Deconstruction, also called refutation or clash, is when you disprove arguments brought up by the other team. In a debate developing a solid case is important, but it is also important that you take down your opponents case.
How do I start?
Ask yourself what is wrong with your opponent’s argument? Critiquing ideas and arguing is something that will come easily. Use examples or evidence to disprove an argument, or point out any flaws in their reasons as to why something is true. As you practice you’ll find more and more ways to approach refutation.
The basics of refutation
When learning how to debate, most students don’t have too much difficulty arguing against the other team. But learning which pieces of refutation are the most important takes more time to understand. As you continue to develop your skills in refutation, focus on these three types of clash:
is taking a small line of an argument and proving why it’s wrong. This is the weakest form of refutation because it’s only dealing with a small piece of a large argument. As a beginning debater, most of your refutation will be in this category.
is dealing with one large argument as a whole. Debaters do so by finding the underlying assumptions of an argument and proving it wrong. The way to make this form of refutation strong is to explain how disproving that assumption or underlying premise leads to the rest of the argument not being true. This form of refutation is quite strong because it is dealing with an entire argument. As a more advanced debater, most of your refutation will be in this category.
Case line clash
is refuting the heart of a case. By finding the fundamental principals of a case and refuting them, you effectively take down an entire case, making it the strongest form of refutation
Using the motion “THW mandate equal representation for men and women in elected positions of government” here are examples of the three types of clash.
“My opponents said that there is currently little to no representation for women in government, which is why they must implement their model. We think that this isn’t the case. In the current Trudeau administration there is a 50/50 senate without this mandate. This demonstrates that Canada is already moving in the right direction without forced change.”
This example is written to mimic the response of a new debater. This form of refutation is most common in beginner and intermediate because thinking of an example to contradict a point is fairly easy. Long term, it’s not a very strong form of refutation because its impacts are quite small.
“The speaker spent the majority of their time talking about how their motion would lead to a number of benefits including broad acceptance and representation of women. However my opponents failed to provide any reasoning as to how this would occur, they simply assumed it. We think that this will not happen for three reasons. One, when you make it a mandate, people begin to question the reasoning behind an appointment. Both citizens and peers question the motivation for an appointment. Was it their credentials or the fact that the government needed another women to fill a seat? This is extremely problematic because is diminishes the power that these women have. Two, you reduce the value and impact of women historically fighting for these positions. The goal is to have a legitimate place at the table that is given to women because they are the most qualified. When you assign sections, you ignore the struggle of women in the past and current women reaching for these positions. Even if women are gaining seats because they are the most qualified, it will always be perceived as a partial win. Third, long term you legitimize the viewpoints of anti-feminist groups who claim that women and men are already equal. This makes it much more difficult for women in other situations to fight for their rights.”
This example is written for a mid level high school debater. Global clash often involves tying in several responses. This form of refutation is stronger because it attacks a larger portion of an opponent’s case, and does so in multiple ways.
Case line clash
“my opponent’s case rests on the assumption that their mechanism of forced change is the only solution. We have already proved to you that change is already happening. If that is the case the debate is not about forced change or no change. The question is which is better: natural or forced change? We have shown you how forced change leads to negative outcomes for Canada, government, and women as a whole. Even if natural change takes longer, we would much rather wait for legitimate representation for women, rather than the permission of proposition to let us sit at the table."
This example is written as an experienced high school debater. Case line clash attacks the root of an opposing case and makes it clear which side the judges should choose. In addition, this speaker used persuasive language to further sway the judges.
Kids Explain Clash