A Complete Guide to HSPDP

In order to determine if HSPDP is the correct format for you, this article serves as a quick introduction for the format.


HSPDP, which states for High School Public Debate Program, is a parliamentary form of debate that originates in California. There is also a middle school version of the format, which is relatively similar except for slight timing differences and the prevalence of impromptu topics in the high school format.


Like other forms of parliamentary debate, there are two sides. Proposition affirms the resolution, and Opposition negates it. Most tournaments have two prepared motions, which you research ahead of time, and two impromptu motions, which you have 30 minutes to prepare for. It is a more rhetorical format. Content is still very important, but you are judged in how you present it. Though there is a level of debate jargon, the average round could be followed by someone who has never seen debate before.


Each team has three speakers who speak once per round. All of the speeches are five or six minutes, depending on the rules specific to a given tournament. The first speaker lays out the framing and argumentation for the round, known as the case. The second speaker refutes the opposing case while rebuilding the debate for their individual side of the house as well. The third and final speaker identifies the major clashes in the round and summarizes why the judge should prefer their stance under each of the clash points.


Because HSPDP is a niche format, a question we are often asked is: why should or shouldn’t you do HSPDP?

For many schools with smaller debate budgets, this is a more viable option than NSDA formats. Most schools compete in local day-long tournaments, meaning there is not significant travel and thus cost. Further, judges are almost all community members, meaning you will likely be judged by parents, coaches or former high school debaters. For those who hate the dreaded lay judge, this can be a bit annoying. Still, it makes finding judges, and thus fielding teams much easier. Several colleges, including Claremont McKenna, even recruit for the HSPDP format.


All in all, this format is great for rhetorical speakers, people who don’t want to lose every single weekend and penny to debate, and for those who want to learn everyday persuasion skills.


For more information on the content discussed in this article, please visit our HSPDP Resource page.