Nova debate: getting ready for our summer workshop

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Ms. Bova

Mr. Lesicko


You learn to debate by actually debating. The less time that the coaches have to spend delivering lectures, the more time we can spend having you engage in debates at the August workshop. The purpose of this handout is to spell out some things that you can do to get ready for the workshop.

Before we get to the list, let’s flesh out the core assumption that underpins the workshop’s design. We assume that you already know a great deal about debating, because you already know a great deal about how to argue. Arguing is something more or less hard-wired into all of us.
Put another way: Among the variables of the human condition, there are few constants. That people argue is one of those constants. Intuitively, you know that a good argument for a proposition consists of you saying, “I’m right and here’s why.” And you already know that a good argument against a proposition is “You’re wrong because….” It’s a mistake to pretend that learning how to debate is like learning a foreign language, and that you can’t start debating until you have mastered a whole new vocabulary.
Tournament debating is a wonderful game. To do well at the game requires careful attention to three basic skills: (1) effective research, (2) effective case-writing, and (3) effective delivery. The purpose of Nova’s August workshop is to give you practice working on each of the three basic skills. Working on a topic will give you a chance to work on the first two skills and the workshop will give you opportunities to work on your delivery skills.
Teaching you to debate better requires a topic. Nova’s debate workshop will be devoted to debates on an old Public Forum topic. We will debate the September 2008 Public Forum topic: Resolved: That the United States should implement a military draft.
This topic will serve us well by giving Nova students a chance to think about American history as a subject and to carefully consider current events.

PREPARATION FOR CAMP: We are asking you to produce pro and con cases on this topic: specifically, a four minute speech in favor of the proposition and a four minute speech that argues against the resolution. In order to develop these speeches, you’ll need to do a little research about military drafts. If you type “the United States should implement a military draft” into the Google search engine, many great sources for your research will appear on the first few pages.
Each speech should contain a main argument, supporting points, and some evidence quoted from your research sources to back up your claims. If you run into trouble or need some help, you can e-mail us. Our email addresses are at the top of this memo. (And we know that many of you haven’t yet taken freshman Rhetoric, and haven’t had an opportunity to really work at public speaking yet. Please don’t worry about that all. Do your best to prepare, and -- trust us! We’ll know what to do).
For those who are reluctant to trust your natural instincts and plunge into the topic without some discussion of the particulars of PF debate, here are some resources that spell out the basics of Public Forum debate:
And here are some videotaped lectures.
That’s about it for now. Again, please write to either or both of us if you’d like to discuss your ideas and your speeches as you are preparing. We’d be so happy to help you.
See you all in August!

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