Debate Formats

The Bard Debate Union offers students interested in debate the opportunity to compete regionally and nationally in the “British Parliamentary” (BP) debate format. Bard also has a Model United Nations team.

British Parliamentary Debate

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 BP 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 BP 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 BP 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

Model United Nations, also known as Model UN or MUN, is an extra-curricular activity in which students typically roleplay delegates to the United Nations and simulate UN committees. This activity takes place at MUN conferences, which are usually organized by college MUN clubs. At the end of most conferences, outstanding delegates in each committee are recognized and given an award certificate. Thousands of middle school, high school, and college students across the country and around the world participate in Model United Nations, which involves substantial researching, public speaking, debating, and writing skills, as well as critical thinking, teamwork, and leadership abilities.