Big Questions Debate

Big Questions Logo Big Questions is a debate format and fund raiser supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and administered by the National Speech & Debate Association (NSDA). High school and middle level students will grapple with complex worldview questions as they debate both sides of the 2018-2019 topic:

Resolved: Humans are primarily driven by self-interest.

Schools who hold Big Questions debates are eligible to receive thousands of dollars per event. These debates can be held at a tournament, with your team, or in your classroom. Read eligibility guidelines below. Note that each student participating must participate in three debates (rounds). We also recommend reading the buttons to the right.

  • Rounds must follow the Big Questions format described in the Big Questions Format Manual.
  • Minimum student participants: 15 (a partnership counts as two students; only students who actually debate/compete are counted as participants).
  • Your own school’s students qualify under the grant and may be counted toward your total number of student participants.
  • Minimum number of rounds: 3; elimination rounds are encouraged, but not required
  • There must be a suitable number of different judges relative to the level of participation.
  • Applications are no longer accepted on a first come, first served basis. If an application is not immediately accepted, you may host your event and turn in reporting information to be put on a waitlist to receive funding if your application status changes. Applicants should carefully consider estimated number of participants before applying. For budgetary reasons, we will not award amounts above the amount estimated on the application.
  • You can apply to host multiple events. Each subsequent event should have 50% new participants.
  • Due to grant demand, schools must be a member of the NSDA <– click the link to learn more about the WHSFA-NSDA partnership. Grant funds earned may be applied toward NSDA membership dues.
  • 1 or 2 debaters on each side; rounds can be 1 vs. 1, 2 vs. 2, or 1 vs. 2
  • Time of Speeches (similar to Public Forum)
    Affirmative Constructive – 5 minutes
    Negative Constructive – 5 minutes
    Question Segment – 3 minutes (affirmative asks first question; free-flowing afterwards)
    Affirmative Rebuttal – 4 minutes
    Negative Rebuttal – 4 minutes
    Question Segment – 3 minutes (same format as above)
    Affirmative Consolidation – 3 minutes
    Negative Consolidation – 3 minutes
    Affirmative Rationale – 3 minutes
    Negative Rationale – 3 minutes
    Prep Time – 3 minutes / side
  • See the manual for more details.
  • Each event will earn $400 for the first 15 students. If your event has one participant school, each additional student over the 15 minimum will earn your program $10. If your event has two or more schools competing, each additional student will earn your program $20.
  • The full grant amount will be awarded following completion of reporting requirements; no upfront installments will be given.
  • There is a $7,500 award cap per school or organization.
  • You are required to purchase a minimum of three Big Questions plaques for your event. These cost $10 + shipping. These will automatically be mailed to your school before your event, and you may order more if you choose.
  • The NSDA reserves the right to bill back tournaments for the $300 provided upfront if the minimum number of students or rounds is not met.
  • Click here for full details.