I hear a lot of stories in history class, and one of them was this: There was once a successful student who graduated from our college and started his own small business. Feeling a duty to support his college community, this businessman began hiring graduates from our school. After a while though, something made him change his mind about our people. Today, this man refuses to hire technical graduates from his own school, for one and only one reason:
They can’t communicate. They can’t write, and they can’t convey the knowledge they have, which renders that knowledge useless.
“Learn to write!” proclaimed my history professor, and then went on to tell us why the Ancient Greeks were the founders of abstract, scientific thought.
I had three years of competitive communication experience in high school. Debate was one of the most intensely educational experiences of my life. As it turns out, debate is also the agreed-upon reason why the Ancient Greeks were ahead of the curve when it came to scientific thought.
Greeks loved to debate politics. In Greece, you couldn’t just state your case—no one would listen. You had to defend it. You had to understand your arguments well enough to be capable of withstanding the fire of an opponent’s rebuttals. And you learned rhetoric, articulation, and eloquence along the way. Eventually, the Greeks moved on to debate other topics—like scientific theory. The rest is history.
I say we should learn like the Ancient Greeks. Debates should happen in our classrooms regularly. Competition brings out the best in people, and it becomes painfully obvious extremely fast when a debater doesn’t know their own case. Debate is the fastest way I know of to learn a topic inside and out, and as a side benefit, you learn to persuade an audience despite the fact that another human being is trying their hardest to undermine your case and credibility. That’s educational.
Oh, and for those who haven’t tried it, debate just happens to be one of the funnest things in the world.