Why You Should Join High School Debate

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As someone who has been involved in competitive debate for the past six years, I cannot stress enough how much I have grown as a person from participating in the wonderful, chaotic, empowering activity. Debate has taught me so much more than just how to argue with people, and I absolutely recommend joining your school’s debate club, even if you don’t think you have what it takes. (Spoiler alert: you do.)

         1. Learn to believe in yourself

By far the hardest thing about debate is just working up the courage to get started. It can be super scary to stand in front of your opponents and judges and just listen to yourself talk. Those eight minutes can feel like an eternity.

If you’re someone who cringes at the thought of it, that’s the best possible reason to join debate. There is no better feeling than the one you get when your argument finally clicks, or when you give a great speech, or when you come up with an interesting idea. Even when you don’t feel like you knocked it out of the park, the pride that comes from challenging yourself to dive in and put it all out there is worth it every time. Through debate, you get to watch your brain grow and your confidence grow, and those are beautiful things. You learn to take risks, and trust yourself to try new things. Debate has absolutely empowered me to have faith in my ideas, or to at least have faith in the fact that my ideas will grow stronger after I’ve had a chance to test them out.

         2. Learn to see other perspectives

Contrary to what you might think, my time in debate has absolutely taught me to be less opinionated. The beautiful thing about debate in high school is that you never get to choose which side of the argument you want to be on. You often have to debate both sides of an argument in the same day. This means that you are constantly challenged to see things from new perspectives, consider arguments you may have previously written off as being irrelevant, and re-evaluate your own opinions. Constantly engaging with a wide range of ideas from all across the political spectrum is an incredibly valuable experience.

         3. Learn to think clearly and critically

The hardest part of debate, at least in my experience, is just getting your brain organized enough to figure out what you want to say. In real life, arguments often get clouded by personal experiences, aggression, or things that just aren’t really relevant to the actual argument. Debate is a really good place to practice sorting arguments into three major points, organizing ideas by theme, and summarizing a lot of information into a few minutes of talking. You’ll also learn how to listen carefully and take really good notes!

         4. Become more well-rounded in your understanding of the world

Debate topics cover a huge range of ideas, from feminism to international relations to economics to literature. You never know what you might encounter in a debate round. Exploring topics you might not be as familiar with is an excellent opportunity to broaden your horizons and learn about things you otherwise might ignore. Personally, I’ve always really struggled to understand economics, but debate has motivated me to read a lot more about it, and being in debate rounds about economics has helped me understand that there are always a variety of ways of engaging with a topic. Even though I still don’t find the finance side of things super interesting, debate has shown me that there are all kinds of political implications of economics, which I find fascinating. Now, not only am I motivated to understand economics in order to become a better debater, I also understand why it’s important in the real world.

         5. Meet people who have diverse knowledge and experiences

Because debate covers such a wide range of topics, you will also find a really diverse group of people who are involved in debate. The thing that brings debaters together is a general curiosity about the world, so having friends from debate gives you an amazing opportunity to have discussions about every possible subject. You may think that all debaters do when they hang out is argue with each other, and although that is sometimes true, many debaters are also very kind, humble, thoughtful people who are fun to hang out with in lots of different contexts, not just debate. I have learned so much from my debate friends, both in rounds and outside of them.