Tuesday, 16 July 2013

An Introduction to Parliamentary Debate


A. Basic Overview
Parliamentary debate is an academic debate event. It, of course, consists of two sides which are in contradiction; supporting and opposing. It is called “academic” for commonly sponsored by universities. A lot of universities around the world have been familiar with such parliamentary debate event or simply call it competition. Now, parliamentary debate has nonetheless spread, as well been introduced to and widely known by senior-high school students.

Despite its name, parliamentary debate is not related to governmental parliaments. As we later will see some terms in the parliamentary debate, it may lead us to conclude that it can be based or inspired from what in parliaments, but still it's not directly related.

Even so, in Indonesia, the parliamentary debate is not so well recognized. The position where English stands, as a foreign language, perhaps has become the major diagnose since the parliamentary debate is  carried out with English. Several noted universities in Indonesia may have gained some marvelous achievement in Asian level parliamentary debate competitions, nevertheless, there are still many universities which are poor in debate or even have no idea of such debate. It is proven that when they (Indonesian students) are asked about debate, they mostly refer to what so-called “debat kusir” in Indonesia.

Basically, the parliamentary debate is used to train the students to think logically, relevantly, or even scientifically towards certain cases. The problem to Indonesian students is that they have to be good in English firstly before can go to express their logic, relevant, and scientific arguments. No matter how “deadly” their arguments, if they can't explain those well to the adjudicators, who are set to only understand English, then they can't do debate.

Being able to do debate correctly is useful, even more to University students. Educated people are expected not talk haphazardly. In addition, parliamentary debate competitions have been an ideal stage where educated people prove their existences in battling their knowledge and logical thought. In Indonesia itself, some debate competitions have been held for years. IVED (Indonesia Varsities English Debate) is the biggest national parliamentary debate event, while there are still some of them like JOVED (Java Overland Varsities English Debate), and EJVED (East Java Varsities English Debate).

B. What Differs It from “Debat Kusir”?
Parliamentary debate is a well-organized and systematic debate which means this debate is run under certain rules. The rules may be very complex and will be further discussed on the next chapter. However, knowing slightly about them can be helpful to give clear description of the parliamentary debate.

First, in parliamentary debate, a side is always represented by team (which consists of 2 or 3), never individually, while “debat kusir” may only have one person, or perhaps more. That's why in parliamentary debate, the debating sides are always called team; government or opposition team. Second, “debat kusir” tends to be “wild” where every side can just butt into other talk when there is an inconvenient arguments stated.  Although there is a moderator, but as what can be seen on some facts (on TV programs perhaps) it is not really helpful. Parliamentary debate are different in which there are strict rules regulating the speech order and duration. So, a member of a team will deliver his/her speech in certain minutes, for example, and when he/she is delivering the speech, none of the opposing team member could butt into it. The opposing team member will have the turn to talk after the other team member has finished or reach the time limit. Clearer description can be seen on the next chapter, Figure 1.0. Third, as it is an academic event, parliamentary debate is assessed by referring to three significant aspects; matter, method, and manner (which will be discussed later), with also strict scoring rules and some basic guides. “Debat kusir” is less in assessing standard. In addition, such “debat kusir” is severally intended for non academic purpose.

Parliamentary debate is not just simply opposing the opponent's arguments. It is where the debaters battle their relevant and logical arguments to persuade and provoke the audience, which is expertly represented by the judges, to agree with what they stand for.


C. Basic Rules & Roles
Before going further to the explanation of parliamentary debate rules, it is necessary to know that the following rules are the basic, and it is always possible for the competition holder to add, combine, or modify the rules; but over all it won't go further from this basic.

1. Speech Order
    As stated above, parliamentary debate arranges the order of stating arguments in turn. So, cutting into opponent's talk may not be allowed, except for certain debate styles which allow asking for interruption or POI (of course with some procedure). Look at the figure as description of speech order or talking turn.

