Debate

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Why debate?

"He [the student debater] learns to use a library, and to find the exact information he needs in the shortest possible time. He learns to be thorough and accurate. He learns to analyze; to distinguish between the vital and the unimportant. He learns the need of proving his statements; of supporting every statement with valid evidence and sound reasoning—and he learns to demand the same sort of proof for the statements of others. He learns to present ideas in a clear and effective manner, and in a way which wins others to his way of thinking. He learns to think under pressure, to "use his head" in a time of need, to make decisions quickly and accurately. In a word, the essential point in any debating situation is that of convincing the listener that your side of the proposition is desirable." (from How to Debate by Harrison Boyd Summers)

John Stuart Mill, in his Autobiography, said, "I have always dated from these conversations [in a discussion group similar to the ideal debate squad meeting] my own inauguration as an original and independent thinker."

"I think debating in high school and college is most valuable training whether for politics, the law, business, or for service on community committees such as the PTA and the League of Women Voters. A good debater must not only study material in support of his own case, but he must also, of course, thoroughly analyze the expected argument of his opponent. The give and take of debating, the testing of ideas, is essential to democracy. I wish we had a good deal more debating in our educational institutions than we do now." John F. Kennedy, August 22, 1960

"I truly believe I would have been as prepared for law school had I simply debated and not attended college at all. I have found that the practice of law—and I assume this is true of a large number of other jobs—consists basically of trying to solve problems in an organized manner.... Debate... placed a premium on the factors that I believe are essential to effective problem solving, including...breaking an argument down into its smallest components and then marshaling factual data...for each element;...talking a problem through with others over a period of time that a contention or issue becomes fully perceivable;...verbally articulating ideas rather than just having a mental conception of them;...and, finally, and perhaps most importantly, coming to appreciate the stresses and rewards of competition." Raoul D. Kennedy, Attorney in San Francisco

"Debate trained me to analyze and articulate the complex national issues that confront our country today. Too, it was a tremendous help in campaign debates for my House and Senate seats... My intercollegiate debate training was the most valuable experience that I had at Penn State. I derived benefits from it far beyond the normal extracurricular activity that it encompassed." Richard S. Schweiker, Former Pennsylvania Congressman and Senator, Former Secretary of Health and Human Services

"If it is a disgrace to a man when he cannot defend himself in a bodily way, it would be absurd not to think him disgraced when he cannot defend himself with reason in a speech." Aristotle from The Rhetoric

"The wisest advice I can give to persons considering debate as an activity is: "participate." In my opinion, hour- for-hour, the reward for time spent debating is greater than any other activity available to the typical student... In addition to the "academic" benefits, potential participants should be alerted to the life-long friendships they will develop, the opportunity to associate with competitive, creative and bright young people, as well as the favorable view of the activity taken by potential employers (particularly in the field of law)." Thomas F. Hozduk, Los Angeles Attorney

"I didn't make varsity cheerleader. I thought my life was over. I ended up joining the speech team instead. And within a year, I became real good. My event was Girls Extemporaneous Speaking. They would give you a topic, and a half-hour later you made a seven-minute speech on it...By my senior year, I was state champion. And I made it to the semifinals of the national competition. The six girls who were ranked ahead of me are probably all arguing cases before the Supreme Court...So I did find out my limitations. But in my smaller pond, I was a big fish. And I can't imagine better preparation for what I do today." (BTW, one of Jane Pauley's teammates is now a homeschooling mother) Jane Pauley, National TV News Anchor

"It was my experience with debating and public speaking in both high school and college that led me to become a lawyer, and ultimately, a member of Congress." Paul E. Kanjorski, Pennsylvania Congressional Representative

Debate is the ultimate mind exercise.