The art of persuasion is a complex balancing act, requiring sound logic, powerful rhetoric, and poise worthy of the message. One misstep, and you have lost your audience. Selling products is child’s play. But to sell ideas, principles, and value systems requires not only comprehensive knowledge of the subject matter, but an ability to establish a connection with anyone, anywhere. The beauty of debate is that it teaches and reinforces all these skills in a structured arena.
No other activity forces you to constantly question and evaluate the world around you, identify problems, construct solutions, and justify the use of the solutions - all at once. Debating about the most pressing issues in society today becomes indispensable experience once you are in a real position to effect change in the future. To advocate for important causes, you must be aware of the intricacies of the situation, and have the right tools for the job.
Real World Applications
The sociopolitical consciousness and argumentative rigour honed through debate has applications throughout your academic journey and career. From analytical skills used employed in Humanities and General Paper essays, to presentations and interviews, the potent combination of substance and charisma produces results. That is why debaters often stand out in Direct School Admission, university and scholarship applications. They then often parlay that same debating experience into successful careers in the legal, consulting and financial industries, or get involved in policy work, both in government and non-governmental organisations. Schools have only just begun to realise the value of debate in the classroom, attempting to include debate exercises in the syllabus.
Schools often struggle with developing lateral thought. The emphasis on rigid syllabuses, standardised tests, and rote learning are far from conducive for expanding worldviews or teaching critical thinking. The assumption that critical thinking can even be taught, through a single class or a series of exercises or worksheets, is a strange one. The ability to break down an issue into its constituents, and then develop a multifaceted response using separate sources of information, is not something that can be developed through a one-off lesson. Debate is unparalleled in its capacity to construct a climate of critical thought, where you are constantly forced to solve an immeasurable variety of problems. Legislation, moral systems, and individual value judgements are dissected and reassembled, from multiple viewpoints that may be distinct from your own. Every session you will be challenged, by your existing thought processes, your peers, and by us.
As with most valuable skills, the earlier you are exposed to debate the better. Undesirable speech habits, confidence deficits, and taciturnity, are easily remedied before they become routine. Youth often comes with the benefit of malleability, and sometimes an indifference to failure. Especially in a safe space where nobody has to worry about being wrong, where experimentation with different ideas is not only encouraged, but mandated. Most importantly, it is never too soon to develop a political consciousness and a keen awareness of societal structures. Immersed in an environment of like-minded individuals, all with the goal of engaging in intellectual discussions about the world we live in today, will only accelerate that process.