The Art of Debate
Dr. Jarrod Atchison is an Associate Professor of Communication at Wake Forest University, where he teaches such courses as Argumentation Theory and Debate and Advocacy. He is also the Director of Debate for the Wake Forest University Debate Team, which dates back to 1835 and has won multiple national championships. Dr. Atchison received his Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Georgia, where he served as an assistant debate coach. As an undergraduate at Wake Forest University, Dr. Atchison was a Presidential Scholar in debate who was ranked the third overall individual speaker at the 2001 National Debate Tournament.
Dr. Atchison has published extensively on the study of argumentation and rhetoric and is the author of a forthcoming book on the rhetorical leadership of Jefferson Davis. He researches 19th-century American public address, with an emphasis on the American Civil War. Additionally, Dr. Atchison researches public argument, including the best practices for intercollegiate debate. Dr. Atchison has been nominated twice for the Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching at Wake Forest University and was honored with the George Ziegmueller Award by the National Debate Tournament Board of Trustees in 2015. In the summer, Dr. Atchison works with high school students on the art of debate and was consistently voted the top-ranked lecturer at the University of Michigan summer debate workshop.
01: The Hidden Value of Debate
Find out what we mean when we talk about "debates," and how immersing yourself in the techniques of formal debate can have a dramatic impact on how you make decisions in every aspect of your life. From the business world to the bar room, the process of exchanging ideas will make you a better thinker and citizen....
02: When and How to Use Debate
Debate gives you an honest assessment of an idea, and is therefore a powerful decision-making tool. Here, Professor Atchison walks you through the structure of a formal debate and explores when debate can help you the most. As you will learn, big and future-oriented decisions are ripe for formal discussion.
03: The Proposition: Choosing What to Debate
Now that you know when to debate, shift your attention to what to debate. The "proposition"-the idea up for debate-is one of the most important concepts to understand, and in this lecture, you will survey how to structure the proposition most effectively-and consider who is making the ultimate decision.
04: The Structure of Argument
The claim, the evidence, and the warrant: these three elements provide the structure of a strong argument. Unpack each of these elements by studying what they are, how they work, and how they come together to produce an argument. Then home in on the warrant, which is often the most vulnerable part of an argument-and therefore the element easiest to challenge.
05: Using Evidence in Debate
Examine the strengths and weaknesses of three primary types of evidence: narrative evidence, empirical evidence, and evidence based on authority. As you review each type of evidence, you will see them in action as Professor Atchison applies them to debates about gun control, climate change, and physician-assisted suicide.
06: Fallacies in Your Opponent's Research
To be a great debater, you must not only learn to recognize argument fallacies, but you must also learn to combat them during the debate. This first in a two-part lecture series offers insight to help you identify fallacies that stem from flaws in your opponent's research, including the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, hasty generalizations, and more.
07: Fallacies in Your Opponent's Arguments
Continue your study of fallacies with a survey of fallacies that stem from the actual debate itself. To make their case, debaters often resort to false analogies, straw men, and ad hominem attacks. Fortunately, once you learn to recognize them, you will be well prepared to combat them and score points to win the debate.
08: Elements of a Good Case
No debate is won without consideration of the audience-of the ultimate decider or the judge. If you can't connect with this audience, you won't be able to win them over. After considering how to make such a connection, you'll then sharpen your skills in creating a well-researched case with enough nuance to argue your point.
09: Arguing for the Affirmative
The affirmative side of a debate must do three things: stay relevant to the resolution, indict the status quo, and offer a proposal designed to solve the problems you have identified with the status quo. Discover how to meet these obligations and build a winning affirmative argument.
10: Building Affirmative Cases
Now that you know how to develop a strong affirmative argument, apply your skills to a specific debate. Taking a resolution about campus carry laws as an example, Professor Atchison walks you through each of the steps to indict the status quo and offer a tenable solution to the problem.
