Information for Students, Teachers and Coaches

CSDA Debating, 2021

Welcome to the CSDA Metropolitan Debating Competition for 2021,

This year we are looking forward to the resumption of our face-to-face competition in a COVID Safe manner!

Important Documents:

Please see the links for the attached important documents that Coordinators must ensure are completed


The rules for debating remain the same for all students, teachers and parents. The CSDA would like to remind students, parents and teachers to ensure that they:

  • Read, sign and return the CSDA Code of Conduct. A copy is available here
  • Return any related permission notes schools may require to ensure that you may participate in the competition
  • Participate fully and authentically in the competition, remembering the aim of the Association to develop speaking and listening skills in a safe environment that reflects the Gospel values of our Catholic Schools.

 Information on Topics:

This year, as in keeping from 2020 there will not be advertised ‘topic areas’ for the Competition. However, the topics that have been developed may draw from:

  • Government, Systems of Government, Power and Politics
  • Ethics, Personal Relationships and Responsibility
  • Civil Rights, Liberties and Freedoms
  • International Relations, Trade and the Economy
  • Health, Medicine and Medical Innovation

 NOTE: In order to acknowledge NAIDOC Week, the Semi Final Round of the Competition will be dedicated to the exploration and constructive discussion of issues facing Indigenous Australians in our contemporary world. It is expected that speakers successful in competing in the Semi Final will debate these issues with care, tact and sensitivity.

Information for Debaters & Coaches
To be successful in debating these topics, the topics are worded in ways that will require you to:

  • Develop a strong argument or thesis
  • Provide concrete examples
  • Where appropriate, apply these examples to hypothetical situations in order to prove your point

 This year, the CSDA has been conscious of ensuring that students have access to a wide range of topic types. Debating topics can have different approaches and this is often dependent on the ways they are worded. Read the below definitions of the types of debates that you might expect to encounter this year:

  • Yardstick Debates: A debate that measures the cost/benefits of a particular idea

EXAMPLE: That the pen is mightier than the sword

NOTES: This is an example of a yardstick debate where each team has to prove that one idea is measurably better than the other. This is what we would term a philosophical debate as the ‘content’ to be discussed is not indicated by the wording of the topic, teams would be draw in to a discussion of:

-       AFFIRMATIVE: The ways in which diplomacy (the pen) is better and more effective than conflict (the sword) because of its ability to expose differing perspectives and come to empathise with others

-       NEGATIVE: The ways in which conflict (the sword) is better and more effective than diplomacy (the pen) as conflict can often be decisive and, in instances where ‘talk’ fails, actions may speak louder.


Both teams, through their arguments, would need to prove and measure how and why their approach is superior.


  • Burden of Proof Debates: Where each side has the ability to show areas of error in fact or logic

EXAMPLE: That COVID-19 has changed our world for the better.

NOTES: Burden of proof debates appear, on the surface, as very straightforward. They are generally characterised by a statement that teams may easily identify an affirmative or negative perspective. In this case that COVID has changed (affirmative) or has NOT changed our world for the better (negative).


Burden of Proof Debates are tricky because they may require you to:

-       Have an appropriate number of effective and appropriate examples that can refute your opposition

-       In some cases, construct a model. A model is where your team will construct a hypothetical example of how something may be understood or realised. The CSDA does not require teams to have a model, nor are debates decided on their presence or absence. They are, simply another tool to persuade an audience

-       Undertake a cause and effect analysis of a particular idea


  • Big, Red Ball Debates: To prove that something is either true or isn’t;


EXAMPLE: That we have opened Pandora’s Box.

NOTES: This is a senior topic from a previous year and is a perfect example of a Big, Red Ball Debate (BRB). The BRB debate requires teams to prove that the ‘ball’ is both ‘big’ and ‘red’ and, indeed, is a ball.


In this context, teams must define what Pandora’s Box is (the ball) and prove that we have in fact opened it (big) and its consequences (red). These debates are often more conceptual and higher order. While they are more common in the Elimination Rounds up to the Grand Final, they can sometimes find their way into the rounds. They offer an opportunity for both teams to debate one topic from two dramatically different perspectives and often provide the most stimulating arguments. They do, however, require a great amount of thought and precision.