Competitive Dialogue

Debate911 is an experiment that grafts elements of dialogue and diplomacy into traditional academic debate. My motivations for this project can be found here and here. Like most experiments, I expect some failures and frustration. But we learn from mistakes. As Winston Churchill said, “success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” I am committed to raising the standards of academic debate for future leaders. But I am also asking some tough questions.
Should we attempt to combine elements of dialogue into competitive debate? Is “competitive dialogue” an oxymoron? Is “skillful compromise” beyond the scope of academic debate? Can a form of debate be created where partial collaboration is encouraged and rewarded? The Debate911 project attempts to answer these questions by considering new forensic models which seek ways to bridge competition with cooperation, ultimately providing students with more complete toolss and skills for healthier politics and global citizenry.

Competitive Dialogue

In all forms of traditional debate, judges are trained to reward organization and preparation, clarity, relevancy, delivery and poise, teamwork and effective refutation. Competitive Dialogue rewards similar criteria, but adds incentives and rewards for demonstration of empathic and perceptive listening, strategic compromise and diplomatic discrimination. I believe that any traditional debate format can be altered to promote elements of measured accommodation. I will continue to add new ideas to Debate911 for alternative forms of participative debate. Others reading this are also encouraged to add their ideas. Here are some initial ideas.

Multi-Way Free-Form

Multi-way Dialectic is a format in which four participants are given a topic of discussion, such as a policy proposal or resolution. Topic is released weeks in advance of the competition and participants allowed to prepare. Unlike Congress style debate, participants are not forced to pick between total “Affirmation” or “Negation” but instead reflect four distinct emphases that combine into a layered contrast of opinions. Additionally, scoring incentive for strategic alliance would be included. Each member is encouraged to ally and find a shared opinion with another on a topic  where they both can find compromise. This allows for partial alliances and encourages participants to uncover and promote similarities, while countering differences. In addition to normal win-lose debate scoring, judges award points for the most effective allegiances. The Multi-Way format reflects a healthy model for policy discussions at the committee level.

Single Point Congress

In Congress Debate, participants take one side of a bill, affirmative or negative, but usually come prepared to debate either side. Participants are judged on eloquence and poise, logical arguments, thoughtful organization and preparation, extemporaneous ability and quality of questioning. There is no incentive for compromise or dialogue. In Single Point Congress, new judging criteria will reward participants who most effectively integrate a single point or partial point from the opposition. The highest scores will be given to participants whose single point argument strikes the best balance or realistic compromise between the affirmative and negative positions. A single point event will normally occur in later rounds. Single point is not the same as the Congress amendment process, which is a rare request for a blanket change in the original intent of the bill, impacting all participants. Single Point trains debaters for real world politics in which creative and thoughtfully balanced concessions must be achieved to create bills that can become law.

Objective Compromise Debate

Objective Compromise is a real-world political simulation where participants would be supplied with a number of different assets and a short list of objectives. Each asset would be assigned a relative point value, unknown to participants. Each participant would have the others’ objectives in their possession along with a number of meaningless assets. Using the tools of both debate and dialogue, each participant attempts to convince their opponent to trade certain assets – with the goal of acquiring objective items. This format encourages a competitive environment while awarding points for creative compromise based on strategic objectives gained. As in traditional debate formats, speaking ability and persuasiveness weigh heavily. Objective Compromise can serve as a model for political negotiation, where each participant seeks to maximize their objectives while being rewarded for well-reasoned compromise towards successful passage of law.

more ideas on the way..

DEBATE VS. DIALOGUE: More thoughts on competitive dialogue


MY STORY: Some Background


DEBATE 911: Home page




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