Let’s debate!

Debating means ‘to fight’, argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner. Today, debating implies a discussion between two parties to form a conclusion. This skill involves two parties (usually) holding different views about the same topic.

Debate is a valuable activity for students of all skill levels.  Debate teaches useful skills for other academic pursuits and life more generally.   Most obviously, debaters build confidence speaking in public and expressing their ideas eloquently.  That comfort speaking in front of others is useful in so many areas of life, from interviews to school presentations to discussions in college seminars.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”  Debate tests and builds that ability by forcing students to see both sides of issues.  Debaters flex their analytical muscles, learning to find the weak points in opponent’s arguments.

Studies across the country have found that high school debate improves reading ability, grades, school attendance, self-esteem, and interest in school.  Many universities even offer scholarships specifically for college debaters.

For those who commit to speech and debate, it offers a lifetime of benefits.  Forbes published an article titled “How to Find the Millennials Who Will Lead Your Company,” suggesting that the leaders of the future are ex-debaters.  As that article notes, debate teaches “how to persuade, how to present clearly, and how to connect with an audience,” exactly the skills businesses look for in their young employees.  You’ll find ex-debaters in every area of public life, from Bruce Springsteen to Oprah Winfrey to Nelson Mandela.  60% of Congressional representatives participated in debate, as well as at least a third of the Supreme Court.  There are ex-debaters excelling in business, law, politics, academia, and many other fields.

So in frame of my volunteering in Wola, I promoted debates between high school students. I choose the group debates “Karl Popper debates format”, since this format has additional benefit – teamwork and students learn listening to each other to represent the idea of the whole group, not only their own. In this debates there are 2 groups, each group has 3 speakers. Each speaker has him/her duties and specific role, with have to be followed. In this format, asking appropriate questions and answer in a proper way is also crucial.

I had to modify format a little bit, since English is not their first language and we will implement it in high school, students will be able to know expected topics, so that they can read, collect information beforehand. In general, this format means that the topic is announced just before the round, teams are preparing both sides of the topic (affirmative and negative), then randomly they get the side – affirm the statement or negate the statement. This makes the debate round exiting.

Hope Gilowice high school students will enjoy debating and develop the competences they will use for the future.

Mariam

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