Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Debating Tips-Motions

Morning, seems like I havent posted here in a while, I just finished competing in the President's Cup, which is a debate cup my university competes in with 15 other campuses, we got 3rd place which is quite respectable I think.

So in this post I'll talk about what I've learned in my long Rather short career in debating, I'll write about the tactics and tricks my team used that got us so far and common pitfalls to avoid, experienced debaters will probably know all of this but if you're new and want to improve, I think you will find something useful here.
On to the first point.

Understand what the motion wants you to debate.

The first part of the debate starts the moment the motion is announced, when you know what it is you should focus on understanding what the motion wants the teams to argue about so no parallel debates happen.

" This House believes that we don't need no education"

The above motion can basically be said as " Education is important" however the way is is phrased can cause people to be confused and the government can go out and say that they believe that education is not important, which is the opposition's case.

When the motion is given out, both teams will have time to prepare their arguments and points, The government will use this time to make the motion serve them by narrowing it down and making it easier for them to debate.

"This House would ban abortion"

Thats the given motion, now if the government first speaker goes out and says " This house would ban abortion, on to my first point"
Since he has stated no limits to abortion, the leader of the opposition can (and should ) reply with " Since the government states they would ban abortion, this means abortion is banned at all stages of pregnancy

Thats why explaining the motion can make or break the debate, be very careful with how you describe the motion ( government) and try to find any loopholes in the given explanation (opposition).

Hard and Soft cases.

A hard case is a case where the motion would be allowed or stopped at all stages, where as a soft motion would be a weak case that wouldnt change anything, confusing right?

Here's an example to what I am trying to say.

"This House would ban abortion"

Soft example: If the government is weak and not confident enough in themselves, they will go out and say " We will ban abortion in the third trimester" 

Thats an incredibly soft case, why? because nobody aborts in the third trimester, its illegal everywhere so the government is basically saying OK to abortion in every stage except when it enters 28 weeks and after.

Soft cases are very detrimental to the government, while a Hard case can be argued with, a soft case is usually the government agreeing with the opposition.

Hard example: We will use the same motion as the above, but this time the government goes out and says "We will ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy Except if the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother"

The above is a hard motion, where abortion is completely banned except in a logical situation where it threatens the life of the mother, that's a very logical safety net the government puts to stop the opposition from saying " What if the pregnancy can kill the mother?"

A hard case is many times more interesting then a soft case, and is easier to win as well since they are arguing on the motion, in this hard motion the points can be really varied, as they can talk about if the baby was the product of rape and the mother wants to abort it early, if the baby is found to be born with a birth defect that would kill it in a few years, all these are points both sides can argue on, and it builds to a fruitful debate in the end.

Thats what we mean by using the motion, the government has this advantage to set the motion how it chooses, usually though they will make a logical mechanism and work on that.

Remember to think about how the other side would approach this case, if you are stuck on points then imagine what their points are and use the opposite of that, if you are government then try to set a Mechanism that would kill the oppositions points.

And that's it for this post, I'll have more debate-y stuff up soon, hope this helped.