Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Why Not Argue?

By Pam Greenholt
Challenge I Director, North Carolina

Why would any sane teenager get up before dawn, dress in a business suit, ride for over an hour in a packed car, argue for many hours about United States environmental policies, and not get home until after dark?

The answer might surprise you. Most teenagers love to argue, but some teenagers get very excited about competitive "arguing", better known as team policy debate.

This past weekend, we took our debate club to its first practice tournament of this season. We have one veteran team and four novice teams this year. Though we're small for a debate club, our members make up for it with enthusiasm and insightful thinking and speaking.

Club meetings can become cacophonous, but careful listening will reveal constructive conversations about "cap and trade", the Kyoto treaty, the value of restricting the EPA, storage of nuclear waste, the endangered species act, and a wide range of topics all dealing with United States environmental policies, which is the topic of the resolution of our national debate group for this year.

Don't tell our team members that there are many valuable skills learned while debating. Our debaters just think it's FUN. Beside the obvious speaking skills gained while practicing debate, there are also the benefits of improving notetaking, researching, using of evidence with credible sources, thinking critically, organizing thoughts, and enjoying the company of other students who make good use of their brains.

The network of comraderie extends to debaters across the state, the region, and the nation. It's not bad company to keep. As an adult, I am always encouraged when I am around these debaters.

When dedicated to the right purposes, debating ideas can definitely produce good things!

So why would any sane teenager (or their parents) want to be involved in debate?

Here's a better question: Why not?

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