Policy Debate

Arguing pro or against a specific government policy at 350 words per minute


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US Highschools
US United States
Web Unknown


About the project Edit

Policy Debate attracts a uniquely intense breed. The event requires one team to argue in favor of a specific government policy, while the other team must point out the flaws in the plan. Each assertion must be supported by a piece of published evidence, and any argument that goes unchallenged, no matter how ridiculous on its face, is accepted as fact.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Policy debating is a very unique way to mobilize highschool students on the logics and dynamics of public policy making. It attracts a unique breed of kids ready to dive into thousands of information sources for 20 minutes before articulating at extreme speed the results of their research.

The sentences fly out at about 350 words per minute, a good 100 words faster than a well trained auctioneer, for 8 straight minutes.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Policy debating is a witty way to teach highschool students to get involved into public policy-making.

Besides, apparently, there is no other high school activity that has more successful students in the 'real world' than policy debate.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

Any student in any country would be able to train in order to argue at 350 wpm. In some cases, students reached a speed of 500 wpm. It must be said that the impact outside of a small circle of addicted students remains quite limited if only because it is almost impossible to understand what the competitors are saying!... No matter how ridiculous the whole speech sounds, notably with the interference of ultra-fast breathing, it can be argued that the atmosphere of policy debating remains a very creative way to develop an interest in government action.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Policy debaters started talking fast in the 1960s, when a team from the University of Houston figured out that speed allowed them to cram more arguments into a timed speech than their opponents would physically be able to negate. Soon, students were talking like this at hundreds of competitions across the country every year. The innovation increased the demand for source material, the scholarly texts that support debaters’ arguments. That demand quickly outpaced supply—debaters had to track down their evidence in libraries, then photocopy and cut and paste it (with scissors and tape!) onto sheets of paper, which would in turn be tagged and filed away in tubs or banker boxes.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

No business model is required since it is a highschool activity developed in the context of highshool education. Nevertheless, competitions can be sponsored by cities or corporations. We could envision that law firms or even political parties could sponsor some of these events.

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