Debate Overview (with thanks given to Mrs. Middelthon for her

Debate Overview (with thanks given to Mrs. Middelthon for her guidance)
Society continues to question the justification of capital punishment, also known as the death penalty. Both sides in this
debate share the value premise of justice. Where they differ is how they think justice is best achieved.
FOCUS: The United States Bill of Rights’ 8th amendment:
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
BRAINFOOD: “There was a brief moratorium on executions throughout the United States in the mid-1970s, when the
Supreme Court declared capital punishment as then applied unconstitutional. The number of executions was already falling
by the time of the Court's decision, but began rising again in the 1980s once new laws were in place that met with the
Court's approval.
In 1972, the United States Supreme Court held that capital punishment, which was then typically administered as a
mandatory punishment for certain crimes, violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.
However, at least 35 states and the federal government quickly enacted new capital punishment procedures. In 1976, the
Supreme Court held that such statutes were constitutional as long as there were guidelines that examined the particular
circumstances of each case before the death penalty was applied.”
The Bureau of Justice Statistics gives the following information for 2011 (
With the above information as brain food, the class is challenged to participate in a formal debate on the issue of whether or
not the use of capital punishment is justified. The graded elements of the debate will include preparation (research and
speech writing), participation, and team cohesiveness.
The debate format pits one half of your class against the other. One half of the class will be assigned to the affirmative
(yes, capital punishment is justified) and the other to the negative (no, capital punishment is not justified). Even though the
setting of the debate is in the 21st century, evidence to support your cases can be from history, religion, philosophy, other
countries, primary-source documents and court cases. In your search for support for or refutation of capital punishment,
take the advantage of the plethora of information on the Internet from government sources. All information must be
documented with an MLA works cited entry for each source.
The debate format will be that of a modified Lincoln-Douglas debate competition. 12 students (six from each side) from the
class will be assigned to formal speaking roles. Everyone else will be assigned specific research and support roles. Your
goal is to work as a team to ensure that your case stands up under the scrutiny of the opposition. The formal debate will be
held on November 13th.
The debate will run as follows:
First Affirmative Speech
Speaking time
6 minutes
First Negative Cross-Examination
3 minutes
First Negative Speech
6 minutes
First Affirmative Cross-Examination
3 minutes
Second Affirmative Speech
6 minutes
Second Negative Cross-Examination
2 minutes
Second Negative Speech
6 minutes
Second Affirmative Cross Examination
2 minutes
First Negative Rebuttal
4 minutes
First Affirmative Rebuttal
4 minutes
Second Negative Rebuttal
4 minutes
Second Affirmative Rebuttal
4 minutes
> 1 minute prep time
> 2 minutes prep time
> 1 minute prep time
> 2 minutes prep time
> 1 minute prep time
> 2 minutes prep time
> 1 minute prep time
> 2 minutes prep time
> 2 minutes prep time
> 2 minutes prep time
> 2 minutes prep time
Note that all formal speakers will be timed and expected to remain within the time limits. If you go over time, that time
will be deducted from the next speaker for your section.
Assignment Descriptions:
First Affirmative Speech: Your job is to set forth your side’s case in as much detail and clarity as possible. Your speech
should be polished and above all, well-organized and well-supported by evidence. You have the advantage of setting the
terms of the debate.
First Negative Cross-Ex: Your job is to question the first affirmative speaker in order to (1) clarify the affirmative
arguments and (2) raise doubts about the affirmative side’s reasoning and evidence. Remember that your first speaker is
getting ready to speak, so coordinate with them to make sure you don’t take too much wind out of their sails.
First Negative Speech: Your job will be to poke holes all through the first affirmative’s case by challenging it on the basis
of reasoning and soundness of evidence. You will want to have some solid evidence of your own to counter the affirmative
arguments and to support your own arguments that capital punishment is not justified. Your reasoning that capital
punishment is not justified should make up about two-thirds of your case, and the other one-third should refute the
affirmative argument.
First Affirmative Cross-Ex: Like your negative counterpart, your job is to clarify and challenge reasoning and evidence,
through cross-ex of the first negative speaker.
Second Affirmative Speech: Your job is to narrow down the arguments of the first negative speaker and, if time, build
upon the first affirmative’s case. This is often considered the most difficult position, because it requires a lot of
improvisation. Nevertheless, you should have cases prepared in advance both to refute negative arguments and bolster your
own. No new evidence can be presented in rebuttals, so you will need to get everything in to support your side that you
Second Negative Cross-Ex: Same as your colleagues, but also to clarify where the affirmative speaker may have missed
responding to an argument presented by the first negative speech. Your side can exploit this kind of mistake to its
Second Negative Speech: Your job is to exploit the weakest points in the affirmative case by building on the first
negative’s arguments, refuting the second affirmatives and adding more negative arguments of your own. Also, point out
where the second affirmative failed to respond to your first negative arguments. That’s a lot to do, but remember that no
new evidence can be introduced in rebuttals. You’ll need crisp, clear delivery.
