India needs a Debating Culture (Part 8)


“The key to holding a logical argument or debate is to allow oneself to understand the other person’s argument no matter how divergent their views may seem.” – Auliq Ice

It was then that I started thinking about how to make the debate format better. There were times when an idea or thought would strike me as someone was speaking. Could I make a quick interjection and get an immediate response? Or would this be considered as a rude thing to do? As I explored debating formats, I came across a format practiced in UK schools called Mace. Julian Bell explains how it works:

  • There are two speakers on each side.
  • It is long prep; speakers are usually given the motion several days in advance to prepare.
  • They speak for seven minutes each, alternating between proposition and opposition.
  • The first and last minute in each speech is ‘protected’ (meaning no one is allowed to make points of information during that time).
  • When all four debaters have spoken, speeches from the floor (i.e. short points from the audience) are heard.
  • One debater from each side then gives a summary speech, lasting four minutes, with the opposition speaking first. In this speech, they should not introduce any new material, but should instead respond to speeches from the floor, rebut their opponents’ case, and summarise their own case.
  • Marks are awarded for both content of speeches and speaking style.

(As an aside: Julian Bell also discussed an alternative format – one used in the British Parliament.)

In the non-protected time that a person is speaking, the other side can interrupt with what are called “points of information.”  Here is an explanation from DebateHQ: “A point of information (POI) is a question or a statement that is raised while a speaker of the opposing team is speaking. You are allowed to raise a POI at any time in the speech, but not during the protected time. Protected are the first and the last minute of the speech…The speaker has to decide if she is taking your point or not. If yes, the speaker is going to allow you to state your point. If not, she is going to say “no”, “no thanks” or similar, and you will see that some speakers will just sit you down with a hand motion. If you got an OK, now you have 15 seconds, not more, to raise one point.”

I liked the Mace format. The “points of information” addition could serve to make the debate more interactive and engaging.

And then I started thinking: Could debates be just the format for a discussion for a wide variety of topics that we are afraid to discuss on Whatsapp groups and social media because of the fear of being trolled? Could this be a format for something bigger – creating a debating culture across India? How would debating work in a world where all of us had mobile phones? Could debates become a public spectacle – like the rise of e-sports? Could debates transform India?

Tomorrow: Part 9

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.