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This proposition would be correctly phrased in respect to the burden of proof and the presumption, if it were made to read as follows:
Resolved : That the amendment to the Federal Constitution granting equal suffrage to women should be repealed.
Sources of Propositions for Debate. — Propositions employed in debate are derived commonly from two sources. Either they are discovered ready-made, or they are formulated from some general topic of discussion.
Sources of Ready-Made Propositions. — For the discovery of ready-made propositions, the student may turn to two different sources. One of these is found in the lists of propositions published in the appendices of books on argumentation and debate; and the other is in controversial articles in newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets.
The first of these sources is likely to prove unsatisfactory because printed lists of propositions soon become antiquated. The student, therefore, in most cases will depend upon controversial articles in newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets.
The most prolific source of good ready-made propositions will probably be found in the editorial pages of the best newspapers and periodicals, in contributed articles that appear in current-event magazines, and in the published platforms of political parties and similar organizations.
Formulation of Propositions for Debate. -Since propositions are not always found ready-made, but are suggested rather by some general topic of discussion, the student of debate ought to be able to formulate a proposition for himself.
The process involved in the formulation of a proposition consists of four steps as follows:
1. The selection of a general problem. 2. The selection of a specific problem included within
the more general problem. 3. The drafting of a declarative sentence expressing a
solution of the specific problem. 4. The revision of the proposition according to the re
quirements for subject matter and phraseology. For example, under the first step in the process of formulating a proposition, the debater might say he was interested in:
The Problem of Labor vs. Capital.
Under the second step, he might select the particular phase of this general problem represented in the more specific problem of:
How the public is to be protected from injury in the strife of these two factions.
Under the third step, he might draft a declarative sentence to the effect that:
The Kansas Court of Industrial Relations offers a solution of the problem.
Under the fourth step, he might revise this proposition to read as follows:
Resolved: That the State of Illinois should establish a court essentially similar to the Kansas Court of Industrial Relations.
Two Common Types of Proposition. — The two most common types of proposition encountered in debate, for which very different methods of proof are demanded, are:
1. Propositions of Fact
2. Propositions of Policy Propositions of Fact. – A proposition of fact consists of
any statement that affirms or denies: (1) The existence of things; (2) the occurrence of acts; (3) the classification of objects; or (4) the connection of events.
The following statements are examples of propositions of fact:
Resolved : That there is such a thing as telepathy.
Resolved : That the World War was the result of mistakes made at the Congress of Vienna.
Propositions of Policy. – A proposition of policy consists of any statement that affirms or denies that a specified course of action, in preference to other possible courses of action, should be adopted.
The following statement is an example of a proposition of policy:
Resolved: That New York State should abolish the system of popular election of judges.
Propositions of Policy Best Suited for Debate. - In debate on propositions of policy many different propositions of fact must become subjects of controversy. Propositions of policy, therefore, are broader in scope than individual propositions of fact and afford far greater opportunities for practice in debate. For this reason they should be preferred to propositions of fact in the choice of subjects for debate.
Summary. — To summarize the theory pertaining to the proposition as subject of debate, it may be said that, if the debater is to choose a proposition wisely, he should know:
1. What a proposition is ; 2. How it differs from subjects commonly employed in
non-argumentative types of discourse;
3. Why it is important: 4. What requirements it should meet both in regard to
subject matter and in regard to phraseology; 5. Where it may be found; 6. How it may be formulated; and 7. Which of its two principal types is to be preferred for
practice in debate.
Assembling the Proof the Second Step in Debate. After the choice of a proper subject for debate, no time should be lost by the advocates of either side in proceeding at once to assemble proof in support of their opposing views. The second step in preparation for debate, therefore, may be known as the process of assembling proof.
Value of Well-Ordered Plan of Procedure in Assembling Proof. — No part of the preparation for debate is more essential to success than the process of assembling proof, and yet no one of the many processes employed in debate is more commonly undertaken in a haphazard way.
A very common practice among debaters, for example, in an investigation of their subject is to go at once to a library; pick from the shelves any books that may contain articles relating to their subject; read voluminously until they are exhausted; take many notes; and then consider their preparation to be complete.
This method of preparation often leads the debater to read much that has nothing to do with the subject; to cover again and again the same points in controversy; and to miss others altogether that may be much more important. Then, finally, he awakens to a realization, when it may be too late, that he is unprepared to meet his opponent on some of the most vital points that may arise in the debate.
· For lesson assignments on Assembling the Proof, see Appendix A.