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  • Bryce Liu and Sernry Tu

Why Do Debate?

As a 6th grader, I hated public speaking. Every time I was asked to present a project or introduce myself to new people, I would become incoherent and incomprehensible. My parents noticed this and decided that forcing me to join my school’s debate club was a good idea. In most stories, this would usually be where the main character suddenly discovers their love for debate; for me, that was not the case. I barely participated and never went to any tournaments. I was at club meetings in person, but not in spirit. That was my experience up until 7th grade, when my parents signed me up for my first tournament. As expected, it was a complete disaster. I was under prepared, I forgot to bring money for food, and I just didn’t know what I was doing.


People who know this background would be surprised to learn that in high school, the kid described in the story would become involved in many activities that all require skills in communication. Had I never joined the debate team all those years ago, I would have never been able to work on political campaigns, run for leadership positions, or give tours of museum exhibits. This transformative activity, debate, allows students to work on several important skills.


One of the most important strengths advanced by debate is in leadership. A good leader has confidence, empathy, and maturity — all traits that develop through debate. Most importantly, debate helps students work on their communication. Naturally, someone that is engaged in an activity that places so much emphasis on communication is bound to develop some skill in that area. The importance of the ability to communicate in the context of leadership cannot be stressed enough; it helps students build stronger interpersonal relationships and exchange information when working with others. All of these factors and more demonstrate why around 60% of Congressional representatives have previously participated in debate.2


Furthermore, debate promotes better critical thinking. Through fast paced debates, students have to “flex their analytical muscles” as they find weak points in their opponent’s arguments and communicate them persuasively to the audience.2 Critical thinking is crucial in nearly all aspects of life; research indicates that students who participate in debate are “significantly less likely to drop out of high school, more likely to graduate on time, and more likely to be college ready.”4 In fact, the average debate student has a GPA of at least 3.75 and is in the top 10% of their class.1


Debate also keeps students informed on current events. It compels students to investigate the many connections between social, political, and environmental dimensions of our society, allowing them to understand the complexity of many issues today.4 This plays a key role in promoting civic awareness and participation. Students that are more informed about current events are more likely to develop their own values, which will become important later on when they start participating in the politics. This academic advantage also allows debaters to leave the podium and join other former debaters as leaders in industry, education, law, medicine, and other disciplines.4


Overall, debate is an extremely educational activity, allowing you to develop skills that no other activity provides. For me, debate has completely changed my life for the better, and it can do the same for you as well.




Citations

[1] Rowland Hall, Why Supporting High School Debate is a Worthwhile Project, Accessed in 7/28/2020, https://www.rowlandhall.org/uploaded/PDFs/Debate/Benefits_of_Debate_-_Skills.pdf


[2] Stanford National Forensic Institute, The Power Of Speech & Debate Education, Stanford National Forensic Institute, Accessed 7/28/2020, https://snfi.stanford.edu/skills


[3] University of Washington, Why Debate?, Department of Communication, Accessed 7/28/2020, http://www.com.washington.edu/debate/why-debate/


[4] Dallas Urban Debate, Why Debate?, Dallas Urban Debate, Accessed 7/28/2020, https://www.dallasdebate.org/about-1-1


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