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The Brown Debating Union competes in parliamentary debate, an extemporaneous form of competitive debate which stresses rigorous argumentation, logical analysis, quick thinking, breadth of knowledge, and rhetorical ability over preparation of evidence. There are two main categories of parliamentary debate in which the BDU competes:

American Parliamentary Debate

APDA pits two two-person teams against each other. The Government (proposing) team presents a case for debate that they have prepared in advance. The Opposition team is given an opportunity to ask informational and clarifying questions regarding the case topic, and is then expected to rebut the Government's proposal through counter-argument and refutation

Some examples of APDA cases include:

  • Is Tinder feminist?

  • Public vs. private healthcare

  • Should Greece exit the Eurozone?

  • The War on Drugs

  • Ethical dilemmas in Star Trek​

For more information about APDA, check out the introductory guides on the APDA website. 

British Parliamentary Debate

BP debate differs from APDA in several ways. First, BP debate is motion-based, in which a "motion" is announced 15 minutes prior to each round. Unlike in APDA, debaters on side Government do not have prepped cases in advance in BP. Second, four two-person teams ​compete in each BP debate round, with two teams on each side. Each team in the round has a dual burden: to rebut any arguments made by the two teams on the other side of the motion, and to do a better job of defending (or opposing) the motion than the other team on its own side. Finally, judges in BP debate rely primarily on considerations of persuasiveness in reaching their decision, rather than solely considering the "flow."

Some examples of BP Motions include:

  • This House supports nationalism.

  • This House believes that the feminist movement should support the narrative that "beauty does not matter" over the narrative that "all bodies are beautiful."

  • This House believes that strong dictatorships in the Middle East are better than weak democracies.

  • This House would allocate votes inversely proportional to wealth (where everyone gets at least one vote).

For more rounds, workshops, and information about British Parliamentary debate, check out this spreadsheet.


Old BDU Rounds

Check out a few of our old rounds with current and former BDU members:

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