Figure 1.0

    There are 2 kinds of speech in the parliamentary debate, substantive and reply speech. Substantive is the main speech where each member of a team can state the arguments and do rebuttals. 7 minutes plus 20 sec. of grace period is given for each substantive speech. In other hand, in reply speech, the replier is not allowed to introduce any new arguments; the replier's job is to summarize the debate; what arguments stated by his/her team and the opponent team so far; then compare them, by still provoking that his/her team arguments are still better and more acceptable. In addition, time limit for reply speech is 5 min. plus 20 sec.
    Note, the members of a team (like first, second, or third) can be named variously based on the debate style. Look at “Debate Style” chapter for clear distinction. Again, 7 minutes for substantive speech, and 5 minutes for reply speech.
   
2. Speaker Roles
     Basically, there are 3 speakers for each team which means 3 substantive speeches. Here is the role of each speaker in his/her substantive speech and reply. Note, this is also a basic regulation. Some debate styles and/or competition holder may compose slightly different speaker roles.

Govt./Affirmative
Opposition/Negative
1st Speaker
- Defining the motion
- Stating team's split
- Proposing arguments
1st Speaker
- Responding govt's definition
- Stating team's split
- Doing rebuttals
- Proposing arguments
2nd Speaker
- Doing rebuttal
- Proposing arguments
2nd Speaker
- Doing rebuttal
- Proposing arguments
3rd Speaker
- Doing rebuttal
- Supporting the stated arguments (no new argument can be made, but new angle are allowed)
3rd Speaker
- Doing rebuttal
- Supporting the stated arguments (no new argument can be made, but new angle are allowed)
Replier
- Summarize the debate
Replier
- Summarize the debate
Table 1.0

     Note, 3rd speakers of each team are not allowed to make new arguments. Also, repliers for each team are taken from the first or second speaker of each team. 


D. The Significant Terms
1. Motion
     Simply, motion can be understood as issue or topic to discuss. The motions are basically proposed in declarative statement. Also, they are usually initialized with abbreviation like THBT (This House Believes That), THW (This House Would), THS (This House Supports), THC (This House Celebrates), or THR (This House Regrets). Term “this house” itself can be referred to the whole govt. which in that case is going to propose a policy or decision; or it can also be referred to any policy maker out of the government if the motion does have no relation with “governmental” things. Since this parliamentary debate is essentially not intended for real parliament which nature is mostly about politics, the topic in the motions can be various; in aspects and level.  Various aspect means that the topic is not only limited in politics; it can be entertainment, sport, education, social, and so on. Various level means that the motion can be very serious, medium, or perhaps light. The level of the motion is usually based on the level of the event, participant, or the need of the debate. Also, in a competition, the motions are commonly served under greater theme (e.g. education, sports, politics, and so on) in which, then, a theme will be chosen, and the two debating teams will take one from the three motions. Here are some examples of motions.

EDUCATION
a. THBT Final Examination Is Not Necessary
b. THBT Homeschooling Is Better for Student
c. THW Prohibit Students to Bring Any Communication Devices in School
ENTERTAINMENT
a. THBT Bollywood Is Better than Hollywood
b. THW Abolish Any Infotainment Programs in TV
c. THW …
SPORTS
a. THW Prioritize Badminton rather than Other Sports.
b. ...

THW Prohibit Students from Wearing Any “Skinny” Trousers.
    
     An important note about motion is that a motion should be debatable and equal. A motion which could possibly insult certain ethnic, religion, race or tradition are strongly not recommended. Equality in a motion is seen whether each affirmative and negative team has relatively equal chance to defend their state. A motion like “THBT Cigarette Is Bad for Health” can be pretty “deadly” for negative team and may lead to non-debatable motion. It will be better if redacted into “THBT Smoking Is a Bad Habit”, or “THW Prohibit Smoking in Public Area”.
     So, how do the two sides act towards the motion? The government/affirmative side, for example, would agree with the motion. Government/affirmative is the one who proposes and defends the motion. A very common statement which usually government/affirmative side has is “We, the affirmative team, totally agree with our motion today, THBT … “, and so on. On the contrary, the opposition/negative team would state their disagreement towards the motion. They refute and negate the motion.  The debate, then, will run to talk about the motion by proposing arguments to support their agreement or disagreement.
     Note, there are two types of motion in a competition; prepared and surprise. Prepared motions are those which have been informed to all debate teams before the event starts; a month before, for example. Surprise or sudden  ̶or which now popular with impromptu ̶ motions are those informed just some minutes before the debate, begins, not before the event.

