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A Teacher’s Handbook for Debate !

JOHN-FINUCANE.com


Contents

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What is Academic Debate?

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2

What is the All Japan High School Debate Contest?

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3

Basic Academic Debate Procedure

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4

How Judges Choose Winners

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5

How to Get Started

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6

How to Practice

12

7

Survival English for Academic Debate

13

8

How to Use Numbers Effectively

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9

How to Use Evidence Effectively

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10

How to Avoid Bad Arguments

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11

How to Win Matches

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12

Debate Glossary

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Appendices

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Skills for Debate Example Activity

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Flow Sheet

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Decision Making Chart

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Flow Sheet: Japan Should Abolish the Citizen Judge System

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Decision Making Chart: Japan Should Abolish the Citizen Judge System

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Feedback Process For Improving Arguments

40

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1. What is Academic Debate?

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An academic debate has two teams, a judge and a topic which is called a proposition. The affirmative team argues in favour of the proposition and the negative team argues against it.

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There are three types of proposition. Fact propositions like ‘Green tea is good for you’; Value propositions such as ‘Green tea is better than black tea’; or Policy propositions, for instance ‘The Japanese government should ban black tea.’ Academic debates usually have policy propositions.

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Propositions tend to take the form of a short sentence. However, the debate usually takes place within strict parameters. For example in a policy debate like ‘The Japanese Government Should Ban Green Tea’; the negative side cannot present a counter-plan, or the affirmative side cannot make a distinction between domestically grown and imported tea.

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Teams communicate with each other but must persuade the judge of their point of view. The affirmative team must show how the advantages of implementing the policy outweigh the disadvantages and the negative team must show the opposite. The judge decides the winner based on a set of criteria.

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Academic debates follow a set of procedures. The procedures governs who can speak, when and for how long. The procedures also govern the content of speeches e.g. questions, unlike parliamentary style debate, are usually restricted to a dedicated ‘question time’ phase.

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Often there is a chairperson and a timekeeper. The chairperson manages the debate procedure and the timekeeper enforces time limits. Debaters are expected to know and adhere to the debate procedures.

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These are the basic elements of an academic debate.


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2. What is the All Japan High School Debate Contest?

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The All-Japan High School Debate Contest is an annual academic debate competition. It is held in a different prefecture each year. Qualification is through prefectural competitions. These competitions, such as the Saitama Prefectural competition, the Inaho Cup, are highly competitive. The format and procedure of prefectural competitions are not standardised. Some prefectures do not currently have competitions. A maximum of 64 teams may participate in the All Japan Competition. The 2011 proposition, as in all previous years, is a policy proposition.

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Teams must have four or five members and there are restrictions based on language proficiency. Teams compete in five preliminary rounds. Finalists are decided on the basis of wins, vote-rate and average points. The top four teams advance to the semi-finals. The winning teams advance to the final. The overall winner is decided by the result of the final. The winning team can participate in the World Schools Debate Competition (WSDC) as the representative of Japan.

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In their constructive speech, the affirmative team must define the proposition and propose a plan. They must show how the benefits of implementing the policy outweigh the disadvantages and the negative team must show the opposite. The judge or judges decide the winner based on which team most effectively presented and defended their point of view.

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There is a chairperson and a timekeeper. The chairperson manages the debate procedure using a script and the timekeeper enforces time limits. Debaters are expected to know and adhere to the debate procedure. Academic debates follow procedures, which govern who can speak, when and for how long.

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The official rulebook provides minimum requirements for debating. Students are also expected to behave according to the HEnDA ‘Make Friends Oath’. The Judging Committee and the Tournament Organiser ultimately decide anything not covered by the rulebook.

! For more information go to: ! http://henda.jp/englishrule.aspx ! The HEnDA ‘Make Friends Pledge’ can be found at: ! http://henda.jp/hendamakefriendspledge.aspx !

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3. Basic Academic Debate Procedure

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Each debate, referred to as a round, follows the same procedure. This competition is not a parliamentary style debate so ‘points of information’ are not allowed. Parliamentary style debates allow questions to be asked of the speaker during her speech. Academic debates follow a set of procedures. The procedures govern who can speak, when and for how long. Questions may only be asked during the designated question time. If debaters finish speaking before their allotted time has expired, the count continues.

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Phase

Time Limit

Affirmative Constructive Speech

4 minutes

Preparation Time

1 minutes

Question Time (Negative Team to Affirmative Team)

2 minutes

Negative Constructive Speech

4 minutes

Preparation Time

1 minutes

Question Time (Affirmative Team to Negative Team)

2 minutes

Negative Attack Speech

2 minutes

Question Time (Affirmative Team to Negative Team)

2 minutes

Affirmative Attack Speech

2 minutes

Question Time (Negative Team to Affirmative Team)

2 minutes

Preparation Time

1 minutes

Affirmative Defence Speech

2 minutes

Negative Defence Speech

2 minutes

Preparation Time

1 minutes

Affirmative Summary Speech

3 minutes

Negative Summary Speech

3 minutes

Total Time

40 minutes

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4. How Judges Choose Winners

! ! Overview !

How do judges choose winners? Simply, If the advantages of implementing the proposition outweigh the disadvantages then the Affirmative Team wins and vice-versa. However judges do not decide this issue themselves. Debaters must persuade judges of the logic of their position. Therefore the most proficient team at attacking and defending points of view will win. The criteria judges use to choose winners will be discussed in this section.

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The most important element of the decision making is that the debaters must do all the work themselves. Judges should not add their own opinions. They must not take any logical steps or draw any inferences of their own. English fluency only affects the decision in the rare case a tiebreaker is required. Only the ability to offer reasons and evidence in support of a position counts.

! Present Situation !

