OUR GOAL

It is our belief that everyone benefits from debate. For many, the benefits of debate are practical skills like confidence or engaging with global issues, while for some debate is about competing to win debate tournaments – the Vancouver Debate Academy promises to take on anyone who is ready to learn.

Our goal is to help kids become sharp thinkers and fearless speakers by providing them rigorous classroom practice and opportunities to compete at challenging competitions.

We accommodate high school students at different levels of debating skill by placing them in classes best for their ability – beginner, intermediate, and advanced for regular classes, and a special elite program for the Vancouver Debate Academy’s top debaters. We also have elementary debate classes that we split between beginners and advanced. Classes range from 3 to 8 students while coaches tailor a common curriculum to the needs of each group.

SUCCESS SO FAR

Our program began in September 2016 with a small team of three long-time Vancouver-based debate coaches. Since then we have expanded to over twelve debate coaches training students across five cities – Vancouver, Richmond, White Rock, Surrey, and Coquitlam. All of our coaches were once or are currently debaters the UBC Debate Society, western Canada’s most competitive debating club.

In the Vancouver Debate Academy’s first year most of our students were beginners at debating – with our coaching, our debaters won awards at every high school tournament we competed at in our first year (September 2016 to August 2017). A short-list of some of these awards include:

  • UBC Fall 2016, Sixth Best Speaker and Ninth Best Speaker
  • Stanford 2017, International Double Octo-Finalists
  • Harvard 2017, Triple Octo-Finalists and Fourteenth Best Speaker
  • UBC Spring 2017, Junior Champion Team and Top Speaker
  • Chinese National Championships 2017, Fifth Best Speaker
  • UBC Summer 2017, Finalists, Semi-Finalists, and Novice Finalists

Meanwhile since then we’ve scored major victories at large tournaments, including:

  • UBC Fall 2017, one of our debaters on the Champion Team
  • Puget Sound 2018, Quarter-Finalists, Partial-Double Octofinalists in the senior category
  • Stanford 2018, three teams in top 32, and one team in top 16, and 9th Best Speaker (top Canadian)
  • Harvard 2018, two teams within top 48, 12th Best Speaker and 4th Best Speaker (top Canadian)

WHAT STUDENTS LEARN

Debate classes are split up into three basic parts – topic lecture and discussion, practice debates, and debate activities. Most classes will begin by introducing a new concept to the students – how to rebut a point, how the criminal justice system works, how to weigh two different arguments against each other, etc. – and include either a full debate practice with proper speaking times or a debating activity.

In all classes students will be learning basic debate skills, including:

  • Structure – how to organize arguments and speeches
  • Style – presentation, clarity, and holding audience attention
  • Analysis – how to make a strong point
  • Format – the rules of competitive debating
  • Strategy – how to win over a judge with strategy
  • Knowledge – information on global issues, like politics, the legal system, and foreign policy

All debate classes at the Vancouver Debate Academy are aiming to send teams to a specific debate tournament as the culmination of a semester’s practice. Debate tournaments are an excellent experience, both for personal skill-building and as an opportunity to win awards. All beginner classes will aim to send teams to local UBC tournaments, while more experienced classes will typically prepare for more challenging tournaments such as qualifiers in Canada or American competitions.

DEBATE STYLES

Canadian National Debate Format (CNDF)

Canadian National Debating Format is the style used for the Canadian Senior National Debating championships and all preliminary qualifier tournaments. CNDF is a hybrid style that combines the structure of parliamentary debate with some aspects of World Schools style. In CNDF, there are two sides – government and opposition – with one team of two debaters representing each side. CNDF debates are prepared, meaning that students have weeks in advance of a given tournament to prepare evidence, arguments, and facts that support their side of the debate.

Teams are evaluated on the following areas: content and evidence, argument and reasoning, organization, presentation and delivery, and refutation and rebuttal. Though there are set rubrics for scoring students’ performance in each area, judges are strongly encouraged to evaluate the round holistically, and to be flexible in their weighing of the various skill areas.  This judging system is about overall persuasiveness.

Cross Examination Debate

Cross-Examination is the style used for the Canadian Junior National Debating championships and all preliminary qualifier tournaments. It is also used in some independent tournaments, like the UBC high school tournament for the junior category (grades 8-10) of the competition. In Cross-Ex there are two sides – affirmative and negative – with one team of two debaters representing each side.

As it is intended for junior debaters, Cross-Ex emphasizes basic-skill development. The cross-examination portions of a Cross-Ex round is designed to help students focus on the incremental logical links that are necessary to building and communicating compelling arguments. In this way, Cross-Ex more closely resembles the style of argumentation that occurs in a courtroom than that which occurs in a parliament. Debates are prepared, meaning that students have weeks in advance of a given tournament to prepare evidence, arguments, and facts that support their side of the debate.

British Parliamentary Debate (BP)

British Parliamentary debate is one of the most popular debating styles in the world. The style is commonly used at universities, including UBC where BP is the primary style used for practice and competitions. BP is the style used at the university debate world championship. UBC also hosts BC’s largest high school tournaments in the fall and spring using BP for senior debaters (grades 10-12).

In BP there are two sides, government and opposition, but there are four teams – two on each side (each of the four teams has two debaters, making for a total of eight debaters in a round). Debaters are ranked out of four and are not only competing against teams on the opposing side but also the other team on their own side of the debate. This makes BP a more complex format of debate because strategy is important to positioning your team above your opponents and your own side.

All BP debates are impromptu, meaning that debaters are given fifteen minutes of preparation before the round. In BP, judges do not use a set scoring rubric, but instead look for persuasive arguments, role fulfillment, and clear style when adjudicating rounds. As BP is completely impromptu, students are not expected to use specific statistics or facts, beyond those which the average well-informed high school (or university) student who keeps up with the news would be aware of. Likewise, no internet use is permitted during prep time, though many tournaments allow students to reference printed materials if they so choose.

Public Forum Debate (PF)

While there are many different American styles of debate, the most popular American style among Canadian debaters is Public Forum (PF). While no debate tournaments in Canada use this style, PF is widely used at US tournaments where Canadians are welcome to participate.

Like other American styles, PF emphasizes the use of researched evidence. Topics are announced a month in advance and debaters are expected to balance the use of cited research from scholarly sources with good logic and persuasive speaking. In PF there are two teams, the pro and con (or affirmative and negative), each with two debaters who speak twice. Each speaker has a very specific role, whether to deliver new arguments or attack the opponent’s arguments, and speeches are very short.