Debating has a history as long as the history of man. The is evidence that debating dates back at least 4,000 years. From Egypt to china and even in poetry such as Homer’s “Iliad” one can find examples of debating. Academic debating is believed to have started about 2,500 years ago with the work of Pythagoras.
We will look at the role of culture in debating as well as debate’s role in academics in the US along with some of the benefits of debating.
Debating and Culture
For whatever reason, debating is a key component of Western civilization and in particular Democratic civilizations. Speculating on why can go on forever. However, one key component for the emphasis on debating in the west is the epistemological view of truth.
In many western cultures, there is an underlying belief that truth is relative. As such, when two sides are debating the topic it is through the combine contributions of both arguments that some idea of truth is revealed. In many ways, this is a form of the Hegelian dialectic in which thesis and antithesis make syntheses. The synthesis is the truth and can only be found through a struggle of opposing relative positions.
In other cultures, such as Asian, what is true is much more stable and agreed upon as unchanging. This may be a partial reason for why debating is not as strenuously practice in non-western context. Confucianism in particular focus on stability, tradition, and rigid hierarchy. These are concepts there often considered unthinkable in a Western culture.
Debating in the United States
In the United States, applied debating has been of the country from almost the beginning. However, academic debating has been present since at least the 18th century. It was at the beginning of the 20th century that academic debating begin to be taken much more seriously. Intercollegiate debating during this time lead to the development of several debate associations that had various rules and ways to support the growth of debating.
Benefits of Debating
Debating has been found to develop argumentation skills, critical thinking, and enhance general academic performance. Through have to gather information and synthesis it in a clear way seems to transfer when students study for other academic subjects. In addition, even though debating is about sharing one side of an argument it also improves listening skills. This is because you have to listen in order to point out weaknesses in the oppositions position.
Debating also develops the ability to thinking quickly. If the ability to think is not develop a student will struggle with refutation and rebuttals which are key components of debating. Lastly, debating sharpens the judgment of participants. It i important to be able to judge the strengths and weaknesses of various aspects of an argument in order to provide a strong case for our against an idea or action and this involves sharp judgment.
With its rich history and clear benefits. Debating will continue to be a part of the academic experience of many students. The skills that are developed are practical and useful for many occupations found outside of an academic setting.