Debate Types & Benefits

Which Debate Has the Longest History?

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Which Debate is Most Popular?

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Which Debate is Most Intense?

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Which Debate Speaks and Writes the Most?

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Which Debate Provides Best Judging?

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Which Debate Awards the Most?

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What is the difference between Public Forum versus Policy?

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    I know many students and parents don’t understand the difference between PF and Policy, so let me try to explain in a simple manner.

    Public Forum debate is rather a recent addition to NSDA, an easier modification of policy debate because too many judges were complaining that they didn’t understand policy debaters, as policy debate – over almost 100 years of U.S. debate history – has become esoteric for average audience. NSDA also needed to make it more inviting for students to start debate, so they created PF debate to lower the bar and the fear factor of beginners.

    PF topic changes every month because it is meant to move quickly from topic to topic, so no need to dig deep, but policy debate topic changes once a year because it is meant to be a deep learning experience. Arguably, one year of policy debate is worth getting 2-3 PHDs as students will research, analyze and debate over thousands, as opposed to hundreds of evidences for PF.

    PF includes 1) current news, 2) historical background, 3) politics, 4) argumentation with logic and verbal skills.

    Compare this with Policy debate that includes, everything PF does 1,2,3,4 and

    5) law making process in Congress, Senate, executive branch;

    6) budget and funding policies and execution for federal and state governments;

    7) theory arguments about all aspects of policy debate such as counterplans; and

    8) psychology + philosophy from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Derrida, Virillo, Wilderson, Neoliberalism, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Schmitt, Lacan, Foucault, Baudrillard, and every ancient and contemporary philosopher you have ever heard will be taught.

    So to simply put, there is no “ism” in PF, as everything is simple and it is about what is happening TODAY, but in policy debate, there is a lot of Ph.D. level “isms.” For example, ableism, anthropocentrism, biopolitics, capitalism, colonialism, Eurocentrism, exceptionalism, false heroism, feminism, imperialism, objectivism, orientalism, monologism, racism, subjectivism, territorialism, transhumanism, lately model minority (about Asian Americans) are taught and debated in policy debate under the argument title of “Kritik.”

    While colleges recognize top PF debaters favorably and admit them more to their campuses at a higher rate compared to other extracurricular activities, debate scholarships are almost solely given to policy students, not PF students, because in the U.S. collegiate level, it is policy that is more widely practiced, not PF. ADL’s current coaches Tyler, Brennan, Dylan, Andrew, and former coaches Julian and Mike were also recipients of college policy debate scholarships, and ADL is extremely lucky to have such top policy coaches.

    Because I insisted and I personally love policy debate, ADL is the ONLY place you can learn policy in the entire Asian continent: There is no policy debate in China, Japan, and Korea because they believe it is too difficult for Asians. Another reason why they don’t want to teach policy in any other part of Asia is because policy is less profitable for business minded institutions because it requires more expensive coaches, judges, research time, and all else.

Is it more difficult to win in the U.S. with policy debate?

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    No, opposite is true.

    First, policy debate is a smart choice because the chance of winning with policy is higher as too many kids are now doing PF in the U.S. because PF is much easier.

    Second, for PF, speaking ability is more emphasized and in policy intelligence is more emphasized. So in a nutshell, PF is more for native kids who can speak fluently and policy is more suitable for Asians who may not speak eloquently, but can argue points strategically.

    Third, judges for PF are least impressive – any average individuals or even parents, anyone without any debate experience. But for policy, they cannot do that, so they hire the best judges who understand policy, so the judging is not so much based on luck, but merit.

    In sum, there is less chance your kids can win doing PF in the US, while there is a bigger chance your kids can win in Policy. There are just way too many PF kids in the US – too competitive.

    So, you might ask what about Benson, Eric. Kelly, Allen, and Brandon who won in PF debate at TOC in 2016, 2017, and 2018? Well, actually they were all policy debaters who temporarily switched to PF, so they were exceptional in strategies and rebuttal skills. This proves, even PF debate, at its highest circuit such as TOC, is more policy-like, requiring more evidence and real debate skills as opposed to mere flowery persuasion.

