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Parliamentary Debate

Parliamentary Debate

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Published by: kram824953 on Sep 16, 2013
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PARLIAMENTARY DEBATEbyRobert BranhamProfessor of Rhetoric & Director of DebateBates CollegeandJohn MeanyDirector of ForensicsClaremont McKenna CollegeSpring, 1998
Debating has long been a vital part of American education. Training in debateimproves valuable analytical and speaking skills, and enables the discussionof important issues, whether scientific, historical, religious or political. Itcontributes to the intellectual and ethical development of its participants bychallenging them to make defensible judgments in which they must criticallyinvestigate complex issues, question given assumptions, evaluate thereliability of data and consider alternative perspectives. Debate stimulates andrefines communication skills that empower individuals to speak for themselves, to discover and use their own voices. But most students debatebecause it is also fun. Debating provides a unique intellectual challenge andexcitement, as Malcolm X reflected in his
Standing up there, the faces looking up at me, the things in my headcoming out of my mouth, while my brain searched for the next best thingto follow what I was saying, and if I could sway them to my side byhandling it right, then I had won the debate--once my feet got wet, I wasgone on debating.1
 Academic debate takes many forms, some highly specialized and others lessformal, some that emphasize research and prepared arguments, and othersthat stress extemporaneous speaking and analytical skills. Parliamentarydebate has long been the predominant form of competitive academic debatingin most English-speaking nations. It is now the most widely practiced type of intercollegiate debate in the United States and many American secondary andmiddle schools have also begun to develop parliamentary debating programs.This guide explains the formats and procedures of parliamentary debate for 
use in classes, public debates, and competitive tournaments.Based loosely on the deliberative discussions of the British House of Commons, parliamentary debate is lively and audience-oriented. The Houseof Commons, unlike the U.S. Congress, permits no written speeches from itsmembers. Similarly, no speeches, briefs, or quotations are read inparliamentary debates. The debaters speak extemporaneously inparliamentary competition, using only the notes they have made during thedebate and preparation period.Parliamentary debate differs from other forms of competitive debate in severaladditional ways. Parliamentary debates are more oratorical, witty, andaccessible to general audiences. They are shorter than traditional policydebates, making them well-suited to classroom use. Parliamentary debateshave relatively few rules; they feature less jargon and fewer theoreticalarguments. The rules of parliamentary debating are primarily designed toensure that debates are evenly matched and enjoyable. Becauseparliamentary debating is less technical than other forms of debate and easier to learn, most students are able to begin debating in this format almostimmediately.
 The specific formats, rules and conventions of parliamentary debating vary indifferent nations and leagues.2 One of the virtues of parliamentary debate isits flexibility. Speaking times. numbers of speakers, judging and other elements of the debate format may be altered to accommodate particulaneeds and purposes.In competitive parliamentary debating, each round of debate has a differenttopic announced just before the debate begins. The amount of preparationtime varies, allowing from ten minutes to (in British secondary schooltournaments) one hour of preparation between the announcement of the topicand the beginning of debate. 3 Fifteen minutes is the most common allotment.During preparation time, the participants analyze the proposition and outlinetheir major arguments. They ask themselves: What does this propositionmean? What important issues are raised by it? How may it be affirmed or denied? What examples and events are relevant to its discussion? Theanswers to these and other questions will serve as the foundation for thegovernment case and prepare the opposition for its refutation. Sometournaments and competitive leagues permit the use of dictionaries, texts and
other prepared materials during preparation time. Others limit or even prohibitcoaching and use of prepared materials prior to the debates.The first speaker for the proposition must use some of the preparation time toorganize the main issues of the case into a logically complete and persuasiveform to convey the best possible impression of the their case. The firstspeaker therefore uses preparation time to arrange the essential elements of the case into a brief outline. The argument outline should clearly bring themajor elements of the case into relation with each other and constitute acomplete case on behalf of the motion. A standard American tournament format for parliamentary debate consists of six speeches:
First proposition constructive speech 7 minutesFirst opposition constructive speech 8 minutesSecond proposition constructive speech 8 minutesSecond opposition constructive speech 8 minutesOpposition rebuttal 4 minutesProposition rebuttal 5 minutes
 The speakers for the proposition (sometimes called the government), openand close the debate in defense of the motion. Unlike other forms of Americanteam debate, parliamentary debate features just one rebuttal per side. Therebuttal is given by the first constructive speaker for each team.The presiding officer of each debate is the Chair, or Speaker of the House(usually a judge or moderator). The Speaker of the House manages thedebate, recognizes the speakers, and rules upon any disputes that arise in thecourse of the round.4 The Speaker introduces each debater in turn. There isno preparation time between speeches. After one speech is finished, theSpeaker of the House calls upon the next debater to proceed.In most American tournament debating, there are two persons on a team, withone person on each team speaking twice. Public debates often feature three-person teams, with a different person giving each speech in the debate.

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