11: Arguing for the Negative
A good critique is a necessary way of testing out an idea, but developing a good negative case requires immense creativity to disprove the affirmative argument. Delve into the key arguments available to the negative: the disadvantages of the affirmative case, counterproposals, and critiques of the affirmative's assumptions.
12: Building Negative Cases
The three-part attack from the previous lecture is an extremely effective way to challenge the affirmative proposal, but the arguments don't attack the affirmative case directly. Here, learn several approaches to confronting the affirmative case head-on, including "inherency," attacking the harms of the affirmative, and attacking the proposal's solvency.
13: The Crucible of Cross-Examination
Once each case is built, it's time for a cross-examination-a chance to interrogate your opponents to better understand their arguments, identify holes in their reasoning, and keep the audience engaged. This first of three lectures explores the history of debate and reflects on the goals of cross-examination.
14: Asking and Answering Leading Questions
Continue your study of cross-examinations with a detailed look at "leading questions." Useful for identifying holes in an argument, leading questions also represent persuasive arguments in and of themselves. Learn the rules of creating a good leading question and how they can help you win the debate.
15: Open-Ended Questions: Setting Traps
Round out your study of cross-examinations by turning to "open-ended questions." Designed to help you understand your opponents' arguments, open-ended questions give you the opportunity to shift your position, thus maximizing strategic flexibility. They also allow you to set traps for your opponent. Find out how to craft-and answer-open-ended questions.
16: Essentials of a Persuasive Rebuttal
No plan survives contact with the enemy, which means no matter how well you've constructed your case, you will need to defend it. Fortunately, there are several straightforward elements of a good rebuttal-assessment, organization, and emotional appeal-and Professor Atchison guides you through each element in this lecture.
17: Dealing with the Unexpected in Debate
We all need to deal with the unexpected in our daily lives, so learning the secrets to navigating the unexpected in a debate has far-reaching applications. Here, see what it takes to slow down, diagnose, analyze, and respond to unexpected arguments. By following a few simple steps, you can easily find your way back to terra firma.
18: "Even If" Arguments: The Essential Weapon
Now that you have explored the ways to build and defend a strong case, it's time to move on to varsity-level debate skills, starting with "even if" arguments. By starting with the premise that your opponent is right about everything, you can then explain why you should still win the debate-an extremely effective argument if performed well.
19: Debate Jujitsu: Flipping the Warrant
In many great debates, there is a devastating moment where one side clearly out-maneuvers the other. "Flipping the warrant," which requires the highest level of analytic argument, allows you to destroy your opponent's argument by showing that their proposal, rather than solving a problem, will actually make things worse.
20: The Power of Concessions
The best debaters understand the need for strategic flexibility, and concessions are one of the most powerful strategic moves in the playbook. As you will find out in this lecture, conceding points allows you to focus on your best arguments, or get out of a difficult spot, or even set a trap for your opponent.
21: Conditional Argumentation
Although they are two separate fields, the art of debate sometimes employs formal logic with great success. In this lecture, see how "conditional argumentation," a way of employing if-then statements to argue a point, lets you acknowledge a point without agreeing to it-a line of argument that pairs well with "even-if" arguments.
22: Line-by-Line Refutation
Conclude your study of advanced debate techniques with a survey of line-by-line refutation. First, learn how to map out the "flow" of a debate using shorthand. By distilling key ideas, you will be well prepared to respond to all points. Try to map out the "flow" of a test case here.
23: Judging Debates: The Art of the Decision
Debates aid decision-making, and you may one day find yourself in the role of a judge needing to make the big decision. Survey the best way to communicate your reasons for a decision, starting with a short thesis statement followed by an explanation of your reasoning. As an example, consider a nonprofit faced with a difficult business decision.
24: Winning the Cocktail Party
Formal debates have clear structures, but we often debate ideas in informal settings-unpredictable, complicated, ambiguous conversations with blurred lines between judges and participants. Conclude your course with a few handy tips for how to win a debate at a cocktail party-and when to bow out of the discussion.