    POLICY WINNING RECORDS PROVE

    2020 Proof: Grade 6 Draven and Jordan are the youngest Novice Policy Champions of California Peninsula High School Tournament! See Results

    2019 Proof: ADL policy middle school students have won the Michigan High School Tournament! See Results

    2019 Proof: 1 ADL policy team went and broke at Yale (Fiona/Jenny), and team broke! See Results

    2019 Proof: All policy teams broke, and Champions were ADL students! See Results

    2018 Proof: Most of policy teams win at Stanford and Berkeley! See Results

    2018 Proof: Policy debaters amazing accomplishments at Gonzaga! See Results

    2018 Proof: All policy teams broke, and Champions were ADL students! See Results

    2018 Proof: All policy teams won, while all PF teams lost! See Results

    2014 Proof: Look at this! 16 PF kids ALL LOST and 6 policy kids ALL WON! See Results

What about MUN?

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    There are many benefits to MUN.

    1. Broadens Students’ International Perspectives: “If chosen,” students are assigned to become delegates of various countries and speak on behalf of the given nation in public. This helps students broaden their understandings about international relations and different cultures.

    2. Get to Travel and Meet Foreign Students: By attending the annual “conferences,” students can meet other students from other parts of the world. Students also gain a cultural experience by traveling.

    3. Participate in Decision Making Process: Because it is student governed, students have chance to participate in different committees and engage in decision making process, enhancing their social and political skills.

    4. Develop Writing & Leadership Skills: This is a direct quote from a student who has benefited much by the MUN program. “I think that MUN shows one’s leadership and public speaking skills, demonstrates a student’s willingness to try new things, and underlines any student’s writing abilities.”

    However, MUN is not a debate activity, but a student-governed speech club, so it is not as intensive and structured as other nationally recognized activities.

    1. Not Enough Time to Speak: One committee can consist of as little as 10 delegates, while a large committee can be gathered together in one room with up to 100 delegates, but all delegates are given around 1-2 minutes to speak per a session. Therefore, for the same amount of time as any debate tournament (2-3 days), the majority of the students end up speaking less than a few minutes throughout the entire conference.

    2. Discussions Cannot Go Deep Enough: Although there is no officially specified number of sessions (rounds), there are usually about three topics and each topic can be considered one session. Mostly, the chairs will get a specific amount of time allotted to each topic and they are debated equally. Often, however, there are delays due the sheer number of delegates in one room, so the topics are not given enough time on the floor to be sufficiently talked about, especially when all the delegates want to speak at the same time.

    3. Resolution Supports the Status Quo, so Lacks Critical Thinking: In debate, pro teams argue about ways to change the status quo and con teams oppose the change; but, the opposite is true for MUN. All delegates support the stance of country they represent, neither do they refute the positions of other delegates. As a result, less critical thinking is required, other than persuasion, acceptance, and diplomacy.

    4. Favoritism: All delegates are chosen but more “popular” delegates receive more opportunities to speak, especially when the chair has the authority to choose in a room of over 40-50 kids wanting to speak. Thus, favoritism adds up, and hardly any conference offers everyone a fair shot.

    5. No Professional Training: Because it is student governed, kids teach each other. There is no professional speech or debate coach assigned for MUN. Therefore, usually the older students mentor the younger ones.

    6. Hard to Verify Accomplishments: Even if you are in the travelling team, it is hard to document on a college application. Because there are no winners or losers in MUN, colleges are clueless to each student’s actual “skill level.” Even if you were awarded the “Best Delegate,” how can you prove it was legitimate when students judge each other, and favoritism plays a big role? In fact, since MUN is what everyone does, how can you stand out in the crowd? For instance, if all 200 seniors in a given school put MUN as their speech experience in their application, how would the college admissions verify and screen out the best ones from this school?

    In short, consider the huge speech time gap between MUN and debate per each day. In MUN, your child is guaranteed to speak for about 2-4 minutes and listen to other delegates for either an entire or a half day. In contrast, in one day of policy debate (usually 4 rounds), your child alone (aside from his partner) speaks about 64 minutes and writes their rebuttals for 200 mins during theirs plus their opponents’ speech times. So, compare this to MUN which permits 2-4 minutes of scripted-speaking without needing to write or prep their next rebuttals: Which will improve your child’s critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills more?

If one chooses policy, does that mean one must quit Public Forum debate?

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    Policy kids don’t quit PF, but they do both, just like Eric, Benson, Kelly, Brandon, Allen, Brian, Ginny, and the two Kevins. Policy kids find PF very easy to do temporarily for NSDA China, Korea, or Japan tournaments, but PF kids can NEVER suddenly change to policy.