In a policy debate, like the All Japan Competition, the present situation is usually the legal status of someone or something. Consider these propositions from previous competitions:

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! ! Issues !

2011

Japan Should Abolish Capital punishment

2010

Japan Should Significantly Relax It’s Immigration Policies

2009

The Japanese Government Should Prohibit Worker Dispatching

2008

Japan Should Lower the Age of Adulthood to 18

2007

All Elementary and Secondary Schools in Japan Should Have Classes on a Saturday

2006

Japan Should make English Its Second Official Language

An advantage is a benefit that can be expected if the proposition is adopted. The affirmative team may have a maximum of two advantages in their constructive speech. A disadvantage is a negative consequence that can be expected if the proposition is adopted. The negative team may have a maximum of two disadvantages in their constructive speech.

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For an advantage or disadvantage to be considered extended it must be presented in the constructive speech and defended outside the constructive speech. Only points that are extended can be considered by judges when they choose the winner. An extended advantage or disadvantage is considered as a single continuous thread through the debate and is called an issue. To be ‘strong’ an issue must have ‘high probability’ and ‘large value’.

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Probability

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Probability is how likely an advantage or disadvantage is to happen. Probability is increased by evidence and effective defence. Probability is diminished by a lack of evidence or ineffective defence. Showing probability effectively depends on telling a story. The plausibility of a story depends on the quality of evidence supporting it. Debaters frequently loose sight of who their audience is—the judge. This is a mistake. The Judge’s ability to listen to, understand and record points of view must be considered during all phases of preparation and debate; any potential problems should be anticipated.

! Value !

Value is how big an effect and advantage or disadvantage will have on the present situation. Showing value effectively involves telling a story. The story should contain three elements: A description of the present situation; the effect the proposition will have on the present situation and the importance of the effect i.e. how desirable or disastrous it will be to the present situation.

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Debaters frequently forget to adequately explain the importance of the effect. Often this is because the desirability or otherwise of the effect is a matter of common sense. This is a mistake. Remember, judges must not take any logical steps or draw any inferences of their own. The essence of debate is to attack and defend points of view; the importance of the effect is the most important element of the value, of an issue.

! Strength !

To be considered strong an issue must first have its probability and then its value effectively proven and defended. Technically there should be four issues for judges to consider. In practice not all advantages or disadvantages are extended and cannot therefore be considered by the judges. Often there is one issue that was disproportionately debated and this is usually the issue that decides the winner. Winning often depends on identifying that issue and persuading the judges of your point of view on it.

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Consider a debate in which the affirmative team has two weak issues and the negative team has one very strong issue. The negative team’s second disadvantage was not extended so may not be considered by the judge. Who would win? Either team could win. It would depend on the specifics of each issues and most importantly, their relevance to the proposition. Winning a match often depends on persuading the judge of your point of view on a particularly important issue.

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Flow Sheet

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Judges are required to make notes during each round. A flow sheet is used to do this. As discussed above, judge’s potential problems need to be anticipated. The format of the flow sheet is portrait and space is limited. Speeches are short and judges must listen to, understand and record what is said. If a debater presents information in a way that is unclear or difficult to understand then their effort has been wasted. Debaters should use clear signposting in their speeches. Judges should always know which element of which issue is being referred to. An example flow sheet is included in the Appendices.

! Decision Making Chart !

After each round, judges are required to complete a decision making chart. The chart is part of a judging sheet used by the debate organisers to record the result of rounds. A signed sheet is considered a final decision. The first step is for the judge to list the issues that were extended. Each team is allowed a maximum of two issues.

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Of particular importance is the section VOTING ISSUE. This is the most decisive issue that affected the judge’s decision. Judges are required to fill this in just before recording the winner. Again, winning a match often depends on persuading the judge of your point of view on this issue.

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Debaters should be aware of this format and ensure that they present their point of view with reference to it. Judges should always know where each point being made belongs in that format. An example decision making chart is included in the Appendices.


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5. How to Get Started

! ! Skills for Debate ! The first step is developing the skills needed for debate. The basic skills are: !

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• • • • • • •

Giving an opinion Responding to an opinion with questions / asking for clarification Giving an opinion, with a reason Disagreeing Disagreeing by giving a reason Disagreeing by using a counter-example Disagreeing by using a counter-example, supported by evidence

There are many activities, not necessarily connected with debate, that will inculcate these skills in your students. An example activity is included in the Appendices.

! ! Basic Expressions for Debate !

Next students require some basic expressions that can be used as the building blocks of debate. Students should practice using these expressions in conversations, step by step. Each new expression introduces a new element to the discourse.

! • • • • • • •

I think + [your opinion] You said [your partner’s opinion] + question I think [your opinion] + That’s cool because + reason You said [your partner’s opinion] + That’s true but + your opinion You said [your partner’s opinion] + but I don't think so because + your opinion You said [your partner’s opinion] + but I don't think so because + counter-example You said [your partner’s opinion] + but I don't think so because + counter-example + That’s cool because ~ + reason

Another important element is note-taking. Students should be encouraged to take notes when listening to their partners opinions; even when they are not needed as aide memoirs. Notes should take the form of memo not full sentences. Memo should be made in English.

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Elements of a good argument

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In debate opinions are referred to as arguments. A good argument should contain four basic elements:

! • • • •

Statement: your opinion Reason: why your opinion is relevant to the proposition Evidence: how you know your opinion is correct Link: how your opinion contributes to your overall point of view

! Consider the following argument: ! ! • • • •

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“I think Green tea is better for your health than black tea, because green tea has less caffeine. Everybody knows that too much caffeine is bad for you. Good health is important. That’s relevant because I strongly believe1 that green tea is better than black tea.”

