2013-2014 Will Be A Pivotal Debate Year, Part 1 of 3

Vienna Debate Workshop-Finale
Vienna Debate Workshop-Finale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This upcoming season of competitive debating is going to be one to remember. And we won't even have to try.

I haven't posted here in quite a long time. I've had a lot of stuff going on in my life and really didn't have much time for writing. Hopefully I will now be posting here once a week, and possibly more as the tournament season gets underway here in the U.S.  

This first post is an examination of why I think this year is historically significant for debaters. Debaters not just in the United States, but worldwide.  Over the next few posts I'll explain three of these reasons for why I think we will look back at this year as historically significant in the future.

There are a lot of changes. Debate is in flux in the U.S., at every level. It's an exciting time if you know how to look at it. For a lot of people, these changes are probably a bit disconcerting if not frightening.

This first post is focused on the United States, and why 2013-14 is going to be significant there.

Welcome to the World

Debate is finally becoming a global activity in the United States. Although we have a long history of international debating here, it has always been outside of the tournament or competitive frame. Since the 1920s, British debaters have journeyed to the U.S. to take a national tour, stopping along the way for local color as well as to take on the local college's best debaters. This tour still continues to this day, but now it sits along side the arrival of many international options. The Americans have been getting a slow and steady taste of international debating, but this is the year it is going to go from appetizer to main course.

This summer at the national championship, the National Forensic League held an invitational round robin tournament using the World Schools debating format. Although this was an invitation only event in Alabama, the event was held in order to introduce high school coaches, teachers, and debaters to the new format they hope to roll out nationally starting soon. The past two years I have taught at the Houston Urban Debate League summer camp, helping to teach people this format last year for the first time. This year I heard so many stories of enthusiasm for it from teachers and students – and that it has taken off with enormous popularity. World Schools debating is practiced globally – and it is the format for the world championships held annually between nations.

I predict 2013-14 will be remembered as the year where World Schools was introduced, and in turn introduced American debaters to a whole new world of international competition. I don't think it will replace any High School formats that are loved by many, but I do think it will give these formats a run for their money. World Schools debating will introduce the first generation of American debaters to the international style of debating not just as observers, as through watching a tour debate, but as participants.

But furthermore, at the collegiate level, I believe this will be the first group of debaters in University who will experience a very different tournament environment than the one they do as first years. If their tournaments only offer one format of debating, this is going to change over the next four years. And these first year students are going to be the last group to start under an old system and move toward a new one. 


At the University level, the popularity of British Parliamentary or Worlds debating is gaining a lot of momentum. Southern schools are going to start picking it up as it begins to spread. The more schools who are doing the format increases the chances that there will be tournaments held in that format in those regions. Other southern powerhouses are interested in exploring Worlds debating as a way of allowing graduate students and law students to compete. I think this year is the year where we will start to see all of these things rising, and in a few years we will look back to this year as the moment when it all started to change.

Of course, many reading this who are from the traditional debating formats in the U.S. might be concerned about what will happen to those formats. In the next post, I'll explain why the arrival of new and popular formats that offer things the old formats can't offer are actually helped by this development.
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