All About the Congressional Debate/Student Congress – Looks Great on a College Resume!

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Pursuing degrees at four-year colleges and universities is getting more competitive for many reasons. For one, international students are flying to the United States in record numbers. Kid you not, these students are frequently the brightest and best worldwide.

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Additionally, more and more colleges and universities have waived standardized test scores — they’re now looking at student activities. An excellent way to boost your college resume is to join Congressional Debate. By doing so, you’ll be increasing your chances for admission by up to 60%.

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What is Congressional Debate?

Congressional Debate in high school has similar processes to an actual Congressional Debate. This is one of the most popularly known interscholastic high school debates in the United States.

A student/student congress thinks of current problems and creates bills and resolutions, which will later be discussed and voted for by their peers to pass into law. Students then act on the legislation by voting for or against it.

Coaches aren’t necessarily required to submit legislation to competitions, but doing so allows their students to make an introductory speech as the bill or resolution’s author to the chamber. 

Upon accomplishing the completed application requirements, each participating school will receive a docket of proposed bills or titles or the entire legislative text before the competition. It’s usually given days before the competition to give participants an equal opportunity to research the given topic and prepare for the debate.

Several debates allow student organizations to convene committees to set the agenda. They work to choose issues that will result in an even and exciting argument while also distributing authorship rights among the participating institutions.

Every Congressional Debate can last up to three hours. Each debater will have at least three minutes to give their thoughts or a speech. The speech will have two parts: the first advocacy/first pro and the first rejection/first con. This will then be followed by a two-minute cross-examination and, afterward, a one-minute cross-examination by the chamber.

How Does Congressional Debate Go About?

Presenting the Topic/Legislation

Before anything else, the first step for every congressional debate is the legislation. Every time a bill is introduced, a member of parliament makes a speech outlining the purpose of the legislation and why it is necessary. Students must present explanatory documents that deeply describe what the proposed law is intended to serve.

Before submitting a bill, the matter must be arguable. This means there should be some disagreement over the issue’s nature or the proposed solution. Before creating legislation, students should do their homework on the scope of the federal government’s enforcement and implementation responsibilities and the jurisdictional authority Congress has to enact laws on the subject.

Researching the Docket 

This next step is the act of distributing the legislative docket to participants. Upon receiving the docket of documents, students and their teams should research the topic and develop positive and negative arguments. It’s important for the debaters to know every detail and have evidence that will support their claim of the topic. 

However, remember that you don’t need to create a speech word-for-word.

Role Playing

During the Congressional Debate, students will act as if they were actual Senators and Representatives. This includes dressing as one and thinking of the demands of their hypothetical constituents and those of all Americans as a whole.

Students will be exposed to using Robert’s Rules of Parliamentary Procedure.

While humor is okay during the debate, it must refrain from dominating speech or behavior; otherwise, you’ll only leave the impression that you’re not serious about solving the issue.  

Assigning Chambers

During the debate, students will have their own chambers, commonly referred to as “Senate” or “House (of Representatives).” Upon arriving at a Congressional Debate session, the acting Senators and Representatives will be given the proper courtesy title. It improves the dignity of the event and makes it easier for judges to identify speakers when tournaments create placards with students’ names on them. 

A chamber’s first responsibility is to decide how to seat people. Students will either fill out a blank seating chart or one the tournament provides with assigned seating locations. 

Setting the Agenda

The legislative docket made available to schools will allow students in each chamber to:

  • Provide suggested agendas that are laid out in the order that you want to discuss the bills on the agenda. Unless one agenda achieves a majority vote, the chamber will conduct a single-ballot election; or
  • Establish an “Agenda,” “Calendar,” or “Rules” Committee with one representative from each school. This committee will work together to decide on the agenda for the entire session. Unless the rules are suspended, whatever order this committee chooses to upon is binding by procedure; or
  • Create many committees based on the issues.

Once the agenda is set, it is regarded as part of the chamber’s standing rules; a motion to suspend the rules must be made to change it. This is thought to be ill-advised since it could be manipulative and takes up time that could be better used to facilitate presentations.

Presiding Officer Election

Presiding officers are elected for each session (or portion thereof as determined by the procedural regulations of each tournament) by a single ballot election.

Competition Structure

The criteria for selecting the “Best Legislator/Speaker” or “Best Presiding Officer,” who receives a trophy or gavel, varies depending on the competition. 

According to the National Speech & Debate Association, judges should rank the best students in the room, and a cumulative rank total be used to determine who moves on and where. In some competitions, the judges’ top picks for students may be used as a slate of nominees for the chamber to rank their classmates in order of preference.

Performance Tips to Win Congressional Debate

Congressional Debate appeals to students who not only take an interest in making their college resumes more attractive but are also interested in social and political peer interactions. This means these debaters are intelligent, making winning a Congressional Debate challenging.

Fortunately, a few simple tips increase your chances of passing your bill to law in Congressional Debate! 

But before anything else, it’s crucial that you know the basic ground rules for each tournament. Ask your coach for the parliamentary proceedings, which contains and explains the laws of congress, and study them well. You ought to be familiar with all legislative discussion regulations to avoid trouble.

