Premier Debate is delighted to announce its inaugural eight-week intensive Big Questions camp. Supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the camp will be Premier’s first venture into the new National Speech & Debate Association format. Big Questions is designed for students to grapple with complex worldview questions such as the 2016-2017 topic: “Resolved: Science leaves no room for free will.”

For students new to the format, do not tread lightly into Big Questions Debate. We highly recommend first watching this video to decide whether Big Questions Debate is for you. Even after digesting all of the resources the NSDA has to offer on this season’s topic some of the brightest students in the country still struggled to answer the big question. For this reason, our inaugural intensive camp is accepting only the most qualified Big Question Debaters. To apply, you must have asked at least twenty (20) big questions this season at national qualifying tournaments.

We are also pleased to announce our highly-qualified staff for this summer. Teaching the top lab will be Oliver Sussman and Chris Theis, both of whom have extensive experience in Big and Medium Question formats. Teaching the second lab will be Xavier Roberts-Gaal and Tim Alderete. Xavier, who has experience as tab director for the Walt Whitman Big Questions tournament, will also tab the camp tournament.

Frequently Asked Questions about Big Questions

Q: What big questions will be debated at camp?

A: While students may be tempted to explore multiple big questions at camp, Premier Debate has determined, with the input of the NSDA’s pilot debate expert panel, that eight weeks is only enough time to answer one big question. We worked earnestly to create a topic that debaters will find timely, relevant, and engaging. Carefully crafted by Mr. Sussman, the inaugural camp topic is “Resolved: In our world of uncertainty, patience is paramount.”

Q: What materials do I need for camp?

A: The NSDA recommends A-4 size paper and at least one pen, though it recommends two, in different colors.

Q: What is the format of a Big Questions Debate round?

A: The format, modeled on the sophistic dialogues of old, is the following:

Affirmative Questions – 10 minutes

Negative Questions – 10 minutes

Affirmative Questions about Negative Questions – 5 minutes

Negative Questions about Affirmative Questions about Negative Questions – 5 minutes

Judge Questions – 10 minutes

Thinking – 5 minutes

Pacing – 5 minutes

Grand Question Period – 10 Minutes

Q: Why is Premier Debate departing from its traditional two- or three-week camp models?

A: Some questions are so big that they simply cannot be answered in two or three weeks. The NSDA recognizes this fact and releases topic updates as our understanding of these big questions evolves over time. We needed camp to extend long enough so such developments could be thoroughly explored. Bob Overing, co-Director and co-Founder of Premier Debate, suggested last February that as we saw new advancements in science and metaphysics, the Big Questions Debate metagame rapidly shifted from 20% Incompatibilism to 41% Libertarian Incompatibilism to reflect these changes.

Q: Why are Big Questions Debate topics not questions?

A: This we do not know.

Bob Overing

Bob is a Co-Director of Premier, coach for Walt Whitman HS, and current student at Yale Law School and Yale School of Management. As a senior in high school, he was ranked #1, earned 11 bids and took 2nd at TOC. In college, he cleared at CEDA and qualified to the NDT. His students have earned 80 career bids, reached TOC finals, and won many championships.