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18 September 2007

Tips: Roles in a debate

This is concerned with roles on a worlds style debate. For more guidance on speaking roles in other formats follow the links on this article

Prime Minister (Opening Speaker);
It is the duty of the “Prime Minister” to define the topic of the debate BUT it must be clearly linked to the Motion. In some cases the motion will be worded in such a way as to permit a wide variety of Definitions (e.g. “This house believes that the Glass is half full”, Worlds 98.) Others will be tighter motions, which allow little flexibility for Definition (e.g. “This house believes that Northern Nationalists have nothing to fear from a United Kingdom” Irish Times 96).

At Worlds motions will be fairly tight and "squirreling" the motion is harshly punished. The adjudication team have put a lot of thought into the motions so you should debate the motions they give you and not the motions you wish had actually been set.

Some IVs do have open or semi-open motions. When this happens as 1st Government you should look to specify the area of the debate where there is some openness in the motion. For example “This house would rebuild the Berlin Wall” (Worlds 96) is too often defined by inexperienced teams as repartitioning of Germany and a return to Communism. This is, in my experience, a very difficult line to win from as it is just too unrealistic and broad. Two more “successful” definitions which I have seen run are that the Berlin Wall represented a division between East and west and that (a) the EU should not allow Eastern Bloc countries membership until they have fulfilled certain Social and Economic Criteria. Or (b) that NATO should not expand membership eastward.

Open or closed when defining make sure that you have an argument. You have to propose something. Saying that something is wrong and this is how it should be is not enough. You must say that something is wrong and THIS is what you are going to do about it. “What you are going to do” is the debatable part of the definition.

Example “This house favours Positive Discrimination”. Poor Defn: People have been discriminated against because of their sex/race/etc and they shouldn’t be in the future therefore we’ll use something called Positive Discrimination. Better Definition: People have been discriminated against because of their sex/race/etc and to correct that we are going to take actions X, Y, and Z under the umbrella name of Positive Discrimination. You must then fully outline what actions X, Y, and Z are and how they will work.

Opposition Leader;
It is your role to set out the opposition to the Governments case. You have only 7min (or less) to come up with your opposition case but provided that the Government have presented a debatable case you will be expected to handle the limited time for preparation. Outline and develop your case. Then deal with the points made by the government and link back the reason for them being flawed to whatever your team’s central case is. Remember the role of last Opp is to rebut all four Government speakers in his/her 7 min and sum up the entire opposition case. You have only seen one speaker so you can’t make a “Last Opp Speech” Look at it in terms of proportions. You’ve only seen a quarter of the Government therefore at most a quarter of your speech should be rebuttal. The rest should involve outlining a “substantive” opposition case.

It is also your duty to decide if the case is debatable. If it isn’t (and be very, very certain that it isn’t) then you must submit an alternative definition. You cannot simply say “That’s a Truistic/self proving” argument, spend seven minutes outlining why and sit down. If you do that then you will have failed to do your duty as 1st opposition. If you have the ability to spot a truistic argument then you should have the ability to redefine, or at least to modify the Governments case to make it debatable.

Deputy Prime Minister;
You must further develop your team’s argument. Rebut what the first opposition speaker has said but don’t spend all your time rebutting. Your team’s case can’t have been fully outlined and developed so to spend 7 min attacking one opposition speaker is no win tactic.
You must back up your teammate. If he/she has been torn apart then don’t jump ship. “CLARIFY” what your teammate said. Don’t abandon your case because you realise that it is flawed. Judges will look out for that and will penalise a “Dump” severely. You will gain more marks for bailing your teammate out than for jumping ship and engaging the opposition on their ground leaving your teammate behind.

Deputy Opposition Leader;
As with the second government speaker you must back up your teammate. Don’t abandon your case because you realise that it is flawed. Fix it but don’t get an entirely new one. A good guideline is that you should spend double the amount of time rebutting that your teammate and therefore the rest of your speech is reserved for YOUR team’s case.

Remember that your team’s case should be set up in such a way that it in itself rebuts the government case. Therefore simply by developing it you are rebutting the government. If you remember this it should help you avoid the trap that a lot of Opp speakers fall into of 100% point-by-point rebuttal. There is a misconception that the opposition just have to oppose and don’t have to lend any constructive argument or matter to the debate. People will get away with this from time to time but the recent trend in adjudication is to frown on that. It is an easy way out and doesn’t really lend anything to the debate. Constructive opposition always looks better than mere opposition for opposition’s sake. This applies in debating as well as most things in life.

