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.