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Rules: Debate Categories

Congressional Debate #

  1. Entry: each individual student constitutes an entry.
  2. Rules herein may not be suspended; the presiding officer shall rule such motions out of order.
  3. Legislation shall be selected and posted by the State Office, drawing upon monthly bills and resolutions shared by the National Speech & Debate Association.
  4. A round requires a minimum of 10 minutes per contestant in a chamber/section; each round includes:
    1. A predetermined bill or resolution.
    2. Scrambling of contestants to different sections/rooms, with randomly-generated seating charts, accommodating accessibility needs.Different adjudicator(s) each round, for each section/chamber. Adjudicators shall evaluate each speech and complete hour of presiding on a six-point scale.No more than five (5) minutes of recess time per complete hour allotted.
    3. The session shall end once each student in the room has been given an equal opportunity to speak; however, this rule may be overridden by contest officials if excessive time is used for procedural matters.
  5. Presiding officers
    1. When registering contestants, coaches will designate a few presiding officer (PO) candidates.
    2. Just prior to debate on each legislation, a judge will facilitate a vote for PO from among the candidates assigned to that chamber who volunteer to stand for election for that legislation. A majority vote is required; if one candidate does not receive a majority of votes, eliminate the candidate with the fewest votes and vote again. If candidates are tied for the fewest number of votes, vote to determine which of the tied candidates shall remain in contention. Repeat this process until one candidate receives a majority of votes.
    3. The contestant elected will preside for one round, recognizing speakers as described in §6 and keeping time and giving time signals. Judges should also keep track to ensure recognition and time signals are conducted correctly.
    4. If no other candidates stand for subsequent election, a student may repeat additional term(s) as presiding officer.
  6. Recognizing contestants: in each WISDAA Congress round, each contestant gets to deliver up to one speech, but may ask multiple questions. When multiple contestants seek recognition, this is the priority order in which the PO must recognize:
    1. For a formal floor speech, the contestant with the lowest preset speaker order, calling on lower-numbered contestants
    2. For questioning periods, reverse the preset speaker order, calling on higher-numbered contestants
  7. Speech and questioning times and protocols
    1. All speeches supporting or opposing each legislation are up to 3 minutes. Students may select which side they wish to uphold.
    2. Each questioner is recognized for a continuous 30-second question-and-answer segment. Presiding officers are encouraged to monitor questioning periods to prevent abuse of limited time available.
    3. The order of speeches and questions:
      1. Authorship/sponsorship…………………………………. 2 minutes of questions (four 30-second blocks)
      2. First negative……………………………………………….. 2 minutes of questions (four 30-second blocks)
      3. Subsequent alternating affirmative/negative…….. 1 minute of questions (two 30-second blocks)
    4. If no student seeks recognition to speak to introduce the legislation, the chamber must move to lay the legislation on the table until such time a student is prepared to introduce it.
    5. If no one wishes to oppose the preceding speaker, the presiding officer may recognize a speaker upholding the same side. If debate gets significantly “one-sided,” without new arguments, the chamber may move previous question to close debate.
    6. When a presiding officers recognizes a student to speak on a particular side, and the student speaks on the opposite side and the error is not caught, the speaker shall be scored and the speech shall count in precedence, but the speaker must be penalized at least three points.
    7. In the event a student speaks on an item of legislation not currently being debated, said speech shall count in precedence, but zero points shall be awarded.
    8. Visual aids are permitted, provided they do not require electronic retrieval devices in the chamber.
  8. Motions: The presiding officer will pause briefly between speeches to recognize any motions from the floor; however, they shall not call for motions. At the beginning of a round, the presiding officer shall remind members to seek their attention between speeches.
  9. Amendments must be presented to the presiding officer in writing with specific references to lines and clauses that change. This must be done in advance of moving to amend.
    1. The adjudicator/parliamentarian will recommend whether the amendment is “germane”—that is, it upholds the original intent of the legislation—otherwise, it is considered “dilatory.” The title of the legislation may be changed.
    2. A legislator may move to amend between floor speeches. Once that motion is made, the presiding officer will  read the proposed amendment aloud and call for a second by one-third of those members present, unless they rule it dilatory.
    3. Should students wish to speak on the proposed amendment, the presiding officer will recognize them as per the standing precedence and recency, and the speech will be counted toward their totals, accordingly.
    4. Simply proposing an amendment does not guarantee an “author/sponsor” speech, and any speeches on amendments are followed by the normal one minute of questioning.
    5. Amendments are considered neutral and do not constitute an affirmative or negative speech on the original legislation.
    6. If there are no speakers or the previous question is moved, the chamber may vote on a proposed amendment without debating it.
  10. All major voting, such as the main motion/legislation, which a congressperson’s constituents shall have a record of, shall be done with a counted vote. Secret balloting is used when voting for presiding officer.
  11. Students shall ask permission to leave and enter the chamber when it is in round by moving a point of personal privilege. However, they should not interrupt a speaker addressing the chamber.
  12. Communication: once a debate round begins, students are prohibited from communicating with their coach or any other persons other than contestants and judges participating in the chamber (room) to which they are assigned.

