High school debate at Battlefield

The forms of debate and information


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Camille Owen, Writer

Joseph Joubert once said, “It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.” Battlefield has many forms of debate available to students through the Battlefield debate team. They participate in the WACFL tournaments, which always debates current, controversial issues. The debate styles include Congress, Policy, Public Forum and Lincoln-Douglas, but what makes those styles different?

According to www.speechwire, “congressional debate is a mock legislative assembly competition where students draft bills (proposed laws) and resolutions (position statements), which they and their peers later debate and vote to pass into law.” Speakers have a 3 minute constructive followed by two minutes of questions by the other debaters. This style of debate follows a legislative assembly format and while there currently is no congressional team at Battlefield, the style is gaining steam.

In Policy debate, debaters advocate for and against policy changes which includes controversial issues. Dr. Joe Bellon the Director of Debate at Georgia State University says that “affirmative is for the kind of change described in the resolution, the [negative] team is against that kind of change.” According to Dr. Bellon, in a debate, affirmative one will start with their constructive, which is an 8 minute speech building up your argument. This is followed by cross-examination, where the other team has 3 minutes to ask affirmative one question. Negative one, affirmative two, and negative two follow in a likewise pattern. After the constructions are done debaters deliver their rebuttals, which are 5 minute speeches taking apart the opponent’s argument, led by the negative. After the judge selects the winning team by their remaining arguments. This style of debate is recommended for people who lean towards a more facts-based debate, as eloquence is not pushed far in policy.

In Public Forum debate, teams of two argue over topics of national importance. The resolution is a simple statement that the debaters either promote or argue against. According to www.nysfl debaters get 4 minutes each for their constructive. After both first speakers have gone there is a crossfire. Both speakers get to ask questions for 3 minutes, after which the second speakers follow in a likewise manner. The first speakers then have a 2 minute summary, which is followed by the grand crossfire where all debaters participate and can ask questions for 3 minutes. The second speakers then have 1 minute to sum up the debate in their final focus. Speaking style is important in public forum, but not as crucial as the arguments.

In Lincoln-Douglas debate, a single speaker debates another student where eloquence is heavily weighed. According to the Whitman College, affirmative has a 6 minute constructive followed by a three minute cross examination. Negative has a 7 minute constructive followed by another 3 minute cross examination. The first affirmative rebuttal is 4 minutes, followed by a 6 minute negative rebuttal and the second half of the affirmative rebuttal which is 3 minutes. Lincoln-Douglas is recommended for debaters who value speech along with debate.

The Battlefield Debate team website says that, “Debate is a way for those who hold opposing views to discuss controversial issues without descending to insult, emotional appeals, or personal bias.” For more information visit the Battlefield debate site under the clubs section. https://battlefieldhs.pwcs.edu/our_school/student_activities/clubs_and_activities/b_h_s_debate_team/