Debate Team

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The Carleton Debate Team is an extracurricular activity fostering public and persuasive speaking via argumentation. Anyone interested in debate should attend meetings at the beginning of the school year, though newcomers are welcome throughout the season.

Supported Events

Currently, Carleton competes in Parliamentary Debate. There has been discussion in the past of branching out into IEs (speaking events)-- student interest in this will be gauged at the start of the debate season.

Parliamentary Debate

Parli is team debate simulating parliament; that is, two teams, each comprised of two people, take different sides of an issue (called the Resolution). The winning team is decided by a judge, or panel of judges, based primarily upon the quality of argumentation but sometimes also on rhetorical style. Carleton competes in the NPDA circuit and generally practices this style of parli.


The resolution generally starts with "This house," followed by a statement of belief or policy. These beliefs or policies often reference current events and can range from the serious to the silly to the ambiguous. Every round has a new resolution. Examples:

  • This house would pull out of Iraq
  • This house believes that Minnesota should secede from the United States and join Canada
  • This house would emulate the French

Some tournaments may also include resolutions in a "value" style ("This house believes civil liberties ought to be valued over national security") or a "fact" style ("This house believes the Republicans will take back the Senate in 2010"), but these are increasingly less common at most levels of competition.

Debate Format

The most common format for NPDA-style parliamentary debates to take is that of a simulated parliament, debating a plan to implement some change in policy of the body the parliament governs. The team supporting the resolution is called the Government team, with the first speaker being the Prime Minister and the second speaker being the Member of Government. The opposing team is the Opposition team, the first speaker being the Leader of Opposition and the second speaker being the Member of Opposition. The Government team generally begins by specifying a house of parliament (or simply "house"-- essentially, the government or body they are assuming the role of) and supports the resolution by presenting their plan. This plan may not uphold the resolution in its entirety but will usually provide an instance of its affirmation. The opposition also role-plays as the opposing coalition in the specified house. Teams receive the resolution only fifteen minutes before the round, and must use only this time to prepare the format and arguments. No printed materials are permitted in the round except for handwritten materials prepared during the fifteen-minute prep and, at some tournaments, a copy of the NPDA Rules for Debating. Debaters are expected to rely on common knowledge and analysis rather than printed evidence.

Time Scheme

The resolution is announced at the beginning of the round. Then, the two teams have 15 minutes of prep time, in which the Government team writes their plan and the Opposition team brainstorms how to defeat the Government. In the actual debate, the time scheme is as follows:

  • 7 minutes: Prime Minister's Constructive. The PM lays out the basic plan supporting the resolution.
  • 8 minutes: Leader of Opposition's Constructive. The LO gives reasons for opposing the Government plan.
  • 8 minutes: Member of Government's Constructive. The MG refutes the points given by the LO and rebuilds the Government plan.
  • 8 minutes: Member of Opposition's Constructive. The MO refutes the MG's constructive speech.
  • 4 minutes: Leader of Opposition's Rebuttal. The LO summarizes why the Opposition team should win the debate. No new arguments are allowed.
  • 5 minutes: Prime Minister's Rebuttal. The PM summarizes why the Government team should win the debate. Generally new arguments are frowned upon although some judges will permit brief responses to points that were new in the Member of Opposition's Constructive.

Questions (also called Points of Information) can be asked during any constructive speech, after the first minute and before the last minute, but may be refused by the speaker who holds the floor.


Debate practices begin in September, with tournaments starting in October. The season runs through Spring Break and is particularly active during Winter Term. The team also meets to discuss business during spring term although less frequently. The practice schedule is current, as of Fall term, 2008.


  • Tuesdays, 9:00 pm, Leighton 304
  • Thursdays, 9:30 pm, Leighton 304


Carleton Debate attends tournaments both in- and out-of-state and also participates in the National Parliamentary Debate Association's (NPDA) Nationals tournament over Spring Break. We generally send between two and four parli teams to tournaments. Most tournaments take place on Friday and Saturday, though Bethel University in Mankato, MN hosts several Tuesday afternoon tournaments.

Tournaments traditionally attended

  • Double-up Swing at Creighton University in Omaha, NE (Fall)
  • Vocal Viking at Bethel University in Mankato, MN (Fall)
  • This House Believes That Classic (THBT) in Minnesota (Fall)
  • Parliamentary League of the Upper Midwest (PLUM) at Bethel University in Mankato, MN (Tuesday afternoons, Fall and Winter)
  • Sleet and Sun at Concordia University in Seward, NE (Winter)
  • Ice Box Classic at St. Cloud State in St. Cloud, MN (Winter)
  • Gorlok Gala at Webster University in St. Louis, MO (Winter)
  • Minnesota State tournament at varying locations in Minnesota (Winter)
  • NPDA Nationals at varying locations across the country (end of Spring break)


Carleton Debate is a completely student-run organization and is headed by several officers, elected at the end of each season or modified as necessary through the course of the year. Debate suffered a slump in the 2004-2005 school year but was revived by the Army of One, also known as Jeremy Lyon '06, in the 2005-2006 school year. Since this renaissance, the leadership structure has changed along with the growing needs of the team. Such changes are, like the officer elections themselves, subject to a vote of the participating members of the team.




  • Coach: David Schraub '08. In charge of the debate aspect of the team-- teaching, critiquing, etc.
  • Captain/Secretary: Bob Keating '09. Serves as proxy for the Coach at debate meets and also takes care of administrative details.
  • Treasurer: Broderick Dressen '09. In charge of finances, including going to the CSA with funding requests


External Links