Statement: I think Green tea is better for your health than black tea… Reason: …because green tea has less caffeine. Evidence: Everybody knows that too much caffeine is bad for you Link: Good health is important. That’s relevant because I strongly believe that green tea is better than black tea.

This structure helps to keep more sophisticated arguments clear and focused. This in turn helps the judge to listen to, understand and record your point of view.

! General Advice !

When coaching your team you should aim to be serious but not solemn. If you are beginning a debate team from scratch, you should set goals for yourself and your students. Be open with your students. Involve them in setting goals and in planning how to achieve them.

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A good goal for a new team formed at the start of a school year would be to participate in your prefectural qualification tournament for the All Japan Competition. You do not need to win a match. A credible performance, even if it results in a defeat, builds confidence and maintains motivation levels.

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When practicing the basic expressions for debate, you may have difficulty encouraging students to disagree. For reasons of culture, manners and maturity students are often reluctant to disagree with their peers. Novice debaters also tend to give up if their partner has a strong argument.

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Expression number 4 is particularly useful in this context. Saying “That’s true but...” allows students to avoid explicitly disagreeing with a partner’s opinion. It also allows you to concentrate on the strengths of your argument rather than the weakness of your defence. For more detailed advice on coaching novice debaters see section 7. Survival English for Debate.

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Common sense is a valid form of evidence. A useful phrase for an appeal to common sense is: ‘Everybody knows...’ This phrase is also useful for attacking and defending arguments. 1

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Expressions number 3 and 7 both use the phrase ‘That’s cool because...’. This element of the expression is useful when students practice attacking and defending points of view. To support or defend your point of view change ‘cool’ to important, reasonable, consistent or relevant. To attack your partner’s point of view change ‘cool’ to unimportant, unreasonable, inconsistent or irrelevant.

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Using these expressions in a consistent and structured way will help judges listen to, understand and record your point of view.


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6. How to Practice

! ! General Advice !

For practice to be effective, students need to practice their debate skills under debate conditions. Hold regular debate sessions, use the debate procedure, have a judge decide a winner based on the judging criteria. The judge should give detailed feedback on her decision and how it was made—debaters should receive a copy of the judge’s sheet.

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After each debate students should reflect on their performance. A useful method for doing this is to video the debate. As a group, students should asses each argument. Was it extended? Did it have high probability? Value? Strength? How well did each debater communicate with the judge? Students should then work on any weaknesses they identified. Again, debate should be fun, you should aim to be serious but not solemn.

! Helping beginners to improve !

Building beginners confidence and proficiency starts with forming good arguments. Helping beginners to improve their arguments is a process:

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• • • • • • • • • •

Set a proposition Choose teams. Team members should be encouraged to collaborate Teams prepare 2 arguments. This can be done in a journal, online etc. Teams submit their arguments before the debate. The coach will asses the arguments Return arguments to debaters, without feedback2 Teams debate the proposition using the debate procedure Judge decides a winner and gives feedback Students reflect on the debate together Coach gives feedback Repeat the debate with the improved arguments

The judge and the coach may be the same person. However, as a judge, the feedback should be about how effectively debater’s communicated their arguments and how effectively they defended and attacked points of view. As a coach, feedback should be on the arguments in the constructive speech.

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The coach should concentrate on arguments that were strong. Students should be helped to understand the elements of a good argument and how they apply to their own compositions.

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For arguments that were weak, the coach should help students to improve them. This can be done with by using leading questions, as part of written feedback. This approach is low stress for the student. This is important because critical thinking requires plenty of time for composition and reflection. An example of this process is included in the Appendices.


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Giving feedback before the debate is distracting for debaters and can affect confidence

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7. Survival English for Academic Debate

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For novice teams their first formal debate is very difficult. Failure to perform adequately can leave them feeling de-motivated and unconfident in their ability to debate. Conversely a credible performance, even if it results in a clear defeat, builds confidence and maintains motivation levels. This section gives practical advice on how teams can survive their first formal debate.

! Each academic debate has 6 phases: !

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• • • • • •

Constructive speeches Constructive speech questions Attack speeches Attack speech questions Defence speeches Summary speeches

These phases are separated by short periods of preparation time. Practical advice on how to approach each phase will be given below.

! Constructive Speech !

The constructive speech is essentially a recitation because it is prepared in advance. When giving a constructive speech the goal is for the judges to be able to listen to, understand and record your point of view. Novices often forget that the judge is the audience. When listening to a constructive speech debaters should concentrate on recording the elements of the opposition’s argument.

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A maximum of two advantages or disadvantages are allowed. Each should contain the following elements:

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• Present Situation: the status quo • Effect: the situation after the proposition is adopted • Importance: why the effect is advantageous or disadvantageous

! Debaters should listen for and identify the elements of the opposition constructive speech. ! Question Time !

After each constructive speech is question time; novice debaters often don’t ask many questions. This is usually because they didn’t understand the speech or they were unable to listen, record and critically consider quickly enough. The latter comes with practice the former is a serious barrier to effective debate.

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Novices should first check they understand the elements of the constructive speech by saying “Please repeat [your first advantage effect]” To ask for clarification they can use “You said [crime] do you mean [crime will increase]?” In preparation for their attack speech they should question the opposition’s evidence for their claims. An easy pattern for this is “You said [crimes will increase] How do you know?” In this phase novices should concentrate on understanding the elements of the opposition position.

! Attack Speech !

The attack speech is particularly difficult for novices because, unlike the constructive or defence speech, it relies on understanding the opposition’s position. If the opposition has a good argument novices are inclined to avoid attacking it. This is a mistake. Failure to attack the opposition position is almost certain to lead to a defeat.

