Since the dawn of time, communication has always been at the core of civilization. When communication breaks down, conflicts happen! Humans engage with each other through conversations in the modern-day, both in casual and meaningful ways. Amidst the heated political climate and polarizing ideas, a healthy communication flow is needed to allow whole societies to survive and thrive.
When differences in beliefs and opinions get the better of two communicating parties, arguments ensue. However, in most formal settings where a discussion occurs between two opposing parties, a discourse that does not necessarily end in conflict can play out. We call it “debate” — an organized match where two opposing parties formally discuss contrasting viewpoints. Some call it “intellectual sport.”
As a structured argument, there is a process involved in a debate. Usually, there is an interesting topic that requires a stance. One part is for the argument, and another is against it. They have to defend their respective positions, proving why they are correct and how their opponent is wrong.
Debates are not only present in modern-day politics, court proceedings, and public forums. It is also widely integrated into classroom settings.
Check-out these page jumps to know more about 21 Best Debate Topics for College Students in 2021:
- Is Debate a Must in College Students?
- Advantages of Incorporating Debates in Classes
- What to Look Out for in a Class Debate?
- The Basic Rules of Debates
- What are the Best Debate Topics Out There?
Is Debate a Must in College Students?
Historically, debates are utilized as a teaching tool in ancient Greece. Some of its earliest pioneers include Aristotle, the Sophists, and Protagoras. Modern education also uses debates to further classroom learning, especially in areas where critical thinking and cognitive reasoning are required.
For many college classes, a debate is a way to engage and encourage verbal participation among students. Through debates, students could explore complex issues relevant to class discussions and apply what they have learned in supporting their argument. They manage to expand their knowledge and acquire new learning outcomes through appreciation of controversial topics and their complexities. Their prior beliefs could also be challenged, leading them to a more informed understanding of various issues. They get to apply theories and knowledge they have learned and evaluated complex topics through critical thinking.
Debates are a great way to widen students’ understanding and belief system while expanding their intellectual horizons in the process.
Advantages of Incorporating Debates in Classes
It can not be denied – debates are a great opportunity for students to develop a dynamic mindset and proficiency in essential learning skills such as communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. Debates shape and sharpen cognitive and presentational abilities in students.
DEbates also help to cultivate their understanding of rational arguments, encouraging them to expound their standpoints and employ rhetorical eloquence. In the process, they also learn to be confident and retain their wits while under pressure. Other benefits that can be gained through college debates include:
- Allowing students to participate and engage in an interest-based learning activity. This helps improve their abilities to retain information because their minds are engaged more thoroughly as they delve into a complex topic and defend their stance.
- Debates are also a great way to teach college students the power of teamwork and collaboration. A team often cooperates to research their topic and formulate strategies that would best favor their arguments. Knowing that they got each other’s back is a boost of morale by itself, allowing them to form a special bond while learning about a subject matter.
- Students’ analytical skills are honed. They learn how to research and take note of the important aspects of their topics at hand. They also enhance their ability to organize their thoughts and structure them to put their argument forward. More importantly, students can also form informed arguments and use reasoning and evidence to support their standpoint.
- For communication, political science, and law students, debates are extremely valuable. It helps them develop speech composition and delivery skills, which are integral to their future careers. Debates are the best way to overcome their fear of public speaking and lend them the poise and confidence to speak up and participate in a formal discussion.
- Some debates are held outside the classroom. This is a good opportunity for students to explore and expand their network, meet like-minded peers, and participate in a healthy competition that could help build their character.
What to Look For in a Class Debate
Class debates are a fun way of learning. However, it needs to be structured to bring out desired learning outcomes and maximize class participation and engagement. So, what are the things that are essential for a successful class debate?
Knowing the Debate Structure
Debates have certain rules in place to make it organized and structured. Usually, there are two groups involved: the affirmative and the negative. One argues for the topic at hand, and another goes against it. Each team strategizes and divides the tasks, with some of them speaking up and establishing their arguments. Others, meanwhile, conduct the research and find or execute the strategy.
Researching and Strategizing
Students are often given ample time to research the debate issue. Not only will they prepare how to best support their stance. They also need to anticipate what the opposing team will present and figure out how to refute them during the rebuttal.
Keeping Track of the Time
The two opposing sides are often given a set period to argue their points and refute each other. It is ideal for keeping the time limit in mind and avoiding rushing through the argument or missing any important point.
