Even after these many years of the Great Recession, America still struggles with deep political and economical challenges. The country’s politics has split into red and blue tribes. In economic terms, the income and wealth inequality has only increased since the depression. The “earning more than your parents” is no more there. Collectively, they cause anxiety, anger and incivility infecting our lives.
Amidst all these political and academic solutions for improving the condition of America, there’s a novel solution to improve American education and consequently, fixing the economic and political ailments. The solution is making Debate mandatory subject in at least one semester for all high school students, or younger.
How can debate help education?
You might be thinking how counter intuitive this approach could be, especially when you think about all the shouting matches you see on New Channels. But those are not professional debaters. Skills taught in a competitive debating course are different. They are taught how to: research, think critically on your own, work in collaboration with partners, speaking persuasively in civilized manner, and gaining the ability to argue both sides of every subject. These skills are required by good citizens and to be successful in the workforce.
Broward County in Florida mandated all high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools to offer speech and debate classes in 2013. The country is proud how their students perform better after the initiative.
So far every policy in social science is influenced by selection bias. Randomized control trials have not yet been used for competitive debate so far. However, every school allows any student to enroll in competitive debate if they want to.
Not everyone is apt for debating, even in the case of Broward County, they only managed to popularize debating. But debating should influence other subjects. At least students should debate on key questions raised by their literature, history, civics, and even science classes.
Students tend to remember things for longer if they have researched and debated on some of the material taught in class. There is a dictum – “The best way to learn is to teach”. Debate-centered education takes this approach to another level. Students not only have to teach, but persuade both the sides.
With widespread exposure and participation in debate-centered education, students will grow more tolerant towards others’ point of view. This will fix a big problem of students being “hypersensitive” to potentially offensive speech.
How to go about it?
Every school does not have enough resources to teach competitive debating. If there is only one competitive debate instructor in the school, then it is going to be impossible to teach a large number of students. As a solution to that, the only instructor can run a week long seminar for other teachers to instruct competitive debating. Moreover, teachers’ participation is equally required to pull off debate-centered education.
With constructive approach to work, building better methodology to learn, and instilling habits in students, debate centered education will not only improve education, but also heal the society for a healthier democracy.