format to the rapid-fire, argumentative Policy format. Out of so many formats, what exactly is the best?

Policy debating is the best format Show more Show less

In policy debate, two teams of two argue for or against a certain policy change by the United States federal government. This format is mainly used in American debating at both the high school and collegiate levels.
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Policy debate is the most relevant format

Policy debate typically focuses on the same resolution for an entire month or even an entire season, which allows for the most pertinent and current issues to be selected for debate. Therefore, the ideas that are being presented and forwarded will always be the most relevant and updated.
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The Argument

In Policy debate, one topic is set for the entire year, allowing topic committees to find the most relevant and pertinent issues to discuss instead of other formats such as British Parliamentary or Australasian debating, where topics committees must scramble to find one new topic for every round of debating.[1] Debate should be a study of what is current and what needed in the world, not quick discussions of random topics that were forced into the discourse. Policy debate topics tend to be based on exactly what is current at the moment. For example, the 2020-2021 topic is on the federal government enacting criminal justice and policing reform at the same time the Black Lives Matter movement is gaining traction in the United States.[1] This also allows debaters to track the progression of an argument as information comes out. Given that topics are often so highly relevant, new statistics, events, and perspectives will often emerge throughout the debate season itself, allowing debaters to see the character of an issue change. It trains the ability of debaters to quickly adapt to new information.

Counter arguments

The fact that debaters have to debate just one motion in an entire year is highly limiting. There are countless issues, disputes, concerns, and philosophical speculations around the world, some of which might not be on the political agenda of the elite but matter to somebody. Policy debate forces debaters to become highly educated on one topic that they are likely to forget the next debate season, instead of becoming a comprehensively intelligent person that learns to think for themselves. Debating should be about expanding one’s understanding of the world and presenting ideas and topics people haven’t thought about to encourage the discussion of new ideas. If the media, the public, and all the politicians are already discussing an issue, there is no point in high school debaters discussing it too. Debaters should be exposed to a variety of ideas, not one single idea. Additionally, even when there are multiple motions, debaters can still see the status quo evolve. Two different motions can have similar themes, and debaters can still see their ideas change in that way.

Premises

[P1] Policy debate allows debaters to dive deep into one relevant current event. [P2] Debaters can see topics evolve throughout the year as new information comes out.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] Learning about only one topic limits the width of debaters' knowledge. [Rejecting P2] Debaters in other formats can also see topics evolve thematically.

References

  1. https://www.speechanddebate.org/topics/
This page was last edited on Tuesday, 10 Nov 2020 at 19:55 UTC

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