Debating is a win-win for students

Debating is a win-win for students

Photo for representation.

Irrespective of the roles and responsibilities that adults take on in their lives, some life skills are necessary. For instance, marketing or sales executives must have confident poise and clarity in conversation to do their job. Similarly, a creative homemaker has to know how to compile the ingredients, take help and receive feedback on a recipe.

If students open themselves to extra-curricular activities, life skills can be developed easily. In this discussion, let us consider the case of students who debate frequently as they are also honing life skills that are useful all the time in their personal lives or any career.

Debating is a regulated conversation on a chosen topic that has several perspectives on it. It is the verbalisation and expression of ideas using creativity. Some of the life skills that can be learnt through debating are:

Compilation of data: Preparation for the debate involves scheduling time for research and finding archived information concerning the definition, issues related to the topic and discovering new things. Students will learn a useful life skill that data has to be prioritised and made presentable.

Overcoming the comfort zone: The only formula to winning a debate is being well-informed. This can happen only if students go out of their limited study zones, willingly participate in things they don’t know anything about and enjoy learning for a specific short-term goal. Making it a habit to get out of our comfort zones is considered a necessity in all careers.

Journey to clarity: A debate forces random ideas in the brain to be verbalised. Some concepts will get edited to suit specific goals. A few notions may have to be para-phrased to impress the audience and judges. A harmonious flow of thoughts creates a clear picture in the final performance. Learning how to prepare and present to a target audience is a valuable life-skill.

Empathy: A good debater also has to think like those on the other side and understand their points of view in the debate. Only then, will the student be able to prioritise the aspects that will bring forth a good argument and respond with preparedness to counter-arguments. Imagining oneself to be in another person’s shoes makes a student sensitive and is a life skill that is useful always.

Playing the drama of life: Debating prepares one for the roles in life. The clothes, poise, self-confidence and dialogue-delivery for a specific side of a topic before a large audience and learned judges is almost theatrical. Role-playing teaches how to cope with emotions and design an appropriate self-identity for the conflicting and stressful situation.

Developing spontaneity under stress: Debates introduce us to views that are different and surprising. An immediate response is expected ⁠— quick, innovative thinking to offer the counter-attack or tasteful comedy takes the debate onwards. Any student who manages to learn how
to respond to stress is a winner through life.

Taking risks: A debate tests your views against others in the face of success or failure in the context of school competition. Eventually, the student participates in a debate knowing one is there for the learning and experience. Stoicism is a valuable lesson for the experience of life. 

Self-analysis: Students who participate in competitions regularly begin to understand themselves and their capacities rationally. If one is winning consistently at school, one can enter an inter-school competition and increase their world-view. In case of failure, one has challenged one’s limitations. What do I want to do next? Having an ability to think about future actions to better one’s opportunities is the sign of a healthy, competitive mind.

Asking for help: Learning how to ask for help and finding people who can counsel us in any phase of life is a necessary and life-saving skill. While preparing and also dealing with the emotions of the results, one becomes aware that the process of participating in a debate is not an act of solitude. One becomes aware of limitations and learns to seek support and work with others. It becomes normal to seek and acknowledge the meaningful advice of teachers, mentors, friends, family and experts.

Web of human interconnectedness: A speaker with critical thinking is judged by people in the audience at the debate. Lasting human impressions are made. Teachers, judges, competitors and friends in the audience are observing and will remember the student for a skill-set. The world is a small place and in jobs and careers, a student may get referrals and recommendations based on a performance that happened many years ago.  In a debate, relationships are forged that may manifest far into the future.

Speaking, listening and learning is the basis of an educated person and participating in a debate teaches you just that.

(The author is a history teacher working in Bengaluru)