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The Art of Debating


What is a Debate?

 A formal, verbal presentation of opposing sides of

an issue by teams or individuals before an
audience or judge
 Follows a clearly defined format
 Who speaks first and last
 How long each team/individual speaks

 Used to strengthen and extend students’

understanding of an issue and to help students
develop and demonstrate cognitive thinking,
research, and public speaking skills
Debating as an Activity

 In a debate, speakers must speak

spontaneously, even though they have prepared
their arguments ahead of time

 It is essential that the debaters listen carefully

to each speaker and then quickly plan how they
will present their own arguments in the most
strategic manner
Debating as an Activity

 In many classrooms, a debate occurs on a

“one-shot” basis

 The debate is presented as an activity

 The students participate in one debate and then they
move on to other activities in the subject area
Debating as an Activity

 Students will develop their speaking and listening

skills by participating in several debates or
debating activities

 The speaking and listening skills essential to

debating develop over time
 The students must practice debating, as well as reflect on
their own and their peers presentations
A Good Proposition for Debate

 The proposition is the arguable statement

 The negative team argues against the proposition

 The positive team argues for the proposition

 Can be argued on both sides

 Contains an idea
 Is relevant and significant
 Is controversial
Two Types of Debate Propositions

 Based on Action or Policy

 Something should happen

 Based on Values
 That one position or belief is deemed better than another
Proving the Argument

 The key in debating is the proof of arguments

 Proof can be in the form of either logical reasoning or evidence

 Logical proof is based on common sense and

common knowledge
 Value debates usually use this type of proof, which is more
 Debaters use logic and common sense to build a convincing
Proving the Argument

 Evidence includes facts and statistics from reliable

 Action or policy debates usually use this type of proof,
although they may use both types
Time Keepers & Judges

 During a formal debate, participants must follow

established procedures and rules
 In this case, a time keeper is necessary to keep track
of each person’s speaking time and the time given to
team to prepare arguments and rebuttals during the
Debate Procedures

 There are several different academic debate procedures

that the teacher and students might explore
 Standard debate teams usually have 2 people on each
side, although teacher can adapt this formal to include
more students
 The standard format uses 2 types of speeches:
constructive speeches & rebuttal speeches
 Constructive speeches are those that present the side’s
 Rebuttal speeches are those that the side develops during
preparation time to try to counteract the arguments of
the opposing side
Arguing the Affirmative

Because the affirmative side is the one proposing a change and

calling for action, the onus is on the affirmative to prove its
position should be adopted.
The affirmative side needs to put together its arguments in order
to convince that change is necessary and will make things better
than they are now. This involves:
 Pointing out problems with the current situation (the "status quo")
 Convincing that the problems are significant
 Pointing out benefits of the proposed change
 Finding reliable experts to back up the claims
 Predicting what the opposing arguments will be and developing
counter arguments
 Planning for a logical flow in the presentation of arguments.
Arguing the Negative

The negative side's task is simply to defeat the

affirmative's position. This involves:
 Developing arguments in defense of the present system
or status quo

 Convincing that any problems referred to by the

affirmative are insignificant

 Developing reasons for opposing the affirmative's


 Finding reliable experts to back up the opposition

 Questioning the affirmative's proof.

Considerations for the Classroom

Should not be used until the classroom comfort

level has been established

Require a clear understanding of the value of

positive versus negative argumentation

Require an awareness of sensitive, shy, or reticent


Are usually moderated by the teacher (or a capable

student leader for upper grades and/or mature
Debate Scenario

A new state of the art video game, Mafia Hit-Man 2005,

is about to hit the market. This game asks the user to
take on the role of a professional hit man. The user will
take on ‘contracts’ of various difficulty and perform the
assigned tasks for money and reputation points. These
contracts involve the simple task of eliminating a mob-
snitch, the moderate tasks of wiping out a cops’ family
the difficult task of the assassination of the president or
other high ranking government officials. This game uses
the new ‘Gore-Extreme’ game engine. It incorporates
realistic blood spattering and rag-doll physics.
Debate Scenario

Word of this game has reached the media and

several groups are expressing outrage that the
game has only received a ‘Teen’ rating. Parental
groups are angered over the explicit violence and
disrespect for the law portrayed in the game.
Politicians, eager for reelection, are joining
parental groups in voicing their concerns.
Debate Scenario

Many are promising stricter laws and regulations

on video game companies. Some go as far as to
suggest that children, playing these violent games
develop anti-social behavior and even model their
actions on the actions seen in these games.
Debate Scenario

Game companies and retailers disagree with these

points and view their products as ‘just games’.
Many view themselves as scapegoats for deeper
societal problems. Game companies suggest that if
parents took a stronger interest in their children’s
hobbies and habits there would be no need for
regulation within the video game community.
Today’s Debate Activity

 Work with your group to expand upon your

position and point of view. Keep in mind that you
must stick to the point of view of the stakeholder
group you have been assigned.

 We will regroup in 10-12 minutes for the debate.


 Moderator (normally a student, can be the teacher)

 Panel of judges
 Time keeper
 Diverse groups:
 Parents (#1)

 Government (#2)

 Kids (#3)

 Game companies (#4)

 Retailers (#5)
Debate Scenario
Through Debate, the Students can…

Develop positive attitudes toward the intellectual exchange

of ideas
Develop an interest in the investigation of issues and
Become more adept at developing and putting forward ideas
Learn to think quickly
Learn to work as a team
Develop leadership skills
Develop speaking and listening skills.
 20 minute pres
 10-15 discussion
 50 min debate
 1 min opening statement (5)

 2 min rebuttals (10)

 2 min regroup

 Questions/comments (20 min)

 Closing statements (10)