I haven’t focused a lot on public debates throughout this blog, and since I’m planning on finishing writing it soon, I wanted to write a post about public debate. Since most of us are not able to be involved in the debate team in high schools or colleges, I think it’s important that people know other ways to be involved in what is probably the most educational and useful activity their is. Thus, it’s important for people to be involved with public debate.
Other than the educational value of public debate, the activity has importance in that it involves the community in an issue that is important to them, thus strengthening deliberative democracy. Deliberative democracy is especially important considering how easy it is for citizens to have their rights taken away, thus making it important for people to be express their opinions and have their voices heard.
So how do you get involved in public debates? There are a couple ways to do so. First, you should contact your local government offices and see if they have any information. Figure out what the main issues are affecting your community and figure out if someone has organized an event around discussing it. If no one has, you could even organize your own public debate to invite members of the community to discuss the issue. Additionally, if you live in a community with a college close-by, chances are you have access to some kind of debate organization that holds public debates. My school certainly holds numerous public debates each year in which several members of the community show up and participate in what quickly becomes an educational discussion about an issue affecting the community.
Since it’s so important and definitely possible to be involved in public debates, I strongly suggest that you get involved.
I thought this was pretty cool– a new research study on the Chicago Urban Debate League conducted by the Journal of Adolescents looked into the connections between joining a high school debate and readiness for college. This study found that debaters are 3.1 times more likely to graduate high school and be prepared for college, and that at-risk students were 72% likely to graduate if they were involved with high school debate, versus the 43% of non-debaters that were likely to graduate. This page has the press release.
If you’re a community member who is interested in supporting debate but isn’t currently involved in it, there are a couple things that you could do to support a local debate team. Most colleges and several high schools host public debates where the community is invited to watch and/or participate; going to any of these events is an excellent way to support a team. Additionally, you can contact a local administrator explicitly giving your support for the local debate program in an attempt to give the program some recognition. This could even potentially help the local team acquire more funding. Additionally, you could contact the administrator in charge of the program and express how much you support the team.
When community members express their support for debate, the activity is able to thrive and grow. Thus, debate teams definitely appreciate any support that community members give them.
For any of you who are high school debaters that may have stumbled across this blog and are about to do the transition to college debate, there are a couple things you should know.
1. Speech times are different– in high school policy debate, speeches are 8 and 5 minutes long. In college, speech times are 9 and 6 minutes long. Additionally, prep time is 10 minutes per debate instead of your normal 8 or 5 minutes.
2. Topics are smaller, but also bigger– the wording of topics are more limited in college (we often have list topics as opposed to broad “x should be done” kind of topics) which limits the amount of ground aff teams have. However, because of the sheer amount of research that college debaters do, there will be a broad amount of affs with numerous different advantages.
3. Find your niche/generics are your friend– while it’s certainly an excellent idea to be more specific and have those arguments prepared, knowing a core disad or kritik and being prepared to go for it in any round is an especially good idea in college because of the amount of affs that exist. Especially early on in the year when you haven’t predicted all of the affs, having a core set of generic arguments to be able to make is a good idea.
4. Mutually preferred judging– while MPJ already exists on the national circuit, I debated in a circuit that didn’t have this when I was in high school, so I thought I should include a brief explanation of this/why this matters. MPJ allows you to rank each judge in order of preference. When you get paired against another team, the tournament will compare where you have judges ranked and where that team has judges ranked and decide your judge based on that placement. This allows for debaters to get judges who cater more to their style of debate. This also means that you can easily become a more nuanced K or policy debater in college if you/your coaches decide that is a good idea. It also means you generally get judges who you consider to be qualified.
There are certainly more differences between high school and college debate. If anyone else thinks of any major ones, feel free to post them in the comments section!
For any of you who might be high school students interested in going to a debate camp, but can’t afford attending one, or can’t travel to one because it’s too far away, the Access Debate Camp is an online debate camp that might be worth checking out. This camp has numerous different lab leaders and instructors who are some of the brightest minds in the community and who are certainly capable of giving you your money’s worth.
Information is available here, as well as the link posted above.
This article is by a former debater and rising comedian who has put the skills she’s learned from debating in high school to excellent usage. She indicates that when she was just going into high school, she was constantly argumentative but didn’t really have any direction or form of her arguments, and that joining the debate team helped her out with that (she even indicates that it helped her convince her parents to let her drink in her house). I think this is another skill that is underrepresented as something that debate helps teach– shaping arguments. While most teenagers and young adults are always wanting to argue, they don’t really know how, and they often times present ineffective and useless arguments just to have them. Debating helps teach a person how to formulate a position in an intelligent manner, making their point go across more effectively and efficiently. This in turn helps teach not only the debater how to convey arguments better, but also the person who the debater is arguing with different argument styles and points.
Debate teaches essay writing skills. Because a debater is required to process information so quickly (as discussed in a previous post about reading skills), a debater is also able to regurgitate that information rapidly. That process of regurgitation allows a debater to make fluffy and long sentences quickly and efficiently. It doesn’t seem like it would make a major difference, but every debater that I’ve talked to has expressed the opinion that their time in debate has elevated their abilities to write essays. This is especially useful as college progresses, because each student will be required to write larger amounts more frequently. Thus, this skill is incredibly useful for progressing throughout a debater’s education.
A skill that isn’t really discussed that debate helps cultivate is the ability to read effectively. Because of the short time requirements that each individual competitor is forced to deal with during a debate, each debater much be able to parse through information at an incredibly rapid pace. As such, a debater is forced to learn how to read and process information at incredible rates. And because of the speed in which one is forced to speak during a policy debate, a policy debater specifically learns how to process information quickly as s/he speaks out loud. This has helped me with school and throughout my daily life, as I am capable of comprehending something that I am forced to read very quickly. It’s surprising to me that this skill isn’t discussed very often in articles and posts about the value of debating, because it’s certainly an indispensable skill for one’s every and work life. I suppose it’s just something that people don’t think about very often.
This article excellently explains why and how debate teaches all of the necessary skills that the SAT is meant to cultivate. Just another reason why debate is awesome.