ERIC Number: ED210733
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1981-Nov
Reference Count: 0
How Much Should the Words of a Debate Proposition Predetermine the Debate Subject Matter?
Freeley, Austin J.
The committee that phrases the proposition for the national intercollegiate debates has a reasonably clear interpretation in mind when they phrase it. The next party to attempt to determine what the words of the resolution really mean is the affirmative team, which has a propensity to write a "squirrel" case that in one instance will find the negative team unprepared, and in a second instance can be sold to the judge as an acceptable interpretation of the resolution. Thus, it appears that the judge ultimately determines what the words of a proposition really mean by handing down a judgment when the teams debate topicality. However, the judge operates in the context of the consensus of the forensic community. At one time, this community was made up of strict constructionists who demanded and got what might be called a literal interpretation of the resolution. That consensus has shifted to a more permissive one. At present it would seem that the forensic community views the proposition as something that sets broad boundaries within which the affirmative team is encouraged to be as creative as possible. With this requirement, the debate proposition may have one meaning in a debate round, and quite a different meaning in public. The interests of the forensic community would be better served if they subscribed to a real-world interpretation of the words of the debate proposition. By doing so, the credibility of the debate will be enhanced. (HOD)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Speech Communication Association (67th, Anaheim, CA, November 12-15, 1981).