(Continued from last edition)
As mentioned in Part 1 of this article, debate is the best method for introducing students to public speaking because it provides a safe and friendly environment that significantly reduces anxiety and fear. The interactive nature of clashing in debate makes it an enjoyable for students as they exchange arguments and counter arguments.
During each speech, debaters must not only make arguments in advocacy of their own positions, but also must be able to defend their positions against any objections raised by their opponents. During each speech, the opposition is allowed to raise objections to try to disrupt (clash with) the speaker. The goal is to point out flaws in the opposing speakers’ arguments. Debaters learn quickly to anticipate opposition and think on their feet.
Clashing during debate also teaches students that some issues are not always as clear cut as they appear to be on the surface and that another side of the story exists. As they begin to research, they find that there may be many good arguments to support the opposing position. With information and experience, they gain confidence and learn to defend their positions without hesitation when objections are raised.
For example, a recent debate topic was “We should ban plastics bags.” Through research, students learned that this was not a one-sided issue and that there were compelling arguments on both sides. The debate was very lively with arguments and counter arguments. The “pro” side said plastic bags are bad for the environment because they are not biodegradable. The “con” side argued that paper bags necessitate killing trees and are more expensive to produce. Students learned that they must anticipate the presentation of logical facts that support the opposition and be prepared for the clashing of arguments.
It is not surprising that many top corporate executives and high-ranking officials in all branches of government rank oral presentation skills learned in debate class among their most important academic activities in school. Lawyers, required to present their cases in a convincing way to persuade the jury, affecting lives in the process, are proponents of debate training as well. “Support from lawyers and law school administrators ranges from a strong endorsement of debate for all pre-law students to a suggestion that it be required. The reason for such support may be the professional success of former debaters (Colbert and Biggers, p238).
Julie Yi is director of Apex College Prep with locations in Walnut Creek and Cupertino, Calif. She may be reached at email@example.com.