Debate can also have insane intellectual and social benefits. That’s also true.
If you’re a debater, don’t worry about the social stigma that comes with doing debate. While some people might smirk at the thought, you’ll be reaping the benefits for years afterward, much longer than the criticism will last!
Here are ten reasons you are lucky to be a debater.
1. Debaters are better at school
Numerous studies (see footnotes) confirm that those who participate in high school debate have higher college admission rates, higher GPAs, more motivation, and many more academic benefits.
– Debaters are better at reading, analyzing information, and relaying that information to others.
– Debaters had a 61% improvement in reading tests.
– Debaters had higher GPAs that continued to improve.
– Debate team captains had a 60% higher acceptance rate than average.
– Debaters scored higher on the SAT/ACT
– Debaters had a 50% improvement in critical thinking skills, compared to 34% for individual events, and 31% for related college classes. (If you are jealous of those speech only students who always seem so happy and stress free, realize you’re investing more into your future.)
2. Debate is fun
I’ve only met a few debaters who said that they didn’t enjoy debate. The majority of them never really got that involved—didn’t go to more than a practice tournament, and didn’t always show up to club. You get out of debate what you put into debate.
Almost everyone who takes debate seriously ends up enjoying it, even if it takes going to their first tournament for them to realize they like it.
The first time you get called up for an award? That’s pretty much it all takes for almost anyone to get attached to debate.
3. You learn to act professionally
While some people have had goofy attitudes and just messed around at tournaments, most debaters learn the important skill of acting professionally. Where else do you find a bunch of high school students talking about current events and policy, wearing suits/whatever you call female debate clothing, and enjoying it?
Even if you goof off between rounds (please don’t), you still learn to at least pretend you’re someone worth voting for in a debate round.
4. You learn to talk to peers
One of the most common arguments against homeschooling is the idea that it produces socially awkward kids. A refutation of that argument is not within the scope of this post. But even if it were true, debate would help fix that.
The main thing missing in homeschooling, to some extent, is the experience of getting together with kids of similar ages but different mindsets. All day. For several days in a row. A debate tournament throws hundreds of students together for three to four days, typically from 7:30 to 10:00 or later.
You develop friendships with people who live states away, and beg your parents for Facebook so you can talk to them between tournaments. (We’ve all been there!)
This is a bit of a controversial point, but I’d say it even gives kids a preview of high school drama. There is drama at tournaments, just not as damaging or to the scale that you can find in any public, private, or even “Christian” school. It’s important for parents to talk to their kids and make sure this experience grows them rather than tearing them down, but I think all in all it’s good for kids to learn how to deal with it.
Otherwise, once they enter the workforce, they’re going to have a huge culture shock. (They will probably have a culture shock even if they do debate, obviously).
5. You learn to communicate to adults
Judges are 18 years or older, and typically above 30 years old. The entire point of debate is to convince the judge that you’re right and the other team is wrong. Eventually you learn how to speak in a way that convinces adults that you’re correct.
This has helped me immensely after debate with job interviews, email marketing, and socializing with adults in general.
If you ever have the experience of being adjudicated (when someone accuses you of some kind of rule violation), you also learn how to take official discipline or have a high pressure conversation with someone who is trying to find out the facts.
At tournaments you’ll often talk to parents of your friends and discuss debate or other topics.
All these are important experiences for you, because when you grow up you’ll mostly be interacting with adults. Duh.
6. Debate provides extreme topical knowledge
They say that you never learn something well until you have to explain it to someone else. Or that you never learn something well until you have seen both sides. Whoever “they” is, and whichever version of the statement is true, debate does both of those things for you.
It’s incredible how much better you understand something once you’ve argued both sides in front of a judge. Like winning consistently with your affirmative case, then beating your own case in the next round.
You can do this without lying or pretending you believe in an argument that you don’t, because you learn to find arguments that you agree with on either side and then the debate is basically a matter of convincing the judge that your reason is more important.
I can now talk to anyone about policy towards Russia, our criminal justice system, the United Nations, or our election system. Along with those four resolutions that I debated, I can talk to someone about the constitution, the declaration of independence, or what is wrong with Congress.
