what is parli?

It's definitely got some deep roots.


a long time ago…

Parliamentary debate, modeled after the style of debate encountered in the House of Commons, is the oldest form of competitive debate practiced today. The event has a rich history and was formally established by debating unions at Cambridge and Oxford Universities in the early 19th century. Since parli’s inception, the event has grown in popularity and is the most popular format of competitive debate in the world. 

Parliamentary debate dominates the U.S. college ranks where its practice is overseen by two independent organizations: The American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) and the National Parliamentary Debate Association (NPDA). Parliamentary debate is a rather recent arrival on the high school circuit and until 2001 was a niche event practiced almost exclusively by East Coast prep schools. Parliamentary debate's reach expanded west when it was introduced in 2000 as an official high school event in Oregon, but parliamentary debate's popularity truly exploded after a concerted effort by Bentley School coach Bruce Jordan saw the introduction of parliamentary debate as an official event in the California state tournament in 2003. Since its 2003 introduction, parliamentary debate has established itself as the most popular high school debate format in California.

how parli works:

A parliamentary debate round is comprised of two teams with two debaters per side. The team affirming the debate resolution represents the government (sometimes called the “affirmative”) and the team negating the resolution represents the opposition (sometimes called the “negative”). 

Prior to the start of the round a resolution is announced. Neither team has any prior knowledge of the resolution. After the announcement each team has twenty minutes to prepare its side of the case. The most successful teams in parliamentary debate have accrued a breadth of knowledge relating to both domestic and international affairs and a depth of understanding on economics and government.

After the twenty minutes of prep time is over the round begins. The first speaker for the government team is the prime minister and the second speaker for the government is the member of government. The first speaker for the opposition is the leader of opposition and the second speaker for the opposition is the member of opposition.

A typical round unfolds in the following manner:

Prime Minister Constructive: 7 minutes

Leader of Opposition Constructive: 8 minutes

Member of Government Constructive: 8 minutes

Member of Opposition Constructive: 8 minutes

Leader of Opposition Rebuttal: 4 minutes

Prime Minister Rebuttal: 5 minutes

Note that the government team both opens the round and closes the round. While this might seem advantageous on its face, the opposition team does have a 12 minute block to advance its arguments prior to the prime minister's rebuttal speech. No new arguments may be made in either rebuttal speech.

In the constructive speeches the non-speaking team may ask a point of information. In order to ask a point of information a member of the non-speaking team will stand and, once recognized by the speaker, may ask a question not exceeding 15 seconds in length. The speaker is under no obligation to accept a point of information, however etiquette dictates that 1-2 points of information should be accepted per constructive speech.

After the conclusion of the round the judge fills out a ballot and awards speaker points to each debater in the round and selects a winning side. Judges can range from experienced debaters and coaches who have judged dozens, if not hundreds, of rounds to a parent of a novice debater who finds herself judging a round for the very first time. Regardless of the judge's skill level, debaters are obligated to adjust and adapt their styles to the experience level of the judge.

If you have any additional questions about parliamentary debate or Club Parli, you can contact Managing Director David Saulet at david@clubparli.com.