[eDebate] debate and public speaking

debate at ou.edu debate
Wed Apr 25 10:00:48 CDT 2007

While thinking about how to ?sell? debate to the administration on the participation level rather than a competitive success 
level, I find it interesting how debate can serve to flip-flop the backwardness of our educational system.   As we endure the 
basic public speaking class, the instructors set through speech after speech, 1000?s of speeches per year for some. Next they 
say, next.  The one fascinating thing about the debate experience in relation to the public speaking skills and practice, debate 
offers you many benefits that debate educators should not overlook when attempting to help others understand the 
overwhelming educational benefits of competitive debate.

The first benefit offered within competitive debate is the access to a diversity of judges or critics.  In debate we offer students 
many different perspectives on how to become better speakers and debaters.  In your basic public speaking you are limited to a 
very limited few instructors, sometimes having the same instructor every class.  Debate judges are for the most part very 
attentive to details, and focused on how a students? speech is being applied in the debate.  It not uncommon for a public 
speaking instructor to lose interest in the speeches as the class period grows longer.  The only way to prevent this from 
occurring is to cut down on number of speeches given which is my second basic argument for debate as better investment for 
training in public speaking.

Any student who attends a competitive college debate tournament gets the opportunity to give a minimum of twelve 6-9 
minute speeches.  One weekend is more practice than your basic public speaking class.  Two weekends is more practice than 
your whole undergraduate training if you are not a communication major.  A whole year of debate just magnifies the amount of 
training offered.  Not only do the students give the speeches, but they spend an extensive amount of time preparing for these 
debates.  Many students probably give more practice speeches before they attend a tournament, than they would give in a full 
semester of a public speaking course.  Not only do they practice, but they learn how to research and organize such research.

The amount of research that goes into preparing for a debate tournament is much more extensive and time consuming than 
writing a research paper or preparing a speech.  In debate you have to prepare for all sides of the research subject matter, not 
just focus on one isolated part.  Many proclaim that one undergraduate who attempts to be competitive in college debate does 
the equivalent research of 3 graduate thesis projects.

The fourth benefit of competitive debate that you will not find in your basic public speaking class is listening skills.  The end of 
the class pop quiz does not always regulate the attention of the students while others are giving their speeches.  In debate, if 
you do not listen, you will lose.  Listening may even be more important in debate than speaking.  The best debaters must also 
be the best listeners.  If you do not understand the other teams argument, how can you be beating it?

I am not sure why I posted this to edebate, but I was just organizing my arguments on how I discuss the benefits of debate.

As I tell the administration, those that need debate the most are the ones that are not very good!



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