EXPLANATION OF COMPETITIVE DEBATE
The foundation of the Jesuit Forensics team is cross-examination debate or policy debate. Academic debate focuses on a specific proposition of policy that is chosen by all the schools that participate in debate and speech. A proposition of policy is a statement that asserts that an agent of change should or ought to take a specific action on a particular issue. The proposition creates the focus of controversy and divides the ground between the affirmative and negative sides. The affirmative side supports the proposition by illustrating an example that proves the resolution. The affirmative has the burden to illustrate that the present system is not addressing a problem, that the problem is significant and harmful, and that their specific change would solve the problem. The negative side attempts to disprove the resolution by illustrating the effectiveness of the current approach, denying the affirmative harm, and/or the undesirability of the affirmative change. In addition to the two person teams, the third actor in a debate is the judge(s). The judge decides which team wins debate and awards each participant speaker points based on their individual performance.
The format for a debate is four constructive speeches (8 minutes) each of which is followed by a cross-examination period (3 minutes). Each participant then has a rebuttal speech (5 minute). The speech order is modeled after the judicial system so the affirmative speaks first and last, while the negative has a block of back-to back speeches in the middle.
- Why should you join the debate team?
- What does practice for the debate team look like?
- What do competitions, or debate tournaments, look like?
- If I debate, how many tournaments would I attend?
- How long is a typical debate season?
- Is there a post season in debate?
- Can you earn varsity letter in debate?
- How will I get to tournaments?
- How much does participating in debate cost?
- Does Jesuit compete under UIL Debate rules?
- Who do we compete against?
- Who decides who wins and loses a debate?
- You like to argue and research and strategize and persuade
- It’s the Greatest Sport on Earth—debate is one of the oldest and most competitive activities at Jesuit and you can earn a varsity letter
- Jesuit debate has won more team and individual awards then almost all the other teams and clubs combined
- Competitions are co-ed against public and private schools
- We travel all over the country
- You get to argue about current events, politics, environment, law, economics, philosophy, international relations, military issues, and much more.
- You develop argument, persuasion, research and organization skills that you can use against family, friends, and in you’re other classes
- Best tool for prepping for the SAT and ACT
Novice debate will usually only meet three days a week—Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesdays. Thursdays are tournament prep days if you are attending a tournament that week. Varsity debaters practice Monday-Thrusday. On normal order days, practice will run from 3:45 until 5:30 (or a bit later if doing a full practice debate).
Typical after school practice for novices—lots of debating and arguing
20-30 minutes Debate “lay-up drills” –short drills that practice debating, speaking, and cross-examination
20-30 minutes of Strategy and Playbook
20-30 minutes of practicing Jesuit arguments and strategies
Debate tournaments are usually two-day affairs and are composed of preliminary rounds and elimination rounds. In the preliminary rounds, teams debate an equal number of affirmative and negative debates. The first two debates (one affirmative and one negative) are usually random paired where teams can debate anyone. After those debates, teams are power matched so that they debate teams with a similar win-loss record. Most tournaments have between 4-7 prelim debates. After the prelims, the tournament breaks into elimination debates using a single-elimination bracket similar to the NCAA basketball tournament. The number of teams that clear into the elimination debates depends on the size of the tournament and can range from 8-32 teams. Teams are seeded in the elimination rounds based on their win-loss record and their speaker points.
First year debaters, or novices in debate-speak, typically attend one tournament a month. Varsity debaters may attend 1-2 tournaments a month. Generally, there is a local, regional, or national tournament every weekend. The coaches will plan for debaters which tournament makes the most sense to attend in order to achieve competitive goals. Given entry limitations, each debater does not attend each tournament that Jesuit attends during the season. Local tournaments for novice are either Friday and Saturday or Saturday only competitions. Competitively successful freshmen in the fall semester may be asked to debate JV or Varsity in the spring.
Yes, varsity teams can qualify for the Texas Forensic League State Debate tournament by virtue of their finishes at local tournaments. Jesuit has won the TFA State tournament 5 times, including closing out the state tournament in 2010. Additionally, Jesuit qualifies for and attends the National Debate Coaches Association National Championships. Jesuit’s recent success at the NDCA tournament includes a 5th place finish in 2015 and 2011. The novice national tournament in Atlanta in March/April is the premier event for first year debaters in the nation. In 2005, our JV team was second in the nation at JV nationals and in 2014 we had a team finish in the top ten. In 2014, we had a freshmen team earn top ten honors but are looking for even more this year. Additional opportunities may be created for freshmen that compete and qualify for JV and Varsity.
Jesuit provides generous support for the debate team. Tournament fees, hotel, and transportation costs are covered by the debate team. Debaters must buy their own food at tournaments. Debate tournaments require laptops for use in debates; however, if a student does not have access to a laptop, we provide one for debaters. Their iPads are not useful for debate, unfortunately.
After the debate, a judge (or panel of judges if it’s the elimination rounds) renders a decision about who won the debate. Judges base their decisions on many things but it is usually a combination of substance and style. Most judges consider which team illustrated their position with evidence and reasoning and which team clashed and refuted the other side’s arguments better. The judge also rates each speaker individually on a scale from 1 to 30 and ranks the four debaters in each round from 1 to 4. These ratings are called speaker points and are used to determine individual awards as well as seeding for the elimination rounds. Most judges also provide some initial feedback after the debates to help the debaters prepare for future rounds.