Many pages and papers have been written on the benefits of speech and debate more broadly. However, very few have talked about the benefits of beginning your child’s speech and debate journey in middle school, as opposed to the more common pattern of beginning in high school. While high school debate is incredibly valuable, we believe that more students will gain more from the activity if they enter high school already familiar with the fundamental skills and concepts behind speech and debate. Additionally, beginning speech and debate at a younger age has a myriad of benefits on its own.
Increased Critical Thinking.
Critical thinking is the fundamental skill behind speech and debate and one that is best taught early and often. Having your middle school student begin learning critical thinking as early as possible will provide endless dividends in the rest of their education. You’ll see how quickly they learn to make connections and inferences well beyond most of their peers. Additionally, studies have shown that critical thinking skills contribute to better decision-making, long-term career outcomes, and measures of well-being and happiness. There’s no reason to put off teaching such a valuable skill until high school when your child could begin their critical thinking journey today.
Improved School Performance.
Dozens of studies have shown that debate can improve a student’s grades. However, the benefits to school performance go beyond just boosting a student’s grade. Claremont McKenna College conducted a survey of parents after their children joined middle school debate. The findings were incredible. Over 90% reported their students were more confident, showed more interest in learning about the world, and formed more thoughtful opinions. These are skills and traits that help students not only increase their grades, but truly excel and grow in school.
The final and possibly the most important benefit of middle school debate is it teaches students to be confident. The confidence taught by debate however, is not just thinly veiled arrogance. Instead, students are forced to question their own beliefs, and debate both sides of every issue. This teaches them that confidence isn’t about pride or always being right, but believing in yourself and your abilities. Debate also helps students realize that they are the future, and believe in themselves as individuals who can affect change in a positive way. Overall, the public speaking and confidence skills you learn in debate are incredibly valuable to have going into high school and can help improve a student’s high school experience immeasurably.