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They should accept the opponent’s argument by using the phrase “You said [crime will rise] that’s true but…” and then refer to their own position as being more important. A useful phrase is “That’s true but our [disadvantage] is bigger so it doesn’t matter” or “That’s true but your [advantage] is small so it doesn’t matter.” Attacking a position is difficult but minimising its importance is an easy alternative tactic.

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After each attack speech the opposition can ask questions; novice debaters often don’t ask many questions. This is usually because they didn’t understand or they lack the confidence to challenge the opposition speaker. The latter comes with practice the former is a serious barrier to effective debate in the defence phase.

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A good tactic for the novice debater is to listen for equivocation. During the opposition attack speech a novice should listen for words like “about”, “around”, “approximately”, and “estimate”; especially in connection with evidence. They can then seek clarification with the phrase “You said [crimes will increase] How do you know?” If there is still equivocation then it forms the basis of an effective defence speech.

! Defence Speech !

The novice defence speech is often simply a short version of their constructive speech. Because they lack confidence to challenge the opposition attack speech novices are inclined to ignore attacks. This is a mistake. Failure to defend your position is almost certain to lead to a defeat.

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A simple tactic is to downplay the importance of your oppositions attack. This can be done by pointing out equivocation. To do this use the phrase “You said [crime rates] but you said [estimate] so you can’t be sure it will happen.”

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Alternatively novices should simply compare the opposition’s position with their own and then claim that their position is more advantageous or undesirable. To do this say “You said [crime rise] that’s true but we said [tax revenue] our [advantage] is bigger than your [disadvantage].” A defence speech must address the opposition’s attacks in order for a team’s advantages or disadvantages to be considered extended.

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Summary Speech

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The summary phase is actually a good opportunity for novice teams to win a debate. This is because experienced teams usually try to say too much. As a result judges are unable to listen to, understand and record their point of view and consequently their summary lacks impact. Novice teams should start their summary with a criticism of the opposition’s issues. For example “They said [crime] but we don’t think so because they said [estimate] Their [disadvantage] is small or will not happen.” Next they should repeat their issues, emphasising their desirability or undesirability as in their defence speech. The summary phase is about telling the judges what your strong points and your oppositions weak points are.

! General Advice !

Novices rarely win matches against experienced teams. However they do gain experience which increases their chances of winning in the future. Novice teams need to feel that their first performance was at least credible in order to begin this virtuous circle.


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8. How to Use Numbers Effectively

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Any debate requires debaters to attack and defend points of view. To do this successfully requires evidence, which usually involves numbers. Student’s use of numbers is often ineffective which weakens both their ability to attack or defend points of view. To address this problem this section attempts to show how students can improve both their use of numbers and their chances of winning debates.

! Small Numbers !

The problem with small numbers, particularly numbers less than 1, is that they lack impact. Even if a point of view is supported by evidence, unless it is also compelling, a judge may not consider it important. Consider the claim: ‘If we carry out their plan the crime rate will rise by 0.2%.’ Such a small number can seem unimportant. This statistic would have more impact if we were told how many crimes this represents, say 290 crimes in a small city. If it entailed an increase in crimes of a very serious nature then it would have greater impact. The key to using small numbers is to make the case that even a small difference in what is being discussed is intolerable or particularly desirable.

! Big Numbers !

When using big numbers, impact is limited by the imagination of the judge. This problem is often exacerbated by cultural differences. Yen amounts are often an order of magnitude higher than the equivalent in a western currency. Consider the claim: ‘Japan’s national debt is forty-four trillion yen’. Western judges may have little experience in discourse involving money amounts in trillions or even billions. That ‘Japan’s national debt amounts to over 3.6 million yen per person’ is much easier to imagine. Policy debates often involve issues like national debt or tax revenue. Judges need debater’s help to appreciate what very large numbers represent either through example or analogy.

! Exact Numbers !

Giving exact numbers can often be counterproductive. In some circumstances exact numbers are called for, particularly in the case of scientific data. However, Judges do not need to know that the population of Japan is 126,076,183. Rounding off numbers makes them easier for judges to listen to, understand and record. Similarly judges do not need to know that 603,809 Japanese people are engaged in agriculture. ‘Over six hundred thousand’ is better; as is 5%. Debaters that use imaginative ways to present their numbers make it easier for judges to absorb the significance of their evidence.

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Our students are often good at mastering facts. They also tend to present them as they were discovered during research. Debaters should think about how facts can be presented persuasively. Consider the following claims: ‘15% of foreign residents in Japan pay unemployment insurance.’ ’85% of foreign residents do not pay unemployment insurance.’ The same fact can be presented in two ways. Debaters should consider which best serves the point they are trying to make. Rhetoric is the art of using language to persuade. All facts, not just those relying on numbers, only have value if they persuade the judge to choose your team. 16


Common Barriers to Understanding

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There are some common barriers to understanding when using numbers in debate. Minimal pairs like 15% / 50% cause problems for debaters and judges alike. Similarly using too many numbers too close together is confusing for the listener. As mentioned above giving exact numbers can be a barrier to understanding. This can also be tactical. Rounding numbers off invites a request for clarification from the opposition. They must use their limited question time to do this, leaving them less time to challenge other elements of your team’s point of view. Unlike debaters judges do not have an opportunity to seek clarification; their potential misunderstandings need to be anticipated.

! Presenting Numbers Visually !

Many debate teams choose to present numbers visually. In order to be successful visual aids must be large enough to be seen by the judge. Clear enough to be understood quickly and unambiguous in how they support a point of view. Pie charts are good for percentages. The number of slices should be as small as possible and the most important slice should be immediately obvious. Vertical bar charts are the best way to show changes over time. To compare amounts use horizontal bar charts. Line charts illustrate trends efficiently. However, visual aids are not as powerful as an eloquent and reasoned argument.

! General Advice !

