I have participated in policy debate for 8 years and the activity has provided a framework for me to be able to excel in my classes by giving me advanced organization, communication, and research skills that allows me to more critically examine academic texts and formulate arguments to more effectively engage in classroom discussion. In addition, policy debate on a national level tends to be more male-dominated and the experience and skills I have learned on the Whitman Policy debate program has and will continue to help me as a woman to survive in a more male-dominated field such as law. Policy debate has also expanded my mind in a way that is hard to articulate on paper, it has made me see that there is more than one-side to an issue and it has forced me to understand and respect the very process of argumentation and persuasion. Finally, policy debate has made me a more organized and better public speaker and has taught me how to adapt to peopleís personalities, learning, and life-styles, a skill that has allowed me to more inclusive to peopleís differences.
Debate is educational primarily because of the way it makes you think. Sure, Iíve learned plenty about the Peopleís Republic of China, the workings of the United State Supreme Court, and domestic energy policy, but the factual knowledge that I have learned through research and discussion is not nearly as valuable as the way that debate has taught me to analyze arguments. Debate forces you to think fast and dissect an argument to find out where its weaknesses are. The ability to see through rhetoric into the heart of a claim and the logic on which it rests has been invaluable in writing papers and critically analyzing texts for my other classes.
††††††††††† Policy debate has been an important educational experience despite the fact that my choice to be a chemistry major differs from the typical debate major.† The public speaking skills that I have developed will be essential when presenting my research in large public forums.† It has also instilled an ability to be articulate on the spot which is a rare skill in much of the science world.† These skills not only make me a better rounded student, but they will also be essential for exploring career opportunities that would not be available without debate.† This activity has also allowed me to experience a greater exposure to disciplines outside of my major.† I am able understand and participate in discussions in my philosophy class regarding theories that I have never taken classes about, but have experienced to a similar depth in debate.† This has allowed me to easily take upper level philosophy courses without taking any beginning level courses, something that would be very difficult without my educational experience in debate.
"It's rather ironic, because I first joined debate in high school to avoid work. My parents said I could pick between debate and English, and I just wanted to avoid heavy reading. I'm not sure if there's any way in which I could have been more wrong though. Debate has taught me to do more research in a week than I could have accomplished in a month prior to joining. Even ignoring the ways in which using the programís document template have vastly increased my ability to use MS Word effectively, I'm exposed to more facts about more different topics in a couple days of research than many student pull from a one semester class. Just in my freshman year I've learned the importance of stare decisis in our judicial system, the specific advantages of amending the constitution under section 5 of the constitution, as opposed to through a constitutional convention, and the detailed history and implications of four landmark court cases (US v. Morrison, Ex Parte Quirin, Milliken v. Bradley, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey)."
Policy debate has been essential to my educational experience at Whitman. Unlike traditional classes where teachers have set up a curriculum with strict guidelines, policy debates forces a student to direct their own research including a diverse groups of sources, factual and theoretical concerns, and practical/concrete political analysis. For a student who struggles with writing and oral presentation (along with learning disabilities), debate has been integral in building confidence and strengthening my skills. Frequently, a debater must coherently and clearly develop forceful arguments without much to go on in a way that never occurs in the traditional classroom environment. Never in my entire Whitman experience have I found peers as competent at swiftly and thoroughly analyzing such a wide variety of problems as in debate. Professors regularly look forward to debaters in their classes and I have even been sought out before by professors who want me to encourage debaters to take their classes or become their advisees because of their unique skills. I truly believe that, more than any other program at Whitman, policy debate benefited me in ways that I can apply throughout my life.