The Basic Rules of Debates
As mentioned before, debates follow a structure to keep the communication flow organized. Students should keep the following rules in mind:
1. The affirmative side is the first to speak up. A response from the negative side then follows. Each member of the opposing sides should take their turns in speaking.
2. Each speaker is given a maximum of one minute to speak. Once the time runs out, the speaker must close their speech or be halted.
3. Interruption on the speaker is strictly prohibited.
4. The audience, who often act as judges, cannot participate in the debate.
5. The voting from the audience is often done with a show of hands. The majority wins.
What are the Best Debate Topics Out There?
Each debate discussion has a goal. They say the best debate topics cultivate arguments around them, whether one is for or against. We have chosen 20 topics that are ideal for debating. These topics have solid argument potentials where right and wrong are not clear from the onset, creating a wealth of opportunities for students to craft their arguments.
1. All animal testing should be banned.
This topic has been a fixture in most classroom debates. It is a relevant global issue that concerns moral and ethical dilemmas. While widely popular, this topic could be a challenging and insightful point of argument that will bring out critical thinking and analytical reasoning from students. For the most part, it covers a wide variety of specific problems, touching on different issues that have a tremendous impact on human progress while keeping scientific and technological practices ethically and morally acceptable. Students will be encouraged to conduct in-depth research and gather supporting evidence that will solidify their case.
2. The universal basic income should be everyone’s right.
Recent events have seen the rise of clamors for universal income. The economic ramifications of this topic could make for interesting viewpoints. There are pitfalls and promises on both sides of the argument. It would be a good learning exercise for students to gather facts around this subject and put their arguments forward. This topic, safe to say, could not have one single right answer. Both sides could make a compelling case to support their standpoint.
3. Schools should do away with homework altogether.
Homework has always been a point of contention for many people. There are pros and cons to both sides of the argument, so it would be interesting to see how students will defend their stance. Both sides should present a strong argument, along with ample facts and evidence that would support their case. Research with data and statistics is a must for this particular topic.
4. Plastic should be banned.
Though environmentalists have hammered the argument that plastic poses a grave danger to the environment, there are still compelling arguments against banning plastic altogether. This topic will compel both sides to build their argument with supporting evidence and facts. Students are bound to have interesting takes on the pros and cons of plastics and how it plays out in climate change.
5. Euthanasia should be permitted.
The right to live versus the right to die has always inspired heated debates from both sides of the fence. This question provokes complex and dynamic debates around legal, ethical, moral, human rights, economic, social, and cultural aspects that populate the pros and the cons. Whether one agrees with euthanasia or not, potential arguments could be put forward that would hone one’s critical thinking skills and their ability to formulate and organize their arguments.
6. Smoking in public spaces should be illegal.
Many people are torn between banning smoking in public spaces or not. Both sides could present compelling arguments that could support their stance. Students can argue for health, and others could argue against ethical justifications. Either way, the pros and cons could set the stage for an insightful debate.
7. There is a need to restore internet neutrality.
The question of whether governments should regulate internet service providers has long been raised. In a nutshell, net neutrality means that consumers and businesses should have open access to online content without the intervention of internet providers. This topic raises specific issues that could be addressed by the opposing sides of the debate, which will make for interesting and insightful arguments.
8. Eliminate student loan debts.
Student loan debt is a very relevant issue that hits close to home for many students. It is not only an argument that dominates politics. Students could also explore the pros and cons of the issue and defend their stance. On the one hand, student loan debt has constituted a crisis for many struggling students. On the other, the decision could bring economic ramifications across various industries. It would be interesting to see how they will argue and justify their points.
9. Public colleges should offer free tuition.
Many are pushing for free tuition in public colleges, considering the number of low-income families that cannot afford higher education. However, many industry leaders and school administrators have a stake in the debate, which could prove challenging for those who are for and against free tuition in public institutions. The issue concerns taxpayers, students, and their families, educational institutions, and policymakers. Students could formulate compelling arguments on both sides of the debate, which could offer interesting insights and realizations for the class.
10. Universal healthcare is a right.
Healthcare is an important consideration for everyone but should it be considered as a basic human right? There are convincing arguments on both sides of the fence, making for a thought-provoking topic on a debate. Students can discuss each argument’s pros and cons and defend their stance with facts and logic.
11. There is no justification for the war on terror.
As far as global issues go, the arguments surrounding the war on terror is a good place of exploration for college students who want to practice forming their stance and refuting their opponents’ rebuttal. Like other topics, it also brings different and specific problems to the table, challenging students’ viewpoints, and testing their critical and analytical thinking skills. This would require them to conduct thorough research on the subject matter and bring in impressive evidence that would support their case.
