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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Resolved: All students should take debate

“To heal our political and economic rifts” and “improve American education,” we should require all students to take debate, argues Robert E. Litan, a Brookings fellow. He’d also like to “incorporate debate into humanities and possibly some science classes as well.”

Some 12,000 Broward County (Florida) students take speech and debate classes.

Competitive debating isn’t about shouting at each other, writes Litan. School debaters learn to “research; think critically and do it on your feet; back up arguments with evidence (not fake news!); work collaboratively with partners; speak persuasively in a civil fashion; and, perhaps most importantly, being able to argue both sides of most any issue or subject.”

Broward County in Florida is the only one to require all schools to offer speech and debate classes, Litan writes. “The county proudly touts how its debate initiative is improving educational performance of its student-participants.”

. . .  two of the leaders of movement for gun control who emerged after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, David Hogg and Jaclyn Corin, debated competitively. Several other students from the school had been preparing for debates over gun control before the tragic shooting took place.

While competitive debate isn’t for everyone, writes Litan, teachers could structure classes “around student debates on key questions raised by their literature, history, civics, and even science classes.”

Learning to argue both sides of an issue will help students understand other people’s point of view, Litan write. They’ll be prepared for a world in which people disagree.

Here’s a site with resources on “argument-centered education.”

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