Academy News Program

Reflections on Debates

When the Founding Fathers were drafting the Constitution, there were many disputes. Not everyone was in agreement and many voiced their opinion through debate. Debate promoted equity of voice and compromise when drafting the Constitution. Debate was the mere reason why we even have a Constitution today. Additionally, debate is still used in Congress to implement laws and is used in education to have intellectual discussions. Debate is necessary to acknowledge the opposition and to have a balance between the opposing sides. The National History Academy engages students in a parliamentary debate program which was implemented by the Better Angels.

The Better Angels Debates allow students to have civil discourse and to discuss controversial issues. Students respectfully voice their opinion with speeches to address the body and chair. The Better Angels Debates gives students the opportunity to develop a position and to analyze the topic of the debate. The objective of having a Better Angels Debate is not to “win” but to have a deeper understanding of the topic and to view the issue with both sides in consideration.

The chair facilitates the debate and promotes equity of voice in the body. The chair knows the rules of the debate and intervenes into the debate when necessary. In Better Angels Debates students do not have to agree, but students have to respectfully listen to everyone who wants to voice their opinion. Questions give the opportunity for students to ask for clarification, give information, or simply ask a question about the speech that a member from the body gave.

This formal style of debate is meant to have debates about complex issues that are not black or white. The Better Angels Debates encourage critical thinking, resolving conflict, and expanding your views. Although there are many opinionated views, the Better Angels Debate finds a middle ground where students can recognize the opposition while still strongly supporting their side of the debate.