Debate requires much more than speaking skills

By June Peers

The Debate Team has an upcoming tournament at UC Berkeley on the weekend of February 25-27.  Our debaters have grown so much throughout this year, we are confident that the team will come back from the tournament with many shiny new trophies. A large part of this is because of how much goes into being a debater.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate goes beyond just general speaking abilities.  It also requires research, strategy, and improvisation.  Without those three main components, you have a slim chance of getting the judge’s vote.

Lincoln-Douglas is a form of debate that allots 13 minutes of speaking and three minutes of cross-examination to each debater.  At the beginning of the debate, each debater must read a case that outlines what their argument is founded upon, for instance, morality, and evidence that upholds that value.  During cross-examination, the debater can question their opponent’s case while pointing out flaws in their value and supporting evidence.  As the debate progresses, the debater must find a balance between both offense and defense in order to prove that voting for the opposing side causes the most harm.  At the end of the round, the judge votes for whoever best upholds their value.

As challenging as that sounds, there’s another aspect of Debate that causes the debater to analyze the resolution to an even greater degree.  Since the debater has to alternate sides for each round, they must prepare for both sides of the debate. 

It can be challenging to argue for a side the debater disagrees with, especially since judges may already have a bias that favors the opposing side.  For instance, I had to argue against single-payer healthcare and open borders, both Negative arguments.  Though I believe some judges voted against me since they were too easily influenced by their own beliefs, it feels incredibly rewarding to win with an unpopular opinion.

Members of  Debate attend meetings every Tuesday and Wednesday and a competition once a month.  At the start of each semester, a new topic is announced.  Since the debater does not know what arguments their opponent will make, this requires lengthy research of all aspects surrounding the issue.

To fully understand the issue at hand, debaters must research previous historical events to support their claims.  For instance, if the debater is discussing circular migration, they must research policies that were enacted that allowed circular migration and explore how these policies benefited immigrants.  

Though it is essential to have judicious arguments, confidence plays an important role in swaying the judge’s vote which is demonstrated through speaker points.  Speaker points allow for all of the debaters to be ranked, and sometimes, the number of speaking points the debater earns can determine whether they go to finals or not.  This in turn has inspired many students to step out of their comfort zone and gain better public speaking skills. 

“Since joining Debate, I have learned how to make meaningful arguments by building links between different ideas.  Also, creating six-minute speeches with only one minute of preparation requires you to think critically and speak confidently,” sophomore Drishti Saha said.