Social Question

kevbo's avatar

In competitive debate, is it really effective to talk at a breakneck pace while scarcely taking a breath?

Asked by kevbo (25611points) May 17th, 2010

I understand that each side has a time limit to present their argument and that presumably more information is better than less, but how does that style of speaking compensate for the utter ridiculousness of manner? Is this something that is just accepted in the debate community? What’s the aesthetic that makes this style of speaking desireable? I get it on a practical level, I suppose, but as a layman, it seems like a more skilled debater could talk like a normal person and still win. Help me understand.

Thanks.

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9 Answers

Primobabe's avatar

The allotted time is a budget, and the best debater will “spend” the time wisely. Talking at a breakneck speed just seems manic. A skilled debater chooses arguments carefully and presents them in an articulate way. Less is more, and quality over quantity.

Consider an assignment to write a 250-word (one page) essay. It’s easier for the writer to go on and on for many pages, but the discipline is to focus on a topic, discuss it succinctly, and remove unnecessary words.

Merriment's avatar

This question reminds me of the scene in the movie “The River Runs Through It” wherein the preacher father sends his son back to trim down his homework from several pages, to several paragraphs, and then, finally, to a few ,well selected, succinct words before he judges the work “perfect”.

Too many words, spoken too fast, just seems strident and grasping.

Calm certainty and fewer words are far more compelling.

If I were to observe someone talking manically I would think to myself “Now there is a person seeking to baffle ‘em with bullshit” not “There is someone who is dazzling them with brilliance”.

filmfann's avatar

On televised talk shows, taking a breath is allowing the other side an opportunity to cut in.
Not that they won’t anyway. People arguing on those shows are the rudest people alive.

kevbo's avatar

Perhaps I should have said more… in a documentary about competitive debate, which included footage of a national collegiate championship, this manner of speaking was the norm. In other words, it seems to be an accepted aspect of competition, but to me it’s weird, and I would like to understand it better—hopefully from someone who’s familiar with the discipline.

roundsquare's avatar

@Primobabe Have you done any competitive debating? I did it for a little while (before I got disgusted by the way it worked). The expectation is that you speak at a breakneck speed like mentioned.

Its the difference between a real debate (where you said is true) and this style of competitive debate (where people have to do absurd things).

kevbo's avatar

@roundsquare, can you elaborate on your experience? Thanks!

roundsquare's avatar

@kevbo Sure. Mind you, this is why I left the debate team in two weeks… so maybe I’m not the best person to ask.

So the basics of competitive debate where that you should have about 20 pounds of evidence you roll around and know it all inside out. If you go first, you give your standard spiel. Between rounds, you have time to figure out which evidence you want to use. If you know something is logically incorrect but don’t have any evidence to back it up, you can say it, but you’ll get nuttin in terms of points.

For speaking, we practice speaking quickly. To speed up, we practiced reading things backwards, so that we could just read the words without thinking, to help speed things up. As long as the judges could understand you, you were fine. If they couldn’t, they said something (I forget what they said) and if it happened a lot, you lost points.

Thats the crazy part. You were expected to speak so quickly that there are rules about what happens if you speak too fast. Its part of the damn rules! Its built into the whole thing.

kevbo's avatar

That last part is funny. Ha!

ariah's avatar

As a debater who is currently getting ready for my 2nd State tournament, I find that certian types of debate like Cross Examination and every now and again Lincoln Douglas. Overall, it is ineffective with lay judges and places like Public, Parli and Public Forum are just laughable to use it in.

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