The Instigator
tolaughoften
Pro (for)
Losing
14 Points
The Contender
dogparktom
Con (against)
Winning
15 Points

Debate should be a required subject in High School

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after 6 votes the winner is...
dogparktom
Started: 10/2/2009 Category: Education
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,670 times Debate No: 9590
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (14)
Votes (6)

 

tolaughoften

Pro

Many students never have the opportunity to study any form of formal argument. Students would benefit in a variety of ways by being exposed to the debate format.
First, they would become more informed consumers, as a fundamental understanding of logic and of fallacious argument would allow them to make more need based and useful decisions in the consumer market.
Second, for much of the same premise of the first, students who were trained in logic and debate would be better able to become informed voters and make more logical decisions regarding who they vote for.
Finally, students who understood the principles of logic would be far more productive members of society.

I look forward to reading an opposing response.
Thank you!
dogparktom

Con

Hi Tolaughoften. Thanks for the opportunity to debate an issue in education. So, here goes:

I assume that the sentence "Debate should be a required subject in High School" means that to graduate, all students would have to take and successfully pass a course in debate. And that the word 'debate' refers to 'debate' as a formal contest in which the affirmative and negative sides of a proposition are advocated and argued by opposing speakers

I disagree. While I certainly believe that a course in debate should be offered in every high school, I argue that debate should be offered as an elective course, rather than as a required or mandatory course.

First, I argue that because high school is a limited time, a school should focus on providing a basic education which promotes minimal competencies in literacy, numeracy, science, history, geography, and other basic substantive courses. (One time, in court, I actually met a high school GRADUATE who could not read or write!) These disciplines provide the student with general SUBSTANTIVE knowledge. In contrast, a course in debate would be a general SKILLS or PROCESS course. I see a course in debate as obviously USEFUL, but certainly not a NECESSARY course of study, for all high school students.

Second, formal debate or argument does not appeal to all people. Many people see debate or argument as just CONFLICT which they would want to avoid. (thus, many students would dread taking a required course in debate) Some institutions formally reject debate or argument. For example, I receive the publication entitled SPECULUM BENEDICTINUM from a monastery in Alabama http://www.christthekingabbey.org... .
In the statement of purpose of the Abbey, it states:

"The Speculum shall not engage itself in debate, nor shall it attempt to prove anything to anybody. It shall respectfully leave all the proving and all the debating to those who feel the necessity to prove and debate something... We cannot - INDEED WE WILL NOT - allow the disturbance of argument or debate or idle gossip and speculation to enter our lives and disrupt the atmosphere of peace and serenity that prevails in our Abbey."

Finally, PRO argues "Many students never have the opportunity to study any form of formal argument." I respectfully disagree. Everybody has the opportunity to engage in independent study of a subject. A student can get a book on debate from the school or public library to study the subject. I bought "COMPETITIVE DEBATE - The Official Guide" by Richard E. Edwards, PH.D http://www.amazon.com... for study when I joined this forum. I never had a course in debate in high school or college.
Debate Round No. 1
tolaughoften

Pro

Thank you for your very well presented response!

In response to your first counter;

While high school is a limited forum, that time could better be spent by analyzing all of the subjects you mention with an eye toward logic and truth. Science, literature, history, geography and all of the other courses would not be detracted from, but rather illuminated by the formal study of logic. Force feeding students the same old curriculum would become outdated as they would be primed to accept only information that could be proved with logic. No longer would "because it's in the text book" be an acceptable answer, and information and learning could take on a real world application. How can we even pretend to teach unless we first teach how to discern useful versus non-useful information? Truth versus fiction?

As to your second counter; agreed that all individuals may not be the "debate" type as evidenced by your reference to the Abby, though being educated in formal logic which should comprise the cornerstone of a debate class, would neither interfere with adversarial discussion, but rather give students an appreciation for truth. Even so, a single and I think even you would admit "unique" viewpoint such as the Abby's has never been the guiding force behind public education.

Surely, any of us could study anything as you aptly point out, but that does not stop the state from requiring that all students take math science and English. How many of the general population would study those things on their own. You point out in your own argument that you have "(One time, in court, I actually met a high school GRADUATE who could not read or write!)" By making logical analysis and debate a voluntary exercise only, we assure that very few people will ever utilize it. Further, the advertising companies rely on the fact that the average consumer has absolutely no understanding whatsoever about what is and is not logical. A course in debate would at least allow students the ability to recognize that there are fallacious arguments.

