My son is taking a debate class this year in high school. I think he will probably ace the class because he is definitely an A-plus arguer at home. His dream is to become an attorney and participating on a debate team will help him develop strong skills for his future career in the courtroom.
However, learning to win arguments is not just what debate is about. This is just the sort of thing that helps children develop the skill of critical thinking. In order to bring forth an effective argument, one must use effective reasoning and logic to first come to a conclusion.
Of course, logic can be learned as students study science and mathematics. But, they do not learn to apply these skills in arguments of reason. That is a different skill altogether. To fully understand and master a particular subject, debate takes it to a whole other level. Whereas science and mathematics only require the problem to be solved, debate requires the problem to be explained to another person in order to persuade that person that your position is correct. This creates great clarity of mind.
As a person prepares to present their argument on a topic, they usually write down their thoughts, opinions and facts regarding the matter. As the argument begins to form, they often discover flaws in their logic or gaps of information that require explanation. This is how critical thinking begins to be developed as they construct sound arguments.
Debate also helps students develop open-mindedness and listening skills. It requires one to listen to another person’s perspective while at the same time allowing that person to critique their own perspective. This rarely happens in real life because it is simply too uncomfortable for most people to subject themselves to being criticized and proven wrong about anything. By having to deal with counterarguments and evidence that support such, a person then learns the skill of respecting the merit of a different point of view.
It is truly disheartening to see people who are public figures and considered leaders argue in such disrespectful manners that is so common today. Debate teaches argument that is disciplined, evidence-based, responsive and logical. It also teaches teamwork. Debate classes are usually divided up into teams. Students learn to work together in groups building their position. This creates opportunities to reason with one another as they prepare their arguments.
Education experts find that students who engage in debate studies develop more sophistication in their writing skills. Their problem solving skills become higher developed enabling them to be more adept at resolving conflict.
I look forward to how being on a debate team will further develop my son’s appreciation for evidence and truth. As he grows through his experiences in this class, I hope it reveals his strengths as well as his weaknesses. With confidence he can build on the areas where he is sound and strong and make efforts to reinforce and rebuild where he is lacking. He already has a good head start for presenting his “case”. In our household respectful debate is all part of living together. My son has been talking like a lawyer since he was three-years-old. It can sometimes be exasperating but he always makes me proud.