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Transcript PUBLIC FORUM DEBATE - Legacy Debate


Debate I


Public forum debate, also known as crossfire debate, PFD (sometimes pronounced puff), pofo, pufo, and sometimes called by its former names, controversy debates or Ted Turner debate, is a style of debate practiced in National Forensic League


Public Forum Debate is audience friendly

debate that focuses on advocacy of a position derived from the issues presented in the resolution, not a prescribed set of burdens.

A Public Forum Debate round begins with a

flip of a coin between the competing teams to determine sides and speaker position.

Public Forum tests skills in argumentation,

cross-examination, and refutation.


Public Forum Debate offers students a unique opportunity to

develop on-their-feet critical thinking skills by situating them in contexts not unlike US political (radio and TV) talk shows. Public Forum debaters must anticipate numerous contingencies (possibilities) in planning their cases, and must learn to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances as discussions progress.

Public Forum’s open-ended cross-examination format

encourages the development of unique rhetorical strategies. Public Forum debates should be transparent to lay audiences while providing students with real-world public speaking skills through the discussion of contentious ideas.

Public Forum Debate

Public Forum will test your skills in

argumentation, cross-examination, and refutation.


Current PF Topic: Resolved: The benefits

of post 9/11 security measures outweigh the harms to personal freedom.

How it goes…

Two teams make up a Public Forum debate, one taking the

affirmative position, the other arguing the negative. The guidelines for arguing these positions are as follows: 1. Arguing a Case for the Resolution The affirmative team has the opportunity to interpret and define the resolution, and has the responsibility to interpret the resolution as it would reasonably be interpreted in the public sphere. The affirmative team is not required to provide a literal interpretation of the resolution, but may instead choose to create a metaphorical interpretation of the resolution. The reasonability of the affirmative team’s interpretation of the resolution is a matter that can be argued from debate to debate.

How it goes…

2. Arguing Against the Resolution

Assuming that the affirmative team’s interpretation of the resolution is acceptable, the objective of the negative team’s efforts is to refute the arguments offered by the affirmative team and/or to offer its own arguments against the stance taken by the affirmative team. The negative team may challenge any aspect of the affirmative team’s case. For instance, it may challenge the interpretation of the motion (if it is unreasonable), the factual and analytical foundations of the proposition’s case, the underlying assumptions of the proposition team’s claims, or any costs associated with the affirmative team’s arguments.

Public Forum Debate

You and a partner will debate

controversial issues that are taken from newspaper headlines.

New topics will be announced for each


This Debate Should…

-display solid logic, reasoning, and


-utilize evidence but not be driven by it-present a clash of ideas-counter the arguments of the opponents


-communicate ideas with clarity,

organization, eloquence, and

professional decorum


1. In-Round Research is Prohibited Research on the topic must be completed prior to the beginning of an actual debate. Once the debate begins, the debaters may not conduct research via electronic or other means. No outside person can conduct research during the debate and provide it directly or indirectly to the debaters. The use of a dictionary to determine the meaning of English words that the debater may not understand should not be construed as a violation of this rule. 2. Citations Debaters may refer to or cite any public information. When debaters cite information, they should be prepared to provide complete documentation of the source to the opposing team and to the judge on request. A team’s documentation of cited material must be complete enough that the opposing team and the judge can independently locate the information. Ordinarily, such documentation would include the name of an author (if any), the name and date of a publication, the URL of a website (if the information was retrieved electronically), and a page number (if any exists.)

How It Goes

The debate begins with the first team's first four-minute

constructive speech. In this speech, one of the members of the team gives arguments either for or against the resolution ( a resolution or topic is a normative statement which the affirmative team affirms and the negative team negates .), depending on which side the team is speaking for.

Strictly speaking, the custom in public forum debate

dictates that when debaters speak (both for speeches and crossfire), they should face forward towards the judge, sometimes from behind a lectern. However in some tournaments, it is customary for debaters to remain seated and face each other during crossfire.

CLOSER LOOK @ First Two Speeches

In these two speeches, the first and second speakers should deliver

their pre-prepared reasons for adoption or rejection of the topic. The second speaker may also respond to the most important arguments raised by the first speaker.

In the first two speeches, speakers for both sides must be

concerned with constructing and presenting a logical argument that draws on evidentiary support. This is the one time in the debate where specific preparation can be used as a tool of the debate.

