An Analysis of the Cicero English Debate Tournament 2004-2006 and Its Implications for Coaching High School Students for Competitive English Policy Debate

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Department of English, NTNU
Since 2004, the Taipei City Department of Education has held an annual English policy debate contest for high school students, called the Cicero Debate Tournament. Because of this interscholastic event, the long neglect of debate as a pivotal pedagogical vehicle in the high school English curriculum in Taiwan may finally stand a chance for change. While the competition warrants applause for its attempted goals, it is unclear to what extent its participants had grasped the spirit and essence of a competitive English debate. To address that question, an analysis was conducted on ten debates obtained from the Tournaments between 2004 and 2006 with a focus on structure and content. It was found that: (a) While the debates overall followed the superstructure of a policy debate, i.e., situation-problem-solution-evaluation, there were many inadequacies and deficiencies concerning the strategies for constructing and organizing the contentions in individual speeches; (b) there were misunderstandings of the purpose and functions of cross-examination; (c) there was insufficient and improper use and presentation of evidence; and (d) there was flawed or fallacious reasoning. Suggestions are then made for future participants in the Tournament or any English policy debate. Besides a content analysis of the debaters' performance, the paper also discusses the pedagogical merits of debate in the ESL/EFL curriculum, and reviews the local research on English debate in the hope of achieving a better understanding of the purposes of the Tournament and the study's findings.