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New Directions for NPDA and NFA LD


Accompanied by praise and criticism, the growth of parliamentary debate in recent years has been exponential. As Robert Trapp, current President of the National Parliamentary Debate Association points out in his May 28, 1997 letter to the membership of the NPDA, "(f)rom 1994 to 1997, our Championship Tournament has grown from just over fifty teams to almost four times as many. Measured in numerical terms, the NPDA is a healthy infant." Given this growth, a discussion of the future of parliamentary debate seems appropriate.

Regardless of one's perspective of what parliamentary debate is, much has been written about what parliamentary debate should be. In 1992 Epstein discussed the dissatisfaction with various forms of intercollegiate debate, and suggested that "[o]ne proposed alternative to this rift in the debate community is the development of parliamentary debate under the auspices of the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA) and the Western States Parliamentary Debate Association (WSPDA)." Johnson continued the discussion in 1994 by expressing concern that parliamentary debate "may take the same path as CEDA, which is taking the same path which NDT took several years ago ... " by adopting increasingly specialized styles, vocabularies and judging criteria.

These perspectives, and the manifold others expressed both formally and informally, serve to provide direction for parliamentary debate in relation to other alternatives available. While this is certainly a worthwhile undertaking, I propose that we make an effort to define parliamentary debate by what it is, rather than what it is not. To that end, I subscribe to Trapp's conceptualization of parliamentary debate as a forum for "public argument," and will offer practical recommendations that I believe will further this conception.

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