Debate

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Introduction

DEBATING: A BASIC INTRODUCTION
BEGINNER
Let’s start at the beginning. Every debate needs a topic. This is a contentious assertion that forms the basis for the debate. For example, the topic might be “THAT IT IS BETTER TO BE SMART THAN TO BE KIND” or “THAT THE UNITED NATIONS HAS FAILED”. This book relates to a specific but common style of debate. It is the style used in most schools throughout Australia and in many other countries, at the Australian National Schools Debating Championships and at the World Schools Debating Championships. In this style, there are two teams in every debate. One team is required to argue that the topic is true. This team is called the ‘affirmative’, or sometimes the ‘proposition’. The other team is required to argue that the topic is not true. This team is called the ‘negative’, or sometimes the ‘opposition’. Each team uses two basic types of argument to support for its side of the topic. First, there are substantive arguments. These are prepared arguments in favour of a team’s side of the topic. Second, there is rebuttal. Rebuttal is your attack on your opposition’s arguments. The difference between substantive arguments and rebuttal is the distinction between showing why your team is right and showing why your opposition is wrong. It is impossible to say whether substantive arguments or rebuttal are more important – each is just as important as the other, and each is vital for successful debating. There are three speakers on each team. Speakers are usually identified by their speaking number and their team side. For example, debaters might speak of the ‘First Affirmative’ (the first speaker of the affirmative team), or the ‘Third Negative’ (the 3 www.learndebating.com

Introduction

third speaker of the negative team). Every speaker except the First Affirmative (the first speaker in the entire debate) is expected to rebut his or her opposition. The first and second speakers on both teams are also expected to...
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