Now more than ever, the critical thinking skills developed through debate are crucial.
Participation in debate is proven to help students learn to critically examine evidence, to see both
sides of an issue and become “balanced thinkers,” and to present their points confidently and
persuasively. Rather than focusing on mastery of a set of content, debate is truly
interdisciplinary in that it can be applied to a wide variety of topics, while focusing on
developing the skills of argumentation, analysis, and weighing evidence on either side of an
issue. Debate topics encompass fields as varied as science (such as debating the ethics of genetic
research), philosophy (such as debating the ethics of capital punishment), history (such as
debating American interventions abroad in the 20 th century), and politics (debating the proper
role of government or various policy proposals). Participation in debate teaches skills of
research, writing, argumentation, persuasion, and presentation, which are crucial for education in
the 21st century.
NHDL tournaments use Public Forum debate in competitions. PF is an event of the National
Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) in which students, in pairs, must defend or oppose a
resolution that’s usually related to current events. The NSDA announces each topic one month
in advance, and the topic changes each month. Students must be prepared to debate both sides of
the resolution at each tournament.