I look forward to your response!
dogparktom

Con

Let me begin by suggesting a clarification. We are debating the proposition "Debate should be a required subject in High School." We disagree in that I have argued that a course in debate should be an elective rather than a required course. I contend that you have the burden of articulating the CRITERIA that distinguishes a required course of study (as a class of subjects) from an elective course of study.

I will now respond to the three paragraphs in your response:

(1) " While high school is a limited forum, that time could better be spent by analyzing all of the subjects you mention with an eye toward logic and truth. Science, literature, history, geography and all of the other courses would not be detracted from, but rather illuminated by the formal study of logic. Force feeding students the same old curriculum would become outdated as they would be primed to accept only information that could be proved with logic. No longer would "because it's in the text book" be an acceptable answer, and information and learning could take on a real world application. How can we even pretend to teach unless we first teach how to discern useful versus non-useful information? Truth versus fiction?"

My Response:

Your argument from LOGIC is not relevant to the proposition that we are debating. Debate and Logic are separate subjects. The distinction is described:

" Debate or debating is a formal method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than logical argument, which only examine the consistency from axiom, and factual argument, which only examine what is or isn't the case or rhetoric which is technique of persuasion. Though logical consistency, factual accuracy as well as some emotional appeal to audience are important elements of the art of persuasion, in debating, one side often prevails over the other side by presenting superior "context" and/or framework of the issue, which is far more subtle and strategic." http://en.wikipedia.org...

In the index to the text that I am reading, "COMPETITIVE DEBATE - The Official Guide" by Richard E. Edwards, PH.D, supra, there is only one entry for logic "logic, formal logic, limitations, 14-15" and no entry for formal and informal fallacies.
http://www.amazon.com...

Edwards criticizes formal logic in these sentences:

"There was a time when debaters were encouraged to use formal logical structures to support their arguments. The classic example of formal logic is the syllogism... There are, however, weaknesses in the syllogism. Aristotle himself was well aware of these weaknesses." p. 14

"A premise is an assumption, so the conclusion is true only if the two premises are true. The problem is that the "major premise" is such a huge assumption that it makes the conclusion trivial." p. 15

"The point of this discussion is that argument must begin from assumption; the challenge comes in finding an assumption that a listener (or debate judge) is willing to believe is true." (last sentence, p. 15)

Another excellent and online text, http://www.learndebating.com... , also lacks an explicit treatment of logic.

Thus, I contend that formal and informal logic plays a small part in the subject of debate.

(2) "As to your second counter; agreed that all individuals may not be the "debate" type as evidenced by your reference to the Abby, though being educated in formal logic which should comprise the cornerstone of a debate class, would neither interfere with adversarial discussion, but rather give students an appreciation for truth. Even so, a single and I think even you would admit "unique" viewpoint such as the Abby's has never been the guiding force behind public education."

My Response:

You write: "...formal logic which should comprise the cornerstone of a debate class."

Based upon Edwards' comments above, I suggest that historically (and currently) the debate community has rejected "formal logic...the cornerstone of debate."

(3) "Surely, any of us could study anything as you aptly point out, but that does not stop the state from requiring that all students take math science and English. How many of the general population would study those things on their own. You point out in your own argument that you have "(One time, in court, I actually met a high school GRADUATE who could not read or write!)" By making logical analysis and debate a voluntary exercise only, we assure that very few people will ever utilize it. Further, the advertising companies rely on the fact that the average consumer has absolutely no understanding whatsoever about what is and is not logical. A course in debate would at least allow students the ability to recognize that there are fallacious arguments."

My Response:

I mentioned the illiterate high school graduate that I encountered in court as an example of a failure in basic education (literacy). A student who can't read or write certainly cannot learn much from a course in debate. I was shocked that the high school had graduated him! I contend that schools must focus on basic courses so that, at least, every graduate is literate.
Debate Round No. 2
tolaughoften

Pro

Good Afternoon,

First, my apologies for seemingly muddying the waters. It was not my intent to equivocate on the definition of "debate" nor did I intend to ignore my previous argument regarding the requirement of debate in school. I do maintain that Debate as a subject, should be a required addition to educational programs.