In Academic debate matches the goal is to win. It is the judge who decides the winner. Teams often lose sight of who their audience is—the judge. Speeches are short and judges must listen to, understand and record what is said. If a debater uses numbers in a way that is unclear or difficult to understand then their effort has been wasted. In the use of numbers, as in all aspects of an argument, debaters should think about how to help judges understand and choose their point of view. 

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9. How to Use Evidence Effectively

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Effective debate requires the ability to attack and defend points of view; the techniques for doing this are called arguments. What are arguments and how can we coach our teams to use them effectively? The Saitama Winter Cup English Debate Tournament was held in February 2011. The proposition was: ‘The Citizen Judge System Should be Abolished’. This section assesses examples from this tournament and categorises three common types of argument.

! Judging Criteria !

Good arguments are the key to effective debate. Remember, to be considered strong an advantage or disadvantage must have its probability and value effectively explained and defended. Arguments are the process.

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Probability is how likely an advantage or disadvantage is to happen if the proposition is adopted and the current situation is changed. Probability is diminished by a lack of evidence or ineffective defence.

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Value is how big or small the impact would be on the present situation. It is increased by evidence and effective defence. Value is diminished by a lack of evidence or ineffective defence.

! Argument by Example !

When you make a statement and then give examples, this is an argument by example. It’s strength relies on four criteria

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• • • •

The number of examples The relevance of examples to the statement If the examples given were specific and clearly identified Whether relevant counter-examples were considered

! Consider the following argument from the negative team: ! !

“Abolishing the Citizen Judge System (CJS) will make Japan less democratic. For example, Japan would be the only G8 country to have a Professional Judge System (PJS).”

How strong is this argument? Choosing the G8 is very clever. Made up of industrialised, democratic, relatively progressive countries, the G8 is a clear, specific example and a convenient shorthand for judges and debaters alike. The number of examples in this case are the seven other G8 countries. The relevance is implied by the nature of the G8 and Japan’s own membership of it. Counter-examples have been omitted but there are few if any relevant ones. This is a strong argument.

! ! !

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Argument by Analogy

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When you say that two things are the same in a certain way because they are the same in other ways, this is an argument by analogy. Strictly speaking, the similarity you want to argue (called a conclusion) must be supported by at least three other similarities (called premises). An analogy's strength relies on three criteria:

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• The number of premises • The relevance of premises to the conclusion • Whether relevant dissimilarities have been considered

! Consider the following argument from the affirmative team: !

“Professional judges are human beings. Like all human beings, they are influenced by power. They are motivated by the desire for advancement. They are members of a privileged class, conservative by nature and inclined to follow precedent. In 16th century England there was a court called the Star Court. It’s judges were influenced by power and motivated by the desire for advancement. They were members of a privileged class, conservative by nature and inclined to support the status quo. They were also corrupt. If we abolish the Citizen Judge System the Professional Judge System will be corrupt and civil rights will be diminished.”

! This argument may be expressed: !

• Premise 1: Star Court Judges and Professional Japanese Judges were influenced by • • •

!

power. Premise 2: Star Court Judges and Professional Japanese Judges were motivated by a desire for advancement. Premise 3: Star Court Judges and Professional Japanese Judges were members of a privileged class, conservative by nature and inclined to follow precedent. Conclusion: Star Court Judges were also corrupt. Therefore Japanese Professional Judges will be corrupt too.

How strong is this argument? We may of course argue that since citizen judges are human beings and all human beings are influenced by power, then citizen judges are influenced by power too. But how strong is the analogy?

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Firstly there are three premises but no evidence is offered for any of them. Specifically we are not told why these premises are negative. Secondly judges are not allowed to make any inferences or take any logical steps on their own. The relevance of the premises to the conclusion is clear, but was not explicitly explained.

!

The weakest aspect of this analogy is the dissimilarity between the Star Chamber system and the PJS. The historical, social and legal contexts are so dissimilar as to make meaningful comparison difficult at best. This is a weak argument.

! !

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Argument from Authority

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When you cite an authority to support a conclusion, this an argument from authority. Appeals to common sense may be included in this type. Strictly speaking this kind of argument has two premises and a conclusion. First, that a person is an expert. Second, she talked about the subject in question. Finally, because the authority made the claim in her area of expertise, it is true.

! This kind of argument relies on the quality of the expert. An expert should: ! • • • • • •

Be clearly identified Have expertise in the subject in question Be making a claim within her area of expertise Be sufficiently objective Be an expert in a legitimate area or discipline Should be in general agreement with other experts on the subject in question

! Consider the following argument from the affirmative team: !

“The CJS is not fair because citizen judges are influenced by appearances. According to Dr Albert Mehrabian’s Law, ‘In communication, people judge people by the way they look 55%, the way they speak 38% and what they talk about only 7%.’ Citizen’s are influenced by appearances and this will lead to misjudgments.”

!

How strong is this argument? We may of course argue that professional judges are human beings and all human beings are influenced by Mehrabian’s Law, so then professional judges are influenced by Mehrabian’s Law. But how strong is the authority?

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The expert is clearly identified, has expertise in the subject in question (verbal and non-verbal communication) and as a social scientist, may be considered objective and in a legitimate discipline. Mehrabian’s findings are widely accepted in the field of human communication.

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However, Mehrabian’s findings, referred to as the ‘7%-38%-55% Rule’ are often misinterpreted. The point is not that non-verbal communication conveys the message but that in cases where the non-verbal and verbal messages disagree, people tend to believe the non-verbal message. In this case the authority is strong but the conclusion is not supported by it―a common problem.

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This illustrates the importance of research. The negative team can only attack this argument if they know and understand Mehrabian’s Law; and if they anticipated it’s relevance to the proposition.