12. Legalize the sale of human organs.
This topic brings a plethora of moral, ethical, economic, and legal issues that could make for strong argument potentials. On the one hand, the illegal organ market benefits from prohibition. Legalizing human organs’ sale could bring up moral, ethical, and even religious questions while it could be argued that the move could diminish illegal organ harvesting and black market sales. Students can explore the pros and cons of the argument and present their stance with logic and facts.
13. Social media brings more harm than good.
Social media is often considered as a two-edged sword. The pros and cons are numerous, and they could make for a strong debate. While it does provide a way for people to connect and communicate, too much social media can also diminish real-life relationships as people focus on their virtual connections. There is also the issue of data gathering and privacy encroachments, which are real concerns for many people. Both sides could generate compelling arguments that would support their positions, and it is up to students to relay their reasoning and evidence to win the debate.
14. Death penalty has no place in the modern world.
Society has progressed, but there are still practices in place that are questionable. One of them is the question of the death penalty. There are convincing arguments from opposing sides. Some consider the death penalty as a deterrent to future crimes. Others argue against it because it violates human rights. Many who are opposed to it draw their stance from their moral and religious beliefs. However, are these reasons enough to abolish the death penalty? The question could be a good ground for a compelling debate between students who must, as always, cite facts and evidence to support their case.
15. Standardized tests should be abolished.
In the last few years, standardized testing debates have come forth from parents, administrators, and other stockholders. One side argues that standardized testing benefits students, offering assessments that could serve as a metric for learning. Schools could also evaluate the test in evaluating students’ progress. However, not-so-impressive test results also hurt the students’ confidence. Many say that it should not be the basis for judging students’ abilities. As a debate topic, the abolition of standardized tests could bring important issues to the forefront and allow students to strengthen their logical and critical thinking skills.
16. Free speech is non-negotiable.
We often hear arguments about free speech, whether it has limitations or free for all. There are attempts to silence free speech and efforts pushing the argument that free speech could offend and provoke. This topic is timely in an ever-polarized world where religious and moral beliefs clash against the freedom of expression. Hate laws and censorships are real issues that many countries face today. Students could explore the pros and cons of free speech and defend their stance, whether they believe it is negotiable or not.
17. Sexual education should be mandatory.
Sexual education is important but should it be mandatory? This issue has garnered a lot of opposing standpoints. While it can be argued that sex education should start at home, schools are also a valuable source of information for young people. Many, however, believe that it should be an option and not compulsory. This debate topic could prove controversial, but it challenges the students’ critical and analytical thinking skills.
18. Animals should enjoy the same rights as humans.
There is a relatively new argument that pervaded modern times – animals could be considered legal creatures with rights. There is news of court hearings that put animals on trial for centuries where punishments such as hanging were even meted out, but giving them equal rights as humans has not been done in the past. Those who oppose the idea argue that animals cannot have equal rights because they do not possess a sense of morality and understanding of their duties towards others. Others strive to prove that animals do have a sense of morality. This debate topic could encourage interesting takes and viewpoints from students who must support their stance with facts, evidence, and logic.
19. Books provide better entertainment than television.
For a lighter debate topic, the argument that books entertain better than TV could be a fun way to engage students and encourage discussions. It would be interesting to find out how opposing groups of students would argue their points and persuade the judges to get on board with their point of view. They should be able to provide strong arguments supported by facts and evidence.
20. Renewable energy should replace fossil fuels.
Climate change is a huge issue nowadays. Environmentalists often cite the need for a transition to renewable energy, which, they argue, could do a lot to curb CO2 emissions. Another persuasive argument from them is that clean energy can create millions of jobs. The cons are numerous, too, however. A compelling argument is that renewable sources are yet capable of providing enough energy for everyone’s needs. The cost is also a huge issue. Whichever side of the debate students are on, one thing is for sure – they will be given an equal opportunity to prepare proper arguments, find supporting evidence, and present their viewpoints.
21. The importance of vaccination.
A controversial topic, the questions regarding the importance of vaccination is a subject of debate worldwide. Many people are open to vaccination, but a lot are also vehemently opposed to it. This topic will encourage students to dig deeper into the subject matter and conduct thorough research to support their case. It would be interesting to see how they will defend their standpoint and relate it to the present time.