The educational value of debate is greater than that of any other form of oral or written composition, because It cultivates:

1) The command of feeling and concentration of thought which keep the mind healthily active.

When arguments are presented in the form of a debate, in which the speaker is assigned to defend a definite position and must reply to attacks made on that position, the work brings forth the best powers of mind possessed by the student. It cultivates quickness of thought, and the abihty to meet men on their own ground and conduct a successful encounter on the battlefield of ideas.

2) The ability to state a clear-cut proposition, and to analyze it keenly by sifting the essential from the trivial, thus revealing the real point at issue.

Much of the speech we hear every day is filled with trivial red herrings and argumentative fallacies. Learning to debate also endows the student with the ability to discern the important parts of an argument from the fluff often designed to obfuscate true meaning or weaknesses in an argument.

3) The ability to find reasons and give them.

This should be an ability inherent in all people. But it’s not. All you need to do to prove this is to ask a typical teen why they like or dislike a particular type of music or shoe to reveal the obvious inadequacies in education in this area. Learning debate fills this void.

4) The power to state facts and conditions with that tact and diplomacy which success demands.

Since the object of debate is action, it is not enough that the speaker show his position to be the correct one. He must do more than this; he must make the hearer desire to act in accordance with that position.

If you convince a man that he is wrong by the mere force of argument, he may be unable to answer your argument but he will feel like a man who has been whipped in a physical encounter — though technically defeated he still holds to his former opinions.

5) The power to persuade as well as convince.

There is much truth in the old saying that, “He who is convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Therefore the debater must do more than merely convince his hearer; he must persuade him. He must appeal to the reason, it is true, but he also must appeal to the emotions in such a way as to persuade his hearer to take some definite action in regard to the subject of dispute.

Thus there are two things which the debater must attempt — conviction and persuasion.

If he convinces his hearer without persuading him, no action is likely to follow. If he persuades his hearer by appealing to his emotions, the effect of his efforts will be short lived. Therefore, the debater must train himself to persuade his hearer to act in accordance with his wishes as well as to find reasons for such action and give them.

6) The power of clear and forcible expression.

Debating cultivates the ability to communicate language that gives clear meaning. Practice of this kind gives the student a wealth of expression and a command of language which is not otherwise possible. The obligation to reply directly to one’s opponents makes it necessary for the student to have such command of his material that he can make it apply directly to the arguments he has just heard.