Debating in the brooks and glens


Glenbrooks high school just out of Chicago, IL, where the tournament took place. Glenbrooks is a notable tournament for debaters on the national circuit.Photo Credit: Kate Gordon

Glenbrooks high school just out of Chicago, IL, where the tournament took place. Glenbrooks is a notable tournament for debaters on the national circuit.
Photo Credit: Kate Gordon


Speech and Debate has long had an illustrious title at Oakwood High School, qualifying to state and national competitions consistently. Something more unusual for the team, however, is a national competition in the early season – this was the 2012 Glenbrook Speech and Debate tournament, a staple for the team.

With a focus on policy debate hosting three levels (varsity, junior varsity, and novice), the tournament also hosted two levels (varsity and junior varsity) of Lincoln-Douglas debate and one of Public Forum. With seven preliminary rounds for Oakwood’s policy and Lincoln-Douglas debaters and six for Public Forum, the rounds went over multiple days.

“In general, the competition was at a much higher level than in the Ohio circuit,” Katja M. (12) said. “A lot of teams there were probably on their way to the Tournament of Champions, [the policy debate national championship].”

As with differences in the circuits, the three common types of debate, Lincoln-Douglas, Public Forum, and Policy, hold a world of differences between them each that surpass the mere amount of rounds and levels.

Public Forum, the newest type of debate, is known as the most basic. The resolution – what is debated each round – changes every month, with teams choosing pro or con stances on each based on a coin toss.

The resolutions deal with single issues in United States domestic and foreign policy, such as “Resolved: Wikileaks is a threat to United States national security” or “Resolved: The costs of a college education outweigh the benefits.”

These topics are discussed over the course of eight speeches, four lasting four minutes long and four lasting two minutes long.

Lincoln-Douglas debate deviates from the path of Public Forum (and, in many ways, Policy). Centered around topics relating to morality and social theory, Lincoln-Douglas is a one man debate with an atypical speech structure, with three affirmative speeches and two negative speeches. The event also is home to unique arguments, that being the debate of value and criterion – while similar to Framework, an argument in Policy debate, the value-criterion debate determines by what values the debate should be evaluated.

Previous Lincoln-Douglas resolutions include “Resolved: It is morally permissible for victims to use deadly force as a deliberate response to repeated domestic violence” and “Resolved: Public health concerns justify compulsory immunization.”

Policy debate, the longest standing debate, is the most complex of the trio. Resolutions are chosen on a yearly basis, and teams take Affirmative or Negative stances. In contrast to Lincoln-Douglas’ or Public Forum’s Pro or Con, which stand as yes or no, the Affirmative in Policy debate must advocate a plan of action for the United States federal government that affirms the resolution and the Negative must attack that advocacy. This differs from Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum again, where the Pro/Con stances allow for preparation on both sides; due to the structure of Policy, only the first Affirmative speech may be prepared, as Negative strategies vary greatly.

These strategies employ a multitude of formatted arguments, including Topicality (the argument that the Affirmative does not meet an area of the resolution), a Counterplan (a proposed action usually relating to the plan as a test of competitiveness to the affirmative), a Kritik (an attack on the underlying philosophy of the Affirmative), and Disadvantages (standalone negative impacts that the Affirmative will cause).

This form is also home to speed reading, a tool used by Policy debaters to increase the number of arguments they can fit into each speech. There are eight speeches in a round – four eight minutes long and four five minutes long.

Examples of previous Policy resolutions would be “Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially reduce its military and/or police presence in one or more of the following: South Korea, Japan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey” or “Resolved: The United States federal government should establish a foreign policy substantially increasing its support of United Nations peacekeeping operations.”

Representing Oakwood in Policy debate was the duo of Katja M. and Wilson M. (12); in Public Forum was Sam S. (12) and Tia M. (12); in Lincoln-Douglas was Rebecca D. (12). Also competing were three speech team members in their respective events: Drew C. (12) in international extemporaneous speaking, Liz H. (12) in original oratory, and Ellen G. (12) in humorous interpretation.

“We saw a lot of differences between the national level and the local level,” Kate G. (11), an attending correspondent, said. Some noted differences were disclosures of strategies from previous rounds and varying conduct when interacting with someone judging the debate.

By: Paul O’Neill



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