I show this video to people who THINK debate is just about contradiction. It’s a funny video, but this is certainly NOT a debate.
In my post “Is Debate Wrong?” I challenged people’s distaste for rational discourse. There are those who think debate is wrong, un-Christlike, hardly loving. I beg to differ.
I encourage parents to get their teenagers involved in academic debate. This led to this very good question:
I have a question, although I don’t mind at all if your children are debating. If your children are taught to debate, how does that carry over into your home, do they tend to be more argumentive? Do they tend to challenge each other over everything? —Jenny
This is a fantastic question, one that I get now and then as a coach of debate. Sadly, parents with sassy teenagers tend to keep these children from the healthy activity of debate. “Why would I want to teach them how to debate better?” they reason. (I’ve met some of these teenagers, and I definitely identify with the apprehension of their parents!)
But this stems back to the original misunderstanding of debate. The activity is an activity of discourse, of purpose and direction. We seek the truth when we debate. Academic debaters are “training the mind for action,” a mandate in 1 Peter 1:13 (sic).
In debate, children are taught to THINK, which is the tool for DEBATE. There is a vast difference between contradiction (something a testy teenager is prone to do) and debate (the logical process of thinking and analyzing a proposition). Contradiction is a more of a natural discovery of a young person’s boundaries, a test of Mom or Dad to see how far they will bend. It’s adolescence, really. Debate is the articulation and defining of thought processes, something adolescents need to be encouraged (and trusted) to do much more these days.
There are educational alternatives to debate that attempt to teach children and teens to think properly. Worldview, logical syllogisms and fallacies, rhetoric — to name a few. But none of them really trains the student, actually puts them in position to articulate a healthy worldview.
This is where we err: we teach our teens what to think (as opposed to how to think), hoping and praying they won’t push back later.
Parents, that is a serious mistake. Don’t fear the contradictory teenager. Train them up to instead think rationally, logically, and reasonably.