Ms. Niles’ APUSH Debate Information
Each team is made up of at least 2 affirmative (yes/pro) debaters and 2 negative (no/con) debaters.
Ms. Niles is the judging panel and is the final authority in the debate as well as the debating environment.
3. Debate Structure
Opening Comments
Ms. Niles will start the panel with a brief introduction. It is her job to help keep the discussion on track and make sure that
everyone has an equal chance to participate.
Presentations of Arguments
The 2 affirmative (yes/pro) panelists and 2 negative (no/con) panelists will present arguments supporting their
positions. You will each have 5 minutes for the first round, no more. You will be stopped at 5 minutes. You will each
have 2 minutes for the second round, no more. There will be a 2 minute conference between rounds.
2. Prepare, practice, and time what you want to say beforehand!
It is much better to talk in conversational manner from prepared notes rather than to read word-for-word
from a script. If you talk (rather than read) it will be easier to listen to you and you will be more engaging and
b. Presenters from each side of the issue should get together beforehand to organize and coordinate their
presentations. Before your Debate Day, panel members should split up responsibilities (i.e., specific
arguments and/or points) among them, making sure that their presentations are related to, while not being
redundant with, one another. They should also decide the order of the presentations (generally, affirmative
goes first).
c. Make sure your presentation is understandable, interesting, pertinent, engaging, and within the time limit.
Deliver your presentation to the audience, making a connection with them (i.e., talk to people, making eyecontact with them). State your argument as clearly and as interestingly as possible within the time limit.
i. Do not be dull!
ii. Be well-informed and accurate
iii. Be engaging
iv. In other words; know what you are talking about and present your knowledge and beliefs in a wellreasoned, interesting, attention-keeping manner.
v. You will need to put some time into preparation of your presentation. If you don’t, it will be obvious
to all in the room which can be embarrassing.
When you refer to information from “outside” sources in your presentations, please tell us whose work you are
referring to and the source of the information. It is also a good idea to bring the work you are citing to class. Outside
information will definitely help your score!
Open Discussion
After presentations, there should be approximately 20 minutes of class time left for dialogue, remarks, and questions
from the class members NOT on the panel, as well as further comments by panelists.
As a class member, please state your discussion point, question, or comment clearly and succinctly. Most importantly,
be respectful and considerate of your classmates, but do not be afraid to disagree with and critique their positions and
arguments. Do NOT make personal attacks on people. Critique the ideas presented, not the person presenting them.
After a question or comment has been responded to by the panel, other class members, then panelists, will have the
opportunity to ask a follow-up question and/or comment on the panel’s response. After the first issue has been
discussed sufficiently, Ms. Niles will ask for a question or critique on the other side of the issue, and so on.
Hopefully, all members will be involved in, but not take over, the open discussion. Each panelist should try to predict
questions, weaknesses, flaws, and problems in his/her own position and arguments that might be raised. When you
get together beforehand with your team, you should help one another in this preparation.
Time will be given at the end of class for each student (class members and panelists) to fill out Issue Evaluation Forms and
write a “notes summary” of the day on the back. These will be collected at the end of class.
Debate Format
General rules
1. Five minutes per student in round one and two minutes per student in round two.
2. No interference with the speaker.
3. The speaker may use the podium.
4. Two rounds per debate.
5. Two to three minute conference between rounds.
Round 1
Person #1 for each side – 5 minutes each
1. Restate the question
2. Explain why it’s important
3. General reasons for position
4. Present any emotional reading or quote
5. Emotional appeal
Person #2 for each side – 5 minutes each
1. Present data, case studies
2. Specific support for your arguments
3. Intellectual appeal
Round 2
Person #1 for each side – 2 minutes each
1. Attack and reiterate
2. Appeal should be both emotional and intellectual
Person #2 for each side – 2 minutes each
1. Summarize your position and evidence
2. Take the high moral ground
Open Discussion
Adapted from Advanced Placement US History: A Practical Guide for Teachers by Dan Confort
First Semester APUSH Formal Debate Topics
Choose one topic per group.
Day 1 –
Were Socioeconomic Tensions Responsible for the Witchcraft Hysteria in Salem?
Did American Slaves Develop a Distinct African-American Culture in the 18th Century?
Was the Great Awakening a Key to the American Revolution?
Was the American Revolution a Conservative Movement?
Day 2 –
Were the Founding Fathers Democratic Reformers?
Was Thomas Jefferson Committed to Bring an End to Chattel Slavery?
Was Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Policy Motivated by Humanitarian Concerns?
Did the Bank War Cause the Panic of 1837?
Day 3 –
Was Antebellum Reform Motivated Primarily by Humanitarian Goals?
Was the Mexican War and Exercise in American Imperialism?
Did the Westward Movement Transform the Traditional Roles of Women in the Mid-Nineteenth Century?
Day 5 
Were Southern Slaveholding Women Secret Abolitionists?
Did Slavery Destroy the Black Family?
Have Historians Overemphasized the Slavery Issue as a Cause of the Civil War?
Day 6 
Is Robert E. Lee Overrated as a General?
Did Abraham Lincoln Free the Slaves?
Was the Confederacy Defeated Because of its “Loss of Will”?
Was Abraham Lincoln America’s Greatest President?
Day 7 
Was it Wrong to Impeach Andrew Johnson?
Was Reconstruction a “Splendid Failure”?
Did William M. Tweed Corrupt Post-Civil War New York?
Was John D. Rockefeller a “Robber-Baron”?
Day 8 
Did the Industrial Revolution Disrupt the American Family?
Was City Government in the late 19th Century a “Conspicuous Failure”?
Did Booker T. Washington’s Actions and Philosophy Betray the Interests of Black Americans