Next, I contend that my argument regarding LOGIC is relevant for the following reasons:
One, While "debate" is separate from "logic" what you suggest in your quote about debate provides ample support for my argument and surpasses what I initially brought to the table. You contend that "Though logical consistency, factual accuracy as well as some emotional appeal to audience are important elements of the art of persuasion, in debating, one side often prevails over the other side by presenting superior "context" and/or framework of the issue, which is far more subtle and strategic." http://en.wikipedia.org.... I wholeheartedly agree! My counter to you though, is that the pretext to being successful at debating, requires the advanced study of several topics which would enhance the educational atmosphere of all students. Your definition which supports that successful debating requires presenting superior "context" and/or framework of the issue, and the strategy of constructing such arguments is underpinned by the assumption that an individual must have a vast understanding of the subject, and of effective ways to present it in context, in order to debate it. The strategy you refer to could also be defined as the preparation of the argument.
In fact there are numerous debate sources which examine in explicit detail the use of logic in debate. http://www.csun.edu...
http://www.fallacyfiles.org...
http://en.wikipedia.org... (which even provides debate techniques for arguing around each type of fallacy)
http://communicationexchange.blogspot.com...
http://www.fallacies.info... (how to use logical fallacies to win debates)

Further, from one of the above websites; Debate is, fortunately or not, an exercise in persuasion, wit, and rhetoric, not just logic. In a debate format that limits each debater's speaking time, it is simply not reasonable to expect every proposition or conclusion to follow precisely and rigorously from a clear set of premises stated at the outset. Instead, debaters have to bring together various facts, insights, and values that others share or can be persuaded to accept, and then show that those ideas lead more or less plausibly to a conclusion. Logic is a useful tool in this process, but it is not the only tool -- after all, "plausibility" is a fairly subjective matter that does not follow strict logical rules. From http://www.csun.edu...

I am fairly confident that I have shown that LOGIC is in fact an integral part of debate and brought sources to back that opinion. A Google search of "Debate and logical fallacies" returns in excess of 263,000 hits. While debate may be far more than just logic as my opponent points out, it does involve logic inherently. If logic is a necessary in debate, then my original argument regarding the usefulness of studying debate goes unchallenged, and remains a valid argument.

Now to the crux of the argument which my opponent points out in his reply to round two. Why should debate be a required course, as compared to an elective.
Academic Standards according to the Pennsylvania Code (I apologize for localizing the argument, I am assuming that all of the states have similar standards. I am most familiar with PA.)
� 4.12. (a) School entities may develop, expand or improve existing academic standards in the following content areas:
(1) Science and technology. Study of the natural world and facts, principles, theories and laws in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics and earth sciences. Technology is the application of science to enable societal development, including food and fiber production, manufacturing, building, transportation and communication. Science and technology share the use of the senses, science processes, inquiry, investigation, analysis and problem solving strategies.
(2) Environment and ecology. Understanding the components of ecological systems and their interrelationships with social systems and technologies. These components incorporate the disciplines of resource management, agricultural diversity, government and the impact of human actions on natural systems. This interaction leads to the study of watersheds, threatened and endangered species, pest management and the development of laws and regulations.
(3) Social studies.
(i) History. Study of the record of human experience including important events; interactions of culture, race and ideas; the nature of prejudice; change and continuity in political systems; effects of technology; importance of global-international perspectives; and the integration of geography, economics and civics studies on major developments in the history of the Commonwealth, the United States and the world.
(ii) Geography. Study of relationships among people, places and environments, of geographic tools and methods, characteristics of place, concept of region and physical processes.
(iii) Civics and government. Study of United States constitutional democracy, its values and principles, study of the Constitution of the Commonwealth and government including the study of principles, operations and documents of government, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, how governments work and international relations.
(iv) Economics. Study of how individuals and societies choose to use resources to produce, distribute and consume goods and services. Knowledge of how economies work, economic reasoning and basic economic concepts, economic decision making, economic systems, the Commonwealth and the United States economy and international trade.
(4) Arts and humanities. Study of dance, theatre, music, visual arts, language and literature including forms of expression, historical and cultural context, critical and aesthetic judgment and production, performance or exhibition of work.
(5) Career education and work. Understanding career options in relationship to individual interests, aptitudes and skills
(6) Health, safety and physical education.
(7) Family and consumer science. Understanding the role of consumers as a foundation for managing available resources to provide for personal and family needs and to provide basic knowledge of child health and child care skills.
(8) Reading, writing, speaking and listening.
(i) Reading.
(ii) Writing. Narrative, informational and persuasive formal writing for an audience, including spelling and editing skills; and informal writing to capture and organize information for individual use.
(iii) Speaking and listening.
All of these already required standards would be enhanced by applying principles of logic and debate. As my opponent so aptly points out, debate requires "logical consistency, factual accuracy as well as some emotional appeal to audience are important elements of the art of persuasion, in debating, one side often prevails over the other side by presenting superior "context" and/or framework of the issue." The ability to put the above standards for education into context would enhance the learning process.
Finally, the argument that we are failing to educate many students so we should set the bar lower and only require the basics, leaves us with reducing education to the least common denominator. Standards are already in place as referenced above, Debate as a required course would satisfy the Speaking requirement of sec. 4.12 (a)(8)(iii) while at the same time enhancing all of the other subjects.