World Schools Debate #

  1. Entries: each school may enter a team, comprised of at least three (3) and no more than five (5) students. All students in a given team must be enrolled in the same middle or high school. Schools of the same grade levels (middle or high school) may combine students to create “hybrid” teams, but both must be dues-paying members of WISDAA to do so, with both advisor-coaches consenting; otherwise, Eligibility Exception requests must be filed with the state office.
  2. Teams: each debate is held between two teams, each comprised of three (3) active debaters for that round.
    1. If a team has four or five debaters, it must declare at the beginning of the round which three debaters will participate for that given round. The others may observe, but not participate or collaborate in any way.
    2. One team will be assigned the “Proposition” in support of the motion topic; the other will be assigned “Opposition,” against the motion/topic.
  3. Speeches and timing: Judges must keep and verify time, but students are also allowed to keep time for themselves or their teammates.
    1. Constructive speech: each debater delivers one constructive (substantive) speech of up to 8 minutes in length.
    2. Reply speeches: after the three constructive speeches for each side, the first or second speaker for each team gives a reply speech of up to 4 minutes in length, with the opposition reply going first and the proposition reply second.
  4. Interruptions: during a constructive speech (§3.1), except within the first or last minute (“protected time”), a debater from the opposite team may verbally interrupt if they wish to offer a Point of Information, which is a question or statement.
    1. The speaker being interrupted may choose to accept or reject a point of information; rejection may be an obvious hand gesture or verbal comment.
    2. Speakers are discouraged, though not prohibited from– offering points of information that exceed 15 seconds; rising more frequently than every 20seconds during unprotected time.
    3. There are no other interruptions in the debate, no preparation time once the debate begins; nor time dedicated to questioning speakers or providing cross-examination.
  5. Communication: during the debate, students may not communicate with their coach, other team members not speaking in that debate, or any person in the audience. Teammates may communicate with one another quietly/with discretion.
  6. Motions take the form befitting debate in a House of Parliament, beginning with the phrase “This House,” often — but not always — followed by verbs such as “would–,” “believes that–,” or “regrets.” Motions shall be written by the WISDAA State Office. Motions for prepared debates will be released several weeks prior to each festival; motions for impromptu debates will be released one hour prior to the start of the round in which it will be debated.
  7. Prepared debate rounds: during the debate, students may have and utilize prepared notes; students also may use any print sources as well as electronic retrieval devices (a deviation from typical World Schools Debating practices). However, they may not use any electronic devices to communicate with anyone other than teammates as per §5.
  8. Impromptu debate rounds: both teams shall have one hour from the time the motion is released until the beginning of the impromptu round. All five members of a team may assist during the hour of preparation, though only three will speak during the debate. During preparation and the round, students may utilize electronic devices, just as provided in §7.

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Updated on 01/02/2024
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