Why to debate? : this should have been my first post.


In hindsight, maybe this should have been my first post.

'Sacrifice’ has always been the go-to word for this activity.

This part is obvious. It takes immense time, a lot of brainpower, a willingness to be uncomfortable— pushing your academic boundaries, pushing your social boundaries, pushing your ability to not cry when your opponent is yelling at you.


Truly, debate is not a sport for the faint-of-hearted. And although the speech & debate community is (in general) accepting and welcoming and inclusive, that really doesn’t mean that debate is for everyone. In the same way volleyball isn’t for everyone— it’s kinda more for tall people. And theatre club isn’t for everyone— it’s kinda best suited to big personalities.

Debate isn’t for those who won’t sacrifice.


So, why debate? Why sacrifice?


A sacrifice is a trade: a trade of present offerings (your time, your opportunity costs, your tears) for a future reward.

Now, that future reward can be elusive. If you start a business, its might fail. If you train hard at basketball, you might not get to the championship. If you study for your linear algebra final, you might just fail.

Debate is worth doing because when executed correctly, that future reward is all-but guaranteed.


Shall we make a list?


  1. Reading: often college-level academic material that will put you in a position in high school, college, or whatever’s next, to cut through the “what’s a journal article?!” phase of research and study and onto substantive learning and meaningful contributions. Doing debate trains you to develop a quick and keen eye for details, for methodology errors, and for how useful (or not useful) a given article will be for your case.

  2. Research: of that same academic material, of course; navigating your way through JSTOR and Google Scholar is not for the faint of hearted, and outside my debate students I would be truly shocked to see a middle schooler skimming through the latest bio-super-bug research. Debate students develop a fluency for research from a younger age than most, giving them an edge for any job that requires it (hint: most of the good ones do).

  3. Writing: although English class should help with your essay-writing, debate gives you a wide berth of practice— case writing, of course, which a truly practical and flexible adaptation of the essay. This is long-form (medium-form?) writing. But writing rebuttals during a round also gives you short-form and high-pressure writing experience. Every second-half speech also requires quick speech outlining, which can be applied to every situation in life that requires quick thinking and planning.

  4. Speech: Wow, we’re at number 4 before we hit the main debate skill: speech. Although debaters may have a specific ’speech’ style, it carries over into a finding a mature voice in speaking and presentation, much as vocal training develops a unique, clear and confident voice through practice.

  5. Critical thinking: This is the heart of the outlining, writing, speech, cross-x and questioning: the ability to tackle novel topics and unique concepts and work with them competitively. B.s. detection also turns any naive student into a serious questioner. This essential skill— which I might correlate with IQ— is not something every student can hone to a t. But it is something that every student can improve on.

Anything else debate can teach? I’d say ‘leave a comment’ but nobody ever leaves comments [*sad debate noises*]. Take care ya’ll.

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