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Each cohort joining SMU Debating Society, the learning curve seem to be identical. Few, if any, struggle to speak for 7 minutes (experienced debaters find 7 minutes awfully limiting). They don’t make good, well-substantiated, arguments. In short, debates in the first few weeks (and in fact, often beyond) is crappy.

Yet some professors have an affinity to having in-class debates in place of presentations. Beyond the fact most (and sometimes, all) of the debaters have never practiced debating and it turns into something truly awful, often they elect to have debating formats that are… well, not particularly good debating formats. For one of my classes, it is one eight-minute speech on both sides, followed by a five-minute reply. How much engagement do you expect there, exactly?

There is always room for debating in the classroom. But formal, competitive debating has no place in a classroom. A classroom of non-debaters, at least.


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