I was a debater in high school (and briefly in college), and have told people many times throughout my life that no academic or intellectual endeavor in my entire life was of greater lasting value. It taught me research skills. It taught me to think critically. It taught me how to rapidly assimilate information and assess its value. It taught me how to organize and piece together a coherent argument.
It taught me how to play some rhetorical games, of course, but more importantly it taught me how to recognize manipulation and counter it – a valuable skill these days, to say the least.
And of course, it taught me how to speak effectively and professionally.
Literally not a day in my life has passed when those three or four years haven’t benefited me.
I have contemplated what an adult debating society might look like since my freshman year in college. Early on I envisioned something like a “pro” league for debaters who had graduated but still enjoyed the competition. More recently my thinking has been driven by the sense that Americans don’t think as much or as well as we should, and in particular our niche media and online activities have caused us to slam the door on anything that doesn’t quickly and comprehensively square with our preconceived notions.
Americans don’t change their minds as often as they used to and we’re the worse for it.
A couple friends and colleagues suggested that a civic debate organization would be a good thing, and that maybe we should see if there was interest. There was. So here we are.
Initially the ambitiously named American Civic Debate Union is a few people in Denver, Colorado. We hope to grow. If you’d like to be a part of it, let us know.