The Rupp Debate Society at Idaho State University recently placed fourth at the Western States Communication Association (WSCA) tournament held in late February. They were recognized for debate and speaking.
Members of the Rupp Debate Society are currently studying and performing British Parliamentary-style debate.
ISU senior Patrick Loftus finished as the sixth overall speaker and junior Jason Byron finished seventh overall, leading them to a fourth place finish together.
“It’s a pretty good organization from the western United States, so it was exciting to be recognized by them,” said ISU Director of Debate Sarah Partlow-Lefèvre. “We are new to British Parliamentary Debate. We have been doing it all year. We are starting to get integrated into this kind of debate and we are building community.”
British Parliamentary Debate is a form of team debate where students are required to work together to develop mutual arguments.
British Parliamentary Debate competitions consist of four teams with two people per team.
Each person is permitted to speak only once, for seven minutes. Two of the four teams are assigned to argue the same viewpoint on the topic chosen for debate.
The teams do not always come from the same school. Therefore students are pushed to work well with students they may not have met.
“It’s kind of like practicing being under fire,” said Partlow-Lefèvre. “[It’s] similar to a news conference or something like that where people can get up and raise their hand and you either have to say ‘no, not at this time’ or you call on them and they ask the question and then you respond.”
Partlow-Lefèvre added, “It’s all taken out of your speech time so you have to learn how to manage it. The judges look down upon you or will give you a lower score if you don’t answer any questions during your speech.”
The Rupp Debate Society typically attends at least eight tournaments every year. They are able to do this by using the funding they receive through a designated student fee.
“The [academic] scholarships are minimal for debate right now,” said Partlow-Lefèvre. “We spend most of the money we have on travel so that we can get as much opportunity as possible. [Students] don’t have to pay for their own travel which a lot of people who debate in high school have to have their parents pay.”
Despite the fact that the Rupp Debate Society has been presenting a mostly British Parliamentary debate style, the students also compete in other events.
One such event is extemporaneous speech, which is when the speaker is given a topic and has to write a speech on the topic in ten minutes.
Another event is impromptu speaking, which requires the speaker to generate a speech on a given topic in 30 seconds.
According to Partlow-Lefèvre, there are some benefits to debate.
“It really helps [students] establish critical thinking skills, which are really important in the real world. It also helps [students] think about forming argumentation and it helps them to learn to be persuasive speakers and present without much preparation and to do it well in a published way, so that’s really important,” said Partlow-Lefèvre. “The ability to communicate with people and to persuade people is one the highest, most sought after skills by employers today.”