The Importance of Debate
‘Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt,’ or so goes a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Perhaps this is true in some contexts, but we’re going to have to disagree with him where education is concerned!
From improving speaking and listening skills to building self-esteem and rounded knowledge of a specific subject or topic, debating remains an important aspect of many educational systems, both in the classroom and university settings.
Debate, whether abstract or structured, such as in school competitions or political discourse, serves as a valuable tool for personal growth and effective communication. Engaging in debates fosters open-mindedness, the ability to consider multiple perspectives, and hones skills in public speaking and rhetoric. These attributes are fundamental in academia, politics, and public discourse.
Learning the art of debate offers numerous benefits for students, equipping them with essential skills for the modern world. In an era where persuasion and oratory skills hold sway, the ability to understand and empathise with opposing viewpoints is crucial. Mastering debate involves building confidence in public speaking, constructing logical arguments, and, most importantly, listening to and responding to others' arguments with precision.
Therefore, instilling the importance of debate in classrooms from a young age is paramount, fostering students' skills and confidence to engage with free speech respectfully.
At Oxford Summer Courses, students are encouraged to present their ideas in essays and engage in thoughtful discussions. Essays are expected to explore various facets of an issue, supported by evidence and a coherent theory. Debating these subjects with professors and peers enhances ideas and strengthens arguments. Structured debate nights occur fortnightly during the summer course, offering students the chance to debate on topics like the impact of social media or the role of neuroscience in criminal trials. This process combines independent research with teamwork, fostering adaptability and critical thinking.
The historical roots of modern debate formats trace back to the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois. The format used today in schools, colleges, and institutions like the Oxford Union closely mirrors the approach adopted during these influential debates. Notably, Abraham Lincoln's transition from a losing streak to a successful presidential contender coincided with his shift toward assertive and open debate, highlighting the power of effective discourse.
Prominent historical figures, including Aristotle and Nelson Mandela, recognised the significance of debate. Aristotle emphasised the mark of an educated person's ability to entertain thoughts without necessarily accepting them. Mandela stressed the role of open and thorough debate in achieving greater understanding and strength. These historical perspectives underscore the enduring value of debate as a tool for personal and societal growth.
In conclusion, debate is a transformative tool that fosters open-mindedness, critical thinking, and effective communication skills. Whether in prestigious institutions like Oxford University or pivotal moments in history, the art of debate has shaped leaders, thinkers, and society at large. By embracing debate, individuals can become more adept at navigating complex issues and engaging with diverse perspectives, ultimately contributing to a more informed and understanding world.
Interested in finding out more about our summer courses?
Come and discover the importance of debate in the classroom for yourself on one of our summer school programs.
With debating lying at the heart of many of the subjects we offer, such as Law, International Relations, Politics, and Philosophy – we also host debating nights for students on our other subject programs.
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Summer schools: popular for students to expand horizons & excel academically. Benefits include knowledge enhancement, skill development, preventing learning loss, standing out in competition, subject focus, and cultural exploration.