Why Speech and Debate?

Speech and Debate, an activity wherein high school students compete in a range of debate and speaking events, has granted students everywhere opportunities and a superior educational experience beyond the classroom. As championed by the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA), Speech and Debate provides young people a forum to collaborate with others, think analytically on broader issues that face the world, and develop critical thinking and communication skills. These developments, fostered uniquely through Speech and Debate, are unparalleled mechanisms that promote civic engagement in young people and prepare them to lead as public servants who care about their communities and the world around them.

For decades, Speech and Debate has provided students opportunities to serve as community leaders. While a range of extracurricular activities can provide students academic and personal achievement, Speech and Debate is unique in its capacity to garner development among participants and prepare them to utilize those skills to better their communities. At Speech and Debate tournaments, students must debate topics assigned to them and range from legislation to philosophical questions. No matter the topic, participants spend ample time analyzing and researching their topics to develop a nuanced understanding of the resolution at hand and its implications. This task alone has effects that cannot be overstated. High school students must develop in-depth comprehension of a plethora of societal, political, and philosophical issues before they even can vote! In turn, society receives a collection of informed, engaged, politically active citizens who hold cognizance of issues that face the world and their communities.

Speech and Debate participants are also more likely to consider opposing positions when developing opinions. In competition, a mere coin flip determines the side on which debaters must argue. As a result, participants must prepare to argue either side of any respective topic. Since students are obligated to consider and even debate their ideological opponents’ perspectives, they are more likely to relate to those with a contrary worldview and understand their motivations. Students are empowered to develop well-rounded, nuanced perspectives on various issues, producing an engagement with civic life that could have been not otherwise attained.

Regardless of the path that students choose after participation in Speech and Debate activities, they are undoubtedly better suited to make their next step. All of the skills that businesses and employers prioritize in employees, like communication, character, critical thinking and analysis, and the ability to collaborate in high-pressure situations, are developed through Speech and Debate. Additionally, Speech and Debate participants are overwhelmingly more likely to take their next steps in public service careers. Because competitors spend much of their high school experience learning about critical issues that face the world, they feel particularly inclined to solve them. 

Undoubtedly, Speech and Debate offers a magnitude of academic and personal skills that would advance any classroom, company, or country. Involvement in this activity should be extended to students everywhere, qualifying them to lead lives dedicated to public service and their communities’ development. Perhaps, most importantly, students in this activity are assured and validated that their voices and ideas, in all of their authenticity, are worth listening to and have the potential to cultivate change for the greater good. This realization, empowering future leaders to develop confidence and reassurance in the value of their contributions, is the prerequisite to changing the world for the better. 

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