Choosing to be on my college’s Debate Team was one of the best decisions for my undergraduate studies.
I didn’t debate in high school, similarly to most of my fellow debaters, but my lack of experience hasn’t kept me from becoming a better communicator. I’m not one of a rare few, being undeclared in a major and all, but I can say with confidence that debate is setting me on the right track, whatever that “track” might be. When applying for a job, any potential employer will look amongst its candidates and consider the question “Who can communicate their ideas the best?”
Regardless of the field you’re studying or even your hopes and aspirations for the future, no factor is holding you back from being great at argumentation. I don’t mean being able to bicker back and forth with someone. The formality of parliamentary debate (the form most commonly adopted within universities and colleges throughout the United States) teaches so many lessons and provides for such an overwhelming influx of knowledge that I would highly encourage any college student to either join their school’s Debate Team or to take a course in argumentation.
Where do I begin?! Going into college, I knew the number one thing I would take away from my experience would be the people and the connections I made. That being said, I am so blessed to have known my fellow debaters and coaches. I know pretty much for a FACT that I would not have met most of those brilliant souls if not for debate. Honestly, we are all so different. But that is the beauty of being, first and foremost, on a team. Every individual has something to bring to the table and strengths to help carry us forward. Within the formality of a debate round, each partnership is unique in how it chooses to present its case, and from these differences there is so much to learn from. I guess I have an overarching love of learning, but I can’t help but say that sometimes, my heart nearly explodes with the excitement (and occasional stress) that debate experiences have brought to me.
On the influx of knowledge, debaters must be very well rounded. Yes, we all have certain paradigms that call our names louder than others, but the most successful at competition can argue any political, economic, or historical situation. With that understanding comes an appreciation of prep time. Although, theoretically, debaters only get 15 minutes to prepare before a round begins, prep starts long before the tournament is held. Quite often, debaters create “briefs,” or shortened versions of the information that would be used by either side of a debate round, to become worldlier on topics that could easily be rendered important within a case. This allows for the competitor to be familiar with topics that often come up in debate. The realm of my causal research doing has been greatly expanded due to my participation in debate, and I have inevitably retained much of the information that debaters on the team have exchanged during casual practice time.
Another nifty characteristic that debate calls for is wit. Even in an informal context I have recognized the clever remarks and witty comebacks that great debaters are born with and develop further over time. This capability stems from the impromptu spirit that debate thrives on. It disciplines one to able to think on his/her feet intelligibly and/or strategically. Debaters learn to maneuver themselves around uncomfortable situations, such as a difficult question asked by the opposing team or a powerful fact that devalues their argument, and that is what makes them successful: being able to slither out of a dangerous situation unscathed.
Finally, the amount of respect that I’ve witnessed between schools that frequently debate each other is, above all else, refreshing. Debating topics such as proposed resolutions for conflicts in the Middle East, rising tensions between China and Japan, or future initiatives to up trade with islands in the Caribbean despite harmful environmental effects can sometimes make it harder to see the good in the world we live in today. Turning the news on in the morning is synonymous with watching the bad news unfold, and all too often are we forced to act on negative circumstances rather than enjoy any of the good. But being able to compete in such a respectful and intelligent manner brings me hope for America’s future, one that is not dangerous, tense, or harmful, but quite the opposite.
I see a peaceful, hopeful, and loving potential for the future generations of our country, a perspective totally inspired through what debate has taught me.