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Summary of Parliamentary Debate

Collegiate parliamentary debate is a rhetorical exercise in which two teams, the affirmative and negative, offer competing policy proposals about the “resolution,” a stated course of action that typically relates to a contentious current issue.

The affirmative team, composed of a prime minister and member of government, is tasked with affirming the resolution by developing a specific plan that adheres to the natural bounds created by the resolution and would create tangible benefits if implemented.

The negative team, composed of a leader of opposition and member of opposition, has two avenues it can pursue. They can choose to either advocate for the status quo, promoting the idea that no change to current policy is best, or present a “counterplan,” a policy proposal that is both different from and preferable to the affirmative’s plan.

Parliamentary debate rounds include six total speeches, offering each team equivalent and adequate time to advance their arguments and rebut those of their opponents. Rounds are observed by an independent judge who is responsible for declaring a winner and evaluating the performance of each individual speaker.

Typically, the winning team is the one that offers the most beneficial course of action, meaning one that stands to create the best possible world through realistic and impactful advantages. However, in certain instances, rounds can be won by teams that improve the debate community as a whole by promoting better mindsets and questioning problematic assumptions. This form of critical debate is becoming increasingly popular in the debate world.