doorEUDC-, WUDC- and WSDC-reporter

Why the national high school championships should be held in the British Parliamentary format.

By Floris Holstege
As someone who has just one tournament left as a high school student the period after my final exams allows for some reflection on the schools circuit. Those reflections led to me writing this article in which I will argue that the national high school championships should be held in the British Parliamentary (BP) format for a very specific reason: that it will increase the number of high school students who continue debating at a university level. Although I hold the opinion that BP is superior to the current format in many different ways I will focus solely on this specific merit. As someone who has had incredible amounts of fun debating in both the high school circuit and the university circuit I am genuinely interested in how we can extend this joy to more people. I do not expect the format to change, but I personally believe that the discussion about which format should be used and how we can increase the number of students continuing their debating career at university is a fruitful one. The current format is similar to the format used at the World Schools Debating Championships. For a more elaborate explanation of the format, see the following link:

There is a difference between the format used at a high school level (WSDC) and at a university level(BP). Given that most societies main goal (and in a majority of cases only) is performing well at nationals the majority of them solely train in the format used at nationals. Apart from a small group of schools that are extremely involved with debating, most of them have little to no exposure to British Parliamentary debating. This means that there is a group of people who obviously like to debate but have had no exposure to BP when they enter university. Obviously there are different reasons to quit debating at university level. My contention is simply that this group being completely new to the format is for some individuals the reason to quit or not be as active as before. We are not talking about a small group here (and even if we were, encouraging a small group to continue debating is already a great thing): the number of students participating at the national high school championships and the effort societies put into this activity is massively increasing each and every year. The ones from the schools circuit that continue to debate at a university level are now almost solely the ones who have had exposure to BP debating or to WSDC coaching (I recognize that this is also the most fanatic group and thus the one already most likely to continue. I think their continuation of debating largely has to do with their familiarity in BP, given that lots of students who are really fanatic at schools level don’t continue at university). This is a very small group compared to the massive group of students who participate at nationals. Giving this massive group exposure to BP debating will increase the number of students that continue debating for a couple of reasons:

1. Having to start off in an entirely new format can make the bar to continue debating much higher. These students are used to an entirely different format. That means that they will have to get rid of old habits and learn new ones when starting debating at their university. They obviously enjoyed debating in the past but now they have to start all over again. Compare this to when they can easily continue the format they already know and are skilled in to a certain extent at university. Since this is a format they are familiar with it also gives them a form of security: they know this format and they know they will enjoy it. Compare this to the insecurity of a new format that they don’t know and will have to put time and effort in without knowing if they will like it. A lot of students are unwilling to take that risk. Obviously some are willing to take this risk, but not everyone.

2. There is now a small group of students who regularly attend BP competitions on the university circuit. The amount of people attending these competitions is likely to increase when we change the format of nationals to BP since
A) They can now use these tournaments specifically to train for the main goal of their society. This gives them an extra reason to attend these tournaments
B) It is very scary to decide to go to a tournament of which you have no experience in the format and your school doesn’t offer any training in. When schools start training in BP for nationals their students are more likely to come to these competitions since it is less scary to go to a tournament of which you already know the format.

Personally I believe that a student having positive experiences at these types of tournaments makes it very likely that they will continue debating for a number of reasons. First of all since when they have fun at these tournaments they want to attend more of them since the first one they attended was fun. In order to do maximize the experience of these tournaments joining a debating society seems far more reasonable. Compare this to when they have no positive experiences at these tournaments since they don’t attend them and thus don’t see a direct reason to join a debating society.
Second of all when they make friends or meet nice people at those tournaments they build up a network. When you know that you like the people from our debating community you are far more likely to join a debating society. One of the key reasons why I will continue debating at a university level is because I really enjoyed hanging around with people from different debating societies including the one I will be attending next year. Compare this to when people know nobody when they start at their respective debating society.

As outlined before the group of people willing to continue debating at university level almost solely exists of people who have had exposure to BP debating before. This is obviously not true for all. But it is a shame that this is the only group willing to continue their debating career at a university level. If this group that didn’t have exposure before would be included our entire community can massively benefit. It is for that reason that we should consider changing the format of the national high school debating championships. It is reasonable to aim for more people getting more joy out of debating by continuing this activity after high school.

The main concern with this change of format I have encountered is that lots of people believe that schools will no longer continue to participate for three reasons:
1. “BP is too difficult for most schools”. I have a couple of responses to this:

1. The role of the third speaker in the current format is also extremely confusing for most schools. There are a lot of different ways to fill in this role, which could potentially make it very difficult. Arguably, a whip speech in BP has a much clearer role than the third speech in the current format. If schools can already fill in the current role then why should they have problems with BP?

