No Argument: Why Debating Can Be Crucial to Youth Success

by The New York City Urban Debate League | Aug 27, 2017 8:56:53 PM |

Why Debate



Two opposing figures go head-to-head in an event they have trained for. They have anticipated their actions, and the actions of their opponent, both wanting to throw the knockout ‘punch’ like a heavyweight boxer.



But in this activity, they do not wish to harm the other. They simply hope to enlighten, reason and maybe even dispute, with knowledge serving as the muscle that is thrown around.


It’s the act of debating these two are engaged in. And it’s a powerful thing. And it is a useful skill.


South African politician and philanthropist Nelson Mandela once said this about debating:


“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”


In an article written for the UK publication Times Educational Supplement, the now Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Varkey Foundation, Jonathan Simons talked about the art of debating.


“To debate, participants must analyze complex issues of ethics, law, politics, science... it teaches rhetoric, and the ability to stand up and speak in front of an audience. It demands confidence in one’s position. It requires teamwork between speakers. It instils general knowledge. It is transformative.”


The Varkey Foundation looks at teaching strategies across the globe.


Martin Robinson, an author and Education/Curriculum Consultant from London, is also very passionate about the education behind debating.


“It is not enough for schools just to teach knowledge, knowledge is the base of great thinking, but without the practice of using knowledge to challenge and rise to the occasion when challenged, an academic education falters. Argument is key to thinking well.”


Robinson’s quote shows the importance of teaching youth to debate. It is not enough to teach a subject without giving the tools to pass it on to the next. Knowledge should be transferable.


Robinson’s quote also talks about the importance of debating across the world. It is not just a tool to be used in the United States, and it is not something only happening in the United Kingdom. If you learn to debate in point A, and move to point B for school or work, your ability to stand up and dispute will be just as useful.


For colleges and universities who are looking at High School applicants and deciding on who they would like to represent them the next year, debating is a huge asset. It proves an understanding of communication, a patience for different arguments and a knowledge of education.


Robinson, who has 20 years’ experience as a teacher and authored a book about preparing young people for the 21st century, continues about the importance of debating.


“Debating competitions and debating societies should be a feature of all good schools. However most young people will not engage with it until debate features as a part of the everyday curriculum. By having to think clearly and defend or attack an idea, a work, or a philosophy, children will be challenged and, in turn, will understand more about the content of the curriculum and what it means to them and the society of which they are a part. I would go so far as to say by grappling with the playfulness of ideas in this way they will, in turn, become more engaged with the issues they are debating and that can only be a good thing.”


You can read more about Martin’s views here: .


I think most educators, politicians and public figures would defend the statement that debating could be a beneficial subject to teach our youth – so why isn’t it? It’s


If there’s no chance of including debating in the curriculum, then stand up and organize a debate team or club. The extra-curricular activity will get youth even more involved and passionate about learning and improving, which can only be beneficial.


Let’s educate our youth through debating, and watch them benefit from it!

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