students debating in 2019

The above photo was taken prior to physical distancing guidelines.

Research shows that students who learn the art of debate will develop lifelong skills such as critical thinking, communication, control, and confidence. When Dr. Isaia Crosson, faculty in the Modern Languages & Classics department became the advisor of the Debate in the 21st Century Club, he had those same values in mind.
“I think a relaxed atmosphere plus student-driven debate topics equals very passionate debates,” Dr. Crosson said. “And that’s what I like to see. Instead of the students getting bogged down in the rules and regulations of a formal debate, I’d rather see them engaging respectfully and fruitfully with their peers. I believe that when students are talking to their peers about something that they are very clearly passionate about it creates for a much more interesting debate.”
Topics include the rise of artificial intelligence, the effectiveness of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, whether or not cicadas are exciting or frightening, the pros and cons of dress code, the Robinhood and Gamestop controversy, and more. 
Dr. Crosson notes that the Debate in the 21st Century Club is a revolving door of students, and he will never limit the number of students who want to join the club or participate, and for good reason. The club meets virtually every two weeks and students can check the Daily Bulletin for the topic. 
“Having new students come and go each week means that students are constantly addressing a new audience,” he said. “It keeps them on their toes, they are never getting comfortable with talking to the same group of students. It creates an unpredictable challenge which keeps the debate interesting.” 
And that’s not the only benefit; Dr. Crosson explains that while he enjoys watching students learn to express themselves in a meaningful and eloquent way, there are benefits that reach far beyond the classroom. 
“Through participating in debate club, students master the art of turning thought into action, multitasking, learning to speak intentionally, research skills, multitasking, but most importantly they learn to disagree and debate with their peers in a respectful manner.” 
Club leader, Edward Kelley ’22, notes that through debate club he has learned how to articulate an argument in an effective and persuasive way.

“I love that I get the opportunity to debate the intricacies of complex problems with my peers from opposing viewpoints before reaching a unifying middle ground,” he said. “I’ve learned not only how to gather support for my viewpoint but also how to effectively rebut an opposing debater’s arguments.”

Next year, Dr. Crosson hopes to continue to grow the debate club and plans to find a balance between competitive and relaxed debates. 

“I hope to provide opportunities for both the students who want to seriously train and debate more competitively against other schools and the students who just want to participate in a more relaxed environment and enjoy some camaraderie amongst peers.”

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