I have always been interested in debating and public speaking. Way back in elementary school, we used to have these friendly classroom debates without a set of formal rules to follow. From time to time, my teacher would conduct debating sessions in order to stimulate the interest of the class, encourage us to cooperate with a team and ultimately boost our confidence in speaking. Those were some of the earliest debates that I participated in. My elementary school teacher assigned simple topics for us to discuss about. For instance, she asked us who are in favour of or against the new school uniform policy.
When I was in high school, I was introduced to a more organized method of debating and a variety of interesting topics with two possible perspectives. I can still remember one of the most unforgettable debate topics that we had in high school: “Whether or not teachers can be replaced by computers” Our class had a fun and insightful discussion on the matter.
We were divided into two groups: (1) the Affirmative or “Pro” Side and (2) the Negative or “Against” Side. Each team was given about 10 minutes to work silently to give us time to prepare our initial statements and arguments. After our group discussion, the representative or key speaker of each group has about 5 to 10 minutes to present the group’s introductory statements and then another team member may speak up in order to reinforce the group’s affirmative or negative arguments.
While listening to their opponents, team members have to take down notes about the arguments they heard from the other group so as to contradict them in the next phase. After both teams have presented their arguments, the next part of the debate is called the Rebuttal Stage. During this phase, the “Pro” team refutes the opposing team’s arguments and vice versa. This is the phase when team members can object or refute the statements and arguments of the other group. They can even ask extra questions.
Finally, the last phase is called the Closing statements. This stage can be described as the conclusion to the whole debate process. After the exchange of ideas and arguments, students are given 3 to 5 minutes to summarize their final statements. Some of the debates that I have joined are evaluated by judges who will provide their scoring system prior to the debate. After the closing statement stage, the judges are given a few minutes to tally the scores before announcing which team is the winner.
When I was in college and law school, I was also exposed to various types of formal debates such as the Parliamentary debate and the Moot Court Competition. In these advanced types of debating, we had to represent either a Petitioner or Defendant in a particular case with legal issues and prepare a written formal memorandum or petition in advance before we have the scheduled oral arguments. But basically, my foundation and experience in debating way back in elementary school and high school always come in handy no matter how complicated the topic and debate procedures are even up until now when I appear as a lawyer before court proceedings.