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Standards:Middle School Debate

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Fostering debate and speech activities on the middle school level is consonant with IDEA�s commitment to empowering youth as participants in democratic processes. Middle school students can benefit uniquely from exposure to speech and debate. They are at an age, psychologically and socially, when they can make considerable strides in acquiring research competence, media and argument literacy, reading comprehension, evidence evaluation, public speaking and civility skills. Finally, through cultivating middle school speech and debate activities, not only are youth and teachers empowered, but an appreciation of speech and debate is instilled in students who may well pursue it on higher levels.

Interpretation of the Resolution

The team supporting the resolution in middle school debate is referred to as the proposition. The team negating the resolution is referred to as the opposition. The proposition team makes a case for the motion for debate. This motion is generally a statement of value or perceived fact with which there is room to disagree. Examples might include anything from "Peer pressure is more beneficial than harmful" to "violent video games should banned" to "the United States should ratify the Kyoto accord". The topic is announced 20 minutes prior to the start of the debate. The opposition opposes the case made by the proposition team. There are three debaters per side; each gives one speech.

The Debate Format

  • The format in middle school debate consists of six speeches and proceeds as follows:


Speech Time
First Proposition Constructive 5 Minutes
First Opposition Constructive 5 Minutes
Second Proposition Constructive 5 Minutes
Second Opposition Constructive 5 Minutes
Opposition Rebuttal 3 Minutes
Proposition Rebuttal 3 Minutes


  • In middle school debate each speech has a specific purpose.
First Proposition Constructive
The speaker makes a case for the motion of the debater, providing proof for the topic with three or four major points.
First Opposition Constructive
This speaker makes several arguments against the proposition team's case, and refutes the proposition's major points.
Second Proposition Constructive
This speaker should rebuild and extend the proposition's case. This means that this speaker must extend and amplify the original proposition points and refute the opposition's major arguments against the proposition case.
Second Opposition Constructive
This speaker amplifies the opposition arguments against the proposition case, providing new information about why the opposition team should win the debate. This speaker should respond to the proposition's answers to the opposition team's original arguments.
Opposition Rebuttal
The speaker must pull the debate together and explain why, given all of the arguments in the debate, the opposition team should still win the debate. This speaker should finalize refutation of the proposition's major points.
Proposition Rebuttal
This speaker should summarize the issues in the debate and explain why, despite the opposition's arguments, the proposition team should win the debate. This speaker should refute the opposition's major points.
  • Points of information and heckling are permitted in middle school debate.

Points of Information

A debater may request a point of information (either verbally or by rising) at any time after the first minute and before the last minute of any constructive speech. The debater holding the floor may accept or refuse points of information. If accepted, the debater making the request has fifteen seconds to make a statement or to ask a question. During the point of information, the speaking time of the floor debater continues.

Heckling

Properly performed, heckling increases interaction among participants and makes the debate more dynamic. Debaters may use positive heckles (knocking on the table or saying 'hear, hear') to signify their support for a current speaker. Debaters may also use negative heckles (saying 'shame' in a low voice) to signal an opponent's misrepresentation of an argument. In all circumstances, debaters should be judicious in their use of heckling. Heckling should not be used simply to express disagreement - the very purpose of the debate itself is to encourage the expression of disagreement in structured speeches. A judge may penalize heckling that becomes disruptive when allocating speaker points.

Judging Guidelines

For universal protocols on judging any speech or debate event, please refer to Judge Accreditation Process and Standards. Specific elements of judging middle school debate follow.

Weighing Arguments

A middle school debate judge must regard the formulation of arguments as an important skill, as something that should be encouraged among fledging debaters. Lucid paraphrases of opposing arguments followed clear rebuttals (formulations like 'they say - we reply'), demonstrations of strategic awareness of argument extensions, and the use of persuasive evidence should be looked upon favorably. The introduction of new arguments in the rebuttals should be discouraged. If an idea does not have a firm grounding in the constructive that precedes it, it can prove to be an unfair burden for a team's opponents. Intellectual honesty should be rewarded. Obnoxious behavior should receive an appropriate response. At the end of the round, judges should refer to their notes or "flow" and arrive at an unbiased decision regarding which team did the most persuasive job arguing the issues raised.

Writing a Ballot, Offering Suggestions, and Assigning Speaker Points

Judges should be generous in writing their ballots and in offering constructive suggestions. A thirty-point scale should be used in assigning speaker points, but the age level of the debaters should remain in the forefront of the judge's mind. As such, an effort should be made not only to bolster the debaters' confidence, but also to encourage them to pursue debate in the future.

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