I work with teens and most of them love arguments and debates [i love debates as well!] But debating is a form of art. Some of my students have not mastered it yet, so they often end up having a ‘teenage debate’. A ‘teenage debate’ is a discussion where participants criticize each other instead of each others’ ideas, blame each other for not understanding their points of view, and – most importantly – everyone is very poorly informed about the topic of discussion. Another characteristic of a ‘teenage debate’ is that it gets started to procrastinate on some real tasks that the students have to do at a given moment.
Here are some beginner-level tips that I give to my students to teach them about having an effective debate:
- Get informed about the topic you want to argue about (Note: following CNN on Twitter does not make you a specialist in geopolitics. Following National Geographic on Instagram does not make you an environmental science specialist either)
- Form 3-4 key ideas and be ready to express each of them in ONE sentence
- Listen to the point of view of your opponent carefully
- Respond to the argument that your opponent proposed, not the imaginary argument you THOUGHT they would propose
- Criticize statements, not people
Holding a debate can be as entertaining as playing a good chess match, as long as the rules are in place!
Do you like participating in debates? I’d love to know!
If you speak Russian, see me telling more about teaching kids about debates on my Youtube channel