How to Judge
Overview of Parliamentary Debate
Parliamentary debate is an extemporaneous contest of wit and rhetorical skill which is based on the British parliamentary system. Teams compete either as the Government, which decides the topic of the debate, or the Opposition, which argues against the government's case. The moderator, or Judge, is referred to throughout the round as Mr. or Madam Speaker of the House.
Organization of a Debate Round
Before a round actually begins, resolutions, or statements upon which the Government teams are supposed to base their cases, are read to the participants en masse in a meeting commonly referred to as the General Assembly. After hearing the resolutions, teams move to the rooms in which they will be debating, and the Government side has ten minutes from that point to prepare a case. Both teams should put their team name and speaker names on the board. While the government prepares, the judge should copy this information onto the ballot. When the government is finished preparing, they should write the resolution on the board as well.
In a debate round there are 6 speeches: four constructive speeches and two rebuttals. The order is as follows:
- Prime Minister (PM) - 7 minutes
- Leader of the Opposition (LO) - 8 minutes
- Member of the Government (MG) - 8 minutes
- Member of the Opposition (MO) - 8 minutes
- Leader of the Opposition (LO) - 4 minutes
- Prime Minister (PM) - 5 minutes
The constructive speeches introduce the case and arguments for and against it. In the rebuttals, no new arguments may be presented - only responses to previous ones or new examples. The debaters should be prepared to time themselves, leaving the judge free to pay close attention to the debate itself. The judge should keep track of time, though, to prevent any discrepancy.
For each round of a tournament, two resolutions - one straight and the other linkable - will be presented. When formulating its case, the government team needs to use one of the two resolutions as a starting point for the debate. The straight resolution is intended to be debated as is - an example would be ``Bill Clinton should not be reelected to the Presidency in 1996.'' Linkable resolutions, on the other hand, are intentionally vague, and the government is expected to link the given resolution to a debatable case. The quality of the link is not really considered to be a voting issue, but some attempt to connect the case at hand with the original linkable resolution is expected. There are three types of cases which are not allowed under American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) rules. They are cases demonstrating specific knowledge on the part of the government, truisms, and tautologies. Brief definitions of each:
- Specific Knowledge: Debate cases must consist of reasonably general knowledge. Teams should not run cases that presuppose a very high level of knowledge of a subject. However, specific cases can be run if the government provides, in its opening, the necessary details of a case, or if that which is debated is the broad, philosophical value of a specific case.
- Truisms: A case is a truism if it proposes something no reasonable human being could oppose. An example would be ``racism is bad.''
- Tautologies: A case is a tautology if it is defined in such a manner that it proves itself. A classic example is ``Coke is it'' - Coke is a soft drink and ``it'' can refer to a soft drink, so therefore, Coke is it.
It is important to remember that the burden of identifying these types of cases lies with the opposition team. For example, if a judge is absolutely convinced that the government is running a truism, that opinion cannot enter into his or her decision unless the opposition calls the case a truism. Occasionally, the government will opt to run a time-space case. In a time-space scenario, the government debates an historical event from the perspectives of the people who were originally involved. For instance, the government might assign the judge the role of Adolf Hitler in 1938 and try to convince him or her not to invade Poland. In time-space cases, neither side is allowed to draw upon knowledge that would not have been available at the time in which the case has been set. Often, the opposition will try to win a case not by simply arguing that what is proposed by the government is bad, but rather by proposing another solution to the problem the government is trying to solve. Such a response is called a countercase, and for the opposition to win with it, the countercase must meet two criteria. First, it must solve the original problem and be a better solution than the one proposed by the government (the proposal must be net-beneficial). Second, it must be impossible to implement both the government and opposition solutions at the same time (the proposal must be mutually exclusive). It is the government's job to show that a countercase does not meet these criteria.
Points in a Debate
At most APDA-sanctioned tournaments, three basic points, which may be brought up by a member of one team while a member of the other is speaking, will be allowed: Points of Information, Points of Personal Privilege, and Points of Order. Brief descriptions of each:
- Points of information are interjections designed to raise a point of importance or correct a member speaking. They may not be made during rebuttals or in the first and last minutes of a speech, and should not exceed 20 seconds in length. The decision on whether or not to accept a point of information is left to the individual speaking, though it is good etiquette for debaters to accept one or two points during a round. Points of information are welcomed at most tournaments, but teams deciding not to use them will not be penalized.
