Ethical Guidelines For Debate
The following guidelines should be followed when debating. Following these guidelines will not solve every ethical issue you may face as a debator, but they should help provide a “compass” to guide you.
1. Be Honest
This is one of the most important guidelines to follow as a public speaker and debator. We operate on the assumption that people are telling the truth until we catch them in an untruth. We have an ethical duty as speakers to present the facts honestly to our audience members. One way to help maintain your credibility is to cite your sources orally. NOTE: It is never okay to make up information in a debate!
2. Make Sure Any Solutions Offered are Ethically Sound
To be a responsible public speaker/debator, you must weigh the ethical soundness of your goals. Ask yourself “What do I hope to accomplish with my speech?” and think about the goal(s) that you have- would they be morally acceptable in society?
3. Be Fully Prepared
What are the two things we hate most to be wasted? If you guessed time and money, you are correct! As a debator, you should be fully prepared for your debate. All research must be done prior to the debate. When you are not fully prepared it can harm your credibility. Everything you do says something about your character- from emails sent to papers you write, from speeches you deliver to the way you interact with others- how do you wish to be viewed?
4. Avoid Name-Calling and Other Abusive Language
This may seem like common sense- we shouldn’t act unprofessionally as speakers. However, in today’s society we seem to thrive on watching people act unprofessionally. We have lost a sense of professionalism and what it means to act professionally. Even our elected officials (Congress and some in the White House) appear to cater to this idea of “entertainment value” and “instant gratification” rather than making ethical choices about acting as a professional and/or educated individual. It is important that we learn when it is appropriate and inappropriate to use certain language. Slang terms, name-calling, and generally abusive language toward your audience or toward someone else on stage with you is not professional and not appropriate. Using such language is counterproductive to being an ethical speaker and it reinforces attitudes that encourage racism, hatred, prejudice and other injustices. While some people would say that they have freedom of speech, and that may be true, we are learning to be ethical public speakers/debators that protect our reputation by acting professional and with dignity. Remember that things you say can (and do) come back to bite you later and can destroy everything you have worked for in an instant. Rule of thumb: Speak to people as you would wish them to speak to you. Another thing to keep in mind is that we attack arguments and evidence, not people.
5. Follow Debate Etiquette Rules
Lastly, academic debate has very specific rules regarding etiquette. We will learn those rules in class, but it’s up to you to implement them. We must work together to maintain the integrity of the debate process – everyone must do their part.