2. I am just going to contest that BP debating is way more difficult. Especially when the debate doesn’t have a really high level (which, let us be realistic, is the case with most debates at the national championship), the opening half is approximately the same as in the current format and the extension can be explained as “bringing new arguments”. The only extra difficulty I really see is that BP is more tactical. This extra difficulty only really comes into place at high-level debates, and students who are in those already have the experience to grasp this.

3. If BP really is too difficult, why then do we see lots of students participating in school debating where BP is already the norm, mainly the entire United Kingdom? Dutch students are not less competent than them and thus can handle the difficulty of the format (It might be the case that even more students would have participated in the UK if the format would not have been BP. This is merely an example of where BP can function succesfully as a dominant format for the school circuit).

2.”Changing the format again requires a lot of extra effort for schools which they are unwilling to put into it” – again a couple of responses:

1. The format has changed many times before and time and time again schools where willing to put extra effort into this activity. Speaker times and roles have changed many times but the number of schools participating has only been growing.

2. Schools will recognize that the extra effort of learning their students to debate in BP is all worth it when considering that their students can enhance the reputation of their school by participating and possibly winning the national championships. Even if schools are unwilling to put in effort, students themselves have shown to be extremely motivated to do well at the national championships and thus will be participating again, regardless of the format.

3. Almost every school receives formal training from Cogency once they sign up for participation. I have faith in their trainers to communicate this format to schools in a way that will make sure that they won’t have to put in lots and lots of effort into understanding and practicing it since professionals who are experienced in the format help them.

3. “Schools want to let as many students as possible participate and thus will prefer other tournaments over the national championships”

1.In a BP format you could allow schools to send up to two teams which would make sure just as many students as in the current format can participate.
Schools are already keen on sending multiple teams to BP tournaments such as Oxford schools and Leiden schools

2. As much as schools and students dislike not having one single coherent team of four people, the pride they get out of participating and doing well at the national championships outweighs this. That means they will still be participating.

Lastly, I don’t see a problem with letting prepared motions exist in the new BP format. Some might think that using prepared motions in BP disadvantages the second half. From my experiences at the Intergymnasiaal tournament this went fine and was not disadvantageous for the closing half. At its last edition the prepared final was even won from closing opposition. I would have run a fairness test on its tabs if they were available online. If anyone has experiences or thoughts about BP being unbalanced with prepared motions than I would be interested in hearing those. Motion difficulty would also remain the same with BP as the new format.

If there are other concerns with BP as a format for the national high school championships then I would really like to hear those. Let us however try to keep this discussion focused on which format allows for the best transition between the school circuit and the university circuit, and not turn it into a unspecific discussion. It might also be the case that BP puts lots of students off from participating at university. I haven’t identified why, but if that is the case please comment bellow. There are people in our community with far knowledge on this topic than I and I look forward to hearing from them.

doorMascha Bloemer

Open CA application should be the norm

By Srdjan Miletic

CA’s are usually chosen based on who the conveners know. I’ve always thought that closed CA selection gives worse CA’s chosen less based on ability than on popularity.  That’s why for Maastricht Open 2015 we opened CA applications to anyone willing to fill in our online form. The result was a world class CA team and fantastic motions.

Why open CA application is great.

The simplest reason for an open application process it that it gives more candidates as both those the conveners approach personally and convince to apply as well as others who apply of their own volition can be chosen from. Another reason is that it minimizes the impact of personal biases on choosing CA’s, a problem I think is widespread. I don’t mean so much racial or gender bias but rather reputation bias, where people with better connections, more exposure or from more respected institutions are given undue preference.

How to run an open CA application?

The application process used for Maastricht Open was simple and should work for most tournaments. We:

  1. Created a google form asking prospective applicants for their personal details, required travel funding (preferred and minimum), judging experience, speaking experience, other experience and a final question asking them what makes them a great CA.
  2. Posted the form online in debating facebook groups with an explanation of what Mass Open was and why it would be awesome, advertised Maas open and how to apply to CA at tournaments we went to.
  3. Once the application deadline had passed, weighed up the applicants based on their debating CV’s and required funding.


Running open applications isn’t difficult or time consuming. The only objections I’ve heard deal with the selection processes rather than with anything inherit to open applications. While we chose our CA’s based on ability, it would have been equally possible to select based on reputation, gender/race, development potential, ability to bring judges or any other criteria imaginable.

