A debate is a formal argument where people speak one by one for or against a theme or topic. It is usually based on a recent issue, such as whether online schooling is as effective as physical school or should environmental issues be taught from secondary education. I have been participating in debates for two years now, through school and other channels, both offline and online. I must say, it has improved my self-confidence, decreasing my stage fright drastically.
Debates are useful as it helps us develop critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is the ability to analyse our thoughts, make sensible sentence formation, and come up with well-structured arguments to put our points across to the audience. Debating also increases our reasoning ability and teaches us to respect another person’s point of view. More importantly, it also helps us to overcome fears of public speaking.
How debates help us?
All of us have a point of view on various issues and debating helps us recognise them and speak for what we think. It helps us children learn how to research current affairs and understand the pros and cons, which further helps us to understand better.
For instance, when I was reading up on a history topic…I realised how important it was to understand the other side of the story as well. I have been into debates since Grade 5, and I realised how research is an essential part of debating. However, some debates, usually those on subjects that I know a lot about and am familiar with, require no preparation. This encourages me to think on my feet, which is also an essential skill. Such on the feet debates are called extempore. For extempores, all I have to do is to keep myself up-to-date with current affairs.
Advantages of learning how to debate
Some advantages of debates are that they enhance our analytical, research and note-taking skills. It improves our ability to form a balanced and informed argument and to present it with convincing evidence. Debates also improve our listening skills and increase our self-confidence as well. What I like best about debates is that when we work in a group, it helps in team-building between my classmates and me, and we speak about a topic we feel strongly about with aplomb.
Why should debates be included in the school curriculum
Usually, schools and colleges conduct debate competitions as they are important platforms to give students a chance to speak about a topic after thorough research and reading. In my opinion, this is a fun way to learn and understand. Debates in a classroom are also an opportunity for students to test their thoughts and views against other students.
The ideal age to start debating is around nine years of age as that’s when we are creative and can make various well thought out arguments at the same time. At this age, we start seeing the world in our own vision and can give a refreshing perspective to the grown-up world.
How to prepare for a debate
Before entering a debate competition, we must have the right preparations for it to be successful. The topic of a debate can either be decided by vote or can be pre-decided with the organisers. The topic is mostly based on recent events and problems going on around the world.
Once the topic is finalised, my classmates and I brainstorm on various possibilities until we have sufficient content. Then we systematically organise those ideas and make sure that none of our points contradicts one another. In fact, we should also have adequate data and figures with examples ready to make our point of view stronger than the opposite team.
Dresscode for debates
All boys must dress conservatively (i.e., no casual wear allowed) and in business attire. You can wear suits preferably in the colours black, grey, navy, or brown. It should be paired with a buttoned-down shirt and tie which matches the suit. Girls should wear professional business attire – Indian or western.
A women’s business suit works best as a professional; however, a conservative dress will work. You can also wear your school uniform in a class debate. We should make sure that we follow the dress code as appearances significantly impact the judges and audience’s minds. Following this dress code is essential also because it gives us an induction and a formal experience similar to that in the professional world.
How debates are conducted
There are two groups or teams in a debate competition; one speaking for the motion while the other speaking against. A successful debate will start with one person from each side speaking for a specified time (usually around two minutes). What I like about debate competitions is how each one of us participants gets a chance while the others listen patiently. Then, the opposition will get an opportunity to question the points and speak on the same topic presenting their views. Debates follow a formal structure that begins with the members informing the audience in advance, whether for or against the motion.
The head and judge of a debate is known as the Chairman. The chair announces the debaters and calls on them to deliver their speeches. The Chairperson times the speeches. They make sure that everyone is disciplined and only one person speaks at a time. The time each participant can speak varies but is mostly one to three minutes.
How a winner decided
The aim of a debate is to convince the opposition that what the debater is saying is right. The winner in a debate is either decided by the majority of the team that has convinced the audience more with their argument. The winner is usually the one with the most energetic and impactful speech and delivery. When the two sides agree on the conclusion or when one side’s argument is more convincing to the audience and the Chairman, the debate comes to a close, and the winner is declared.
I have been participating in several debate competitions for the past two years. It has helped me out a lot by improving my critical thinking and creative writing skills. If you haven’t tried it yet, I think you should give it a go, and I assure you that you’ll see a more confident version of yourself.
Contributor: Dhairya Mittal
About our Writing Program Student
Dhairya Mittal is a 7th Grader studying at Hiranandani Foundation School, Powai in Mumbai. He’s an avid reader and loves to play cricket and practise his Taekwondo skills in his free time. A Taekwondo black belt, Dhairya is also an excellent orator and a groomed debater too.