The Many Benefits of High School Debate

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My personal literacy development has not always been easy. In grade school I struggled with dyslexia. Additionally my family moved several times and new school districts were teaching reading and writing using different methods. These difficulties have made grade school not nearly as central to my literacy development as most students. My high school career was much more influential in creating my literacy practices. More specifically my experience as a member of my high school debate team really influenced the literacy practices I use today. My high school debate team placed me in a literacy community unlike most high school students experience there I was taught more sophisticated literacy skills, enhanced discourse, social confidence and empowerment of ideas. As in every field debaters have their own terminology that helps to initiate members into the community. Knowing and manipulating the terminology made competitors very successful in and out of rounds. Many of the terms are also used in other sophisticated academic environments. Thus successful use of this terminology by high school student was regarded very highly by professionals and higher education recruiters. Common terms include: rhetoric paradigm inherency discourse workability stock issues A priori empirically status quo threshold brink counter intuitive topicality impacts A priori affirmative comparative advantage workability solvency hegemonic resolution rebuttal mutually exclusive On face value these words seem fairly common; however they are not common in an average high school student’s vocabulary. These “buzz” words were essential for the communication style expected in debate rounds but a few strategically placed words often dazzled most high school teachers. Additionally use of these terms also leads to a highly stylized and sophisticated organization pattern for argumentation. Primarily, focused on stock issues debaters used this format to write “cases” or policy briefs. The stock issues include significance, harms, inherency, topicality, and solvency. Commonly and crudely, the debate community refers to these issues using the acronym S.H.I.T.S. In designing a case all five elements need to be present. Frequently high school debaters refer to a chair analogy. The idea being if one of the legs is missing the chair falls. Using these five elements creates a very sophisticated argumentation style not typically used by the average person. The goal is to leave little room for doubt. The debater tells the audience how it fits into the topic area (topicality), why this policy is important (significance and harms), why now is the time to act, why the problem is not being addressed (inherency/ inherent barrier) and why your plan solves for the harms (solvency).

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