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Debate is a Castle

Debate pushes us to our verbal limits. It tests our working memory and recall of a world of intertwined facts. Strategically, it takes time to master.

It’s necessary, therefore, to have a model to structure debate rounds. And one of the best, in my most humble opinion, is a classic: the Castle Metaphor.

You begin a debate round with your case. This is like building up your castle walls for the assault that will begin shortly. The better your materials (evidence quality), the more strategically it’s built (difficulty of rebuttals) and the more you’ve rehearsed battles within its walls (practice rounds), the more likely your castle is to survive.

Cross-X helps you to spy and test for weaknesses in the castle. In fact, the right (or wrong) responses in cross-x is like gathering ammunition for another volley.

You assault your opponents’ castle with rebuttals. The better your projectiles, and the more accurate your aim (responsiveness), the better they’ll begin to knock down pieces of your opponents’ castle.

After assessing the damage, you must begin to rebuild your castle walls by frontlining the rebuttals. Reinforce pieces of your walls that have fallen, especially in crucial areas.

Throughout the battle it becomes clear which parts of the battlefield require the most focus. You can collapse to concentrate on certain areas of the battlefield that are most important, the ones that will make the most difference as the battle progresses.

Weighing is where this metaphor might break down. The battlefield itself takes place in the judges’ mind— the judges’ biases, attention, and experience are the topography of the battlefield, and weighing helps to morph this topography in your favor.

These long battle can be difficult to track. It’s important to have a map where you can strategize and monitor each team’s forces— the classic battle map spread before the generals in the candle-lit tent. This is your all-important flow.

This metaphor is useful for modeling what a round is like, especially for generals without experience— novice debaters without a firm grasp of round vision.

But other metaphors can work. Can you think of others? Comment below to let us know.

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