Stylistically necessary conclusion

When firms look for employees, they cast their nets as widely as possible, making available positions public and applications as open as is practical. We expect the same of virtually all areas of society. I don’t see why the same shouldn’t apply to debating.
doorMascha Bloemer

Motion balance at the Wageningen Open

By Srdjan Miletic

As usual, I won’t write about the social side of the tournament because, frankly, that’s not my area of expertise. What I will write about is the motion, which were as follows:


Motions (as posted by Micheal Dunn):

  • R1: Given the scarcity of donor organs, THW deprioritise substance abusers on organ recipient lists
  • R2: THBT the punishments for murder and manslaughter should be equal
  • R3: This House regrets The Euro
  • R4: TH regrets monogamy
  • Final: THBT the acquisition of wealth, above that needed to meet one’s basic needs, is immoral


I believe that the motions for round 1 and 2, while interesting, were probably unbalanced, favouring Prop and Opp respectively. Here’s why:

Round 1:

This motion requires current substance abusers (A.K.A: addicts from any decent Gov) be given lower priority than non abusers. The basic, obvious arguments I would expect to see from gov are:


  1. (Very Weak) Drug users are less deserving  of organs
    1. Drug users chose to use drugs
    2. Drug users harmed society
  2. Drug users are helped less by organs
    1. Organs should be distributed in such a way as to maximise either [(tenuous claim) life years/(acceptable claim) lives saved]
      1. Justification
        1. We have to adopt some position, neutrality is impossible
        2. We already do this in all other resource allocation problems, i.e:
          1. police
          2. economic subsidies
          3. etc…
        3. Intuitively appealing
          1. Intuition is the only source of morality, no independent grounding is possible
          2. Case: two people. One has a 99% chance of rejecting an organ, the other a 2% chance. All else is equal, I intuitively would give the organ to the person it is more likely to save.
    2. More likely to die earlier, and hence gain less years of life from the organ
      1. More likely to become addicted again
      2. More likely to have serious health problems resulting from addiction.
    3. More likely to reject organ than non-users
      1. Less likely to stick to diet and drug regime required to avoid rejection
      2. Less healthy


The problem with the motion, and the reason I suspect it is unbalanced, is that these arguments are easy to make, intuitively appealing and hard to rebut. Moving to Opp, there are far fewer obvious arguments and even rebuttal of the Gov case, while by no means impossible, is far from simple.

First, rebuttal. Obviously, it is easy to rebut argument 1, drug users being less deserving of life, by pointing out that drug addiction is not a choice or through other means. The real difficulty comes with argument 2, that drug users are less likely to benefit from the organs and that we should allocate organs so as to maximise the amount of lives saved/extended. There are two options here, opp can argue that:

  1. We should not allocate organs so as to save the most lives
  2. Drug users do not benefit less from organs than non-users

The issue with the first line of argument is that I struggle to see an alternate system of allocation that is anywhere near as appealing as allocating to maximise lives saved. The problem with the second argument is that it does not seem possible to entirely rebut the fact that drug abuse leads to a higher risk of organ rejection. While it is possible to frame out certain health risks, for example, by pointing out that STD’s or immune problems acquired due to drug use are already accounted for by the health check’s done to determine rejection risk, it is not possible to frame out the risk of re-addiction and consequent rejection as that is a risk a doctor cannot know of without taking into account past history of substance abuse. Also, framing out the health risks of drug addiction by shoving them into the “general health” requirements can be a bit iffy if Gov are smart enough to argue that certain health risks associated with addiction are not possible to independently verify/discover. Hence, my belief that the motions is likely unbalanced
Round 2:

While this is a round I personally find much more interesting, it is one which seems to be even more unbalanced. This time, I’ll start with the possible opp lines (many of which are lifted from other people in the tournament)

  1. The purpose of the justice system is to provide restitution and closure to victims
    1. victims of intentional crime are, all things equal, more offended than victims of accidents. The same applies to victims families.
  2. The purpose of the justice system is to  punish people who do evil
    1. Intentional harm to another is more evil than unintentional harm
      1. i.e: What’s more evil? 1: carelessly leaving medicine where a child could find it, drink it and die. 2: forcing the same medicine down the child’s throat because you want to kill it.
  3. The purpose of the justice system is to protect society from dangerous people
    1. Man-Slaughterers are less likely to reoffend than those who made a decision to take a life


