What Is Debate?

Everyone knows what a debate is. You see debates every day. Presidential candidates have debates, senators have debates, sports commentators have debates, and even normal people at parties have debates about important topics like whether potato chips are better than French fries. And what about you? You have debates too, whether you know it or not. You and your friends might debate about a favorite athlete, or which rap star is better, whose fashion sense is the best, or whose momma is fattest.

This is not the kind of debate we do on the debate team. We are involved in national competitive policy debate, which is a kind of debate that deals with questions of change. One of the most important questions we ask ourselves (and each other) every day is “what should we do”? We ask what should be done about simple issues, like finding something to eat dinner, and we ask what should be done about complex social questions like racism or war. Policy debate tends to be about those larger kinds of questions.

A single debate team is composed of two people. A round of debate competition involves two teams competing against each other. The winner of the round is determined by at least one judge who watches the debate. The debaters are usually students, and the judge might be a teacher, debate coach, graduate student, former debater, or some other person (like a parent or a community member). Debate is like high school football — we have novice, junior varsity, and varsity teams. You will debate against students from other schools who have the same level of experience you do.

At the beginning of the year, a policy debate topic is chosen for the entire country. There is one topic for every debate season (starting in the Fall at the beginning of school and ending in the Spring or Summer). Students debate about this one topic for the entire school year, which may seem like a long time, but the topic is designed to be interesting and flexible enough to keep you involved for a long time.

Sound interesting? Contact Dr. Bellon for more information and a manual for beginning debaters. We have a staff of coaches ready to help you learn how to debate.