Category Archives: How to debate

How is debate different from an argument?

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Well, it is interesting, when I go to a company, to ask for a sponsorship,and explain it all to them, they look me weird, and often I get the question "Should we give you the money to go and speak with people????".

Well it is not really like that, and let me give you some of the differences about why debate is something else.

1. You do not argue what you believe in Well the debate topic or the debate motion, as we call them is provided to you by the organiser of the tournament or any other debate activity. That means, that you can not influence what you will debate about. And more than that, you will have to argue the side, that you are delegated to. Again, you are not able to choose, witch side you argue. That means, that even if you are strongly against abortion, you will have to debate for abortion. This is sometimes hard, but on the other hand, good debaters will always find ways to argue something, and not to get too much against their own personal believe.
2. You have a time limit The time limits in the British parliamentary debate are 5 or 7 minutes. And no, you can not extend your time. Ok, you can, but only for 15 or maximum, and for real maximum 30 seconds. There will be always someone that will keep your time, and the judge will stop your speaking, if you will go on too long. This normally doesn't happen in real life.

3. You have a role to fulfill Well, the basic role, that you have as a debater is kinda similar to what you should do in a real life (RL) argument. You need to provide some arguments, material why you believe something is true or not. But sadly in RL people mostly do not do that. But in debate you have a judge, that will closely listen to your speech and will examine, if you had any arguments in your debate.

4. You have a judge Well this is kind of similar to a RL situation, because when trying to convince someone in RL, then you also get some feedback, because you will see, if the person is going to agree with you or not. But in the debate the judge won't look only into that, but will look also on other stuff, like other role fulfilment, cooperation with your team partner and other teams, time allocation and maner of your speech.

5. You will learn something from it Well, this is not true for every debate, but I can say, that there are topics, that I learned much about while having a debate. That of course means, that I lost the debate, but gained some knowledge, that I was able to use later in another debate. Also, when you discover a topic, that you don't know much about, you probably will go and start reading about. And will gain knowledge.

And this is good, because, you remember, the best thing that we know is what we do not know πŸ˜€

Building a proposition case

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How to make a proposition case is probably the most important question. The debates are good or bad mostly because of the propositions case and the proposition is mostly punished if the judges feel that the debate was bad.

I will write about a plan/model proposition case here, because its most widely used in the British parliamentary debate format. I will prepare another article about the other prop cases.

If we compare the proposition case with a β€œreal” government change in a law/policy, the first question that you need to answer is, why are you doing it. So there must be a problem. And this is the first thing that you should speak about. Is there something wrong in the world? If there is you should spent some time on explaining the problem. Show the judges, that the problem is important and that it should be solved.

After the problem you should propose a solution. In the debate jargon its called a plan or a model (the British or IONA – Islands of the Northern Atlantic use the word model). In this model you should answer a couple of basic questions. Who is going to do it. What he/she/it is going to do it and how it is going to be done. Your plan should be precise, but it should not go into too many details or technicalities. That means that you can specify that a group of experts is going to do something, but you don’t need to name them, or where you are going to find them. The plan should be direct and it should do exactly what the motion says. If you have a closed motion than you can use the wording of the motion for your plan.

After you have proposed a plan/model, all you need to prove is, that it will have benefits, or that there are arguments why you should do that. While learning about how to make a good debate, probably the best advice that I received, how to make an argument is, ask the WHY question. And then some more. And more. Until you get a stupid answer. Example: THBT EU needs a standing army and you run an argument that the EU is going to be more important in the international arena. WHY: Because having an army makes you an important player in the arena. WHY: because if you have an army you can threat other countries. WHY: because you can bomb them and they dont like it. WHY: because their people will die and this the governments dont like that. WHY: well if you have noone to govern, than being a prime minister is not fun. WHY: well, now you can stop asking the question.

Don’t forget to link every argument to your plan/problem. That means, that at least at the end of your argument you should say, why is your argument important for your problem or model.