debate round has two teams with two debaters each and a Speaker.
The Speaker serves as both the judge and arbiter of the rules during
the round. Note here that "Speaker" always refers to the
judge from this point forward. One team represents the Government,
while the other represents the Opposition. The Government team is
composed of a Prime Minister, who speaks twice, and a Member of
Government, who speaks once. The Opposition team is composed of
a Leader of the Opposition, who speaks twice, and a Member of the
Opposition, who speaks once. The Government proposes a specific
case statement, which the government team must demonstrate to be
correct. The Opposition does not have to propose anything, but must
demonstrate that the case statement is not correct. The Speaker
decides at the end of the round, based on the arguments made in
the round, whether the Government has proved its case or whether
the Opposition has disproved it. The team which met its burden more
and Timing of Speeches
Prime Minister Constructive (PMC): 7 minutes
of the Opposition Constructive (LOC): 8 minutes
of the Government Constructive (MG or MGC): 8 minutes
of the Opposition Constructive (MO or MOC): 8 minutes
of Opposition Rebuttal (LOR): 4 minutes
Minister Rebuttal (PMR): 5 minutes
Each speech has a thirty second grace period.
arguments can be made at any time during the first four speeches.
These speeches are called constructives. New arguments cannot be
made during rebuttals, the last two speeches of the round. The Prime
Minister can, however, respond to new opposition arguments that
were made during the MO. So the PMR may contain new responses, but
not new arguments.
the PMC, LOC, MG, MO debaters may rise to ask the debater who is
speaking a question or insert a short statement. The procedure for
this is as follows:
debater who is speaking does not have to recognize or refuse the
point immediately. She/he can leave the questioner standing until
it is convenient for the debater who is speaking to indicate whether
the point will be entertained. Some debaters ask a special form
of POI called a point of clarification. Clarification means that
a debater does not understand the case or a particular argument.
If possible, the speaker should try to answer the clarification
to ensure a confusion-free debate round. Do not abuse the idea of
clarification by asking too many clarification questions or disguising
arguments as clarification.
- The debater who wishes to ask a Point of Information (POI)
rises from his or her seat, places one hand on top of his or
her head and extends his or her other arm to signal that he
or she has a point.
- The debater who is speaking may choose to recognize the point
or not. If the debater does not want to recognize the point,
he or she simply says "No thank you," or waves the
questioner off. The questioner then sits down. A debater may
not simply interrupt if his or her point is not taken.
- If the debater who is speaking recognizes the point, then
he or she says "On that point" and allows the questioner
to give their point. At any time, the debater whose speech it
is may stop the POI and tell the questioner to sit down.
point of order is raised when a competitor believes that one of
the rules of debate is being broken. There are two circumstances
during a debate round under which a debater should raise a point
of order. The first is when the debater who is speaking has exceeded
her/his grace period. The second is when a debater introduces a
new argument during one of the two rebuttal speeches. The procedure
for either point is as follows:
debaters may break other rules, for example, the Government may
run a specific knowledge case, debaters do not need to bring up
these violations on points of order. These violations should be
mentioned during a regular speech. A debater may not argue about
a point of order. Once a debater has stated a point, all debaters
must remain quiet while the speaker rules on the point.
- The debater rises from his or her seat and says "Point
- The debater who is speaking stops their speech.
- The debater who rose on the point indicates what rules violation
they are raising the point on by saying "the speaker is
overtime" or "the speaker just made the new argument
_____ which is new in rebuttal."
- The speaker of the round, who has been judging the debate,
will rule the point "Well Taken" or "Not Well
Taken." A well taken point means that the speaker must
conclude their speech if they are over time or that the new
point will not be considered as it was offered during a rebuttal.
A not well taken point means that the speaker disagrees with
the point and will allow the debater to go on speaking or will
consider the argument as not being new. The speaker, not the
debater who is speaking, may also rule the point "under
consideration," which means that the speaker will determine
whether the point is true at a later time. "Under consideration"
only applies to new arguments in rebuttal, not to time limits.
of Personal Privilege
are almost never used. Do not rise on a point of personal privilege
unless you have been deeply insulted on a personal level by an intentional
attack on your person. The procedure for a point of personal privilege
of Personal Privilege may also be used for a personal emergency.
- Rise and say, "Point of personal privilege."
- The speaker will say "Point well taken" or "Point
not well taken."
- The debate continues, while the speaker notes down any serious
Speakers will take into consideration extremely rude behavior without
any debater raising a point, so there is no need to do so.
has very few rules and regulations regarding cases. Debaters should,
however, clearly understand how a case functions in a debate round
and how each side may defend and attack the case. The term "case"
refers to the position the Government team has chosen to defend.
