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9th Grade Physics Position Paper: Energy Debates

Energy Debate Assignment

Bentley School 
Energy Debates
April - May  2015


1.    The United States should build more nuclear power plants.

2.    Offshore drilling is more beneficial than detrimental.

3.    The government should mandate a 20% reduction in energy consumption for residences and businesses over the next 5 years.

4.    The government should support the development of clean coal technologies as soon as possible.

5.    The number of wind and solar plants be should be increased such that they become the major source of energy in this country within the next 20 years.

6.    Fracking is more beneficial than detrimental.

Format of the Debate:

First Affirmative Constructive Speech
First Negative Constructive Speech

3-5 minutes
3-5 minutes

Second Affirmative Constructive Speech
Second Negative Constructive Speech

3-5 minutes
3-5 minutes
Cross Examination of the Affirmative Case by Negative Team 1-2 minutes
Cross Examination of the Negative Case by Affirmative Team 1-2 minutes

Open Crossfire

1-7 minutes
Break/ Planning 3 minutes
Negative Rebuttal and Summation 3-5 minutes
Affirmative Rebuttal and Summation 3-5 minutes

Timing: Speakers are expected to speak within 30 seconds after the prior speaker sits down; in other words, there is no “prep time” once the debate has started. The moderator will begin to deduct speaker time if the next speaker exceeds this time limit. The moderator will stand up (as a warning) when there is 30 seconds remaining for that particular section.

First Constructive Speech: A constructive speech is one during which the Affirmative and the Negative establish their fundamental positions and arguments. This speech is used to clearly state the resolution and prepare the audience for your arguments. To do so, it is necessary to clarify history, terminology, technology and state of affairs. Once you do this you should introduce the foundation arguments of the debate. The first Affirmative speaker interprets the topic and establishes a case that offers a main point of view and proof for that point of view. The negative speakers critically investigate the case and attempt to undermine it. The responsibility of the negative team is to clash with the affirmatives’ case, using appropriate techniques of refutation, including:

●      an assault on the underlying assumptions of the case
●      an exploration of opportunity costs (the sacrifice made when one policy is accepted over another policy)
●      the introduction of exclusive, opposing philosophical and/or policy objections
●      the critical analysis of the major issues and concrete examples of proof, with point ­by-point disagreement with the factual and logical claims.

Second Constructive Speech: This is when arguments are further developed and strengthened. Your strengths should shine here. Clearly present your strongest arguments, while offering supporting evidence. Remember to keep it clear and simple- argument and support. The clearer and simpler you argument is, the easier it is for the judges to understand your point of view and the harder it is for your opposition to refute. You can also begin to answer the arguments presented by the other team while affirming your own case. This would be a point-by-point answer to the prior speeches, using this rough format:

1) We initially said. . . 
2) The other team responded to this by saying . . .
3) Our response to that is. . .       OR     The reason our position is superior to the other team’s attack is . . .

Cross Examination: One team elects a person to ask questions of a person elected by the other team. The questions are meant to have the the opposing team answer questions that make their argument appear inconsistent, weak or without basis. Your team should have a battery of questions ready to ask, including follow up questions.

Open Crossfire: 1-7 minutes where the audience can ask either team questions, to clarify its position or to add information to the debate. During this time the teams can also ask questions of the opposing team.

Rebuttal and Summation: This is a response to evidence presented by the other party plus a concluding summary. The rebuttal is to clarify, extend and/ or refute previously made arguments, not to construct new argumentation. No new arguments are allowed in rebuttals, unless the arguments have a logical foundation established in the prior speeches. These speeches indicate the important issues that establish a proof for the topic or undermine that proof. Each side reviews the evidence presented in an attempt to explain, counteract or disprove facts given in evidence by the other party.


●      Judging the debate and determining an outcome is handled by the students only. The remainder of the class not participating in the debate will be the judges and should take notes during the debate, noting the various positions each team presents and the responses given to arguments the other team gives, and weighing the evidence each team uses to support their position. At the end of the debate, the judges can confer over their scoring, then they will submit the scores for each group. The scores will be tallied and the decision will be announced.
●      The teacher’s main role in the debate is to monitor the quality of both the arguments and the evidence presented to support those arguments, in order to assign a grade for each of the participants. Grades are not determined by who wins or loses the debate.
●      Burden of proof rests solely with the affirmative.
●      You should attack the idea, not the individual. Personal attacks will not be tolerated and points will be deducted for doing so.
●      Take time to plan out your speeches and what points you would like to make. Practice giving your speeches, so that you become more fluent and so that you know how long they last.