#1: Know How to Conduct Yourself

A student group can only win a debate if they can effectively communicate their thoughts. You must share information with other senators and reps and build a bond or network. Again, we’re speaking politics here, and we all know that in politics, you need to have a deep connection with people in the chamber to secure support for motions and amendments.

One of the best ways to have an influence or positive impact is to act professionally, including how you dress and your tone of voice. Additionally, you need to deliver your speeches well. Scorers and MPs assign ranks based mostly on speeches, although they may also include overall chamber conduct.

It’s also important to be active and ensure your name appears on ballots every hour. This means you should talk once every hour and remain engaged. Ask meaningful and relevant questions, of course — once or twice. It would be best if you prepare a list of worthwhile questions beforehand. 

#2: Know What To Write In Your Speech

As a general rule, a speech can be at most three minutes. So prepare your speech very well so you won’t regret it afterward. After your speech, if any time is left, other members will question and cross-examine you. The most significant way to deal with this issue is to utilize your available time.

Start with a captivating introduction to get the audience’s attention, including the judge’s. But instead of using quotes or anecdotes about yourself, use statistics instead. The best thing is that the statistics need not be specifically relevant to the topic; you can choose one on almost any subject and devise a creative way to relate it to the main idea you want to convey.

You can also start by humoring the crowd. But do so in a professional way. 

You also need to make two to three summary points of your speech. You want to avoid trying to jam too much into one speech because you only have three minutes. Have a list of multiple points in case the one you intended to address is used by someone else.

Furthermore, it’s important to never repeat what you have just said. Add new points of contention to the discussion and briefly refute any points made by other speakers. You should also refer back to your opening in your conclusion to complete your argument and bring it full circle.

Again, this is a debate. Senators and representatives will always ask you questions about your speech. You do not want to get caught off guard. When making your speech, also consider what are the possible questions to it. Make sure to provide complete but succinct answers to all inquiries.

#3 Qualifying for Nationals

Connection is very important in these events. If you plan to go national, you must develop ties with other representatives and senators. Be upfront about your desire to qualify; occasionally, rivals in the qualifying chamber who don’t care to qualify will assist you.

When trying to make connections, it’s vital not to overdo everything. Do not overextend yourself by giving presentations. You might come off as annoying. 

Always prioritize quality above quantity when making decisions. Only attempt to deliver one speech every hour, as this could harm your standing in the speaker order.

Relax once you’ve earned a spot in the nationals! Congratulations! The new docket won’t be made public for a few weeks. When the docket is made public, undertake an extensive study. Don’t only write speeches supporting or against your favorite pieces of legislation.

Why Join Congressional Debates

Joining Congressional Debates, or any speech and debate, is a power move. It benefits you in so many ways:

Increases your chance of college admissions.

Colleges and universities love applicants who participate in debates because they have mastered oral and written communication and have the ability to organize and present ideas effectively and perform better in college. While sports or music activities are plus points in college applications, they don’t really engage people’s critical thinking skills as much as debate does. In addition, joining Congressional Debates will allow colleges and universities to see how dedicated you are to research and leadership positions. 

Participating in Congressional Debate will also help boost your writing and composition skills. 

You gain more awareness.

People can gain a fresh perspective on the world around them through debate. Students learn about subjects in a debate that they ordinarily wouldn’t consider, giving them a broader grasp of our culture and world.

A broader perspective will also inspire students to value both their current prospects and their past successes and talents.

You develop coping skills (which you’ll need in college).

The inability to predict how a round will unfold is one of debate’s most challenging yet thrilling aspects. Though they don’t have the same impact as receiving a rejection letter from your dream college, dropped ballots from the debate can help you learn to deal with disappointment and rejection and use it to motivate you to study more. You also develop coping mechanisms for humiliation and failure. 

You improve your public speaking skills.

This one is obvious but nonetheless crucial. Every area of life, not just college, requires speaking in front of an audience. At some point, whether in school, college, or the workplace, you will be required to give a speech.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What skills are necessary for Congressional Debate?

Joining a Congress Debate is difficult. To succeed, one must have persuasion, spontaneity, good research skills, and networking abilities. A student representative, like a real congressperson, needs to be convincing, think quickly, and speak impromptu. 

What are the roles of student congress in university? 

Student congress is a group of elected and volunteer students who collaborate with an adult advisor within the parameters of a constitution or bylaws. They provide a forum for student expression and assistance in school matters and activities. They also help provide opportunities for student body leadership experience and promote relationships between students, faculty, and the community.

Members meet at least once a month. Additionally, the Congress comprises a president, vice president, controller, and controller elect.

What high schools have the best debate teams?

Thousands of high schools in the United States participate in debates. According to the National Speech & Debate Association, the current top high school debates teams include:

  • Regis High School, New York
  • The Bronx High School Of Science, New York
  • Eastview High School, Minnesota
  • George Washington High School – Denver, Colorado
  • Leland High School, California

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Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor