The Harvard ideal of debating has two essentials: good "form" and argument backed by evidence. Though "form," or the method of presentation, is not given as great consideration as argument, its importance is always recognized in the selection of judges chosen to pick a team to represent the University. Upon every such board of judges is one who is an authority on platform sheaking. The most approved manner of presentation is the deliberate and undemonstrative in distinction to the oratorical or campaign style. The common trait of the best University debaters of the past has been a faculty of combining with solidity of argument an objective style of delivery--the faculty of talking to an audience rather than at it--by means of which a closer contact and sympathy is established between speaker and listeners.
The prime consideration in respect to the substance presented is the amount and reliability of the evidence adduced to support each argument. This evidence cannot be too specifle. In the development of a University team it is an axiom that every contention drawn from an outside source be followed by full information as to the source and this even to the detail of a writer's official title or the page and name of the volume quoted. Mere rhetoric and as sertion unaccompanied by proof are considered of slight worth, and while the skiltul use of persuasion is encouraged, the ultimate goal is conviction by accompanied by re-enforcing evidence.
Systematic debating, as at present conducted at Harvard, was begun in 1898 by the reorganization of The University Debating Club and the formation of class clubs. The University Club does not of itself hold debates. It is the administrative body for all the debating interests of the University. Besides having charge of all the debates which Harvard holds with other universities, it also has a general control over the four class clubs. The latter organizations are the active debating clubs of the College. They have two sorts of debates: the weekly club debates, culminating in the class championship contests, occupy the first half year; and during the second half are held a series of debates with outside colleges.
The weekly debates are run on what is known as the "camp system." The club elects officers, among whom are two captains. These captains then divide the remaining members into two camps which oppose each other in weekly or fortnightly debates. The whole conduct of each camp is in the hands of the captain; it is his duty to choose questions for debate; assign points to speakers; select judges--usually members of the University Debating Club--and open and close the debate for his side.
In order to afford debaters the chance of speaking before larger and more varied audiences than can be secured at Cambridge and at the same time to observe other styles of speaking than that used at Harvard, the custom of holding outside class debates will be resumed this year. During the second half year each of the class clubs will have at least one debate with some outside institution. In the past, debates of this sort have been held with Bates College, Boston University, The Young Men's Congress of Boston, Holy Cross College and Exeter Academy