Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
American Parliamentary Debating Association
The American Parliamentary Debating Association (APDA) is one of two major intercollegiate parliamentary debating associations in the United States, the other being the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA). APDA sponsors roughly 40 tournaments a year, all in a parliamentary format, as well as a National Championship. It also administers the North American Debating Championship (and concurrently, the North American Public Speaking Championship) with the Canadian University Society for Intercollegiate Debate (CUSID). Although it is mainly funded by its member universities, APDA is an entirely student-run organization.
APDA is comprised of roughly 40 universities, mainly in the Northeast, ranging as far north as Maine and as far south as Virginia. Most of its members are private colleges, including all of the Ivy League schools, MIT, Williams, Amherst, Middlebury, Bates and Swarthmore. It also includes several public universities, such as Temple University, the University of Virginia, College of William and Mary, University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. A few APDA institutions are also located elsewhere in the United States, most notably Stanford, the University of Chicago, and the University of Minnesota.
APDA members stage weekly debating tournaments, each at a different university, which occur throughout the academic year. Most weekends have two debating tournaments, one north of New York City and one south of New York City, in order to shorten transport time. However, centrally located tournaments, such as Columbia, Fordham, and NYU, as well as particularly prestigious tournaments, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, will frequently be “unopposed”, meaning that they will be the only tournament on that particular weekend. While APDA does play a role in creating a tournament schedule, the tournaments themselves are only loosely coordinated by the APDA body. Individual schools must ensure that their tournaments meet a broad set of APDA guidelines, but are free to tinker with their tournament formats.
There are a number of tournaments in which APDA does play a direct role. Most prominently, APDA sponsors a National Championship at the end of each year. Unlike all other tournaments, debating at Nationals is limited to one team per university, plus any additional teams who “qualified” for Nationals during that debate season. There are several ways to qualify for Nationals, but by far the most common is to reach the final round of a tournament. In addition, APDA sponsors a novice tournament at the beginning of the season, a pro-am tournament midseason, and the North American Debating Championships, which is held every other year in the United States and includes the top teams from the United States and Canada.
APDA also has a ranking system which combines the results of all of the year’s tournaments. Both individual speakers and two-member teams can earn points based on the results of the tournament; these points also scale up depending on the tournament’s size. At the end of the debate season, APDA gives awards to the top teams, speakers, and novices of the year.
APDA is an entirely student-run organization. The APDA board members are students from various host institutions, and most of the tournaments are completely organized by the host school’s debate team. Some teams do have professional coaches, but these are frequently recently retired debaters who wish to stay involved with the circuit.
Weekly debating tournaments are the core of APDA. While numerous schools slightly alter the tournament format, the general format is fairly constant. Tournaments usually start on Friday afternoon and end on Saturday evening. Five preliminary rounds are held, three on Friday and two on Saturday. The first round is randomly paired, while remaining rounds are bracketed, meaning that teams with the same record face each other. Preliminary rounds generally have only one judge, most frequently a debater from the host school. After five rounds, the “break” is announced, consisting of the top eight teams at the tournament. These teams compete in single-elimination quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, judged by progressively larger panels of judges, and a tournament winner is crowned. Trophies are awarded to the top speakers, top teams, and top novice (first-year) debaters. Certain tournaments tinker with the format, having more or fewer preliminary rounds and larger or smaller breaks; the National Championships, for instance, generally has one additional preliminary round and one additional elimination round.
APDA is held in American Parliamentary format. This style emphasizes argumentation and rhetoric, rather than research and detailed factual knowledge. Each round consists of two teams – the government team and the opposition team – each of which consists of two debaters. (Teams alternate between government and opposition at tournaments.) The speaking times are:
Prime Minister Constructive: 7 minutes
Leader of Opposition Constructive: 8 minutes
Member of Government: 8 minutes
Member of Opposition: 8 minutes
Leader of Opposition Rebuttal: 4 minutes
Prime Minister Rebuttal: 5 minutes
In most rounds, the resolution is “squirrelable”, meaning that the government team can propose any topic it wants for debate. (Certain tournaments, such as the Yale and Princeton tournaments, provide both teams with the topic of debate 15 minutes before the round.) The Prime Minister Constructive (PMC) lays out the topic for debate and presents arguments in favor of its position. The opposition team must then immediately present opposing arguments. New arguments can be presented in the first four speeches; they are prohibited in the rebuttal speeches. During the first four speeches, “Points of Information” are also permitted. Debaters may rise and attempt to ask a question of an opposing debater, who can choose whether to accept or refuse the question. It is generally considered good form to accept at least a few questions during a speech.