I find these arguments to be, generally speaking, quite obvious, easy to argue and persuasive. On the other hand, I struggle to see what Gov can argue and most of the obvious lines are comparatively weaker. i.e:

  • (depending on mech) [Longer/Shorter] sentences are better because deterrence/prisons are bad]
    • Rebuttal: Just make sentences generally longer/shorter but not the same
  • Victims are equally offended in both cases
    • Rebuttal: False, intentional crime is more offensive
  • Both crimes are equally evil as both show a disregard for human life
    • Rebuttal: Murder = intentional = far greater disregard
      • i.e: What’s more evil? 1: carelessly leaving medicine where a child could find it, drink it and die. 2: forcing the same medicine down the child’s throat because you want to kill it.
  • There is no free will and morality does not exist?????
    • Rebuttal:
      • Crazy
      • no moral culpability
      • not intuitively plausible
      • (advanced but devastating): no free will = no personhood


Note that this is not to say that it is impossible to argue for Opp. I would be glad to do so and I think many philosophy students or high-level debaters would be capable of doing so. My point is that it seems to be far easier to argue for prop, especially for the average debater in the average room, which leads me to believe that the motion could be unbalanced.

doorMascha Bloemer

The strongest argument against vegetarianism

By Srdjan Miletic

This post outlines an argument against vegetarianism. I originally used it in a workshop to show how arguments can be convincing without being one sided or overly aggressive, a problem which I find many debaters arguments fall into. I repost it here in case anyone else is interested.

Meer lezen

doorMascha Bloemer

Het NK Debatteren 2015: winst voor Leiden

De tab: Tab NK Debatteren 2015

Winnaars: Devin van den Berg en Menno Schellekens (team Devin en Menno, Leiden Debating Union)

Beste spreker: Luciën de Bruin (Erasmus Debating Society, 322 punten)

Door Céleste van der Togt

Afgelopen zaterdag 11 April werd het NK Debatteren gehouden in het Stedelijk Gymnasium Nijmegen. Trivium was de organiserende vereniging en al om acht uur ’s ochtends waren de eerste vrijwilligers bezig om er een succes van te maken. Meer lezen

doorMascha Bloemer

Knowledge: A few sources

By Srdjan Miletic

Whether you want to do well in debating or in life, it helps to know things. There are many articles out there on knowledge in debating and how to get informed, what I write here is my personal take on what is worth reading and a few choice sources I doubt are very widely known. Enjoy. Meer lezen
doorEUDC-, WUDC- and WSDC-reporter

The adventures of team the Netherlands day 2 –

After a very successful day yesterday we finally were able to get some rest. The president of Slovenia visited for the opening this great tournament, and although his entire speech had to be translated, it was really impressive. All the teams won their first two debates, except team Netherlands blue who were unfortunate to face the USA in the first round, in what has been told was a very high standard and close debate. They redeemed themselves immediately in the next round, and look forward to take this team on again later. This team is power ranked, which makes it all the more enjoyable.

doorEUDC-, WUDC- and WSDC-reporter

The adventures of team the Netherlands in Slovenia – day 1 – long days and longer flights

By Floris Holstege

The first day of our trip to Slovenia consist of travelling and case building along our journey. After a long journey, your reporter finally has some time to look up from his case file and write down this report. Where are we actually going to? The International World Schools debate tournament in Slovenia, Ljutomer to be more precise. There will be 52 teams from teams all over the world, such as team USA or Denmark, and they will come together to debate in the World Schools format with speeches of 8 minutes. As a final chapter to the pre-selection and a part of the preparation for the World Schools Debating Championships this summer in Singapore, the Netherlands will be represented at this tournament with three teams. In no particular order, those teams are:

Team Netherlands A: Max Kosian, Urmi Pahladsingh, and Simon Martina-Perez
Team Netherlands Alfa: Victor Schippers, Jeroen Wijnen, and Floris Holstege
Team Netherlands 1: David Metz, Jeanice Koorndijk, and Sam Melief

Our flight to Belgrade was without any inconvenience, but our flight from from Belgrade to Zagreb, followed by a long bus trip, had some bumps on the road. In particular when our plane to Zagreb turned out to be 1) the smallest aircraft any of us had ever seen 2) unable to have more than one passenger walking up the stairs to the cabin. Thinking we were stranded in an episode of air crash investigation, our team stood up to the challenge without hesitation and full of bravery. This blog will keep you further updated with all the results of all the teams and the many adventures they will experience.

doorMascha Bloemer

A report on the Leiden Open 2015

By Simon Martina-Perez

With a great number of participants, a full program, and great venues to offer, the Leiden Open 2015 commenced on a splendid Saturday morning. The enthusiasm of all participants, some of which coming from hind and far, would turn out to be completely grounded. This tournament combined a fantastic atmosphere, a healthy amount of competition and above all great debates into a an experience that was awesome for both the new novice and the skilled veteran (and more importantly, everybody in between).

