Debate Able Logo
February 2017  
Debate teaches kids that there's more than one side to any issue. In DebateAble clubs, we show kids that their arguments are stronger when they listen to, understand, and even learn to argue the opposite side of their position. We believe this not only makes them better debaters, but also more tolerant, empathetic human beings-- and that might be the most important lesson they take from debate club.

In today's climate, it's hardly original to describe our nation as divided, and it's difficult to comprehend the huge chasm between conflicting perspectives around politics, current events, and personal convictions. I don't know anyone, including myself, who hasn't bit into an angry (and fruitless) argument around at least one of these topics over the past year.

Like everyone, folks working with DebateAble have their own opinions. At the same time, our challenge as instructors, coaches, and parents is to stay true to the ideal that we expect our debaters to embrace: the ability to consider opposing perspectives in spite of our own positions. And we are not alone...

New York attorney Annette DiCola Lanteri is setting an example of this objective in her new blog, Meeting in the Middle, which is less about merging opinions than about considering both sides, requiring them to be honest, and noticing shared values between them. In the outstanding article "The 'Other Side' Is Not Dumb," writer Sean Blanda challenges us to truly listen to people with whom we disagree and "enter every issue with the very real possibility that we might be wrong this time. " He suggests that "the next time you're in discussion with someone you disagree with: Don't try to 'win.' Don't try to 'convince' anyone of your viewpoint. Don't score points by mocking them to your peers. Instead try to 'lose.' Hear them out. Ask them to convince you and mean it." It seems this exercise would be most constructive if both agree to keep political leaders completely out of the discussion and focus entirely on the issue.
Of course, allowing for a perspective that conflicts with our own doesn't require that we adopt that perspective, particularly if it's rooted in abject intolerance. As twentieth century philosopher Karl Popper cautioned: "Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance." However, it is an essential starting point if we desire to understand each other.
As our debaters know, we can't build successful arguments against a position without listening to it first, and by listening we gain understanding-- which we can actually use to fortify or modify our own positions. A long the way, we might even expand our tolerance and empathy, perhaps the most valuable takeaways for all of us.

Debate Skills 101

Listening - "You can't refute if you didn't hear what they said"

Listening is something we work on in debate club. Here are a few things we teach the kids:
  • Be fully in the moment when someone is talking - If you find yourself getting distracted, maybe the person next to you is moving around, try closing your eyes so you can focus only on what is being said.
  • Be Ready to Teach - Instead of jumping ahead in your mind to what you will be saying when it is your turn to talk, pretend that it is your job to take what you are hearing and explain or teach it to someone else. 
  • Wait - for the speaker to pause before you ask a question. This is natural in a debate match because of the flow of speeches, but practice waiting when you listen to anyone at all. Hear everything they have to say and wait for them to stop talking for a moment before you ask your question or respond. 

Winter DEBATE THIS! topic

Every newsletter we suggest a new topic to share with your debaters. P ractice the skills DebateAble students learn by taking the side you are least passionate about to make it more challenging.

All sports teams should be coeducational.

Can you debate the Affirmative and Negative sides of this topic?

Some things to think about when you make your argument ...

What are the benefits?


What are the drawbacks?


Are there reasons why one person should be able to limit what another person can do?


If so, what are they?


Does physical size matter?


Want to see debate at your school? 
We can help - contact us to find out how to make it happen!

DebateAble LLC 
© 2015