Government teams are not permitted to run “tight” cases, which are too one-sided (e.g. “racism is bad”.) They also cannot run tautologies (“Chrysler is a company that sells cars”) or status quo cases (“The United States should have jury trials.”) Since the opposition generally has no idea what the case is until the government presents it, the government team is also not permitted to debate “specific knowledge” – that is, they may not use any detailed factual knowledge or research not accessible to an educated university student. Aside from that, virtually any topic for debate is fair game, as long as there are two coherent and debatable sides. Debaters may also present opp-choice cases, in which the government team offers the opposition team the chance to choose the side of a topic they will defend. These cases allow the government team to psychologically shift the burden of proof to the opposition.
The APDA style is generally seen as occupying a middle ground between the styles of CUSID and NPDA. It is more somewhat more rule-oriented and structured than the CUSID style, as point-by-point argumentation and careful structure are considered very important. It also emphasizes detailed analysis and de-emphasizes oratory as compared to CUSID. However, APDA style is less structured and theoretical than the NPDA style, and demands less usage of technical debate formalisms. Part of the reason for this is that APDA frequently uses lay judges - judges who are inexperienced and have rarely seen debate rounds - and thus the style must be instantly accessible to a newcomer. In contrast, NPDA rarely uses lay judges, and most NPDA judges are experienced coaches who are familiar with debate theory.
Types of Cases
One notable aspect of APDA is the enormous variety of cases that arise from its squirrelable format. This list provides a highly non-comprehensive set of debate case types.
Cases about public policy are among the most common cases on APDA. They include common public policy debates (vouchers, term limits, euthanasia, capital punishment, race-based affirmative action) as well as more unique ideas (mandatory organ donation, proxy voting for children, private criminal prosecution, abolishing private schools, and innumerable others). Libertarian policy proposals, such as abolishing the minimum wage or abolishing paternalistic laws, are particularly popular. Cases involving the policies of particular organizations are popular as well, such as debates surrounding university speech codes. Additionally, broad social questions can be discussed without centering the case around a government actor; “Are trade unions, all things considered, a good thing for society?” is a perfectly acceptable opp-choice debate case.
Abstract questions about political philosophy are also popular topics of debate. Cases about the relative benefits of the Rawlsian “veil of ignorance” versus the Hobbesian “state of nature”, for instance, are commonplace. These rounds will generally be folded into moral hypotheticals; for instance, rather than a team actually proposing that the veil of ignorance is a worthwhile political theory, a team might argue that economic human rights should be included in constitutions, and use the veil of ignorance as a justification.
Law and legal theory
All aspects of law are fair game on APDA, including constitutional law (e.g. whether the Pledge of Allegiance should be constitutional), procedural law (e.g. whether standards of guilt should differ for criminal and civil law) and abstract legal theory (e.g. whether retributive justice is a moral justification for the criminal justice system).
Hypothetical moral dilemmas are popular topics for debate, given that they can be discussed with a minimum of specific knowledge and a maximum of argumentation. They can range from completely fantastical situations (“If you had definitive proof that one particular religion was the true religion, should you reveal it to society?”) to unlikely occurrences (“Should you kill one person to save five other people?”) to dilemmas we face every day (“You see a homeless person on the street, should you give him money you have in your pocket?”) The infinite number of hypothetical situations that can give rise to moral dilemmas make many moral hypothetical cases extremely unique.
Although somewhat less common than tangible moral hypotheticals, all aspects of philosophy make their way into debate rounds. Ethics is probably the most debated field of philosophy, including both abstract metaethics and modern ethical problems like the trolley problem. However, philosophy of religion (“Is it rational to be an atheist?”), philosophy of mind (“Can a computer have mental states?”) and even philosophy of language (“Does love result from appreciation of someone’s properties, or does appreciation of someone’s properties result from love?”) can result in excellent rounds.
One type of case, common on APDA but rare on other circuits, is the time-space case. This places the speaker in the position of some real-life, fictional, or historical figure. Only information accessible to a person in that position is legal in this type of round. For instance, “You are Socrates. Don’t commit suicide” could not reference events that took place after Socrates’ death. The speaker can be a fictional character (“You are Homer Simpson. Do not sell your soul”), a historical character (“You are Abraham Lincoln. Do not sign the emancipation proclamation”) or virtually any other sentient individual.
One notable type of time-space case is the historical hypothetical case, in which decisions made by particular historical figures are debated from their historical context. Debates surrounding, for instance, Civil War strategy or World War 1 alliances are commonplace. These types of debates often require a detailed knowledge of history.
Teams occasionally choose to debate very funny or silly topics in rounds. In this case, the round often becomes a contest over wit and style rather than pure analysis. “Disneyland should secede from the United States” or “The Social Security system should be transformed into a free buffet” are examples of this type of round, which have been known to get quite bizarre.
Numerous cases are run on APDA that do not fit into any of the categories; case construction is a skill that requires significant creativity, and coming up with unique debate topics is a very important skill on the APDA circuit.
