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Introduction to Policy Debate

'Introduction to Policy Debate'
Introduction to Policy Debate By John R. Prager INTRODUCTION To the debater: This text developed in response to the needs of my own students during my tenure as a coach of a small school in Michigan. The book has grown and developed over the years as various fashions developed, flourished, and were succeeded in turn by the “next new thing.“ You should keep in mind that the style of debate discussed here may vary from what takes place in your locale. Your coach is the best guide to what theory prevails in your debating area. Nevertheless, I believe that everything in this book is reasonably accurate in depicting contemporary debate theory. As you will become aware, certain theoretical issues are far from settled among experts, and I have tried to note where serious disagreements exist. In addition, modern debate theory is increasingly plastic and mutable. Experienced debaters may wish to gather quotations from notable experts to justify the theoretical positions they want to advance. But it is more desirable to understand theoretical issues and argue their merits, rather than to rely on assertions from experts as to which theory should be preferred. This textbook should not be quoted as a definitive source to “prove“ a particular element of debate theory, since there is no such thing as definitive debate theory. Chapter 1 The Nature of Debate What is debate? In its essentials, debate is an extended argument. Two groups of people dispute whether a statement is true or false. The Affirmative team in the round supports the statement, while the Negative team opposes it. Once all the arguments have been put forth, an impartial judge decides the matter in favor of one team or the other. The decision is based only on the material presented during the debate.the judge’s personal feelings do not enter into his decision. What’s really being decided is not whether the statement — usually called the resolution, proposition, or topic — is true or false, but which team is better able to sustain its arguments. What sort of things are debated? There are three types of statements that are suitable for argumentation. The simplest are propositions of fact. Debates of this sort hinge on whether something is true or false; often they try to establish a cause and effect relationship. Of course, some propositions of fact are so simple that there are no grounds for argument among reasonable people: “The sun rose at 6:15 this morning“ is such a statement; it would not require great persuasive skill to prove this either true or false. Other propositions of fact are less easily determined, and thus are more suitable for debate: “Lizzie Borden killed her parents,“ for example, or the statement that “Rock music leads to devil worship.“ Evidence is available for both sides in these matters. The chief place where propositions of fact are disputed are in courts of law. There the defense and the prosecution argue whether a certain person is guilty of disobeying a particular law.
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