Monash Association of Debaters

Sam Block


Welcome to another edition of the Monash Debating Review. It has been a great privilege to be involved in the editing of this volume, and I can speak for myself and all my Associate Editors in saying that the process has been both interesting and fulfilling.

As editors, we wanted this issue to contain pieces worthy of an academic journal, and which went beyond how-to guides to debating of the sort which are widely available. Setting stringent criteria in our call for articles, we were rewarded with some really excellent pieces which we are proud to present here. While they range widely in their content and emphasis, these essays are united by the fact that they extend our knowledge of an area of debating, and promote discussion, rather than contracting it.

Bob Nimmo and Art Ward add to a vital debate about how tournaments should be run with two articles, Nimmo’s on tabulation and Art’s on the composition of adjudication teams. Both draw upon myriad personal experiences to make arguments in favour of changing current practice. At the same time, both convey a wealth of information valuable to anyone considering running a debating tournament. Nimmo’s article in particular is, we believe, the most comprehensive guide to tabulation ever printed, and the only one of which we are aware that deals with tournaments of the size that Bob has regularly worked on. Ward’s article is equally timely, and as the makeup of adjudication teams continues to change, we hope this piece will start a much-needed conversation on how to produce the right ones.

Colin Etnire & Lelia Glass’s joint piece takes a very different look at debating. By examining speakers’ deployment of language and its inflections to construct a social reality favourable to their argumentative position, their essay brings a much-needed refocusing to the descriptive analysis of competitive debating. While this is far from a how-to guide, it will serve debaters and judges alike well to broaden their conception of debating through their lens.

Finally, Tim Lees and Rob Marrs examine two types of topics and arguments generally held at – or beyond – the periphery of debating. Lees’ examination of theological argumentation in the context of British Parliamentary debating casts a new light on the set of argumentation traditionally considered acceptable and makes a strong argument in favour of admitting new types of reasoning. By contrast, Marrs’ piece argues for the acceptability of motions about sport and engages with some of the familiar objections to them. Both address important questions about what sorts of topics we should set, and how we should evaluate speakers addressing them.

Taken together, we hope that this Volume has something to offer anyone interested in serious thinking about debating, adjudication and tournament organisation. We hope that they prompt discussion, both written and oral, and build the knowledge we as a community can draw on.

Sam Block