2. Case Building
     Before starting the debate, the two teams are given certain amount of time (usually 15 minutes) to make preparation, build arguments, or assemble strategies. This is what so-called “case building”.

3. POI (Point of Information)
      Point of Information is similar to asking for interruption. It is not really interruption because permission from the debater who is speaking is needed to propose this POI. Also, there are some procedures for proposing POI. POI can only be asked during 1st to 6th minutes of debater's speech. Some rules may ask the POI requester to stand up on his sit, raise a hand or place a hand on the head, then ask by saying “POI, please”, or “Point of Information”. The debater who is speaking may, then, accept or refuse the POI.
      Note, POI is not always allowed in parliamentary debate. Australian parliamentary debate style, for instance, has no POI, while British style tends to obligate the asking of and answering POIs. Asian styles is more flexible in which the debaters may ask and also refuse the POIs without much effecting on adjudication.   

4. Adjudicator, Adjudication & Verbal Adjudication
     Adjudicators are the judges or juries. It's not an easy matter for being the adjudicators. Adjudicators are expected to know more about debate, have wider knowledge, or even do better in debate.
     Adjudication  is assessing the debate to, then, determine the winning team. Adjudication in the parliamentary debate is very structured. Although subjectivity perhaps influences, but there has been basic standard of what to assess (which will be discussed on the next chapter) and it is arranged in a neat adjudication sheet. So, this adjudication has a record in which the adjudicator(s) always make a note and clear assessing/scoring consideration in the written form.
     Besides the having adjudication sheet which is used as basic appraisal of the parliamentary debate, adjudicator(s) may also give verbal adjudication. It is a direct comment given to both teams about their debate; what are their strength and weakness in that debate, how both teams should argue or rebut towards certain statement of their opponent, and so on. Thus, it is a kind of constructive comments and critics which hopefully can be good inputs for the teams for their further debates. 

5. Status Quo
     Status quo is offered by the opposition/negative side. It is a state when the opposition/negative side thinks that the clamor by government is exaggerated, unnecessary, and even if there was a problem it is already self-correcting. Thus, for the opposition, the motion is unnecessarily to be defended.

E. Debate Styles
Any parliamentary debate styles are basically the same. Although actually there are many  and it is also possible to modify them, but there are some basic styles which are possibly good to know.


1. Asian
     The Asian style calls the teams as Government and Opposition. The members of the government are called Prime Minister (1st speaker), Deputy Prime Minister (2nd), and Government Whip (3rd), while Opposition has Leader of the Opposition (1st), Deputy Leader of the Opposition (2nd), and Opposition Whip (3rd).  This debate style allows debaters to propose POIs, however, in the real practice (especially regional level), many debaters in the debate do not optimize this chance by not proposing or accepting POI(s); and likely the adjudicators see no problem on it.

2. Australian
     Australian parliamentary debate style can be said as the simplest debate style. It consists of two debate teams in which each team consists of 3 speakers. The two sides are called Affirmative and Negative team. The speakers are also simply named based on their position, 1st speaker of the affirmative team, 1st speaker of negative team, and so on until the 3rd speaker. After 3 speakers of each team have delivered their substantive speech,  1st or 2nd speaker of each team can, then, deliver a reply speech. Also, in this Australian style, POI is not allowed.

3. British
     British parliamentary debate style is the most distinct. Although there are still two sides, government and opposition, but the debating teams are four in which a team consists  of 2 members. That's why their roles are split into two categories, those for the Opening factions, and those for the Closing factions. Also, there is no reply speech. Look at the table below.