Second Affirmative Cross-Ex: Same as your second negative colleague above, except that you’re trying to catch where
the second negative speaker may have missed the boat. This position is important because you’re sandwiched in between
two negative speakers. Now’s the time to pull out your bombshell questions to try to trip up the negative side.
First Negative Rebuttal: Start wrapping up your side’s arguments by pointing out where (1) the affirmative case is
weakest, (2) the affirmative side has failed to respond to challenges by your side, and (3) where your case is strongest.
Punch up your strong points.
First Affirmative Rebuttal: Vice versa for you but your job is a little tougher because you need to pick up where the
second affirmative speaker left off, which is seven minutes worth of arguments ago.
Second Negative Rebuttal: Counter second affirmative rebuttal and punch up your strong points. You have the last word
for your side. No pressure.
Second Affirmative Rebuttal: You have the ability to make or break your side’s case by refuting the negative arguments
and highlighting your side’s strongest arguments. This slot was made for great orators. You have the final word. Make it
Researchers: Much like Congressional staffers support their Senator or Representative, your job will be to provide moral,
organizational, and drafting of information support for your side's speakers. You will help your speakers develop your
side's case; you are expected to work together as a team as you are the organizational linchpin of your side's efforts. On the
day of the debate, bring note cards on which you can write ideas/information/reminders to pass quietly to speakers.
Research teams are split up into the affirmative and negative side of the debate. Each member of the team of researchers
needs to decide what their focus of research will be, ie., history, religion, legislation, legal case studies, philosophy, primary
source documentation, other countries, etc. Each researcher is responsible for obtaining sufficient research information for
their side’s speakers. You are also responsible during the debate for passing forward relevant information to your speakers
during prep time. Speakers will also research and not sit idly by – Remember - you want your side to win the debate and
take your opposition to the cleaners.
The preparation grade will be based on the following criteria, which are individualized for each type of role.
First / Second Affirmative Speech AND First / Second Negative Speech: a typed outline of your speech, including
citations of evidence. This text should be two-three pages in length. Note that the evidence for your speech will be
provided by research teams. Your main job here is to organize your information and rehearse your speech. You need to
team up with your researchers to tell them the type of evidence you are looking for. Work with the other speaker to make
sure there isn’t any unplanned overlap.
Cross Examiners: Will turn in a list of 10 questions each with possible answers and follow-up questions. You really need
to think like the opposition. Create a GoogleDoc to share with the other cross-ex in your team. On that document, create a
section with your name where you will write your questions, and your partner will do the same on the same document.
Rebuttalists: A typed briefing paper of at least one full page in length that you could use in your speech—although you
will need to add to your rebuttal as the debate progresses. No new evidence can be introduced during the rebuttal, so you
need to work with your researchers and speakers to see what information will have been presented, and how you can wrap
it up. One of you may want to focus on one specific area, and the other on another area.
Researchers: A set of 20 notes per person is due in your team’s GoogleDoc . Each note must have a proper source
citation after it. You will be expected to match up and work with your speakers to organize evidence and help plug gaps
in knowledge through targeted research. Work with your team to assure that research efforts are not duplicated.
Researchers, use one GoogleDoc for your side: Make a section with your name for your individual notes. After each note,
include the works cited entry for the source in MLA format.
NOTE that in all cases, your preparation grade is also dependent on persistent, sustained effort in class. If you complete
your written requirements early, you need to help out in some other way, such as gathering more research. The idea here is
to complete research and writing for the debate in class as much as possible.
2nd period
First AFF Speech
First AFF Cross-X
Second AFF Speech
Second AFF Cross-X
First AFF Rebuttal
Second AFF Rebuttal
AFF Research Focus:
(Religion, History,
Philosophy/Moral, Law/Legal
Precedent/Court Cases, Case
Studies, Other Countries,
Researcher Name:
First NEG Cross-X
First NEG Speech
Second NEG Cross-X
Second NEG Speech
First NEG Rebuttal
Second NEG Rebuttal
NEG Research Focus:
(Religion, History,
Precedent/Court Cases,
Case Studies, Other
Countries, etc.)
Researcher Name:
To make effective use of our time, the following is a schedule of daily objectives for debate preparation:
Nov 4
Library: Review research methods, assign sides, choose roles.
Nov 5
No School
Nov 6
Nov 7
Nov 8
Nov 11
No School
Nov 12
In Class with laptops: Set plan of attack, tie up loose ends.
Nov 13
Debate! Business attire required.
Nov 14
Debate Concludes. Business attire required. Debate Debrief.
Nov 15