- Points of order are used by teams when they feel a breach in house rules has been committed (i.e. new arguments in a rebuttal). It is the Speaker's responsibility to acknowledge points of order and to rule on their validity. If the Speaker feels that the point raised is a legitimate one, he or she says ``Point well taken,'' and the time used in making the point is deducted from the clock. If, however, the Speaker does not feel the point is valid, he or she says ``Point not well taken,'' and no time is deducted.
- Points of personal privilege are used when a debater misrepresents another's remarks or insults someone's character. It is the Speaker's responsibility to decide on the legitimacy of points of personal privilege.
Responsibility of the Judge
The judge is called the Speaker of the House and is the moderator of the debate. The Speaker runs the debate. To begin a round, the judge asks if both teams are ready, and then says:
``I call this house to order and recognize the Prime Minister (PM) to deliver a speech not to exceed 8 minutes on the resolution ......................... ''
After the PM finishes the judge says,
''I thank the Prime Minister and now call upon the Leader of the Opposition to deliver an eight minute speech against the proposition.''
After the LO finishes the judge says,
``I thank the Leader of the Opposition andnow call upon the Member of Government to deliver an eight minute speech reaffirming the Government's position.''
After the MG finishes the judge says,
``I thank the Member of Government for his/her remarks and now recognize the Member of Opposition for the last constructive speech of the debate.''
After the MO finishes the judge says,
``I thank the Member of Opposition and now call upon the Leader of the Opposition to deliver a four minute rebuttal reminding him/her that no new arguments may be presented but new examples are welcome.''
After the LO rebuttal the judge says,
``I thank the Leader of the Opposition and recognize the Prime Minister to deliver the final four minute rebuttal reminding him/her as well that no new arguments may be presented.''
This Judges script is only a GUIDE. Judges should not read straight from this script, as it makes the judge look inexperienced. At the end of the round the judge should thank both teams. Under NO circumstances is the judge to reveal his or her decision to the debaters. The judge should make his or her decision as soon as possible and return the white form to the judges room immediately with the point totals. Failure of even one judge to do this can hold up the entire tournament. After handing in the white form, the judge should write comments on the ballots and then return the pink and yellow ballots to the judges room.
Deciding the Round
After the debate, it is the Speaker's responsibility to decide which team won the round. It is important for judges not to let personal experience, personal analysis, or bias enter into their decisions. It is frequently helpful for judges to take notes during the round, so that afterwards, they have a detailed account of the arguments which were presented and how (or if) they were refuted. This is called a flow, and debaters may ask you to refer to it during their speeches. In making a decision, judges should realize that to win, the government need not construct a totally foolproof case. It is easier to destroy than to construct a case, and no team can formulate a perfect solution to a given problem in ten minutes. After deciding on a winner, judges rank the debaters in the round from 1 (the best) to 4 (the worst) and assign speaker points.
Point Scale Guideline
Here is a good guideline for assigning speaker points:
18 - Minimum score for showing up
19 - Several glaring deficiencies and generally poor job
20 - Passable with a few major problems
21 - Still not a good speech; a valiant attempt
22 - Just below average
23 - Average speech; No glaring flaws or major problems
24 - Slightly above average, but solid
25 - Good speech, solid overall, and excelling in one area
26 - Very good speech; articulate and intelligent
27 - Excellent speech; outstanding delivery and analysis
28 - Phenomenal speech; leaves a solid, lasting impression
29 - Absolutely tremendous; flawless; best speech of the year or decade
30 - Best speech of the century; reserved for Socrates and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Scores below 21 are rare as are scores above 27. Judges must talk to the Tournament Director before giving a score of 28 or above in a preliminary round. After assigning each speaker his or her total points, add the two speaker's points for each team together to get a team total. The team with the higher points will win. If there is a tie, the round goes to Opposition. Judges are highly discouraged from having ties.