Public Forum Debate Program

The Public Forum Debate program is an intensive, two-week program designed for students of all experience levels. The public forum debate program runs from July 9-23, 2017 (One week option ends on July 16, 2017).

Curriculum Design | Knowledge Base | Debate Skills | Core Courses | Elective Courses | Schedule

Curriculum Design

BFI Day 67 The BFI staff understands that being successful in public forum debate requires a balance of in-depth knowledge of diverse topics and the skills to transform that knowledge into persuasive arguments. Our curriculum is designed with this in mind and strives to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in public forum debate. Additionally, our curriculum is designed to provide students of all experience levels the individualized instruction they need to excel as champions in debate. To that end, we offer two specialized tracks:

  • Novice Track: The novice track is designed to provide students with little, or no experience, in public forum debate the sound fundamentals of research, argument, and public speaking techniques. Our novice track provides a welcoming environment in which students receive guided instruction from our staff during all parts of the research and debate process. In particular, the novice curriculum focuses on the fundamentals of flowing, effective use of cross-fire time, judge adaptation, topic research, and argument construction.
  • Varsity Track: Our varsity public forum track focuses on cutting-edge arguments, as well as intensive research and debate preparation. Our varsity track provides every student with advanced, college-level instruction in argumentation, strategy, refutation, rhetoric, and persuasion. This preparation will provide students the ability to identify key controversies within topic areas, to write the best case on every topic, and to effectively refute counter-arguments. Please note: students who participate in the varsity track should have no less than one year (six tournaments) of competition at the varsity level. 
  • Discussion Groups – In addition to labs and courses aimed at providing instruction tailored to students’ experience levels, students will participate in daily discussion groups that help them apply concepts taught in labs and other courses that are part of the BFI curriculum. These discussion groups are aimed at providing supplemental instruction targeted at the specific experience levels of students attending camp.

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Knowledge Base

The BFI’s Public Forum curriculum is designed to provide students with research skills that will enable them to write the strongest case on any given topic. To achieve this, our curriculum is designed around two pillars: research skills and topic knowledge. Our courses provide students with guided readings, lectures, and discussions on a variety of public controversies that could likely serve as the basis for PF resolutions. In addition, our research curriculum teaches students to use critical thinking skills to guide the research and case-writing process. This emphasis on the critical thinking process enables students to identify the best evidence with the strongest claims. By teaching students the processes of research and critical thinking (in addition to topic knowledge), the BFI provides its students with research skills that will enable them to become experts on EVERY topic. Students will be able to take guided research courses courses in politics, public policy, economics, the courts, global issues, as well as focused courses on different regions and nations. Back to the top.

Debate Skills

IMG_1272The BFI’s PF curriculum is designed to maximize the competitive success and learning of every student at camp. Our flexible, customizable curriculum allows beginning students to gain a strong foundation in a range of fundamentals necessary for learning and excelling in public forum debate. At the same time, it enables advanced students to focus on adding the finishing touches to their competitive palette. We believe helping students to identify their personal strengths and weaknesses, and providing a camp design that addresses these individual needs ensures that each student accesses a rewarding learning experience.

Second, the BFI’s camp design emphasizes student-engaged learning by relying on numerous drills, active learning modules, and practice rounds that help students transfer theoretical knowledge into applied practice. Finally, the BFI features peer learning and teaching modules that help students not only master topic areas, but learn to research, analyze, and effectively organize information on topics. This combination of features ensures that the BFI delivers the advantages that are the “Utah Difference,” and not a one-size-fits-all camp experience. Back to the top.

Core Courses

  • Elements of Effective Research—provides hands-on instruction in library research, electronic research, argument construction, and evaluating evidence.
  • Fundamentals of Argument—focuses on argument construction, analysis of evidence, refutation, and other fundamental argumentation skills.
  • Public Forum Lab—focuses on practical skills essential for debaters of all experience levels, including case structure and development, controversy, rhetoric and persuasion, effective speaking (drills, judge adaptation, organization, delivery), effective flowing (shorthand, electronic flowing, flowing strategically), and cross-examination (effective questions, alternative uses of cross-fire, partner interaction).

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The BFI offers an expansive and customizable set of elective learning opportunities for Public Forum debaters. The electives available are interdisciplinary in nature. Most broadly, these electives focus on contemporary political controversies and perennial problems of political philosophy. Each class session utilizes teaching methods that foster student engagement and assist students in the development of soundly researched arguments. Students who participate in the BFI public forum curriculum will leave camp with a solid foundation for a range of topics they are likely to encounter over the upcoming competitive season. Some potential elective courses are:

  • Critical Philosophy—provides students an advanced understanding of critical theory in debate.
  • Modern & Contemporary Philosophy—introduces students to philosophers and theories that are foundational to contemporary political controversies.
  • Political Science—introduces students to political processes, institutions, and controversies that frame political debates.
  • Performance in Debate—exposes students to innovative ways of making argument and using nontraditional forms of evidence.
  • Special Topics—provides additional instruction in debate fundamentals (e.g., rebuttals and strategy) and expands on other elements of the BFI curriculum.

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Time Activity
8:00-8:45 Breakfast
8:45-9:00 Walk to Morning Assembly
9:00-9:30 Morning Assembly/Roll Call
9:30-11:00 Elective Courses
11:00-12:00 Discussion Groups
12:00-1:00 Lunch
1:00-4:00 Lab
4:00-6:00 Office Hours/Colloquium
6:00-7:00 Dinner
7:00-9:00 Rounds

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