Why Debate?

FEATURE Kris Preaching

Debate changes lives. As an academic extracurricular activity, debate keeps students engaged in positive, academically oriented work beyond the school day, where they develop transformative relationships with peers and teachers, rather than bad influencers. No other extracurricular activity combines intellectual rigor with a focus on persuasive expression in the way debate does. In debate, students are confronted with moral and political questions that are often highly relevant to contemporary society.

Because the students must be able to defend both sides of the issue, they learn to examine closely their own beliefs and biases about the world around them and to understand the viewpoints of those who believe differently. This practice and a focus on making good arguments creates strong, critical thinkers who are prepared to approach any topic or problem in a well-reasoned and thoughtful manner.

And because it is not enough that debaters are good thinkers—they must persuade others of their thinking—students who participate in high school debate learn the writing and oral advocacy skills that are necessary in any profession.

In short, debate helps students to think critically, write with elegance, and speak with passion. And with these skills, debaters are able to conquer any problem in front of them. It is no surprise that debaters end up occupying many of our more prominent positions in society. The ranks of lawyers, doctors, politicians, teachers, and corporate executives are full of people who got their starts through debate.