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Author Topic: In Defense of Speaking Quickly in Debates  (Read 3063 times)
paulmabrey
Full Member
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Posts: 162


« on: May 13, 2014, 11:42:57 AM »

Via John Koch...

Research shows that the average person speaks and can reasonably understand a speed of about 150-160 words per minute. However, research also demonstrates that a person is capable of listening to and understanding 400-600 words per minute. The range for policy debaters is about 350-500 words per minute. This means that policy debate requires its participants to sharpen their listening and comprehension skills to the higher levels of human capability. The end result of this is that debaters are able to listen, comprehend, and analyze information at higher rates of speed than a lay person. Since thinking on your feet is an important life skill, debate is an important pedagogical tool for developing it.

Adler, Ronald, et al. Understanding Human Communication.
Wong, Linda (2014). Essential Study Skills.
Chafets, Zev (2006-03-19). "Ministers of Debate". The New York Times.
Emily Demarest (2006-11-07). "What Ivy League? BUís Debate team is among best in the country." BU Pipe Dream.
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skinner
Newbie
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Posts: 22


« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2014, 04:27:11 AM »

Does anyone know of neurological studies of debaters?
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CouldaBeenaContenda
Jr. Member
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Posts: 73


« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2014, 12:42:57 PM »

I doubt that anyone can comprehend unfamiliar material at 300 words a minute to the degree of precision that is needed to judge policy debate.  When a person is speaking, the listener does not know what each successive word will be.  At some point, once he has heard at least two nouns and a verb, the listener begins to formulate a plausible sentence construction that uses one noun as the subject and the other as the object, yet those first two nouns might not each serve those two roles.  

Eventually, the sentence ends, and the listener may conclude it has ended by his having digested the entire word stream and noting that successive, uttered words do not flow from it, or he may be guided by the speaker's voice inflection.  I do not believe it is always possible to determine where a quotation ends and where a subsequent, analytical sentence begins when debaters inflect as poorly as they do at 300+ words per minute.

Once the listener is convinced he has interpreted the basic sentence structure correctly, he must then think back to whether any terms were singular or plural, and then, in contemplating the argumentative impact or scope of the pertinent claim of the sentence, he must make at least some tentative conclusions regarding whether each unqualified term, meaning each term that is not modified by a limiting adverb or adjective, was intended by the quote's author to be absolute or categorical.  

I seriously doubt that any judge can reliably recall unfamiliar sentences spoken at 300+ words per minute in such detail as to be able to judge subsequent challenges to the nature and scope of evidence that includes unqualified terms when the scope or range of those terms is challenged by the other team.  And I will add to that, my further criticism of policy debate that it may not be possible to ascertain whether conclusionary sentences, even when presented to the judge in writing, were intended by their authors to be taken as unqualified and uncategorical in scope without the judge reading the entire work from which the evidentiary citation was extracted.

- Michael W. Toland
« Last Edit: July 16, 2014, 04:15:48 PM by CouldaBeenaContenda » Logged

Dover (New Hampshire) High School debate team, 1967-1970
Dover High School Debate Coach, 1970-1971
University of New Hampshire debate team, 1970 (when we still spoke like human beings)
University of New Hampshire debate team, 1980-1981 (and when we didn't)
UNH assistant debate coach, 1980-1981
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