This page provides guidance on the principles of setting, distributing and allocating sides for motions.
There is a separate section covering the personnel aspect of the Motions Committee.
Some earlier tournaments set just two prepared motions, and teams debated both sides – i.e. as Proposition in one debate and then as Opposition in another round. This was intended to counter potential lopsidedness of motions, but also meant that arguments were borrowed from other teams for future debates. It also made it harder for adjudicators to be truly objective when judging those later debates because, try as they might, they could not help but make even subconscious comparisons with the debate on the same subject earlier seen.
The current practice is to choose 4 separate topics for the preliminary rounds, which should be evenly balanced. Another topic is selected for the Grand Final (which may have some element of local interest or be ‘media-friendly’), and at least nine impromptu topics (for the other 4 preliminary rounds, 3 break rounds, the possible ‘Round Zero’ or ‘bye round’, and at least one extra or spare topic as required by Rule 17g). The extra topic is invaluable for emergencies: in 2005, a later impromptu motion was mistakenly given to 2 teams preparing for an earlier impromptu round. The original motion for the later round could therefore no longer be debated as at least 2 teams now knew it, and a spare topic was therefore used.
Prepared motions must be released to the world at least eight weeks prior to the competition (Rule 17). Make sure when they are released that teams understand that they may only end up debating three of them, if a Round Zero is scheduled. Likewise, sides for debates may not be released until the last moment because the draw is not forwarded to participating teams until there is certainty (as far as possible) as to the number of teams coming. After all, it is distracting and disruptive for teams to receive a draw which then has to be altered several times as teams withdraw. Accordingly, the draw is usually issued only a few days before the Championship commences.
Motions are usually phrased in the British parliamentary format, e.g. “This House believes that…” or “This House would…”. But there is no rule against phrasing them in the terminology of the host country (e.g. “Be it resolved that…”).
The Motions Committee will supply the motions to the Convenor, who is responsible for informing all teams of the prepared motions 8 weeks beforehand (see Rule 17(e) and (f)). However, in recent years it has sometimes fallen to the Secretary of the WSDC Executice Committee to announce the motions to the world on behalf of the Convenor.
The CA may still take responsibility for announcing impromptu motions at the competition. These should be printed on paper and placed in envelopes (which don’t need to be sealed, in case you need to check what motion is inside). Envelopes for a specific round should be kept together, clearly marked, and kept secure (e.g. in a hotel safe). When needed, they should be separated into school venues (one per team, with at least one extra per organiser) and given to organisers or CAP members for distribution at the schools.
One hour prior to an impromptu debate, the organiser or CAP member should call the teams together, ensure they know where they are preparing, and give an envelope to each team captain. Only once the teams have departed to prepare should the organiser may open their own envelope and read the motion to the judges, coaches and any representatives of the school who are present. This is to ensure coaches do not communicate with their teams once motions are known.
In the Octo-Finals, Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals only (as sides for other impromptu and prepared debates are pre-set), the person reading the motion should also toss a coin to determine which team takes which side.
The sides should be allocated purely by coin toss – e.g. “Heads, Canada is Proposition; Tails, Slovakia is Proposition”, rather than by allowing the team captain who calls correctly to choose which side they would prefer. This was done in the past but allows one team a slight advantage.