Some people also use the term "case" to mean the entirety
of arguments presented by one side in a debate round. In that sense,
both Government and Opposition could have a case. The rules and
regulations apply to the first meaning of the word "case."
Throughout these rules, assume that "case" refers to the
position of the Government and the arguments that team has advanced
for that position. Cases must link appropriately to the resolution.
The resolution will be read when pairings are announced. A resolution
can be a phrase or sentence that forms the starting point for the
debate. The Prime Minister begins each debate by repeating the resolution
and verbally connecting that resolution to the case statement of
the government team. There are three types of links which the Prime
Minister may be called on to make:
most common type of link, a loose link means that the PM only has
to make a passing connection to the resolution. The link cannot
be a voting issue in the round and the resolution will often be
something outrageous. If the resolution were, "Attack dogs
have all the fun," a suitable loose link could be: "Attack
dogs have all the fun. Their viciousness makes them successful.
I want to talk about some other vicious people, the New York City
Police department. I propose that each New York City police officer
be required to spend one day a year in a public school teaching
students about their rights under the constitution." This example
demonstrates that a loose link resolution will often be unrelated
to the case statement of the Government.
link forces the Prime Minister to link to and argue a case that
complies with a position prompted by the resolution. Examine the
tight link resolution "This house would legalize freedom."
The Prime minister could link to a case about legalizing drugs,
legalizing gay marriage or embargoing China until it granted freedom
of the press. A link to the case "We should fix an explosive
collar around every US citizen, so that we can terminate trouble
makers" would be poor, because the fascist policy proposed
above does not legalize freedom in any meaningful sense. Poor tight
links can be a voting issue against the government.
type of link means that the resolution is the case statement.
"The United States should assassinate Saddam Hussein"
means just that - kill him. It does not mean maim, wound, embargo
or anything else. Not following a tight link would be a big mistake,
because the judge cannot vote for you. Do not try to dodge the meaning
of the resolution by using obscure definitions of words. The term
"United States" in the example resolution does not mean
"United States of a Free Kurdistan." It means "United
States of America."
have three other requirements. They must not be status-quo. That
means they cannot support a position that people generally agree
on or that has already been enshrined in law. The case “The United
States should not allow child labor” would be unacceptable, because
child labor has already been outlawed. This rule applies primarily
to policy cases which propose a specific law or plan, because the
total of all current laws and plans and traditions constitutes the
status quo. Cases also cannot be tight or tautological, and they
must not be specific knowledge. These conditions are discussed below.
Cases and Tautologies
cases are cases which the opposition does not feel they are able
to argue the opposition side of fairly. Even if there are some minor
arguments for opposition, a case is tight if it does not allow the
opposition to make arguments which could beat the case. "People
should not be dragged from their homes randomly by boyscouts and
subjected to electro-shock therapy" would constitute a tight
case. Even if someone could conceive of a good reason to shock random
people or a possible psychological benefits to young boyscouts from
earning their torture merit badge, the case falls to the government
side easily. Tautologies are one step further. These are government
case statements which are self-evidently true. Earth is smaller
than the Sun, for example, is a tautology. There can be no argument
with this factual statement. More commonly, a tautology occurs when
a certain position is the only option; e.g., "Clinton is the
best Democratic president since 1981."
a PM proposes a tight case, the LO must point this out during the
LOC. Ordinarily, the LO would then propose an alternative version
of the case statement which the opposition would be willing to oppose.
If the Government team accepts this alternative, then the debate
can be judged as if the alternative were the original case statement.
If the LO does not propose an alternative or the government does
not accept the alternative then the key issue in the round is whether
or not the government’s case is tight or tautological. If the opposition
proves that the case is tight, then the opposition wins. If the
government proves that the opposition could have beaten the case,
then the opposition loses. Regardless of how the round goes, both
sides should try to argue their side as effectively as possible.
note that you should offer reasons why a case is tight. "I
am not good enough to beat this case" does not mean that the
case is tight. "No moral person can argue for the torture of
innocents without cause" does constitute an argument for tightness.
Certain cases may be considered "APDA tight." That means
that although some people argue for each side of the debate, the
general characteristics of APDA as a community of college students
make the opposition side too difficult to defend. Legalizing sodomy
may be debatable, but a vast majority of APDA debaters would support
that case, so the case could be considered tight. Debaters who choose
to run a government case in favor of banning sodomy would be forced
to defend the position they choose.
