Conventional debating as an art form has had its share of detractors and critics in recent times. Some criticize the format for being too archaic, others believe it has an unfair judgment criterion and some just hate it because of bad experiences.
Nevertheless, for someone who has been fortunate enough to be a part of the debating circuit and won conventional debates on a consistent frequency, I’ve made my share of observations which I’ll analyze in this piece.
First and foremost, let’s embrace the elephant in the room and debunk some stereotypes about conventional debating. The most prominent stereotypes about conventional debating include:
#1. Emphasis on manner over matter
#2. Biased judgment
#3. Archaic format/style of debating compared to parliamentary debating
Alright, time for some debunking:
I have no idea in which dimension of some distant universe this idea originated that conventional debating emphasizes on HOW you speak compared to WHAT you speak. Sure, a level of eloquence is appreciated but it’s not a paramount quality of presentation. Sure, grammar and enunciation are important but that’s a criteria for any public speaking platform and not exclusive to conventional debating only.
Anyone who uses a lot of fancy quotes and tries to enunciate every word with gusto in order to look charismatic and brings arbitrary arguments to the table is not a good debater, be it conventional or parliamentary.
THAT MAKES HIM JUST A GOOD SPEAKER/ORATOR.
Debating, on the other hand, is all about argumentation, linkage, relevance, logic and most importantly, rhetoric.
Now, addressing the idea about biased judgment and the idea of conventional debating being an archaic format, let’s talk about parliamentary debates and MUNs first and how biased judgment and hegemony in the MUN circuit of the country has led to stagnancy and how multiple teams complain about unfair judgment in parliamentary debating tournaments behind the judges’ backs, with the entrenched idea that only “big colleges” should go ahead in the knockout rounds compared to rookies.
This has led most debaters into a dilemma and reduced the overall quality of MUNers and at the same time, created a monolith of 5 or 6 colleges which have most judgments ruled in their favor at parliamentary debates.
Sure, I’ve had my share of experiences where I lost to a certain XYZ team because of adjudication bias but nevertheless, I realized the monopoly of the circuit pretty quickly to make an exit at the right time before it got to my head.
Circling back to the topic of conventional debating, most colleges have now taken the approach of amalgamating conventional debating with an extempore format to make the debates interesting and the fact that most parliamentary debaters these days migrate to conventional debates, the debating motions have become much more interesting with better judges which have consequentially raised the level of the circuit as compared to the previous years.
The implementation of the extempore format has really helped in separating the Wikipedia experts from the ones who dare to improvise on the spot and channel their ideas systematically in a 4 to 5-minute speech.
My admiration for conventional debating doesn’t come as a result of the success I’ve had in it, because I exited from the circuit when the time was right and now, I make occasional appearances at debates and rather push newbies to take up conventional debating seriously because of the change that I’ve witnessed in the quality of debating and debaters.
The 2 terms are distinct because the ones who were experienced had to adjust their styles and the ones who were new got a chance to showcase their talent with new, refreshing ideas and methods.
All in all, the overall change in the circuit has had its fair share of benefits which is important for diversity. Now I know that the kind of exposure parliamentary debating gives you in our country (at the expense of bad/inexperienced adjudicators) will perhaps not be matched by conventional debating but the aesthetic of the art and the common denominator between both formats is “DEBATING” which is the most important skill that can be honed in any way you like.
So to me, the art hasn’t lost its charm. It has rather found a new way to stay refreshing and exciting to accommodate debaters of all formats.
But at the end of the day, all that matters is how you let that art mould you.
So keep debating and keep learning. The sky isn’t the limit.
Image Credits: Google Images