Thursday, September 26, 2013

Debunking Debate: an explanation of what we do during the weekends

Dallas and I debating a team from Pacific University
Often times, when I tell people that I am a member of the debate team at UT Tyler, they assume that I dress up like a presidential candidate, stand behind a podium, and waive my fist passionately about a topic of importance.  However, this is not even close to what we do. Pretty soon, you are going to start seeing posts from both Dallas and myself about the tournaments that we are attending, and I figured that you would like some explanation of what we do.

Here at the University of Texas at Tyler, we compete in what is called Parliamentary Debate.  It is a form of debate in which two teams (one affirming the topic and one negating the topic) of two people engage in a discussion of a topic that is announced 20 minutes prior to the time of the debate round.  The majority of the time, the topic, or the resolution, is in the form of a policy action that a certain actor should take.  A resolution would look something like this: “The United States should take actions to significantly improve relations with Japan.

After a resolution is announced, each team is given 20 minutes to prepare their positions.  Most of the time, our positions have already been prepared and it is just a matter of writing down all of our arguments before the 20 minutes expires.  Normally, the debate team spends several hours a day, and every weekend writing and preparing our arguments for resolutions that we think may be at a particular tournament. 

Each round lasts approximately 45 minutes, and each team gives 3 speeches, receiving an equal division of speaking time.  The first affirmative speech is allocated 7 minutes to present a “case,” which includes a statement of policy intent and a discussion of advantages to taking the policy action aforementioned. 
The next speech is given by the negative team.  The first negative is allocated 8 minutes to discuss potential disadvantages to passing the policy action from the affirmative as well as making arguments against the case that was read by the first affirmative.

Next, the second affirmative speaker has 8 minutes to answer all of the argumentation brought up by the first negative speaker.  This includes answering all of the disadvantages as well as going argument by argument, or line by line, on the arguments made against the affirmative case.
The next speech is given by the negative, and is another 8 minute speech.  The role of this speech is to condense the negative arguments into a select few in order to make it extremely easy for the judge to vote for the negative. 

This next speech is the first and only negative rebuttal.  It is only 4 minutes in length, and the role of this speech is to provide a narrative as to why the judge should vote for the negative.  Whereas the previous speech sort of does housecleaning and does more on winning the debate argument by argument, this rebuttal is to ensure that the judge receives a proper narrative as to what the disadvantages and fallacies of the affirmative case are.

The next speech is also the final speech in the round, and it is the affirmative rebuttal.  The purpose, much like that of the negative rebuttal, is to provide a narrative as to why the judge should vote for the affirmative, while also pointing out where the affirmative is winning argument by argument.  The only difference is that this speech is 5 minutes, rather than 4.

Hopefully you now have a little better idea of what it is that we do, so that when you read Dallas's upcoming blog about our first tournament, then you can understand what exactly we were doing during our tournament, and what it looked like.

If you are interested in any additional information, then I am going to provide you a couple of additional links.  First, if you are interested in looking at the tournaments that we competed in and would like to watch our progress, then click here.  To navigate that page, you simply click first on the name of the tournament, and then you click on each round you would like to see the result of.  You can also see the resolution for each round, if you are interested.  For Dallas and I, look for "UT Tyler FH." 

If you are interested in national rankings of teams, then click here.  Postings of rankings will not be up yet, but we should see them fairly soon, so keep a look out! Again, our team name is "UT Tyler FH."

Finally, if you are interested in seeing what an actual round looks like and what tournaments feel like, then feel free to watch the video below.  Be warned, it does contain some use of adult language.  Although the video is about the Kansas Debate Team, our team at UT Tyler has the same passion for what we do and the same work ethic.  To watch the video, click here.

I have also been toying with the idea of making this sort of a series where I discuss numerous different aspects of debate, like the speaking style of debate and what the community is like.  If that sounds like something you would be interested in, then let me know in the comments!

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