How It Goes

Next, the other side is permitted to give its first four-

minute constructive speech in which not only arguments may be presented, but rebuttals to arguments from the first speech as well.

However, rebuttals are almost always not presented

until a team's second constructive, and are frowned upon in some states/tournaments, and the first constructive generally consists exclusively of prepared material.

Cross Fire

Following this speech, the first speaker from the first team

joins the first speaker from the second team at the podium if one is provided (in the absence of one debaters stand by their desks) and the first three-minute "crossfire" begins.

The first speaker begins crossfire by asking a question to the

second speaker. In crossfire, the two debaters directly ask each other questions and answer questions of their opponent.

Crossfire may be used, like cross-examination, to ask

revealing questions in an attempt to expose a weakness in the opponents' arguments, but it is often used as a way to further develop and attack arguments through discourse.

Keep Goin’

After crossfire, first team's second speaker gives a four-

minute rebuttal speech. After they have rebutted their opponents case, they move on to "rehab" their own (rebut the opponents rebuttals in an attempt to nullify them. Although, this only applies to the second speaker as the first team should not have had any points rebutted yet.)

Then, the second speaker of the second team gives a

four-minute constructive speech following this same format. Following this speech, another three-minute crossfire ensues.




This speaker position for both sides has the burden of

analyzing the opponents’ position and explaining flaws in the ideas presented by the other team.

The judge has an expectation that the two sides will

clash. Clash may be in the form of line-by-line refutation of the opponent’s position or could focus on the most "attackable" issues advanced by the other side.

Grand Crossfire

The first speaker of the first team then gives a two-

minute summary speech of the debate, which includes further rebuttal of the opponents case and reiteration of the first team's case, and the first speaker of the second team does the same.

After this speech, all four debaters participate in "Grand

Crossfire". Grand Crossfire is similar to crossfire except that all four debaters can ask and answer questions of each other. The speaker that gave the first summary speech begins Grand Crossfire by asking the first question.

Final Focus

After Grand Crossfire, each team's second speaker has a

chance to give a one-minute speech called the "Final Focus," the first team giving this speech first.

In the Final Focus, the speaker is given one last chance

to explain exactly why his or her team has won the round. No new arguments or evidence is allowed in the Final Focus. This speech is often the determining factor for a judge's decision in a closely contested round, as it allows the judge to hear which arguments/evidence each team views as the most important to his or her case, and summarizes the entire debate.


In the Final Focus, speakers should select the issue

or issues they feel have become crucial to the round.

Moreover, they should explain how their side has

won arguments related to those issues. The Final Focus should not be an attempt to explain all issues that have been raised, but rather offer sustained, persuasive commentary on a single issue or small number of issues of importance.


April 2009: "Resolved: That the Employee Free Choice Act serves

the best interests of the American people.“

March 2009: "Resolved: That, on balance, the No Child Left

Behind Act of 2001 has improved academic achievement in the United States.“

February 2009: "Resolved: That, on balance, the rise of Brazil,

Russia, India, and China (BRIC) has had a positive impact on the United States.“

January 2009 "Resolved: That, by 2040, the federal government

should mandate that all new passenger vehicles and light trucks sold in the United States be powered by alternative fuels.“

December 2008: "Resolved: That, on balance, social networking

Web sites have had a positive impact on the United States."


November 2008: "Resolved: That the United States government

should implement universal health care modeled after the French system.“

October 2008: "Resolved: That the United States should

significantly increase its use of nuclear energy."

September 2008: "Resolved: That the United States should

implement a military draft."

• • NFL Nationals: "Resolved: US policies established after

September 11, 2001 have substantially reduced the risk of terrorist acts against the United States.“

Time Schedule

Public Forum Timing Schedule

First Speaker - Team A = 4 MinutesFirst Speaker - Team B = 4 MinutesCrossfire = 3 MinutesSecond Speaker - Team A = 4 MinutesSecond Speaker - Team B = 4 MinutesCrossfire = 3 MinutesSummary - First Speaker - Team A = 2 MinutesSummary - First Speaker - Team B = 2 MinutesGrand Crossfire = 3 MinutesFinal Focus - Second Speaker - Team A = 1 MinuteFinal Focus - Second Speaker - Team B = 1 MinutePrep Time (per team) = 2 Minutes

Everyone is expected to be a respectful audience member. A judge’s rank may reflect a contestant’s disrespect to other competitors during the round.