Debate Formats

The Bard Debate Union offers students the opportunity to participate in both policy debate and worlds debate. Bard College also has a strong Model United Nations team. Please see below for more information about these different formats.

Policy Debate (CEDA/NDT)

Policy debate (also known as cross-examination or CEDA/NDT debate) is a format of debate in which there is a set resolution for an entire academic year.

The 2013-2014 topic is: “Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase statutory and/or judicial restrictions on the war powers authority of the President of the United States in one or more of the following areas: targeted killing; indefinite detention; offensive cyber operations; or introducing United States Armed Forces into hostilities.”

In this format of debate, students are expected to conduct extensive research on the topic and prepare an affirmative case (i.e., a defense of the resolution) and prepare multiple negative cases to respond to the affirmative cases of other schools. While one topic governs an entire year, students are permitted to defend and negate the topic for any reason, so long as they can argue it well. For example, one could negate a given policy action by proving the policy would cause significant geopolitical disadvantages OR one could negate a policy action by critiquing its philosophical foundations.

At policy debate tournaments, each pair will debate affirmative in half of their debates and negative in the other half. A judge will then determine a winner and a loser. Speeches consist of both reading and presenting researched evidence and making analytical assessments of the arguments in the debate. While some debaters of this format train themselves to speak as quickly as possible so as to squeeze in as much information as possible, this is not a requirement of the format. And in fact, Bard’s team has been known in the past to do some creative things to challenge the prescribed norms of policy debate.

Worlds Debate (BP/WUDC)

Worlds debate (also known as British Parliamentary Debate) is a format of debate that focuses on persuasion, presentation, and improvisational skills.

In this format of debate, students are given a topic 15 minutes before the debate begins, and each two-person team must prepare a case, based on their assigned position in the debate.

A few examples of motions used in worlds debate include: “This house would ban the personal possession of handguns,” “This house would invade Zimbabwe,” and “This house believes that the world was a better place before Facebook.” As is clear from these examples, motions in worlds debate can range from specific policy actions to beliefs in certain political and philosophical positions, and thus students are expected to have conducted a significant amount of research on current events and various political positions and principles.

In worlds debate, four teams debate against one another at a time—two teams defend the motion and two teams negate. The judge then ranks the teams one through four. Individual speeches are expected to be rhetorical and persuasive and students are not permitted to read outside evidence in the rounds. This format of debate is the most commonly debated format throughout the world.

Model United Nations

In Model UN, students step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization’s agenda. Students make speeches, prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with allies and adversaries, resolve conflicts, and navigate the conference rules of procedure – all in the interest of mobilizing “international cooperation” to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world.

At Bard College, we offer both a Model UN class (taught by Jonathan Becker, Vice President and Dean for International Affairs and Civic Engagement) and we offer students the opportunity to travel to conferences and simulations at colleges and universities throughout the US.

During a conference, participants must employ a variety of communication and critical thinking skills in order to represent the policies of their country. These skills include public speaking, group communication, research, policy analysis, active listening, negotiating, conflict resolution, note taking, and technical writing. The participants role-play as diplomats representing a nation or NGO in a simulated session of an organ (committee) of the United Nations, such as the Security Council or the General Assembly.