What is the Purpose of Debate?

December 15, 2021
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Public speaking skills, education, it looks good on a resume? Although those are all valid reasons, something that is often underlooked is its ability to create change. The debate space offers people across the local, state, and even national level to come and discuss serious issues that need to be solved in our society.

The Public Forum topic for September and October was Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments to the Baltic states. Although the majority of teams ran arguments that revolved around a hypothetical NATO-Russia war, several teams chose to develop their case around issues that are much more prominent but are technically less “in magnitude” than scenarios like a nuclear war. For example, one team ran a human trafficking case that accused NATO of historically allowing its troops to sexually exploit women. Such arguments force us to seriously reconsider our current conceptions of issues plaguing our world today. It’s important that we don’t only become educated about these issues, but that we also take initiative outside of the debate round and actively engage in practices that seek to solve real-world problems.

For example, debaters (including myself) often talk about structural violence and the costs it imposes on marginalized communities. After the round, however, we often forget about the impact and go on with our daily lives. This form of behavior is one of the most harmful practices because we are completely aware of the problem, yet we don’t look for ways to actually solve the problem.

It’s imperative that as debaters, we don’t only use debate as a means to enhance our speaking skills, learn more about the world, and build our resume: we must also let it inspire us to bring the topics discussed outside of the debate to bring real-world change through social reform.

I encourage you, for the next debate topic, and the topic after that, and so and so on, you don’t create your argument because other people are running it or because it’s easy: instead, I urge you to find an issue that has a great deal of concern to you and use that to motivate yourself to take action and inspire others to do so as well.

Speaking from personal experience, Verba has inspired me to take more action. The Debate and the Daily podcast I host has given me the opportunity to interview countless people across the nation, including Professor Patricia Maclachlan from the University of Texas at Austin, so that I can become well-informed about the debate space and real-world issues. I’ll admit, however, that I have much more to do in terms of sparking change. Fortunately, Verba is the gateway for me to explore my opportunities to initiate that change.

At Verba, we want to encourage debaters like us to take initiative as well. Feel free to join our discord server or email us at verbahq@gmail.com and let us know what change you want to participate in! We’ll do everything to encourage you in your journey to create change!

- Joshua Ninan