On Debating

What does “debating” mean?
To debate means to develop and defend a position on a given motion. Debaters are obliged to deal with whatever motion they are confronted with and must stake out their position within the natural scope of that motion. Debaters have fifteen minutes in seclusion to analyse the pros and cons of that motion and to prepare for the debate. During the debate, the proposition and the opposition teams must argue within the framework of standard rules.

How does debating work?
The standard form for the motion draws on the idiom of the House of Commons: „This House believes that…“ The proposition argues in agreement with the motion, and the opposition against it. Each speaker speaks for five minutes. One speaker from the proposition is given his chance to speak, then one from the opposition, then another from the proposition, and so on until everyone has spoken.

How did debating start?
Debates have been a feature of democracy from Athens onwards. Government and opposition parties debate policies, appeal to an undecided electorate to support them, and put their proposals to the vote. Persuasive speaking has always had a real significance in political history, as many great orators have won support for their legislation through the quality of their speeches.

The British Parliament has given birth to two forms of recreational debating. Show debating is practised in school debating societies and university unions, where students and/or invited guest speakers put forward two sides of a controversial topics to win the votes of the audience. In competitive debating, panels of trained judges evaluate the most persuasive speakers according to set criteria.

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