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General Advice

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Effective debate requires the ability to attack and defend points of view. By understanding argument types, debaters will be able to ask perceptive and effective questions about their opponents arguments during question time. Debaters can then identify the elements of their opponents point of view and which category of argument they belong to. During ‘preparation time’ they can assess them using the relevant criteria. In this way debaters can efficiently prepare effective attack and defence speeches. Knowledge of argument types will help our teams win matches.


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10. How to Avoid Bad Arguments

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Debate requires the ability to attack and defend points of view; the techniques for doing this are called arguments. Bad arguments are sometimes referred to as ‘fallacies’. This means that there is a specific reason the argument is bad. This reason is so common that it has a name. Fallacies provide a convenient shorthand for talking about good and bad arguments. The topic of fallacies is a very large one. Consequently this section lists 6 common fallacies.

! Ad Hominem !

A latin phrase which means: to the man. This is when you attack a debater personally, not her argument. It also applies to dismissive or condescending references to an opponents arguments, speech or manner. This can be particularly damaging in the eyes of a judge. It is also contrary to the HEnDA ‘Make Friends Pledge.’

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In competition, this is usually the result of frustration. Sometimes debaters have difficulty communicating and later claim “We couldn’t understand your point so it does not stand.” However, the judge may have been able to understand, and in any case this kind of statement goes against the spirit of the competition. It is better to simply acknowledge your inability to understand and move on.

! Argument from Omniscience !

Like an appeal to common sense. Saying “Everyone knows too much caffeine is bad for you” is reasonable. Common sense tells us this is true. However, saying “Everyone knows caffeine is bad for you” is too strong. It is unreasonable to claim you know what everyone thinks about a broad subject.

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In competition, teams sometimes go beyond what may be reasonably claimed as common sense. For example the argument from section 9: “Professional judges are human beings. Like all human beings, they are influenced by power.” However, judges must not make any inferences or take any logical steps on their own. Debaters should look out for words like ‘all,’ ‘everyone,’ ‘everything’ or ‘absolute.’ It is the debaters responsibility to recognise and attack bad arguments.

! Bandwagon Fallacy !

Saying something is good just because many people do or think it. Saying “Most Japanese people drink green tea so it must be better than black tea” is unreasonable. We can just as easily say most Irish people drink black tea so it must be better than green tea or most Egyptian people drink coffee so it must be better than green tea.

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In competition, teams sometimes make these kinds of statements. It is often due to a lack of cultural knowledge of what is common in other countries. Debaters should look out for arguments that use Japan or Japanese people as an example. To test such a claim use the phrase “You said [‘Most Japanese people drink green tea so it must be better than black tea.’] How do you know?” It is the debaters responsibility to recognise and attack bad arguments.

! False Dilemma !

Considering or presenting only the extremes of a topic. Arguments that present an either/ or choice, often suffer from this fallacy. For example, saying “We can only drink green tea or black tea” is unreasonable. There are clearly many other choices.

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In competition, students sometimes present a problem as only having two solutions. In reality there are often many solutions to a problem. However, judges must not make any inferences or take any logical steps on their own. Debaters should look out for words like ‘only,’ ‘necessary,’ ‘either’ and ‘or.’ It is the debaters responsibility to recognise and attack bad arguments.

! Slippery Slope !

That a change in an action, a law or a procedure will have bad consequences. Saying “If we allow a ban on green tea then eventually the government will control everything we eat and drink” is unreasonable. It does not necessarily follow that because we make a change a slippery slope will follow.

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In competition these kinds of arguments are used by debaters because they have value. However because the process isn’t adequately explained they lack probability. If an argument has little or no probability then the value, even if it is large, is meaningless.

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Also in the above example no reason is given why government control of what we eat and drink would be a bad thing. Remember, one of the elements of showing value is the importance of the effect. Also, judges must not make any inferences or take any logical steps on their own. The affirmative side could easily argue that rising levels of childhood obesity or adult early onset diabetes, make this outcome desirable.

! Weasel Words !

Using words and phrases that are vague or ambiguous rather than specific and meaningful. Saying “Experts say that green tea is better for you than black tea” is unreasonable. Which experts? When? In what context? As we saw in chapter 9, experts should be clearly identified. Weasel words are against the spirit of the HEnDA Make-Friends Pledge.

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In competition debaters are often simply copying a style of writing or speaking that they have been exposed to during the research process. In the context of debate between non native speakers of English, weasel words are barriers to understanding. They also prevent open and honest debate. Common types include:

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Doubt words: are words or phrases that qualify a statement in a negative way. Words and phrases like ‘supposed’, ‘alleged’ and ‘so-called’ all imply that a statement is false. Debaters should be explicit if they disagree with a statement. A clear explanation and evidence is the best way to attack the probability of an issue.

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Euphemisms: are words or phrases used to avoid saying something unpleasant embarrassing or rude. Debates, especially value debates, often involve unpleasant or embarrassing topics. Debate is different to everyday conversation. Talking about topics like these in a mature, straightforward way is one of the benefits of debate.


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11. How to Win Matches

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How can we effectively coach our teams to win matches? To address this problem this section attempts to show how judges choose winners and how to help judges choose your team. To do this, an example of a practice debate will be given below.

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The debate took place between the author (Affirmative Team) and four first year high school students (Negative Team). The students had good general English ability and some experience of debate.The example debate was their first experience of a formal debate match following the procedure of the All Japan High School English Debate Tournament.

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The proposition was the same as the 2010 All Japan Competition proposition, ‘Japan should significantly relax its immigration policies’.

! Example Debate ! Consider the following argument. ! Affirmative Constructive Speech !

