"A good teacher knows that the best way to help students learn is to allow them to find the truth by themselves." Noam Chomsky (Chomsky on MisEducation, 2000, p. 21) 

Debate & Controversy

Annenberg Classroom
Deeply linked pages focus on the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and the controversies that arise in interpreting them.  Speak Out features current issues selected and researched by a non-partisan writing team. 

  • Issues Links  offer resources for classroom discussion of controversial issues as well as opportunities for students to share their perspectives with others online.

Choices Program 
The Choices for the 21st Century Education Program was developed at Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. “The Choices Program provides teaching resources on historical and current international issues, offers professional development for classroom teachers, and sponsors programs that engage students beyond the classroom.”  Resources are available for purchase on a wide variety of topics: U.S. foreign policy, immigration, historical issues, international issues, nuclear weapons, China, Afghanistan, etc.  Materials are user-friendly, including resources for setting up debates and in-depth study of historical and current issues.

A project of International Debate Education Association [IDEA], Debatepedia is “an encyclopedia of pro and con arguments and quotes on critical issues. Debatepedia utilizes the same wiki technology powering Wikipedia to centralize arguments and quotes found in editorials, op-eds, political statements, and books into comprehensive pro/con articles.”  Pro-con resources are easy to find and helpful for student debaters.

DOHA Debates 
Former BBC correspondent and interviewer Tim Sebastian founded the Doha Debates.  “Although the Debates are financed by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, no government, official body or broadcaster has any control over what is said at the sessions or who is invited.  The Debates are based on a centuries-old format, refined by the famous Oxford Union. They focus on a single, controversial motion, with two speakers for and against. Once they have outlined their arguments, each speaker is questioned by the chairman and the discussion is then opened up to the audience for argument and a final electronic vote.”  Videos of past debates are helpful in teaching students how to speak clearly on issues and answer questions articulately.

Exploring Humanitarian Law: 
It seems counter-intuitive to teach rules of war if we want peace.  However, this well-developed and extensive matrix of curriculum materials provides opportunities to teach about concepts of human dignity in war and peace, school and community bullying and bystander dilemmas, and global humanitarian actions.  As the Red Cross materials explain, “Humanitarian law is a body of international law that aims to protect human dignity during armed conflict and to prevent or reduce the suffering and destruction that results from war.”  Learning about international humanitarian law can promote critical thinking, empathy, and action.

International Center on Nonviolent Conflict 
How can students understand the power of nonviolent conflict if we don’t teach them its success stories?  This site provides case studies, links to news, and definitions, such as the following: “Nonviolent conflict is a way for people to fight for rights, freedom, justice, self-determination, and accountable government, through the use of civil resistance - including tactics such as strikes, boycotts, protests, and civil disobedience....”

Middle School Debate
This extensive list of debate topics and pro/con research links ranges from junk food to Kyoto Protocols and many other topics

Movies featuring debate include dramas such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Separate but Equal as well as these debate-specific films:

  • Team Qatar trailer  “In preparation for the world championship in DC, the first Qatari national debate team train in Doha, London, and New York.”

  • The Great Debaters trailer  “A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.”

National Forensics League
Extensive site provides introduction and resources for Lincoln-Douglass debates.

Online News Sources (See links above)

Teach for Peace: Constructive Debate: This website introduces teachers and students to rationales and practices for staging classroom debates and discussions of controversial issues. 


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