As you may know, this year I’m encouraging folks to think about critical thinking. (See more at http://lynnlovegreen.com/letsthinkabout-critical-thinking/.) A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to judge at the Alaska State DDF (Drama Debate and Forensics) Tournament. There, my faith in humanity was renewed as I watched all the high school students using their critical thinking skills to consider many topics, from plea bargaining to editorial cartoons. And it reminded me how important debate can be for high school and college students.
Contrary to the stereotype, debate is not just a fancy term for arguing. Debate is a great activity to help students learn how to think critically. Good debaters can see both sides of an issue and analyze details to see how logical and persuasive they are. They learn to write clearly, create plans to solve problems, and speak in public. All these skills are helpful in and outside of school to create civil discourse.
The book Why Debate: Transformed by Academic Discourse (http://a.co/gBa6qOW) explains this brilliantly. In this collection of essays, edited by Shawn Briscoe, eighteen authors describe different aspects and advantages of academic debate for students and the world around them. “Competitive debate serves as a foundation for growth as students learn to navigate through society, form relationships, and develop the skills they need to succeed in college and beyond. Those who participate in the activity develop skills and dispositions that help them succeed in their chosen professions. Ultimately, debate makes us aware of what needs changed in the world; and it gives us the ability to effect meaningful change.” I’ve seen this happen with high school debaters, and been impressed by the service they provide after they graduate.
Another reason to buy this book—Briscoe shows his commitment in the Amazon.com entry (http://a.co/gBa6qOW): “A minimum of 50% of the profits from this work will be used to support debaters, debate programs, and/or debate organizations.”
I highly recommend this book, and debate programs in general. I encourage you to look for a debate program in your school district or community and support it, or better yet, participate as a student or an adult judge or other volunteer. You will be inspired, and maybe make the world a better place in the process.