Why Debate can Make you a Better Student

This is the sixth of ten posts in the RSO & Work series. This series will take a deep dive into all things that UNLV can offer; Registered Student Organization and working on campus. See just how involved you can get on campus!

A lot of us think debate is an activity that is mostly 2 teams in a room arguing to a judge about the topic for two hours. Especially in high school, it might just seem like an activity that really does not have transferable skills. However, this assumption is wrong. Collegiate debate is one of the most transformative activities any student can participate in. Especially at UNLV, we have one of the best Policy Debate teams in the nation with previous debaters being in the top 20 debaters in the nation. There are a lot of skills you learn and will help you not only as a student, it will also help you in your later career. We will talk about four key elements-argumentation, research, public speaking and persuasion.

Argumentation and debate go hand in hand. Argumentation is the art of reasoning in support of your idea. Why is this necessary? Especially in class, you will have instances in which you disagree with other people on various points. Your argumentation skills will come in handy when you try to get your point across, one step at a time, and try to at least make a compelling statement. This will be more practical in your future lives, especially when you propose a plan in your future career or when you try to argue that you should go to Olive Garden instead of Five Guys. With the UNLV debate team, you really build a great foundation of how to formulate arguments in such a way that you, get your point across but more importantly-win some debates.

Among other things, in debate if you do not have your research complete, you will most likely lose the argument. Knowing your facts and tailoring it better to suit the debate will surely be advantageous. For instance, if you are going to be debating about the harmful effects of plastic on the soil, it will be better to have research and evidence that talks about why it is harmful for soil versus having/saying that plastic is bad in general. We all know that plastic is harmful for the environment but why is it specifically bad for soil might be necessary to emphasize your point more. Debate really has changed how and what I research due to the fact that we are looking at unique events in the status quo that might lead to events in the near future. This also gives you an edge on other competitors, inside and outside of debate rounds, because you are more versed to present evidence for and against a topic. For any class you take, you might need to do detailed research. Learning how to make the difference between having a broad paper versus a paper that really narrows down your topic area.

Public speaking-don’t we all love it? No? That is the majority of us. We have an innate fear of what people will think of us, especially in front of large crowds that stops us from volunteering and speaking at a lot of events in our lives. Engaging in debate really helps you get over the fear, primarily through experience but moreover through understanding the content and context behind the point you make. Gaining the momentum is very key to getting over the fear but more importantly being a better persuasive speaker.

By far the most important skill and arguably the most key skill that anyone can gain is persuasion skills. Being able to sway not only your judges vote in your debate round, but in real life to persuade your employer to hopefully, get a pay raise. Convincing someone is not as easy as we think and which is why a lot of us fail to do so. Learning how to persuade someone and convince them that your idea is good or possibly better than other ideas will really make you stand out among the crowd.

Joining the UNLV debate team has been a great privilege and an amazing learning experience. The team is really well built to support and has a great team spirit to welcome new and novice debaters.Not only all my points I mentioned before will help you in debate rounds and hopefully win some tournaments but more importantly, you will take away all these skills and be able to use it in your classes and then later in your career. Being a better student and being a better person overall is something we should all strive for and I believe that joining the UNLV debate has helped me become that person.

Jordan Dellinger, Senior


High School: College of Southern Nevada High School

Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Major: Secondary Education- Psychical Science