Member for the Government (3rd Gov Speaker);
You are the first speaker in the second half of the debate. Now you have options to consider.

If there has been a redefinition, and IF it was a valid redefinition then you must decide if you are going to follow the Government line or switch to the definition which the Opposition as offered and take them on at that. Be careful. It is also possible to take a combination of both but you will have to be careful not to tangle your argument up in trying to tie the two definitions together.

If the Government presented a case, which was debatable but weak and has been thorn apart you cannot simply stab them in the back. You may however bring in an “extension” this allows you to bring in a new point of view while still roughly following the Government line. Again just, as with 1st government, you must present a debatable definition.

Your role is to develop your team line. As with all government speakers you cannot spend all you 7 min rebutting the opposition. Outline and fully develop YOUR team line, showing how it links to AND backs up the original government case. As you develop your case use it to rebut the opposition. Also remember that a sizable amount of your teammate’s speech will involve summing up the entire Government case and rebutting the opposition. He/She will have little time to further develop your team’s case so you must do a good job on your team line. You are almost in an individual debate against 3rd Opp speaker and your argument must be fully developed or he/she will destroy you, and there will be no come back from your teammate. If your teammate has to spend all his/her time bailing you out then you have failed and have dragged him/her down with you.

Member for the Opposition (3rd Opposition Speaker);
In my experience novice teams often find this a difficult position in terms of strategy. There is a perception that 2nd Opp team is just a position to turn and win from but many teams get the balance between the speakers very wrong. In this position you can’t give a 100% rebuttal speech and you also are limited in that your teammate will not be in a position to spend a lot of time developing your case (see Opposition Whip’s role). It is up to you to set out AND fully develop your team’s case. Remember you have to provide matter of your teams argument in such a way that it stands out from the other teams. You should concentrate on the third Government speaker in your rebuttal. You must rebut what the 1st Gov team said but it is primarily your duty to take on the extension provided by the 2nd Gov team. If first opposition have done their job then the time you spend rebutting the 1st Gov team will in effect be going over what they have done and impinging on your teammate’s role.

Government Whip; (last Gov speaker)
Both Whips will be penalised if you do not Sum up your side and rebut the opposition. You can develop your team line a little but the vast majority of your time must be spent summing up the ENTIRE government case (not just your own team) and rebutting the Opposition arguments. Remember as well that the 3rd opposition speaker has probably spent a sizable amount of time attacking your teammate so you should spend some time on your team line and counteracting the attack on it. In short you must do 3 distinct things: (1) Sum up your team line. (2) Sum up the first Government’s arguments (3) Rebut the Opposition. Remember that while you cannot stab the 1st government in the back you should really reinforce your team line and then sum up the rest of the Government argument.

Opposition Whip. (Last speaker of the debate)
Rebut, Rebut, Rebut, Rebut, oh and sum up. You are in pole position. You have had almost an hour to develop your speech and this is a huge advantage. You should not bring new information into the debate but remember that by new information we mean new core arguments and examples. In your rebuttal you may bring in new examples, which relate directly to the points you are rebutting but you cannot make them the central plank on which your entire argument is based. Some last Opp speakers will deal with the Government speakers almost one at a time and this generally works quite well and lends a structure to your speech.

A lot of last Opp speakers also make the mistake of just rebutting and not summing up. Ideally you should use a summary of what has been said by the opposition up to now as your rebuttal. However you should also try to have a clearly defined period of summation. Don’t get carried away with your rebuttal and leave your sum up for the last 30 seconds. Remember that there are a lot of inexperienced judges out there who may not recognise that you have mixed summation and rebuttal in your speech and will, unfairly, penalise you for only spending a few seconds on sum up. Ideally aim to start your sum up of the Opp case with about 1.5 to 2 minutes left. You can use your last protected minute to sum up the entire debate and not just your speech, it may go against the textbook structure of a speech but it is accepted practice.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks! This was really helpful, much more helpful than that 1 hour briefing given by one of my school mates :)) hehe


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