Opening Government (1st team)
Opening Opposition (2nd team)
Prime Minister
Deputy Prime Minister
Leader of the Opposition
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Closing Government (3rd team)
Closing Opposition (4th team)
Member of the Government
Government Whip
Member of the Opposition
Opposition Whip
Table 2.0

     The first faction on each Government and Opposition team, known as the Opening Factions, has four basic roles in a British parliamentary debate. They must: (a) define the motion of the debate, (b) present their case, (c) respond to arguments of the opposing first faction, and (d) maintain their relevance during the debate. On the other hand, the role of the second two factions, or Closing factions, are to: (a) introduce a case extension, (b) establish and maintain their relevance early in the debate, (c) respond to the arguments of the first factions, and (d) respond to the case extension of the opposing second faction. In addition, the final two speakers of the debate (known as the “whips”) take a similar role to the third speakers in Australian or Asian debating: in which the whips may not introduce any new arguments.* They must respond to both opposing factions' arguments, briefly sum up their Opening Faction's case, and offer a conclusion of their own faction's case extension.
     Note, British parliamentary debate style demands all speakers offer POIs to their oppnents, even, some competition, like World Universities Debating Championship, requires the members to offer and answer at least 2 POIs in each speech turn. 

F. What To Adjudicate?
Adjudication in debate is seen from three aspects; matter, manner, and method. Among those three, matter is the most prioritized and considered aspect in judging the debate and defining the winner. All the aspects are further discussed below based on The Rules and Procedures used in WUDC (World Universities Debating Championship).

1. Matter
     Matter is the content of the speech. It is the arguments a debater uses to further his or her case and persuade the audience. Matter includes arguments and reasoning, examples, case studies, facts and any other material that attempts to further the case. Matter also includes positive (or substantive) material and rebuttal (arguments specifically aimed to refute the arguments of the opposing team).
     Matter should be relevant, logical and consistent. “Relevant” means that it should relate to the issues of the debate: positive material should support the case being presented and rebuttal should refute the material being presented by the opposing team(s). The Member should appropriately prioritize and apportion time to the dynamic issues of the debate. Matter should also be logical. Arguments should be developed logically in order to be clear and well-reasoned and therefore plausible. The conclusion of all arguments should support the member’s case. Consistency means that members should ensure that the matter they present is consistent within their speech, their team and the remainder of the members on their side of the debate.

2. Manner
     Manner is the presentation of the speech. It is the style a member uses to further his or her case and persuade the audience.


Illustration: Only attack your opponent's arguments, not him or her.

     Manner is likely related to styles. The elements of style include eye contact, voice modulation, hand gestures, language, the use of notes and any other element which may affect the effectiveness of the presentation of the member. Eye contact will generally assist a member to persuade an audience as it allows the member to appear more sincere. Voice modulation may assist a member to persuade an audience as the debater may emphasize important arguments and keep the attention of the audience. This includes the pitch, tone, and volume of the member’s voice and the use of pauses. Hand gestures can also help a member to emphasize important arguments. Excessive hand movements may however be distracting and reduce the attentiveness of the audience to the arguments. Language should be clear and simple. Members who use language which is too verbose or confusing may detract from the argument if they lose the attention of the audience. The use of impolite languages also can badly affect the adjudication, or worse cause warning or penalty. Insulting the opponents is also a violation. Debaters can only attack opponents' arguments not opponents themselves. The last, the use of notes is permitted, but members should be careful that they do not rely on their notes too much and detract from the other elements of manner.

3. Method
     Method is all related to the structure and/or organization of the debate. The structure include the structure of the speech of the member and the structure of the speech of the team. The matter of the speech of each member must be structured. The member should organize his or her matter to improve the effectiveness of their presentation. The substantive speech of each members, for example should: (a) include an introduction, conclusion and a series of arguments; and (b) be well-timed in accordance with the time limitations and the need to prioritize and apportion time to matter. Also, the matter of the speech of the team must be structured. The team should organize their matter to improve the effectiveness of their presentation. The team should: (a) contain a consistent approach to the issues being debated; and (b) allocate positive matter to each member where both members of the team are introducing positive matter.





*)    Based on Debatepedia, only opposition whip may not introduce new arguments for his faction, the government's whip may add new positive material as long as it's "small" and does not start a new line of argumentation. This is a relatively new standard that has become the standard at the Worlds University Debating Championship, as well as the European University Debating Championship.

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