About

The Penn Debate Society (PDS) was founded in 1984 as the Penn Parliamentary Debate Society and is the premier debate association on campus. We compete on the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA), which is the oldest intercollegiate debate organization in the United States. At tournaments, we face teams from the rest of the Ivy League, as well as Stanford, UChicago, Swarthmore, GW, Rutgers, and other colleges across the country. Topics range from economics to philosophy to military strategy to pop culture. While most tournaments we attend are in American Parliamentary style, we also send teams to British Parliamentary tournaments, most notably the World University Debate Championships (WUDC) where our teams have done exceptionally well in the past. PDS is a top-flight debate team and a diverse group of scholars, but more importantly, we are a family.

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What is Parliamentary Debate?


From APDAWeb.org:

Parliamentary debate is an off-topic, extemporaneous form of competitive debate which stresses rigorous argumentation, logical analysis, quick thinking, breadth of knowledge, and rhetorical ability over preparation of evidence. It is patterned after the style of platform debate first made famous at Oxford University. The format pits two two-person teams against each other in a contest of argument, wit and rhetoric which roughly simulates debate in a House of Parliament. The Government (proposing) team prepares and presents a case for debate based on a topic or resolution announced only 15 minutes before the beginning of the round. The Opposition attempts to rebut the Government's proposal through counter-argument and refutation. The use of recorded evidence during the debate round is prohibited. A different resolution is debated in every parliamentary debate round. Resolutions are chosen from a wide variety of political, philosophical, economic, cultural and humorous topics, and debaters often have a broad scope in which to define the specific case for debate which is drawn from the resolution. Hundreds of colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and over thirty other nations participate in parliamentary debate. It is the fastest-growing form of intercollegiate debate in the world.

We compete in both American and British Parliamentary Debate, although the majority of the competitions we are attend are of the American style. We send debaters to tournaments nearly every weekend of the academic year and also participate in several public debate events.