Parliamentary debate is the oldest and most popular format of competitive debate in the world. Created in the 17th century at Oxford University, and modeled after debates in the British Houses of Parliament, parliamentary debate today is an international debate format that touches every corner of the globe with competitive leagues in dozens of countries at the high school and university level.
Parliamentary debate is also, by far, the most popular format of debate at the high school level with tournaments taking place almost every weekend during the academic year. The popularity of parliamentary debate is not difficult to understand as the format is, by far, the most accessible at both an intellectual and financial level. Parliamentary debate does not require voluminous back-files or an enormous team cutting cards. All that is needed to start in parliamentary debate is courage, motivation, and a desire to engage the world.
Teams of two compete in parliamentary debate. The debaters have 20 minutes to prepare either an affirmative or negative case. The topics change each and every round and may range from the abolition of the death penalty to the legality of ordering a missile strike on Syria. Parliamentary debate pits ethics, morals, values, facts, and policies against each other in a manner that is completely unique to the format. Because of the spontaneous nature of the format and limited preparation time, a debater's breadth of understanding is a major key to success.