I look forward to your response.
dogparktom

Con

I agree that logic, or right thinking, is a necessary part of the art of debate. And I certainly have NOT contested "the usefulness of studying debate." We disagree on whether a course in debate should be a required or an elective course.

A high school can deal with debate in one of three ways. First, it can be offered as an extra-curricular ACTIVITY, "debate club," without any academic credits attached to the activity (as it was in the private Jesuit Catholic high school that I attended). Second, it can be offered as an ELECTIVE course for academic credit. Finally, it can be offered as a REQUIRED course (all students must take and pass the course as a requirement for graduation), which is what you advocate in this debate.

Regarding debate as a required course, I challenge you to cite a school in Pennsylvania that actually teaches debate as a required course. Do you know of any? I doubt if there is a PUBLIC high school in the country that has debate as a required course. If I'm accurate in this assumption, then I argue that the current educational establishment is more in agreement with my position than with yours. Next week I'll check with the Minnesota Department of Education to see how the art of debate is handled here.

I respectfully suggest that we subscribe to different philosophies of education.

You subscribe to the CONTEMPORARY philosophy: The focus is on the institution, the process, and "education" is a thing provided by the institution. "Schools" succeed or fail. "Educators" are experts. The criterion of value relative to knowledge is utility, usefulness, or that which is practical. (Dewey's thought still reigns supreme)

In contrast, I subscribe to the traditional CATHOLIC philosophy of education: The focus (and primary RESPONSIBILITY) is on the student (guided by his parents, parent, or guardian). The student educates himself or herself through the DISCOVERY of knowledge. The teacher is a mere instrument, a guide. The school introduces the student to both formative knowledge (concepts and things in the theoretical order of reality, and to character formation) and to instrumental knowledge (concepts and things in the practical order of reality). The teacher introduces students to issues and areas of knowledge and seeks to stimulate independent study. The school urges the student to acquire a personal library of books having permanent value during one's lifetime.

Thus, the Contemporary Teacher will want a required course in debate in the school. The Catholic Teacher will urge selected students ( those who may have the aptitude and interest and ability) to take the elective course in debate. The following text reflects the rationale for debate as an elective course:

"About a week later, on July 14, as it is recorded in Boswell, Johnson and Boswell are again at the Mitre. They are discussing how to study. "I myself," Johnson admitted to Boswell, have never persisted in any plan [of study] for two days together. A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good. A young man should read five hours a day, and so may acquire a great deal of knowledge." 1

I submit that Dr. Johnson would be opposed to debate as a required course of study, to the state forcing all students to take such a course. No, he would seek the student whose "inclination leads him" to want to study debate and Johnson would argue that the student should take the elective course. (N.B. I could not resist submitting an argument from authority)

Finally, in your last paragraph you state:

" Finally, the argument that we are failing to educate many students so we should set the bar lower and only require the basics, leaves us with reducing education to the least common denominator. Standards are already in place as referenced above, Debate as a required course would satisfy the Speaking requirement of sec. 4.12 (a)(8)(iii) while at the same time enhancing all of the other subjects."

I respectfully disagree with your characterization of my argument. Basically, I argue for a basic required core curriculum which will result in all students graduating who are intellectually and culturally literate. A personal anecdote will illustrate what I mean.

One Saturday afternoon I was sitting in the living room reading Michael Harrington's book SOCIALISM. Our baby-sitter, a girl in the neighborhood who we knew well, arrived and entered. Seeing me reading, she said "What are you reading?" I responded identifying the title and author. She replied: "WHAT IS SOCIALISM?" I was stunned. She was a senior at the high school in town whose students went on to college. And she was going on to college. I was stunned because socialism was (at the time) the dominant political, social, and economic idea (in the world) of the prior 125 years. I contend that at the time every high school senior should have had at least a minimal familiarity with the concept of socialism.