“…Our plan has the following advantages–number one; immigration is the only solution to the problem of Japan’s ageing, shrinking population. Present situation–Japan’s population is shrinking. According to Julian Chappel, a professor at Kyoto Sangyo University, if the present situation remains unchanged, Japan’s population will shrink to 105 million people by 2050. Effect–the ‘dependency’ ratio (the number of workers to retirees) will change. In 1950 one retiree was supported by 12 workers, by 1990 it was 5.5 workers, and by 2020 it is estimated to be 2.3 workers. Importance–Japan will need more workers to support its retirees. For this reason we should implement our plan…”

! Consider these two possible attacks: ! 1.) Negative Attack A !

“You said Japan’s population is shrinking. We think that a smaller population does not need the same number of workers, so it will not be a problem.”

! 2.) Negative Attack B ! ! !

“You said immigration is the ‘only’ solution to Japan’s ageing, shrinking population but we don’t think so because we think there are other alternatives for example: raise the retirement age, raise the number of women who work full-time, automate more industries or raise the birth rate. That’s important because for this reason we think your advantage is very small or will not happen.”

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Consider these two possible rebuttals:

! 1.) Affirmative Defence A !

“You said that a smaller population needs fewer workers but I don’t think so because you have missed the point. It is not the number of workers that is important but the ratio of workers to retirees. That’s relevant because even a small population cannot look after retirees if it has too few workers. For that reason I strongly believe our advantage will happen and is very big.”

! 2.) Affirmative Defence B !

“You said that immigration is not the only solution. That’s true but we think it is still the best solution. That’s important because, for example, automation is expensive and difficult. For that reason I strongly believe our advantage will happen.”

! Choosing a Winner !

Remember an issue must be extended, that is it must be defended as well as presented. Also, to be strong an issue must have probability and significance. Let’s consider the two exchanges as a judge would.

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The advantage, in both cases, has been presented in the constructive speech and defended; it is an issue. The issue been supported by evidence and defended—it has probability. The value of the issue has been presented and defended.

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Which of the two attacks is better? Attack A is weak for two reasons. Firstly it misses the point made by the affirmative team. Secondly it accepts the premise that immigration is the ‘only solution’. Attack B is much stronger because it attacks the premise directly with counter-examples.

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Which of the two defences is better? Defence A is very strong because it shows that the negative team’s attack was weak. Remember an unsuccessful attack increases the probability of the issue. Defence B is quite strong. It makes a reasonable claim, that immigration is the ‘best’ rather than the ‘only’ solution, but lacks evidence.

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Technically there should be four such issues for judges to consider. In practice not all advantages or disadvantages are extended and cannot therefore be considered by the judges. Often there is one issue that was disproportionately debated and this is usually the issue that decides the winner.

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In the above example the affirmative team showed that their advantage is strong because both its probability and its value were effectively proven and defended. The affirmative team is likely to win unless the negative team can do a better job of attacking and defending points of view.

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General Reasoning Skills

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Coaching students in general reasoning skills will help them win debates. It will also help them be more effective communicators. These skills include: what makes a good argument, how to assess evidence and understanding common fallacies. A good starting point for teachers and students is ‘A Rulebook for Arguments’ by Anthony Weston.

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In the above example the negative team actually did a very good job with attack A. Remember this is a team of four first grade high school students. They are debating a sophisticated topic in their second language, against a native speaker with much more debate experience. They listened to and tried to understand a four minute speech. They then had three minutes of question time and two minutes of preparation time to come up with an effective attack. So how do we help them go from attack A to attack B?

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Students need to be coached in general reasoning skills. Students are often good at mastering facts but don’t have the skills needed to assess them. Debate requires not only knowledge of a topic but the ability to offer reasons and evidence in support of a position. General reasoning skills provide a framework for debate.

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For example the statement ‘…immigration is the only solution…’ is a clear case of a false dilemma. The affirmative team presented a situation in which only two options were possible. With awareness and practice a phrase like ‘only solution’ is instantly recognisable as a possible point of attack. A student familiar with this kind of fallacy will know to point it out and prove the point by offering alternative options. This provides a readymade framework for an attack speech; undermining the probability of their opponent’s point, which in turn undermines its value.

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As we have seen the judging criteria places emphasis on attacking and defending points of view. In fact points that are not defended, or for which the benefits weren’t explained cannot be considered by judges. What debaters need is not just knowledge of the subject being debated but the ability to persuade the judges that their point of view is correct. The most proficient team at attacking and defending points of view will win matches.

! ! General Advice !

Debate practice should also include judging practice. After a practice debate teams should reflect on their debate from the point of view of a judge. To do this they need to understand the judging criteria and how it is applied to a debate. For elements that are weak such as the negative attack speech, debaters can rethink and revise hopefully producing something like the model attack speech. This in turn should be considered critically. This exercise will help students understand how they can help the judge to choose them.

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This exercise will also help debaters to think more critically about how points of view are attacked and defended. For example in the model defence speech the affirmative side made the claim that automation is expensive and difficult. Expensive compared to what? Difficult in what way? If it is expensive and difficult, why do so many industries use it? These habits of critical thinking are the habits debaters need to win debates.
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12. Debate Glossary

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Ad Hominem A Latin phrase which means: to the man.

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Advantage A benefit that can be expected if the proposition is adopted. The affirmative team may have a maximum of two advantages in their constructive speech.

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Affirmative Team Argues in favour of adopting the proposition.

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Appeal to common sense A kind of argument.

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Argument An opinion. A good argument has four elements: statement, reason, evidence and link.

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Attack Speech A two minute speech that criticises the issues in the opposition’s constructive speech.

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Bandwagon Fallacy Saying something is good just because many people do or think it.

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Chairperson Controls the debate.

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Constructive Speech A four minute speech, prepared in advance, which explains the team’s basic position.

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Defence Speech A two minute speech that defends the team’s issues against the criticism in the opposition’s attack speech.