History of APDA
APDA was created in approximately 1982, and has scaled up in size enormously since then. It became an incorporated organization in 2000, mainly for reasons of legal liability.
2005-2006 Robbie Pratt, The College of William and Mary
2004-2005 Andrew Korn, Yale University
2003-2004 Angelo Carusone, Fordham University
2002-2003 Greg Jennings, University of Maryland, College Park
2001-2002 Jeff Williams, Columbia University
2000-2001 Scott Luftglass, Yale University
1999-2000 Matt Schwartz, Princeton University
Chris Porcaro Award winners
This award is given to the graduating senior with the most top speaker finishes in his or her APDA career. It is named after the late Chris Porcaro, the 1998 APDA speaker of the year, who died of cancer in 2000.
2005 (Tie) Alex Blenkinsopp, Harvard and Kat Hyland, Fordham and Kate Reilly, Princeton
2004 (Tie) Brookes Brown, Brown and Neil Vakharia, NYU 2003 Phil Larochelle, MIT 2002 Emily Garin, Princeton 2001 David Silverman, Princeton
APDA speakers of the year
2005 Robbie Pratt, The College of William and Mary
2004 Brookes Brown, Brown 2003 Phil Larochelle, MIT 2002 Emily Garin, Princeton 2001 Brian Fletcher, Yale 2000 David Silverman, Princeton 1999 Peter Guirguis, NYU 1998 (Tie) Micah Weinberg, Princeton and Chris Porcaro, NYU 1997 John Oleske, Princeton 1996 Chris Paolella, Princeton 1995 Doug Kern, Princeton 1994 Thanos Basdekis, Columbia 1993 Damon Watson, Princeton 1992 Ted Cruz, Princeton 1989 John Gastil, Swarthmore 1987 Bart Aronson, Yale
APDA teams of the year
2005 (Tie) Harvard: David Kimel and Jason Wen, Johns Hopkins: Jon Bateman and Michael Mayernick, The College of William and Mary: Chris Ford and Robbie Pratt
2004 Princeton: Christian Asmar and Kate Reilly 2003 Yale: Adam Jed and Elizabeth O’Connor 2002 Princeton: Edward Parillon and Yoni Schneller 2001 Yale: Brian Fletcher and Scott Luftglass 2000 Princeton: Laurence Bleicher and David Silverman 1999 Johns Hopkins: Jon Cohen and Dave Riordan 1998 Princeton: Jason Goldman and Niall O’Murchadha 1997 Williams: Chris Willenken and Amanda Amert 1996 Stanford: Brendan Maher and Matt Meskell 1995 Columbia: Arlo Devlin-Brown and Dan Stein 1994 Columbia: Thanos Basdekis and Arlo Devlin-Brown 1993 Columbia: Thanos Basdekis and Morty Dubin 1992 Princeton: Ted Cruz and Dave Panton 1991 Wesleyan: Mark Berkowitz and Dan Prieto 1989 Columbia: Andrew Cohen and Rob Kaplan 1988 University of Maryland Baltimore County: Greg Ealick and Mark Voyce 1987 Swarthmore: Josh Davis and Reid Neureiter
APDA national champions
2005 Harvard: Alex Blenkinsopp and Alex Potapov 2004 Harvard: Marty Roth and Nico Cornell 2003 Yale: Jay Cox and Tim Willenken 2002 Princeton: Edward Parillon and Yoni Schneller 2001 Yale: Brian Fletcher and Scott Luftglass 2000 Princeton: Jeremiah Gordon and Matt Schwartz 1999 Columbia: Carissa Byrne and John Castelly 1998 Harvard: Eric Albert and Justin Osofsky 1997 Johns Hopkins: Rebecca Justice and David Weiner 1996 UPenn: Liz Rogers and Peter Stris 1995 Swarthmore: Jeremy Mallory and Neil Potischman 1994 Swarthmore: Dave Carney and Neil Potischman 1993 Columbia: Thanos Basdekis and Morty Dubin 1992 Harvard: Chris Harris and David Kennedy 1991 Princeton: Robert Ewing and Christopher Ray 1990 Wesleyan: Andrew Borsanyi and Joel Potischman 1989 Harvard: Nick Alpers and Pat Bannon 1988 Brown: Aaron Belkin and Jason Grumet 1987 Swarthmore: Josh Davis and Reid Neureiter 1986 Harvard: Ben Alpers and Mike Dorf 1985 Brown: Martha Hirschfield and Tim Moore 1984 United States Naval Academy: Chuck Fish and Marshall Parsons 1983 Harvard: Neil Buchanan and Doug Curtis 1982 Princeton: Robert Gilbert and Richard Sommer 1981 Amherst: J.J. Gertler and Tom Massaro
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