We’ve been working hard for several years to develop a program that encourages a new kind of debating. Classroom debating is a new specialized (but not complicated) form of debating that has been adapted for teaching core subject matter like Algebra, History and Biology, in contrast with the debating teams and tournaments we’re all pretty familiar with as formal debate.
In the process of our research and writing we took a long look at the relationship between debating and sports, comparing how both sports and debating help kids in school do better. There has been some controversy in the past over whether sports takes away from academics but that has been pretty well discounted by new research that shows broad positive academic benefits from both sports and debate. Both provide a broad basis from which to build cognitive, interpersonal, academic, and life skills. I like to think of debating and sports together like a cake.
Everybody likes cake because cakes are just plain fun to eat, just like both debating and sports are great fun if they are properly “baked”. Some people will say that the best part of the cake is really about athletics and if you are a student involved in athletics then being involved in debating would just be icing on the cake. But then I think there’s an equally good argument that debating is the whole cake and sports is better thought of as the icing – if you really have to take one over the other. But who takes the icing over the cake, or vice versa?
Now, I happen to be a guy who loves icing, and I’m lucky that my wife happens to like the cake part, and so she gives me her icing and I win-win with double icing (miraculously she doesn’t ask me for my cake part in exchange) but I don’t I think the point here is irrelevant to the Debate/Sports metaphor I’m offering up. Which one is the icing and which one is the cake, and who likes which part better doesn’t really matter because they both hugely complement each other and if enjoyed together everything is improved.
So debating is good for the athlete and maybe a little more interest in sports would be good for at least some debaters. Athletics have, at times, been considered not in the same wheelhouse as academics, but we think that we can get the Sports community and the Debating community to become aware that they have much more in common than either realizes and we are working to bring that connection into the light. We believe that the debating community should be raised up to be equivalent to a sport – something to be proud of and to be part of as fans just the way people get involved with sports.
In many ways sports and debate are already connected. Some of the best debaters that are out there are sports debaters and if you just watch how they debate sports on Saturday and Sunday morning you’ll see what I mean. You don’t see how efficiently they debate because they have a coach constantly talking in their ear. Just like any Lincoln-Douglas debater they are given 90 seconds to make their point and they have to do it with facts. They bring a lot of experience and opinion to what they’re talking about, but it’s always backed up with facts and research. I mean when you’re done listening to one of these sports commentators talk you definitely have the facts. You know what they were basing their decision on and what the factual basis of their argument was. Even if you have nothing to do with sports watch them sometime – you’ll see some of the best most articulate debating you’ll ever encounter next to going into watching Parliamentary or Lincoln Douglas level debating.
So when it comes to debating and sports I want the whole cake – don’t think for a minute I like just the icing. I like the whole debate/sports cake because I know the whole cake tastes best and if the whole cake not only tastes better but makes me a better person and a smarter person (that’s some cake!) then you can bet I want the whole cake and I also want that whole cake for every student in every school as a regular part of their diet.