Its debatable…Speak Up!

December 11, 2007

Economist online debates

Filed under: Academics,Debate,Instructional Ideas — bk2nocal @ 11:44 am

Looking for a way to get your debaters and/or argumentation students involved in a debate outside the walls of the classroom or tournament setting?  The Economist is hosting a series of online debates between experts and inviting online readers to participate in the debates as well as the evaluations of those debates.  The current debate is whether governments and universities should compete to attract qualified students, regardless of nationality or residence.  The reason I really like these debates is they offer a “real-time” results report, with comments from contributors and online readers.

I think this type of online debate offers students some insight into the way that experts put their arguments together and present them.  It also offers them a way of applying some of the evaluation skills that they have been learning through the participation in debate, without having to actually “judge” at a debate tournament. 

Another thing this is great for is seeing how more “lay” audiences evaluate the debates.  One of the complaints I often hear about our activity is its lack of availability to the lay audience.  This is a way of getting students used to some of the responses that more lay audiences may have and can function as an inspiration for a follow-up on-campus debate.  The information resources are all there, as well as some of the issues that professionals think are important, which provides a relatively easy way of constructing an on-campus debate.  Something I often struggle with when designing on-campus debates is taking the time to find the information about the arguments on both sides and getting the students to think about what issues may arise.  All of that is done for them through these Economist debates.

Finally, I think it is a good thing to see that a publication with the respect that the Economist garners thinks that public debate and deliberation on key issues is not only important, but also can be interesting and entertaining.  It provides our activity with some real-world applications, albeit online instead of in-person.  Because of this, I would like to encourage you to support the Economist’s efforts and get your students involved in the online debates!

The next debate will be on the topic of social network sites and education and will begin in early 2008.  This is the final debate scheduled in this series, but hopefully with interest, they will continue to have sponsor these types of activities.

If you know of other online debate resources, please post a comment with the url information!


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