Meer lezen

doorEUDC-, WUDC- and WSDC-reporter

Het BDT 2015: een combinatie van debatteren, carnaval en valentijnsdag.

Door Floris Holstege

Met een strak schema voor de boeg begon op Valentijnsdag het Bonapartiaans debattoernooi (BDT) 2015.  De liefde die door deze dag verspreid zou moeten worden was echter nauwelijks te vinden in de vele lokalen van het Cartesius Lyceum, waar in plaats van lieve vooral harde woorden vielen. Zoals elk jaar was ook dit keer de debatvorm AP met 5-5-3 minuut sprekerstijden. Er werd gedebatteerd over de volgende stellingen:

Ronde 1:

DK verbiedt politieke opiniepeilingen in verkiezingstijd

Ronde 2:

Informatie: In april 2014 maakte RTL een programma waarbij gepeste kinderen een verborgen camera mee naar school kregen om het pesten vanuit hun oogpunt te filmen. Wegens bezwaren van ouders en scholen zijn de beelden van sommige scholen echter niet uitgezonden.
Stelling: DK vindt dit soort beelden nooit uitgezonden mogen worden.

Ronde 3:

Stelling: DK richt tribunalen in post-conflictgebieden op waarheid en verzoening in plaats van het vervolgen van daders

Ronde 4:

Informatie: De marine is het onderdeel van de strijdkrachten dat zich bezighoudt met de oorlogsvoering op zee (Engels: navy). De marine bestaat uit verschillende onderdelen waar zowel mannen als vrouwen werken. Één van deze onderdelen is het korps mariniers, deze worden beschouwd als het elitekorps van de Nederlandse strijdkrachten en zijn gespecialiseerd in amfibische operaties (Engels: marines). Mariniers zijn dus meestal te vinden op het land en hebben daarom ook een groen uniform. Vrouwen mogen niet werken bij het korps mariniers.

Stelling: DK laat vrouwen toe bij het korps mariniers

Ronde 5:

Scenario: Er wordt er bij deze stelling vanuit gegaan dat de politie op dit moment gebruik maakt van een vorm van racial profiling los van of dit is toegestaan of

Stelling: DK staat het de politie toe om gebruik te maken van racial profiling


Informatie: De Egyptische generaal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi heeft in 2013 de gekozen president Morsi afgezet, het parlement ontbonden, de moslimbroederschap verboden en prominente leden vervolgd. Sindsdien is het leger aan de macht met Al-Sisi als president.

Stelling: DK gelooft dat de dictatuur van Al-Sisi beter is voor Egypte dan vrije verkiezingen

Halve finale:

Scenario: Je bent een wetenschapper die een technologie heeft ontwikkeld waarmee het leven van mensen niet beperkt wordt door lichamelijk verval.

Stelling: DK vernietigt deze technologie.

Novice finale:

DK gelooft dat ziekenhuizen in landen waar vrouwenbesnijdenis gebruikelijk is, geen vrouwenbesnijdenissen zouden moeten uitvoeren.


DK kamer zijnde de openlijk homoseksuele troonopvolger van een Europese monarchie, besluit af te zien van troonopvolging.

Ironisch genoeg werd het laatste debat gevoerd in de Westerkerk, verder een schitterende locatie voor de finale. In deze finale zegevierden Senna Maatoug en Devin van den Berg over Alex Klein en Thomas Beerthuis. Lucien de Bruin werd beste spreker van het toernooi, en Jeanice Koorndijk werd beste novice spreker van het toernooi. Beide sprekers waren afkomstig van het team WDS B. De Novice finale werd gewonnen door Marijn Bellemakers en Niels Buijsse van het team Willibrord B. De complete uitslag is te vinden op de volgende link:,

Naast al deze winnaars was er tevens een prijs voor de debater met het beste carnavals kostuum. De strijd ging tussen een Jedi, een piraat, en een giraffe. Uiteindelijk won Martijn Brouwer de Koning deze eervolle prijs als Jedi. Al met al was het BDT een uitstekende vervanger van valentijnsdag, dankzij de uitstekende stellingen in combinatie met de goede organisatie.