Why and how you should start one
“At the very least, learning the art of debate instills in our children a great sense of poise and confidence. It teaches them to research, organize, and present information in a compelling fashion.”
Homeschooling and debate teams: a powerful combination!
Ask most parents of teenagers and they will tell you that arguing with their children is not something to which they aspire. Certainly, their aim is not to equip their children to be more skilled at verbal sparring! Then why would any parent want their child to learn the art of debate?
What debate is and isn’t
While debate is called ‘argumentation’, it certainly is not merely ‘arguing’. When we look up the definition of the word ‘debate’, the descriptors used in various dictionaries include: formal discussion, evaluation, careful consideration, deliberation, and stating a formal opinion. This is obviously more acceptable than the door-slamming and yelling associated with ‘arguing’ . Debating does not need to mean belittling or shaming one’s opponent. It can mean, and for the Christian should mean, communicating truth persuasively and respectfully.
Why we should pursue debate
At the very least, learning the art of debate instills in our children a great sense of poise and confidence. It teaches them to research, organize, and present information in a compelling fashion.
More importantly, the skills learned in debate equip our children for Kingdom work. 1 Peter 3:15 reads this way: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”. In a world where we are being called to be tolerant of every opinion and worldview except that which the Bible presents, it is particularly important that our children (and we ourselves) are knowledgeable in what we believe and skilled in communicating that belief. When people ask for a reason for what your child believes, will he be able to express it? Learning the art of debate will benefit him.
Students involved in debate tend to become leaders in their schools and communities. They are aware of, and choose to participate in, social and political issues that are of importance and influence to the homeschool community, families, and the church. Knowing how to debate and being concerned about social issues enables our students to speak on behalf of those who have no voice. Proverbs 31:8 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” As we give our children the skills to communicate the Biblical truth they’ve learned, they will be empowered to speak for those who are unable to speak for themselves.
Resources for purchase/consideration:
The HSLDA Debate Library
Talk the Talk: Speech and Debate Made Easy by Alim Merali
The Debater’s Guide by Ericson, Murphy, and Zeuschner
The Secrets of Great Communicators by Dr. Jeff Myers
The Art of Practical Debate by Grace Lichlyter
The National Forensic League
The National Christian Forensics and Communication Association
Printed in Court Report & Communiqué Summer 2013
Written by Barbara Postma