No student should be graduated who can't read and write and who doesn't know at least something about basic ideas like socialism, or science, et cetera.

This concludes our debate which I have enjoyed immensely.

What more could an old fart lawyer ask for than the opportunity to meet and debate a charming and brilliant brand-new lawyer. Notwithstanding, I think that I've kicked your butt good in this debate!

Congratulations again.
Tom
______________________
1. Schall, James V., in "On God's making both Hell and Scotland," p. 70, in Schall on Chesterton - Timely Essays on Timeless Paradoxes (The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., 2000). http://www.amazon.com...
Debate Round No. 3
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by moesatriani 2 years ago
moesatriani
My children are currently attending a charter school in Minnesota . Debate is an elective there. While I did not take debate myself, I totally see the value of people taking it. I don't think that it should be required though. Some people love to debate and discuss issues with other people, and some people would rather jump into a swimming pool full of snakes.
Posted by dogparktom 4 years ago
dogparktom
Here is the response to my email inquiry to the Minnesota Commissioner of Education:

Dear Mr. Bieter:

Thank you for your question about debate in Minnesota schools.

The Minnesota Department of Education does not track which schools in our state teach debate. It is an elective course in many schools, and I don't know of any school that requires a debate course for graduation.

Debate is typically an extracurricular activity that is governed by the Minnesota High School League. See http://www.mshsl.org... for information about the Debate competitions available to schools that are in the MN H.S. League. Additional information may be found on the MN Debate Teachers Association website at http://www.mdta.org...

We do have academic standards related to Speaking and Listening but not debate, specifically. Schools are required to teach and assess those standards, which are a part of the Language Arts Standards. http://education.state.mn.us...

Respectfully,

Ken Kaffine
Minnesota Department of Education
Posted by dogparktom 4 years ago
dogparktom
I have just sent this email to the Minnesota Commissioner of Education:

Dear Commissioner Seagren:

I'm writing to inquire about the incidence of courses in debate in the Minnesota public schools and whether such courses are required courses or elective courses.

I'm a retired lawyer currently in a debate with a charming college professor and brand-new lawyer (who learned yesterday that she passed the Pennsylvania bar examination). http://www.debate.org... The issue is whether debate should be a required course in high school?

She argues that debate should be a required course in all high schools (all students would have to pass the course as a requirement for graduation). I argue that debate should just be an elective course in all high schools.

We will be very grateful for your prompt and informative response.

Sincerely,

Thomas J. Bieter
St. Paul, Minnesota
651-774-7621

I will post the Commissioner's response here if I receive one.
Posted by simpleton 4 years ago
simpleton
I felt really good reading that. I found it extremely informative. Thanks.
Posted by dogparktom 4 years ago
dogparktom
Congratulations, Tolaughoften, Esq. I'm delighted. I'm surprised to hear from, though; when I passed, I was drunk for the next three days.
Posted by tolaughoften 4 years ago
tolaughoften
Hello Tom!

Pa. released the results Thursday! I passed and and now just waiting to get the certificate that says I passed so that I can mail it to the Pa. Supreme Court!
Posted by dogparktom 4 years ago
dogparktom
I'm drafting my response.

In the meantime, here is Minnesota's academic standard for language arts. http://education.state.mn.us...
In my opinion, the standard (grades 9-12) would authorize both courses, required or elective, in debate.
Posted by dogparktom 4 years ago
dogparktom
I watched Howard Zinn (A People's History of the United States) being interviewed for three hours on Book-TV. During the interview, he made this comment: "Students enter law school with a conscience but they leave without one."

I hope that you are busy celebrating the bar at a bar!
Posted by tolaughoften 4 years ago
tolaughoften
That is a great article! Thanks for the link. I often struggle with ethics, morality and the law. Coming to law school later in life has given me a perspective that seems relatively different from many of my younger colleagues. If there was one thing I learned in law school, it was to bring my gray crayon. I previously saw most issues in black and white. Law school, and more specifically moot court, stripped me of that mindset!
Posted by dogparktom 4 years ago
dogparktom
While you wait for the bar results, why not grab a beer, sit back, and enjoy my article. http://www2.mnbar.org...

Tom
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