Parliamentary Debate - Parliamentary Debate in The United States

Parliamentary Debate in The United States

American Parliamentary Debate is supported by a number of organizations in the United States at the tertiary and secondary levels.

University level

The most popular intercollegiate parliamentary debate style is supported by the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA), which was born in western US in 1991. NPDA circuit consists of a loose confederation of local leagues and a number of invitational tournaments. The NPDA season culminates with two national tournaments – NPDA Nationals and the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence (NPTE). NPDA Nationals (founded in 1994) is open to all and attracts about 200 teams each year. NPTE (founded in 2001) is qualification-only and invites the top 64 teams of the approximately 1000 teams that compete in NPDA/NPTE-sanctioned invitationals throughout the season. Phi Rho Pi Nationals for junior and community colleges have an NPDA-style division, as do Novice Nationals. The chief online forum for the NPDA circuit is, started in 2002 by Jed Link.

American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA), the oldest intercollegiate parliamentary debate league in the US, was founded in 1982. APDA currently has around 40 member universities, primarily in the Northeast.

A number of smaller intercollegiate debate leagues, such as the Lincoln Parliamentary League (LPL) and International Public Debate Association (IPDA) also exists.

The British Parliamentary Style (a.k.a. Worlds Debate, distinct from World Schools Style) is also beginning to spread to the US, with the US Universities Debating Championship held annually at the University of Vermont.

High School level

The public school high school debate league, National Forensic League (NFL), does not offer parliamentary debate at its national tournament. It does, however, recognize parli competitions offered at the state level, albeit at a reduced points value. In 2010 NFL Nationals added Supplemental Debate, which bears some similarity to parliamentary debate.

A number of attempts to organize a high school parli championship tournament have been made – National Parliamentary Caucus (2003–2005), NPDL Parli Grand Nationals (2006–2007) and IDEA Tournament of Champions (2005–2009, switched to world format in 2010).

The current incarnation of such championship is the Tournament of Champions, hosted by Point of Information. (2010–present, began accepting out-of-state teams in 2011). It was started as a California championship, named "California Cup," but has been renamed the Tournament of Champions to represent the prestige of the high school tournament.

Oregon State Tournament (OSAA) added parliamentary debate (known In Oregon as Public debate) in 2001, California State Tournament (CHSSA) followed suit in 2003, and Pennsylvania State Tournament (PHSSL) in 2010. Yale, ASU, Whitman, as well as a number of invitational tournaments in Oregon and California, the largest of them held at Stanford, James Logan HS, SCU, UOP, Willamette, University of Oregon, Pepperdine and Claremont HS also offer parli.

High school parli is taught at several summer Debate camps, including SNFI, ODI and CCPDI

On the home school level, the home school debate league, Stoa, also promotes parliamentary debate in a number of its tournaments nationwide. Stoa offers its own parliamentary nationals, PITOC, each year. Stoa does not offer parliamentary debate at nationals (NITOC). The other home school debate league, NCFCA, does not offer parliamentary debate at any of its tournaments or is it hosted at nationals.


The first key feature uniting various formats of parliamentary debate in the US is their spontaneity. The resolutions alternate each round and are typically announced 15–20 minutes in advance. APDA is somewhat of an exception in the respect, with "loose link" rounds allowing the affirmative to run a case of their choosing, dealing with virtually any topic. The second key feature of parli is a ban on quoted evidence. Debaters may not bring in any material that was not prepared in the 15–20 minutes of preparation time and consult it during the round. APDA, Worlds and high school parli debate styles tend to take a more lay-friendly approach to debate, ensuring that debates are easy to understand no matter the audience member's expertise of the resolution. NPDA is more diverse, with some teams engaging in a more academic and specific-knowledge style borrowed from Policy debate. Resolutions typically focus on current events, though the entrance of the Kritik to NPDA, and, to a lesser extent, to some high school circuits, introduced a philosophical element to parli.

This style consists a two-on-two debate, between the affirmative team, known as the Government or the Proposition, and the negative team, referred to as the Opposition. Debater role names are borrowed from the British Parliament, with the judge being referred to as the Speaker. The round consists of six speeches, as follows:

  1. Prime Minister Constructive (PMC): the first affirmative speaker presents the affirmative case
  2. Leader of the Opposition Constructive (LOC): the first negative speaker presents the negative case and answers the PMC arguments
  3. Member of the Government Constructive (MGC): the second affirmative speaker upholds the affirmative case and responds to the LOC arguments
  4. Member of the Opposition Constructive (MOC): the second negative speaker upholds the negative case and responds to the MGC arguments
  5. Leader of the Opposition Rebuttal (LOR): the first negative speaker summarizes the round. New arguments are not allowed.
  6. Prime Minister Rebuttal (PMR):the first affirmative speaker summarizes the round and responds to any new arguments brought up in the MOC/LOC Opp block. New arguments in the PMR are not allowed.

Specific rules and speech times vary slightly between organizations. NPDA, APDA and OSAA use the 7-8-8-8-4-5 format, CHSSA and the ASU Invitational use the Claremont 7-7-7-7-5-5 format, the SCU Invitational uses the 6-7-7-7-4-5 format, and Yale high school tournaments use the Osterweis 4-5-5-5-2-3 format. PHSSL borrows its 8 speeches 6-6-6-6-6-6-3-3 format from World Schools Style debate.

Most variations of the style do not include a specialized cross-examination period, but allow debaters to make parliamentary points.

  • Points of Information (POI) are questions or statements the opposing side can direct the speaker who has the floor. The speaker has an option to recognize or decline a POI. In most styles POIs cannot be made during the first and last minute of each speech (known as protected time) or during rebuttals.
  • Points of Order are made when the speaker is introducing a new argument during a rebuttal speech, or grossly mischaracterizing arguments. During a Point of Order, official time (usually kept by the judge) is to be stopped while the judge listens and considers the point raised.
  • Points of Personal Privilege are made when the speaker makes offensive claims or personal attacks.

Read more about this topic:  Parliamentary Debate

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