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Disadvantage A negative consequence that can be expected if the proposition is adopted. The negative team may have a maximum of two disadvantages in their constructive speech.

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Draw Not a possible result. In cases where neither team’s issues were strong. The proposition is considered to be false. This is because the affirmative team wants to change the status quo, so they assume the burden of proof. Therefore the negative team wins by default.

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Effect The situation after the present situation has been affected by the proposition.

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Evidence How the debater knows her opinion is correct.

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Extended For an advantage or disadvantage to be considered extended it must be presented in the constructive speech. It must also be defended and mentioned outside the constructive speech.

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Fallacy A kind of bad argument.

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False Dilemma Considering or presenting only the extremes of a topic.

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Importance Why the effect is advantageous or disadvantageous.

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Issues The constructive speech is the basic position of each team and should contain two main points. These are the advantages or disadvantages. Judges can consider only points that are extended. A point, if extended, is considered as a single continuous thread through the debate and is called an issue.

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Judge Decides the winner.

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Link How the debater’s opinion contributes to her overall point of view.

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Negative Team Argues against adopting the proposition.

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Preparation Time A one minute period after the constructive speech and attack speech. Also a one minute period before the summary speech.

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Present Situation The status quo. It will be changed by the adoption of the proposition.

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Probability How likely an advantage or disadvantage is to happen. Probability is increased by evidence and effective defence. Probability is diminished by a lack of evidence or ineffective defence.

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Proposition There are three types of proposition. Fact propositions like ‘Green tea is good for you.’ Value propositions such as ‘Green tea is better than black tea’; or Policy propositions, for instance ‘The Japanese government should ban black tea.’ The All-Japan High School Debate Tournament this year, as in all previous years, has a policy proposition.

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Question Time A three minute period following the constructive speeches and attack speeches. Questions are asked by one team member, and answered by the opposition member who gave the speech.

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Reason Why the debater’s opinion is relevant to the proposition.

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Round Each individual debate is referred to as a round.

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Slippery Slope That a change in an action, a law or a procedure will lead to bad consequences in the future.

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Statement The debater’s opinion.

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Strong To be considered strong an advantage or disadvantage must have its probability and value effectively proven and defended.

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Summary Speech A two minute speech in which the debate is summarised from a team point of view.

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Timekeeper Times each phase of the debate.

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Winner The winner is decided by comparing the issues of both teams. Draws are not possible. Judges will consider only issues that were extended. They will then consider the probability and value of each issue. They will then decide how strong each issue is. If the strength of the advantages outweighs the strength of the disadvantages then the Affirmative Team is the winner and vice-versa.

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Weasel Words Using words and phrases that are vague and ambiguous rather than specific and meaningful.

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Value What an advantage or disadvantage will bring in terms of quality and quantity. Debaters must argue that a point has value judges cannot decide this independently. Value is diminished by a lack of evidence or ineffective defence. 

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Appendices

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• Skills for Debate Example Activity: this pair-work activity uses role cards to practice

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disagreeing. Playing a role is less stressful for students than disagreeing with their peers and more fun. In this activity, students work in pairs. The role cards contain a situation, two characters and their opinions. Once students have learned the basics of debate, you can return to this activity to help students understand the debate procedure, and its phases.

• Flow Sheet: Judges are expected to take notes during rounds. Debaters should have this

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sheet in mind when they present an argument.

• Decision Making Chart: after each round the judge completes one of these sheets. A signed

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sheet is considered a final decision. Debaters should have this sheet in mind when they present an argument.

• Flow Sheet: Japan Should Abolish the Citizen Judge System: This flow sheet is based on

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arguments from a practice tournament held in Saitama Prefecture in 2010. Notice the portrait format. Notice the limited space. Notice how the format allows an issue to be recorded in a continuous line.

• Decision Making Chart: Japan Should Abolish the Citizen Judge System: this Judge’s Sheet

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has been completed with the information from the example flow sheet. Notice how important the ‘VOTING ISSUE’ is. Debaters should try to anticipate what this issue will be and concentrate of persuading the judge of their point of view on this issue.

• Feedback Process For Improving Arguments: this example was taken from a Junior High

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School debate class. In this elective class 16 third grade students studied debate for 1 period every week. The class was team taught by a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) and an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT). An initial goal was for students to be able to produce a well structured argument. This was achieved over two lessons: At the end of the first lesson students were asked to write two arguments as homework. The first was an argument to support the opinion that summer is good. The second was an argument to support the opinion that summer is bad. The arguments were written in the student’s class journal. The journals were submitted to the ALT before the second lesson. The ALT read the speeches and provided individual feedback in each student’s journal.

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Red ink was used to indicate errors in grammar and punctuation. Blue ink was used to indicate weaknesses in the structure of the argument. This took the form of leading questions. The ALT selected example arguments from the student’s journals, rewrote them slightly and broke them down into elements to create model arguments. A feedback handout with a model affirmative and negative argument was produced by the ALT.

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At the start of the second lesson the ALT returned the journals. The ALT asked students to read the feedback. The ALT then explained the structure of a good argument using the feedback handout. Students were given some time to improve their arguments before the practice debate. After the debate the students were given another proposition for the next lesson. The process was repeated. 31


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A handbook written specifically for Japanese teachers of English and Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) interested in teaching debate to students at junior high school, high school and university.

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Learn how to start a debate team from scratch, practice effectively and win debate matches at the All Japan High School Debate Competition.

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Containing an extensive debate glossary, concise explanations of key concepts in critical thinking and debate and advice on tactics and strategy, this book is intended to be of use to the novice and the expert alike.

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A teacher's handbook for debate  

A handbook written specifically for Japanese teachers of English and Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) interested in teaching debate to stu...

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