The only downside to this is that you end up rolling your eyes internally at how little people know about these topics when you hear them discussed outside of debate 🙂
7. Debate teaches you public speaking
This is pretty much a given. A lot of people think of debate as sitting around in big armchairs postulating uselessly about the great mysteries of this world. But they’re talking about Lincoln Douglas.
Just a joke, don’t tar and feather me over it 🙂
Lincoln Douglas or Team Policy, Stoa or NCFCA, you’ll be sitting at costco plastic tables with fold-up chairs. Actually, it’s more likely you’ll be sitting at kindergarten tables, your legs crying out for more room. Then you will stand up, put your notes on a wobbly music stand with the name of the church it belongs to spray painted on, and begin speaking to one or more judges.
Debate is at its very core public speaking. But it is also research. It is also critical thinking. It is also reading comprehension training. It is the academic exercise to end all academic exercises.
It also teaches you a form of public speaking that actually works. I’ve heard people accuse Toastmasters of being far too traditional and old-fashioned (I think it’s completely true), but it is difficult to say the same for debate.
8. Debate makes you motivated
It is common for former debaters to go on and do great things with their lives. Many congressmen, lawyers, and other respected individuals were involved in debate clubs at a young age.
I probably would not have the motivation to spend hours each week maintaining a website like this if it weren’t for the diligent drive that debate creates.
Something about dressing up in suits, winning awards for public speaking, and the tremendous knowledge of current events that debate gives you allows you to taste a whiff of success. It’s a small preview of what it is like to be a successful businessperson.
Not all debaters end up successful, of course. That’s not a promise. But it’s definitely more likely, and you can increase your chances by working hard at it.
9. You learn to lose or win graciously
Not every debater is gracious, trust me. I’ve had run-ins with some interesting individuals.
But you know what? Given how much pressure debate puts on a high school kid, and how close some people get to success before losing, it’s only expected that there would be bad attitudes all around. You don’t see that, though.
There are some arrogant people at tournaments, but there is also an impressively large amount of humble, gracious people. They don’t smear it into your face if they beat you. They don’t go and pout if they lose.
I’m an extremely competitive person, but I learned how to lose quite a bit. My second year, I went to nationals with my debate partner, and ended 25th place (the last place that was counted, I’d like to point out!) That was quite a success for us. But then my third year, with the same partner, we lost six octa-final rounds, never advancing past. Even though we had gotten so much better, we lost more often.
That was pretty hard.
My last year I began to get much better at speaking, the main reason why I started this website. My 2nd year partner and I went to nationals, and got the bye round 4. (For those unfamiliar, that means we were considered the lowest level team at the tournament at that point, since we lost the first three rounds in a row). Going from the success that I had in my own region to…that…was pretty difficult too.
But I survived, I learned to suck it up and move on.
10. Debate helps you to avoid getting conned
When you spend hours a week researching, you begin to figure out what looks credible, and what looks completely bogus. You can just smell it from a mile away.
You spend hours in debate rounds listening to the other team refute what you just said. Then you do the same thing, going a layer deeper in the argument. It teaches you to analyze an argument and find several significant problems with it. Instantly.
Now whenever someone tells me about a news article they read, I first verify it is not from the onion, and then proceed to think about what’s wrong with it. It’s just an automatic response debaters have. The key is to not annoy people with being a know-it-all. It can be easy to blurt out “that’s wrong for three reasons” and just have a field day with people’s minds, but they don’t like that. Keep that to yourself!
Just enjoy the benefit that you are unlikely to be fooled by the latest conspiracy theory.
If you’re a debater, enjoy this refreshing reminder of why you are working so hard. It is beyond worth it.
If you’re a parent who is thinking of putting your kid in debate, I’d say… try your hardest to make it happen. Make sure you’re involved, and shepherd your child through the process to make sure they aren’t one of “the arrogant ones” I refer to.
I can honestly say the debate changed my life. It won’t have as significant an effect on everyone, but it really is an amazing activity.
Share this article with friends who do debate or people considering doing debate!
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((Tons of good links from here: http://bauscharddebate.com/value-of-debate/))