What is Debating


Debating is kind of like arguing, only you get a crowd. The ultimate goal is to convince everyone that you are right and that the other side is absolutely wrong. The topic you argue about is called the motion. It usually sounds something like ‘That this house would ban gambling’ or ‘That this house believes ASBOs are the best way to tackle youth crime’. The proposition argues for the motion (ie. Gambling should be banned to save the people of Ireland from debt, crime and all the other bad things gambling brings) and the opposition argues against the motion (ie. People who gamble know what they are letting themselves in for and they should have the freedom to make that choice). The house is the audience, the people you have to convince. Usually at the end of a debate the house gets to vote for proposition or opposition, and that tells us which side has won the debate. The usual layout of a Mace debate is as follows. The audience are usually seated behind the adjudicators or sometimes between the teams and the adjudicators. Sometimes the chief adjudicator can act as chairperson. One adjudicator usually takes responsibility to act as time-keeper for the debate, though someone else could also be timekeeper.

Yes. All over the world there are loads of variations on the basic format of a debate. In schools debating in Ireland you will come across three types, but Talk It Up aims to develop what is known as Mace style. This is also called British Parliamentary and it is the most common form of debating in university (mostly because it suits unprepared debates and we are too lazy to do research). There are two teams on each side. The first half of the debate sees first proposition speak opposite first opposition. When these four speakers have finished, the second half begins with second proposition speaking opposite second opposition. Usually, the first-half speakers get the main points out, while the second-half speakers can apply more analysis to the topic.

Every member of the proposition and opposition gets a chance (usually five minutes) to make their own speech. However for some of this speech, the opposite side are allowed to offer points of information to the speaker. Points of information are really REALLY important; they are what makes debating different from public speaking. A debate with no points of information does not feel like a debate at all, because speakers are not engaging with the opposite side. If you think the speaker has said something silly or contradicted their own argument, stand up, stick out your arm and say ‘On that point’ or ‘On a point of information’. If the speaker does accept your point, you have fifteen seconds to point out the flaw in their argument and to wow the crowd. If the speaker refuses to take your point, sit down. Try not to sigh in anger or throw your eyes up to heaven or storm out of the room screaming ‘Idiots!’. Your time would be better spent writing down your point and using it in your own speech later on. During the first and last minute of every speech, no points of information can be offered. This is called protected time and it gives the speaker a chance to lay out and wind down their case in peace.

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