What is World Schools Debate?

World Schools Debate is an international debate program practiced by hundreds of schools from around the world. Schools compete in teams of 3-5 students. There are two teams in every round, of which three will speak in the debate. There are four sets of speeches in a WSDC round: the first speeches, the second speeches, the third speeches, and the reply speech. The first three sets of speeches are eight minutes in length.

Debates center around a range of international topics. One example is the topic “this house believes that corporations cannot be trusted to make ethical decisions.” Another example is “This house would ban drilling for oil in the Arctic Circle.” As you can see, topics can cover a diverse range of issues, from environmentalism to economics, from foreign policy to ethics.

World Schools Debate emphasizes winning arguments with a conversational, approachable speaking style, and delivering subject matter in such a way that the average bystander can fully comprehend the subject of this debate. Accessibility is particularly pertinent in a format where a large share of competitors are ESL (English Second Language) or EFL (English Foreign Language.) Speed talking is hard enough to follow in one’s mother-tongue, so it is naturally avoided in an international format like World Schools.

Fundamentally, WS rounds are won and lost on two levels: the principle and the practical. Frequently, the ethical consequences of taking an action contradict with the pragmatic payoffs. One can imagine a scenario where a military leader mounts an aggressive and deadly offensive on a terror cell in the hopes of deterring future attacks. This may be a pragmatic way to hopefully save lives, but it is another question as to whether or not such a move is ethically sound. Conversely, there is the debate over which side will pragmatically improve the lives of humans the most. Worlds strikes a balance between these two poles.