Imagine a world where two disagreeing sides engage each other´s arguments, weigh the underlying principles, evaluate the practical outcomes and shake hands afterwards. Imagine a platform where all nations meet in order to discuss (and not just prevaricate about) the most pressing issues and their delegates are treated equally irregardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, race, country of origin and religious beliefs. Finally, imagine an activity which enables people to develop almost all relevant skills for their future career. Does it sound like a perfect utopia to you? Believe it or not, this utopia is spreading and you can help it shape the future.
Academic debating started in English-speaking countries many decades ago. Since then it has massively spread across all continents to more than fifty countries and affected the lives of millions. But what is it, actually?
A competitive debate involves two teams that have to argue (on the international level in English) either for or against a given motion, however, these teams cannot choose the side they want to defend. The side is usually assigned by a draw. Each team consists (usually) of three members, each member has to deliver an argumentative speech of a certain length that has to react on what the other team has brought up to the table. Judges decide the debate on three criteria: Content, style of delivery and strategy. Every debate ends with a handshake between the opposing teams.
The unique thing about debating is that it challenges people´s original beliefs and offers an alternative point of view. It forces not only the debaters, but also the judges and even the audience to think critically about the arguments which were presented by each side. Apart from that, debating is one of the fastest ways to learn a foreign language, develop public speaking and leadership skills and boost confidence, all of which are becoming extremely relevant in a globalized, multicultural world. Not only do these help during job or university interviews, they also prove invaluable at work, no matter which career one pursues.
However, debating is not just about facts, arguments, skills and winning or losing: Importantly, it is a great opportunity to meet people from all around the globe, make long-lasting friendships and get to know various cultures. It is not unusual to see Australians, Qataris and Japanese dance together at a disco, Slovaks, Pakistanis and Chinese make math jokes and Swedes, Americans and Romanians play the guitar. A couple of years later, these people meet again. This time they are respectable doctors, CEOs, economists or scientists. They return to debate competitions to teach others what they had learned. Forget Nokia: Debate is connecting people.
Despite its educational and social value, the best thing about debating is that it is free to everyone. It is not an exclusive world that does not grant access to certain groups of people; it is perhaps the greatest manifestation of equality, free speech and the victory over prejudice one can imagine. It is not “just” a hobby, it´s a lifestyle. Thus, if you are looking for something that would not only “look good” on your CV, but really deliver the benefits it promises, join a debate team or become a judge. The world is yours.