The Value of Academic Debate

Decision-making (i.e parliamentary, presidential, etc.) and competitive debate (i.e. academic) are two major types of debate. In the United States, the major forms of competitive debate in high school include Policy Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, and Public Forum Debate.

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The outcome of Policy Debate according to literature is either a resolution of fact (ex. “Resolved: O.J. Simpson murdered his wife Nicole”), value (ex. “Resolved: Civil disobedience is justified in a democracy”), or policy (“Resolved: The United States should change its foreign policy toward China”) while the Lincoln-Douglas Debate yield resolution of value. The outcome of the Public Forum Debate, on the other hand, is mostly resolution of policy.

High school competitive debates appear addressing social issues, reuniting its division, and establishing a moral order within the particular academic level. This type of debate is exclusive to high school and college and mainly participated by gifted adolescents engaging in brutal arguments, making claims, and depending conflicting ideas for social good. Moreover, competitive debate in this academic level is a reflection of American values, politics, and law.

The long tradition of Academic Debate started in about 481 to 411 B.C. and persisted in American schools as an educational method in college and characterized by the debate tournament. A form of informal debate, academic debate merely allows students to systematically express their opinion and support their arguments with facts or evidence. They are designed to facilitate the development of advanced speaking skills, improve critical thinking, and increase students’ confidence about participating in academic community discussions and dialogue.

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The Value of Academic Debate

Academic debate is simply defined as a debate conducted under the auspices of an educational institution aimed at providing educational opportunities for its students. The purpose of an academic debate is to allow evenly matched opponents to present balanced arguments and evidence about critical issues.

Some of the benefits students gained from their debate experience include awareness and knowledge of social issues, development of critical thinking and communication ability, appreciation of change, and respect for academic research. The philosophy of college debate, for example, is “ to learn not to win” because the most important thing is to be able to present both sides of the issue and make a critical decision on matters concerning public interest.

The debate in a college environment provides students opportunities to apply their knowledge of debate principles, develop proper attitudes and skills, and experience almost real-life debates. More importantly, debating is to keep political and public issues alive in the hearts and minds of the academic community.

The value of academic debate for some critics is limited to discussing social issues and developing students’ attitudes and abilities. Others see it as a structured academic game with self-actualization and enjoyment as goals. In practice, however, academic debate influenced some of the most critical issues in society. For example, the goals and rationales of criminal punishment according to literature were not the only outcome of evolving criminal procedures and customs but painstaking academic debate. Another is a strong influence of academic debate on public attitude and government policy towards the harmful effect of some media content such portrayal of sex and violence, food consumption and eating disorders, and direct behavioral effect of television advertising on children.


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