Collegiate Debate Do’s and Dont’s

A college debate event in some respects can be just as exciting an experience as a football game. Like football, college debates have some secret plays. If college debate secrets  could be encapsulated into a cheerleading routine where the cheerleaders shout to the crowd, “Gimme a….” and the crowd yells back it might go like this:

Gimme a D!

D stands for “don’t dis your opponents.” Be respectful at all times and only attack their position. By all means lay off the smarmy condescension and go after debate content, rather than character. Also recognize that when the opponent starts using personal jibes, it is most likely that you are winning.

Gimme an E!

E is for evidence, and evidence must always be real. You cannot do anything worse in a debate than to distort (or fabricate) your evidence. The biggest debating mistake is not so much distortion or making stuff up, it is either lack of understanding or misinterpreting the evidence you present in your argument.

Gimme a B!

B goes to a very important secret of college debates: Be big enough to cede a point well stated and presented by the other side. If the other side makes an intelligent assertion on one side of the argument, it is best to remember that most contentious issues have good arguments on both sides: This is precisely why the issues are contentious and remain the subject of constant debate. Skilled debaters graciously concede good arguments, but they use them as a launching point to argue that their side of the argument is better.

Gimme an A!

A means this: “Always remember that the affirmative argument has to do more to win and the negative only has to avoid losing.” This is analogous to our jury system where the defendant is considered innocent (not guilty) until the prosecution proves the affirmative. So that all means that a negative argument tha t defends the status quo will prevail over a weak affirmative argument. The status quo is always more tangible than some unknown alaternative.

Gimme a T!

This one is kind of a stretch, but the T stands for tabla rusa, which means “blank slate.” (The 17th century philosopher John Locke believed that everyone is born as “blank slates” and we all go on from there.) The “blank slate” in debating refers to the debate judge, who by tradition is supposed to weigh all the evidence present by both sides of the debate without regard to his or her own life’s experiences and opinions. Good college debaters present their arguments as if their judge will believe anything they purport, so long as their evidence is good and their arguments are solid.

Gimme another E!

E is for experience. College debate winners who have practiced and drilled and d rilled and practiced and read every piece of evidence and read the evidence again know this: It is only in the dictionary that success only comes before hard work.

What does it spell?!

Debate! And while we have everyone excited, our PodiumPro iPad app is coming soon! We’re looking for beta testers, read more on our thread at Beta Test and visit our main web site.


About Podium Pro

Were coding our new iPad App. Meanwhile, our blog and twitter machines will give you great tips on speaking confidently, ruling the room and being awesome.
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