This is a helpful article by Terry, Deanna & Ryan Stollar, from Coaching Policy Debate. They lay out some fantastic pointers for beginning parents who are swamped trying to figure out how to add debate to the school schedule. You can find the original article here.
One of the dilemmas parents understandably have, when considering whether to allow their child to compete in debate or not, is how to fit it into the student’s schedule. Most parents are astute enough to realize that debate consumes much time. They wonder if they can “fit it in” with their already busy schedule. The question is valid and good, but the approach to analyzing the situation is flawed.
When most parents think about adding a subject to their students’ school load, it is natural to weigh the cost by trying to guess how much time the new subject will take and then see if the students’ schedule will allow the increase. This is wise and compassionate (although there is a significant chance that the student will fail to see the compassion in adding anything to his load). Nonetheless, the parent has the child’s best interest at heart. The basis for the decision, then, is how can this new subject fit into the existing schedule? Approaching debate in this manner will always lead one to say, “No way!”
Debate requires a tremendous amount of time, resource, energy, commitment, parental involvement, guidance, money, and encouragement. In the 1998 debate season, the authors of this course carefully tracked almost every hour their 2 sons spent on debate over the course of the entire season. The time spent by each of them was considerably over 300 hours. This included writing, computer time, preparing cases, dialoging with their partners, practice debates with club members, debates with other clubs, conferences, tournaments, critique sessions by parents and others, teaching debate to younger students, learning how to speak clearly and persuasively, research (library, online, newspaper, and interviews), and studying history, Constitutional law, political theory, current events, world politics, our country’s founding documents, and national and international policies regarding the topic. Not every student will put in this same amount of time, but many choose to once they find out how fun it is.
Of course, fitting this amount of time into a “normal” school schedule would be impossible. Do not even try! It will lead to frustration and discouragement for the student and also the parents. But let’s look at that list again:
This included writing, computer time, preparing cases, dialoging with their partners, practice debates with club members, debates with other clubs, conferences, tournaments, critique sessions by parents and others, teaching debate to younger students, learning how to speak clearly and persuasively, research (library, online, newspaper, and interviews), and studying history, Constitutional law, political theory, current events, world politics, our country’s founding documents, and national and international policies regarding the topic.
This list is typical for every year of debate. The topic changes and therefore some of the details shift, but all of the general subjects and activity remain the same. The list makes for an amazing education all by itself! Debate yearly encompasses history, politics, current events, writing, editing, public speaking, rhetoric, research skills, typing, logic, and interpersonal skills as students learn how to work effectively with others.
As we are interested in character development, a host of further benefits arise: respect for those wiser than oneself, learning that most issues are not as clear cut as they appear on the surface, learning how to handle having one’s ideas shot down or at least having many holes put into them, learning how to receive constructive criticism and appreciating those who take the time to give it, learning how to be quiet and listen, rather than feeling compelled to justify one’s erroneous ideas, learning how to defend ideas that are worth fighting for, learning how to give to those with less experience and seeing how that approach actually makes the student learn more himself, learning how to focus on others more than oneself, developing stamina, patience, perseverance, and trust in the sovereign God, and learning to appreciate this country’s godly heritage and the price paid to establish it.
In order to be successful with debate, parents must see its value in providing most of the needed education for that year. Additional subjects should be maintained, such as Math and Physical Education, but most other areas are covered within the subject itself. They just take a different form than what one usually sees.
Debate is close to the perfect “KONOs” curriculum, because it is fairly complete and thoroughly integrated. Understanding this outlook will make education fun and interesting for the debater and will remove the guilt of the parent concerned about “fitting everything in.” The parent will be amazed at the tremendous intellectual and character growth of his student. This type of education comes naturally and will usually not need coaxing. The fun and competitive environment motivates students to work hard to learn more. In fact, the normal scenario easily becomes one in which the parent must tell the student not to spend so much time on the computer and get some other things done.
Now one must ask, “If debate becomes the vehicle to my child’s education, then how do I determine specific categories for the multiple subjects and then count credit hours towards them?”