What are the different debate formats?
This past week many high school students met to compete at the Model United Nations of Seoul (MUNOS). Model United Nations, while not exactly a debate format, is one of many debate-related events available to secondary (middle school and high school) students in Korea. Today's column is a departure from the traditional debate topic format to highlight some event formats for middle school and high school students. The following list is not exhaustive, but hits upon the most prominent debate events in Korea.
* Parliamentary Debate
Parliamentary debate is the most popular format of debate in Korea. While parliamentary debate tournaments were rare in the past, university debate programs have started hosting high school tournaments to pick up the slack. Parliamentary debate is most commonly a three-on-three format, but there are two-on-two and four-on-four variations. Speakers give lengthy speeches, roughly eight minutes each, except for reply speeches, which are much shorter. A key element of this format is the "point of information." These points are a way that the opposing team can interrupt speeches to ask questions. Roughly half of parliamentary debate rounds are impromptu, meaning that students have only 30 to 60 minutes to prepare for the debate. The top debate tournament in the world for this format is the World Schools Debating Championship. To learn more about this format or this tournament, please visit the WSDC website at http://www.schoolsdebate.com/.
*Public Forum Debate
The second most frequently debated format in Korea is Public Forum. This format is very popular among international schools, as it is a carry-over from America, where many international school teachers are from. Introduced in 2004 here in Korea, Public Forum is a fantastic format to start learning debate. There are no interruptions like in parliamentary debate and no impromptu rounds. The format is two-on-two and after both sides speak there is a shared "crossfire" time in which the two sides go back and forth with questions. The final speech, called "final focus," is a mere minute long and really presses debaters to explain why your team won in that small time. The top debate tournament in the world for this format is the National Forensic League (NFL) national tournament. The folks at the NFL have created a fantastic 16-page document that describes all the ins and outs of the format, which can be found at http://www.nflonline.org/uploads/AboutNFL/cr103pf_instr.pdf/
There are other formats such as Karl Popper, but the two listed above are currently the most frequently practices in Korea, with parliamentary accounting for over half of all debates at the secondary level. If you are interested in debate events in Korea, please email me at the address listed below.
Next week: I am still taking topic recommendations. E-mail me a topic you want to see in this column.
Roger Hatridge coaches Korea's WSDC team and teaches at Leaders Academy and can be reached at Hatridge@gmail.com.