Public Forum Debate

Purpose of Public Forum Debate

Public Forum Debate is a team event that advocates or rejects a position published as a monthly or bi-monthly resolution topic. Each team clashes with the opponents over the ideas for or against the proposition. The students communicate the clash of ideas in a manner persuasive to the non-specialist or “citizen judge,” i.e., a member of the American Jury. The debate should display solid logic, clear reasoning, and depth of analysis. Somewhat different from Policy Debate, the teams do utilize evidence, but it should not drive the discussion.

Public Forum Debate Topic

The topic used by Georgia High Schools is determined by the National Speech and Debate Association and changes each month or every two months. For example, the question at the 2012 NSDA National Championship was – Resolved: Stand Your Ground laws are a legitimate expansion of the doctrine of self-defense.  Click here for current debate topics.

The teams present the clash of ideas by countering/refuting the arguments of the opposing team during rebuttal. Judges determine the winner by assessing reasoning, analysis, clarity, organization, eloquence, and professional etiquette.

Structure of a Public Forum Debate Round

A Public Forum Debate round consists of 8 speeches. The First Pro speech constructs an argument advocating the resolution’s worthiness. The First Con speaker then builds contentions demonstrating the resolution’s disadvantages.

The Third and Fourth Constructive speakers have the burden of refuting the other team’s arguments by analyzing and explaining flaws in the opponent’s position. Also, speakers should allocate some time in either of these speeches to rebuilding the original case. It is essential to have clarity that is seldom attained by an intricate outline. The 3rd and 4th speeches should conclude with a summary.

The Fifth and sixth speeches are Summary Speeches. These are complicated speeches because each debater has to find a way to explain issues in the light of all that has happened so far – in just two minutes – without speaking too rapidly. New evidence, but not new arguments, may be presented, except responses (refutation).

The last seventh and eighth speeches are The Final Focus Speeches—these final speeches frame, with clarity, why your team has won the debate. Again, the debater may not present new arguments. However, new evidence may be introduced to support an argument made earlier in the round.

Crossfire takes place between speakers 1 & 2 and 3 & 4. These questioning periods give debate interactivity and an opportunity to build the clash. In the crossfire, both debaters have equal access to the floor, but the previous speaker from the opposite team needs to ask the first question to the person who just finished speaking. After the initial question and answer, either debater may question or answer the opponent.

Grand Crossfire takes place between the 6th and 7th speakers. While seated, all debaters interact with one another. The opposing team asks the first question to the team that most recently ended its summary. After the initial question and answer, any debater may question or answer, and all should participate.

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