the government team will propose a case that deals with specialized
subject matter that makes the case un-debatable. The case "NASA
should replace the current sealant used on the space shuttle with
hypoxynucleotide-C4598" would be specific knowledge. It may
be that there are very good reasons to replace the compound or to
keep the old compound, so the case would not be tight. The subject
matter of the debate, however, would revolve around very specific
scientific knowledge which only chemical engineers would have. The
opposition should stand up in the LOC and say that the case is specific
knowledge and attempt to debate or argue whatever they can. Even
though I do not know about those particular chemical sealants, for
example, I could argue that the old sealant must work to some degree,
because we have been launching so many shuttles during the past
six years. I could further say that NASA has limited funding and
should concentrate its efforts on the Mars program instead of sealents
which do not constitute a significant threat. All of those arguments
can be made without knowing about the specific topic. The government
team would be heavily penalized for running a specific knowledge
case and the opposition would win in the above example. Parliamentary
debate does not allow evidence. Debates which require research may
well be considered specific knowledge, unless the Government team
can adequately explain all of the relevant information.
cases will not be as clear cut as the one above. The standard we
apply on APDA is that of the "reasonable college student."
A well-informed student should be able to debate the topic. Debaters
may also think of a New York Times standard. "Could
I read and debate about the subject of this debate based on information
available in the New York Times?" This means that discussing
WWII or the Kosovo conflict would be fair game. The standard should
not be abused by arguing that a person could read all about a specific
merger deal in the business section, so a debate about the merger
of two European software companies would be general knowledge. General
knowledge would be found on the front page or in major articles
in the national or international sections of the paper.
fact that an individual does not know about a particular area does
not mean that it is specific knowledge. Important events in history,
major works of literature and current events are general knowledge.
The opposition team can, however, ask the Government team for an
outline of the facts in a particular case. The Government team must
disclose all the information. They may not try to win by concealing
the truth. Even cases which could be specific knowledge are not
if the Government teams does an adequate job of explaining the situation
and giving the opposition team the facts required to construct an
opposition. One could, for example, run a case about Korean War
policy provided that they outlined who fought in the war, the general
political circumstances of the time and any major events that had
recently occurred. The Korean War began in the 1950s, so the government
would mention that after WWII the world had polarized along capitalist
and communist lines and that the USSR had demonstrated its nuclear
capability prior to the start of the war. The United States presence
in the Philippines might also be relevant, but the grain production
in Outer Mongolia for the years 1955-60 would not be relevant; the
Government team would be expected to know and outline for the Opposition
US military presence in the far east, but not specific, unimportant
events. Despite the fact that the Korean War is a major event in
the 20th century, the Government team must be prepared to outline
the conflict for uninformed opponents. The Opposition should also
be given ample opportunity to ask questions about the case and the
APDA debaters know a lot about certain specific areas, for example,
constitutional interpretation. Although a successful debater should
probably learn about some of these topics, the burden rests with
the government to adequately explain what the debate is about. The
case "The Supreme Court should reverse its ruling in Ambach
v Norwick" would be specific knowledge unless the government
clearly laid out the issue in the case and framed a debate which
someone without legal training could win.
specific knowledge topics could include baseball realignment, a
particular movie or your favorite TV show. The fact that MASH and
Seinfeld had high TV ratings does not mean that everyone should
be expected to know the details of the characters or anything about
certain plot lines. The government can still make a good debate
about specific knowledge by introducing the case and explaining
the situation properly.
Government may choose to run a special kind of case referred to
as time-space. Time-space means that the Government team places
the judge in the role of a particular person or decision making
body at a particular time in history in a particular place or position.
The judge must then decide the round based on the viewpoint of those
people in that situation. The case "You are Bill Clinton in
1991, do not seek the Presidential nomination" would be a time-space
case, because the judge must adopt the persona of Clinton and view
the round from the perspective of 1991. Note that the government
does not have to specify each parameter or person, time and place.
If these factors are not specified, assume the reasonable or average
circumstance. The example above does not specify a particular place,
because the decision to run for the nomination was made over a period
of time in several different places. When no person is included,
assume the persona of an average person. If Government does not
specify a time, assume the current day. The Opposition should always
have the opportunity to ask the Government exactly who, when and
where a particular case is set. To introduce a time-space case,
the Prime Minister should specify that the case is time-space and
then clearly tell the judge "You are ____. The time is ____.
You should [insert the case statement]."
cases are subject to all of the rules for regular cases, including
tightness and specific knowledge. Two extra rules must be considered
in a time-space situation. First, events that have not happened
yet or facts that are not yet true in the specified time period
may not be used in a historical case. If the Government team has
set its case in the 1800s, the Opposition cannot make arguments
about nuclear war or personal computers. This rule has a nuanced
exception. A team may refer to future events in order to prove facts
that have occurred in the time of the case, if the validity of their
facts is questioned. Examine the following example.
