Types of Speech & Debate: Lincoln Douglas Debate

Video: NFLtv Lincoln Douglas 101

Purpose of Lincoln Douglas Debate

Unlike the team approach in Policy Debate, Lincoln-Douglas is a one-on-one debate in which the L-D debaters present opposing viewpoints on the truth of some topic of importance. While Policy Debate focuses on specific proposals, L-D asks the broader questions of the way things ought to be, and the L-D debaters make persuasive arguments about adopting a certain set of values rather than rely on counting of harms/benefits. Thus, L-D debate rounds explore arguments about abstract concepts, standards of behavior and competing visions of what kind of world we should strive to create.

The “Lincoln-Douglas” name derives from a series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858 over the issue of slavery. Many of the arguments made by Lincoln and Douglas were based on values such as popular sovereignty and the morality of slavery.

Lincoln Douglas Debate Topic

The topic in a Lincoln Douglas debate is determined by the National Forensic League and changes every two months during the school year. The topic is a resolution or statement that either explicitly asserts or strongly implies conflict between two competing courses of action. An example resolution is: A government has the obligation to lessen the economic gap between its rich and poor citizens. This resolution was used at the 2012 National Tournament.

Structure of a Lincoln Douglas Debate

The Lincoln Douglas debate round consists of six speeches and typically lasts about 38 to 42 minutes. The affirmative speaker starts the round with a prepared speech that gives the basic tenets of the affirmative position. After a cross-examination of the affirmative speaker, the negative speaker prepares and then gives his first speech that explains why he disagrees with the resolution and responds to the affirmative’s reasoning with his disagreements. After that, the affirmative cross-examines the negative speaker, and then the round will proceed with the affirmative having two rebuttal speeches, and the negative having one.

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