    Vice versa for debate coaches: Policy coach can teach any form of debate because policy encompasses all other forms of debate, but PF coach cannot coach policy. This is why, once you have done policy, coaching MUN, World Scholar, Parliamentary, or any other format is easy for a policy coach, as there is no other debate more fully developed, more complex, and more challenging than policy debate. Policy debaters and coaches are at the top of debate practice and expertise, respectively.

What Are Unique Benefits to Policy Debate?

Answers from the TOC Director Dave Arnett:

    Below is a summary of Dave Arnett’s words on three occasions: a) private dinner, b) public presentation at the NSDA TW Invitational, and c) Q & A meeting with 15 parents.

    1. For 80 years in the US, there was only policy, the oldest classic US style debate. All other types of debates – PF, LD, WSD – came later as an easier entry level debate to policy to attract more students.

    2. Therefore, most of the research done on the benefits of debate is from the policy debate data. For example, 6 out of 9 Supreme justices were policy debaters, Hillary Clinton was a policy debater, etc., and etc.; the list would be too long.

    3. Policy is the debate for the elite – the smartest and the best debaters because of its intensity and difficulty.

    4. Policy is the predominant debate format in college level; there is NO Public Forum, NO Lincoln Douglas in college, except a smaller circuit in WSD (Parliamentary) as an extra-curricular alternative at a school club level for students without high school debate background.

    5. Only policy debates are recruited as a member of a “core” college program akin to college football, basketball, etc.

    6. On a personal level, Dave has never recruited PF and LD debaters to his college program because of the huge skill gap between the highest forms of policy versus the other types of debates. He says he feels bad when some of the top high school PF debaters seek a college debate team position because he simply cannot afford the time to teach and convert PF debaters to policy. While policy debaters converting to other types of debate are easy because policy is the most comprehensive, developed form of debate, the opposite is not practical, meaning it is too difficult for high school PF or LD debaters to do policy at college level, so they are not recruited.

    7. His friend, Harvard University debate coach and him travel often to prominent high school debate tournaments to recruit and give scholarships, and they have NEVER gone to PF or LD buildings, but only exclusively to policy debate buildings in search of bright students.

    8. LD Debate is not recommended. He and many college recruiters prefer team debaters as opposed to LD debaters. LD debaters come off as “intelligent but either selfish or socially dysfunctional” and college recruiters prefer debaters who have overcome the interpersonal challenges and rewards that come with team debates such as policy.

    9. For all the reasons above, thriving policy debate at high school level is of particular interest to colleges because without high school policy, there will be no college policy, meaning colleges love and give preference entry to high school students with policy debate experience.

    10. The new SAT was designed by a former policy debate TOC champion, David Coleman, who disliked students only excelling in test taking strategies, but fail in critical thinking. Therefore, policy debate is designed to prepare the students to excel in SAT exams, as everything is now “evidence-based” critical thinking on the spot.

    11. A Strong background in policy debate gets you almost automatic entry to the most prominent law firms in the U.S. as well as other politically and socially prominent positions.

Why is Policy the Most Powerful Debate?

Answers from the Harvard Debate Director Tripp Rebrovick:

    Below is a summary of Tripp Rebrovick’s words from the video and with the dinner with the parents.

    1. Tripp says the Harvard admissions know that “MUN is not debate. Harvard MUN, Yale MUN, and all those college MUNs plus even the college Parliamentary debates are student-organized club activity 1) without a professional coaching, and 2) without a school budget nor staff status.

    2. Therefore, most of the research done on the benefits of debate is from the policy debate data. For example, 6 out of 9 Supreme justices were policy debaters, Hillary Clinton was a policy debater, etc., and etc.; the list would be too long.

    3. Only policy debate is recognized as the most preferred form in admissions because it is the job of their collegiate policy coach – who is a school staff thus works closely with the admissions – to promote and defend applicants with policy debate experience.

    4. Most policy coaches have a strong influence in the admissions, except Harvard; a few such schools are Emory, Michigan, Northwestern, USC, Georgetown, UC Berkeley, Dartmouth, Kansas, UK – just in one breath, but there are about 70 colleges in total who strongly prefer policy debaters. Ultimately, there is no PF or LD debate in college; it’s either school sponsored “policy” (original US style) or student sponsored “parliamentary” (British style) at a collegiate level.