Government team runs a case about India a year before India tested
its nuclear weapons. The Government chooses to make the speaker
the government of India. The Opposition teams makes an argument
about India’s nuclear capability to which the Government responds
that India does not have nuclear weapons. The Government team has
not told the truth. India did have nuclear weapons a year before
it tested them and the speaker, acting as the Indian government,
knows that India has nuclear weapons. In order to prove the fact
about India’s nuclear capability, the Opposition may remind the
judge that India tested it nuclear weapons a year after the time
of the debate, which means that their weapons were ready or nearly
complete at the time of the debate. The Indian government would
know that, but the judge and the Government team might not. The
only way for Opposition to prove its assertion about current
facts (in the time of the case) is to talk about events that
have not yet happened. This does not violate time-space, because
the actual argument the Opposition makes uses only facts that are
true at the time of the case. The future event only proves the validity
of the Opposition argument. The Opposition could not assert that
India will test nuclear arms in a year or that Pakistan will test
nuclear arms in response. Opposition cannot argue that because the
Indian government could not be sure that it would test, it
could only be sure that it did have the weapons to test. The Indian
government would also not know about the exact state of the Pakistani
nuclear program or Pakistan’s plans to test. The Opposition could
argue that India would have some idea that Pakistan had an advanced
nuclear program, but could not state the facts with the same clarity
as facts about the Indian government. If the time-space case had
made the judge the Pakistani government, the Opposition could argue
about the exact state of the Pakistani arms program, but would have
to be more vague about the Indian program, because the speaker has
different knowledge depending on which role the speaker adopts.
second extra rule deals with the nature of making the judge a particular
person or group. People are not the same and do not view arguments
the same way. Adolf Hitler and Ghandi have very different views
on arguments about war, race and religion. The psychology of the
judge’s persona should be considered when judging the round or making
effective arguments. Consider the case "You are Hitler, do
not attack the Russian during WWII." This case has many great
arguments for it. No army has successfully survived the Russian
winter. The Russians could be conquered later, after the fall of
Britain. Fighting a war on two fronts will be very hard. The case,
however, should not win. Adolf Hitler does not think like a rational
person. He believes his armies are invincible, his conquests pre-ordained.
The Opposition should point out these character flaws and then make
arguments that do appeal to Hitler. The Russians are of inferior
racial stock. Their communist ways have left them weak. These arguments
would not be particularly effective in an ordinary debate round,
but they have devastating effects in the context of a particular
time and place. Given these rules, the Government team must be careful
to construct a case that can be argued from both sides. Cases which
give the speaker an extreme set of psychological characteristics
will often be psychological tautologies or psychological falsisms.
A psychological tautology is a case that cannot be argued against
because of the speaker’s assumed psychology. "You are the Orthodox
Jews of the Shas party, do not give up your claim to Jerusalem"
would be a psychological tautology because this group of Orthodox
Jews has a religious zeal that defines their character and does
not permit negotiation on Jerusalem. "You are Yoda, surrender
to the dark side of the force" would be a falsism, because
Yoda’s personality would never permit him to go to the dark side.
fun and debatable cases can be difficult, so many debaters think
of cases in advance. The process of coming up with cases is called
"casing." Although people think of ideas in advance, debaters
should not research or over-prepare. Debaters should also refrain
from running the same case too many times. Debating the same topic
can be boring. Debaters often do not argue as effectively about
an issue they have talked about too much. Debaters who rely on a
small number of cases, moreover, do not develop the ability to debate
about many different issues and will not enjoy success against better
LO may elect, in the LOC only, to propose a counter-case. This case
should be different from the status quo (the current situation in
the world) and must be mutually exclusive with the Government's
case. Mutually exclusive means that one could not do both what the
Government and the Opposition propose. If, for example, the Government
proposed that we legalize drugs, then the Opposition could propose
that we switch strategy in the drug war while leaving drugs illegal.
One cannot legalize drugs and have a war on illegal drugs at the
same time. The Opposition could not, however, propose that
we educate the public about the harms of drug use, because education
can be done regardless of whether drugs are illegal. If the Opposition
proposes a non-mutually exclusive counter-case, they will not gain
credit for any arguments that stem from that case. Sometimes, the
Opposition may propose a case which is not mutually exclusive by
itself, but then demonstrate why the Opposition case will work better
than the Government case or the Government case plus the counter-case.
The Opposition has demonstrated that its case is superior to the
Government case and that the Government case should not be adopted.
Judges should allow this strategy. In the above example, the Opposition
could say that education will solve most of the problems that legalizing
drugs would. That would be non-mutually exclusive, so the judge
should not credit the Opposition team for that type of counter-case.
If the Opposition team argued, however, that education was more
effective when drugs were illegal and that legalization did not
solve any problems that education could not solve alone, then the
Opposition would have presented arguments against the Government
case that proved that the counter-case was preferable to the status-quo
or a combination of the government and counter-case. That argument
would aid the Opposition considerably.