Research skills are probably the most important skills a debater gets. Because of the research-oriented nature of the activity, debaters are forced to conduct massive amounts of research throughout their debate careers. These skills transfer over to help debaters in the real world when they’re forced to conduct research for their jobs. Hence, a very large amount of debaters end up in highly-research oriented jobs. These skills also help a lot with school work, as when a debater is assigned a research paper, the amount of time it takes to conduct research is drastically reduced by their efficiency. I’m constantly amazed at how quickly I am able to find articles pertaining to a particular topic in class because of the research skills I’ve been taught through debate. It’s definitely something that’s going to help me a lot throughout my life.
Considering the controversies surrounding Russia’s policies about gay people and athletes, there has been a lot of debate about the Olympics and whether people should be attending it. This post contains a lot of arguments from both sides of this question. It’s definitely an interesting discussion, and I recommend reading about it.
As a college debater, I’ve been actively preparing for districts, which happens this next weekend, for a while now. Considering the amount of time that I spent preparing for the tournament (roughly 16 hours over the last three days), I feel a lot more comfortable about it than I did a week or two ago. The amount of time that I spent staring at the computer, writing out explanations of certain arguments or searching for the perfect article to help make an argument has really made me think about a skill that debate has taught me that I’ve never really thought about before– stamina and focus. Before I joined debate, I couldn’t keep my focus on something that could be considered work for much time– maybe half an hour to 45 minutes– before I had to stop and do something else. After joining debate, I’ve been able to keep my focus on a task for an extensive period of time, even if it’s a boring paper for a class I really don’t like. I think the reason why I am able to do this effectively is because debate has also helped me formulate my thoughts coherently (that idea will be developed more in a future post). Either way, debate has helped me to focus on work for an extended period of time, making me significantly more efficient and effective at school and other research-oriented work.
For those of you reading this blog who are in high school debate, this article is a useful referent for figuring out which school to debate for in college. It’s definitely something that I found helpful when I was deciding where to go debate when I was in high school.
This post makes the argument that debate teaches students the 5 “C’s”– critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and civic awareness and engagement. It’s from Arne Duncan, the US secretary of education as of 2009.
There are several reasons why debate teaches students these skills. Because of the sheer size of each topic discussed, debate requires critical thinking because a debater won’t ever be completely prepared for the arguments that could be made during a debate. Obviously the activity is predicated on the ability to communicate ideas effectively and deliberately with other individuals. All forms of debate require you to communicate and collaborate with other individuals, whether it be debaters on your debate team, the judges in a debate, or the other people you are debating. Creativity is fostered as a debater develops his or her arguments in a manner that is responsive to common arguments that other people normally make and perceive as being effective. Debaters gain civic awareness and engage in the political sphere as they learn about how the government and other individuals create and enforce laws, social norms, and other rules.
I seriously recommend reading Duncan’s words because he can explain his arguments better than I can. It’s nice to see powerful government officials giving debate some recognition.
Something that often dissuades people from debating or arguing is disagreement. People tend to run away from disagreement in order to keep the peace with another individual or to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. The problem with this approach is that people then never discuss issues in their lives, and are thus mired in ignorance. Instead, people should argue and debate– but they should relax.
By “relax” I mean that people should realize that staying calm is the best way to ensure that one thinks clearly and logically. Obviously there are certain arguments that put people’s identities on the line (e.g. a gay man arguing in favor of gay marriage wouldn’t and shouldn’t be expected to detach his identity from the argument) but there is a difference between getting really worked up over an argument and being personally attached to an argument. Personal attachment is inevitable and in certain situations a good thing; getting pissed off often leads to saying offensive things that have nothing to do with the argument.
So let’s not run away from disagreement and debate, but instead try to remain calm and collected while having them.
Throughout the time that I maintain this blog, I plan to write several posts about why debating is good (obviously, since this blog is about the value of debate and deliberative democracy). The first reason why debate is good– you learn from it.
Debate allows individuals to learn about a multitude of issues that they wouldn’t learn about otherwise. These discussions allow one to test notions and ideas in order to learn what other people think about them and see how they stand to logic. They allow one to learn various arguments and counter-arguments in order to strengthen and better understand their arguments. In actual debate, the topic is either so broad that it covers a large amount of information, or it changes so frequently that you’re forced to research a myriad of different topics. This produces a unique knowledge base that is difficult to acquire from other places and activities. Thus, debate is an incredibly educational activity.