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variety of purposes. The same sort of exercises may be devised for any sort of subject: farming, football, the question of woman's voting, moving pictures, Robert Louis Stevenson, dancing, An
ew Carnegie, the theater of Shakespeare's day, my favorite book. There is no end of subjects which readily lend themselves to oral and written treatment and which furnish practice in the various kinds of writing.
212. Kinds of argument. One of the best forms of oral practice for high school pupils is the discussion pro and con of unsettled questions. Such discussion may be informal, without definite plan or set rules; or it may be formal, a regular game with fixed rules, like tennis or baseball. The latter is debate, for debate is an intellectual contest, the scheme and rules of which are clearly defined and established, and to be followed strictly.
Informal discussions arise constantly. They are ordinarily the result of personal differences of opinion, and when they merely express such differences they are of slight value, for they are not much more than contradicting matches. In informal discussions pupils should be taught always to state the facts that have led them to form their opinions.
213. Choosing subjects for informal discussion. In the following topics for informal discussions let the facts be given to support each side.
1. Was Eppie right in refusing to leave Silas Marner to go to Godfrey and Nancy Cass?
2. Was there any justification for Jessica's running off with Lorenzo ?
3. Does Shylock deserve to be pitied?
4. Did Ivanhoe treat Rebecca as he should have treated her?
5. Is the story of Ivanhoe improbable?
6. Can the murder of Caesar be justified? 7. Was Brutus an honorable man? 8. Was Brutus a better man than Caesar? 9. Should John Alden have spoken for himself?
Such topics as these may come up for discussion in any class. They can be a sheer waste of time, or they can be very profitable. If the clashing opinions are carefully analyzed, and reasons found for them and stated with a proper regard for the decencies of speech, informal discussions like these are to be encouraged. It is hardly worth while to attempt a formal debate of such topics, because the available facts are few and usually not evenly balanced between the two sides.
214. Some rules of formal debate. As has been stated, debate is an intellectual game, like a spelling match, and it should be played strictly according to rules.
Rule 1. There should be a proposition with two fairly well-balanced sides.
Rule 2. The proposition should be so stated and the meaning of the words in it so defined that there can be no question as to what it means.
Rule 3. The sides should agree not to discuss matters that do not bear directly upon the subject.
Rule 4. The sides should join issue; that is they should discuss the same phases of the proposition.
Rule 5. The debaters should deal with facts, for, so far as material is concerned, nothing but facts are of value in debate.
215. 1. The proposition. a. It should be debatable.
To be debatable a proposition
1. Must have two sides that are evenly balanced. If one side is much stronger than the other, there can be no debate. For example: Resolved, that drinking whisky injures a person's health, is hardly debatable in these days of scientific research. One would scarcely defend whisky-drinking on the ground of its preserving health, or even on the negative ground of its not injuring health.
2. Must be stated clearly, simply, affirmatively, and so that the real question at issue will be discussed rather than the meaning of one of the words used in stating it. For example: For and against equal suffrage or Women should be given the vote are better statements than Women should have the right to vote in all elections. Under the last statement might arise a discussion as to whether voting is a “right,” and also as to whether anyone could vote or would want to vote in all elections.
3. Must throw the burden of proof on the affirmative. He who asserts must prove, and assertions that need proof are ordinarily made against existing conditions or general belief.
4. Must be not too difficult nor too broad for beginners, and it will be better if it can be within their own interests and experience. For example: it is better for high school students to study and discuss the advisability of building a new schoolhouse, abolishing mid-year examinations, omitting
the annual speeches of students at graduation, or some other similar subject within their powers, than to undertake the tariff or the income tax or the independence of the Philippines. Such subjects as the last named may do for inter-school debates upon which weeks of preparation are spent, but not for classroom practice. Local elections, school meeting, town meeting, civic matters, the building of public buildings or public roads, bridges, parks, etc., are suitable for high school debate.
MATERIAL 216. Studying both sides. A mistake often made by debaters is to gather material only on their side of the proposition. No practice is more detrimental to debating. One cannot debate well unless he is well informed about the proposition, and that means both sides of the proposition. The question cannot be properly analyzed, issues cannot be correctly determined, rebuttal cannot be planned, unless both sides are understood. It is not how good a tennis player you are that wins games for you; it is how good a player you are as compared with your various opponents. So, you may have in a debate what you think is a good argument, but it may be worthless in the light of what your opponent has to say. You cannot know of its weakness unless you know what is likely to be said against it, and if you do not know you cannot strengthen your argument.
Hence, read everything you can about the proposition you are debating.