Governance · Law · Politics · Public Policy

Debating: Making One a Better Person


What is Debate?

A  debate  is  a  form  of  public discourse. It is a formal direct oral contest or competition in augmentation between two or more people on a defined proposition at a specific time. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, debate is “formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting of legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote”. A debate is a formal, disciplined and rule­governed contest/competition that is conducted  within  a  set  framework.  In  a  typical  debate,  two  teams  are  presented  with  a proposition that they will debate, with each team given a set period of time to prepare their arguments. Debates are performed in a structured setting that gives all participants a chance to present and defend their arguments.

The Affirmative side of the proposition­ also called the Proposition­  advocate,  supports  and  upholds  the  resolution.  The  Negative  side  of  the proposition­ also called the Opposition­ opposes and refutes the resolution, as such, they deny the stance of the Affirmative. Stated differently, the Proposition is the team that attempts to secure the acceptance of a proposition. The Opposition is the team that attempts to secure the rejection of a proposition. It is vital that the proposition should take a definite stance on an issue. Basic debate arguments are presented in addition, debating formats vary from one institution or organization to another and debating rules will differ from one competition to another. Despite these  differences,  debates  also  have  many  features  in  common.  Overall,  debates  are  very common in social, political, religious and educational environments. Although the topics addressed in a debate can be virtually allow for audience participation where attendees can pose questions to the debaters.

Decades of academic research have proven that the benefits that accrue as a result of engaging in debate are numerous. Debate provides experiences that are conducive to life-­changing, cognitive and  presentation  skills.  In addition,  through  debate  debaters  acquire  unique  educational benefits as they learn and polish skills far beyond what can be learnt in any other setting. At the very least, debate helps learners to see the power of deploying rational, reasoned arguments and compelling evidence in action. It enables them to elucidate their standpoint through utilizing rhetorical eloquence. It instills in debaters a great sense of poise and confidence. It teaches them the skills of researching, organizing and  presenting information in a compelling fashion.

Rigorous and Critical Thinking


Perhaps the most important skill debaters learn is the ability to think rigorously and critically. A number of studies have reported that participation in debate increasing the critical thinking of debaters. Participation in debate promotes problem solving and innovative thinking, and helps debaters to build links between words and ideas that make concepts more meaningful. Debaters are  taught  to  synthesize  wide  bodies  of complex information and to exercise creativity and implement different ways of knowing. Learning to think well has far reaching effects into every aspect of a debaters life.

Academic Skills


Many studies show marked improvement in a wide variety of academic skills as a result of participation  in competitive  debate.  Debaters  excel  in  written  and  oral  communication  and greatly improve their reading comprehension, sometimes 25% more than their peers. Debaters become comfortable with new concepts and their unfamiliar language., and gain access to a wide array of new information such as college level philosophy, history public policy and current events. Perhaps most importantly, debaters become self-­directed learners, allowing them to take control of their education experience and continue to learn throughout their lives. This makes competitive debate a particularly effective vehicle for gifted and talented education.

Mental and Emotional Maturity


Debate requires individuals to engage serious subject matter in a mature and professional environment. Debaters show more maturity in the face of adversity and tend to develop stronger relationships  with  peers  and  mentors  than  the  average  students.  Debate  teaches students to recognize how others think, which improves their ability to cooperate and resolve conflicts. This makes debate one of the most successful vehicles for providing effective education to at ­risk students. Ultimately, debate increases individuals self-confidence by helping to teach them the skills necessary to become diligent.

Academic and Occupational Achievement

All these skills ultimately lead debate students to notable achievement. Debate students consistently  receive  impressive  grades  throughout  high  school  and college. Improvement in academic performance is common to all debate students, regardless of their level of academic achievement prior to joining the activity. Debate participation increases the chances of being offered college scholarships. Many debate students go onto to earn advanced degrees. Beyond their academic careers, debaters tend to enjoy success in the world of work. Many top corporate executives  and  high ­ranking  officials  in  all  branches  of government are former high school debaters. Debate students tend to become leaders in their schools and communities because they develop strong listening skills, tact, self-confidence and often take on strong leadership roles within their teams. Debating skills also help to break down traditional barriers to civic engagement.

It is, therefore, important to take active participation in debates in order to become a ‘Better Person’. It improves the knowledge bank and helps one to understand different perspective and one accepts new ideas and helps in broadening the mind and also, breaks the conventional and rigid pattern of thinking. In the end, it makes a person more informed and intellectual.

About the Author

ShreyanShreyan Acharya is currently pursuing his B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies. Being a law student, he tries to explore different fields in law and is inclined toward research, which he feels, helps in upgrading his intellect. Besides this, he is into sports, which augments his interest in Sports Law, thus keeping him focussed on the field he wants to pursue a career in. Currently, he is interning at the Model Governance Foundation.

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