Teaching Tools

Pick-up Rebuttal

Provide students with a sample scenario on paper of what has been happening in a debate up to the point of the final speech (e.g., “they have been saying this... we have been saying this”) and then provide a student with some preparation time in order to prepare and deliver a speech. One possible scenario is as follows:

You are the third speaker for the negative, and you are late for the debate. You arrive, breathless, to the room and your team-mates say the following: “Where have you been?? Thank God you are here, though. You speak next!!! The resolution is, Resolved: that television reduces the quality of modern life. So we are opposing this resolution and defending television. They have been arguing that television emphasizes violence too much, showing news of shooting and bombing and they say that this can only encourage more violence in society. We have been responding by arguing that news is vital to social and political understanding, and we said that they have shown no evidence that people mimic the news. They haven’t responded to the point of news being vital, but they had some example of some crazy person copying a violent act he saw on the news — we have never heard of this example. They have been arguing that television lacks serious educational content. Unfortunately.... we forgot about this issue and we haven’t said anything about it in any of our speeches. In their last speech they really emphasized this point to the judges. They have also been saying that television provides a convenient way for politicians to lie to the public. They don’t have any examples, but they say it happens all the time. We responded by saying that television also allows the media to uncover the lies — then they accused us of not having any examples. Unfortunately we couldn’t think of any. They had a problem with our definition. We said that “modern” meant “in the present generation,” but they said that it meant “the present century.” Oh, they are also saying something else about violence: They said that crime and violence has gone up at the same time that television has become more present in society — they have statistics! We said that we didn’t think that it was logical to say that crime and violence have increased because of television, but they responded by saying that they have statistics and we have none. Our first argument was that television informs society. We talked about current events, weather, important announcements, and such. All they said was that the information was usually violent, incorrect, or political lies. Our second argument was that entertainment is a vital social need, and that television entertains. We have a quotation from a psychologist saying that television relaxes people and takes away stress. They said that they didn’t find it entertaining and they would rather read a book.

This exercise includes opportunities for strategically answering several questions. How many issues are there? What are the issues? Which issues are important, and which are unimportant? How should we address an issue which we dropped? How should we handle an issue which the other side might be winning? How do we tell the judge whose reasoning, evidence, or examples are better? How do we put all of this together into a reason to vote for one side or the other. While students will not have the familiarity with issues that they would have had if they had actually been in a debate, this may be an advantage. Their relative unfamiliarity with the arguments will force they to just focus on comparison and strategic choices and will discourage them from simply making more arguments or re-explaining the arguments they’ve already made (as happens too frequently in final speeches).