The Washington Post

Hold your own debate

In 2008, Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican candidate for president, right, debated the Democratic candidate, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. Bob Schieffer moderated this debate. (Ron Edmonds/Associated Press)

You don’t have to be a presidential candidate to have a debate. You can stage a debate of your own in your classroom or even your own home. Pick an issue that has two clear sides. (For example: Should there be homework on weekends? Should middle schoolers get recess time? Do you always have to eat all your vegetables before you get dessert?) Before you start your debate, ask your classmates (or family members) how they feel on the issue. After the debate, see if they hold the same position or if they’ve changed their minds. Here are some tips that might help make you a winning debater.

→Research the issue. If, for example, you’re going to make the argument that middle school students should have recess because they need the exercise, make sure you can talk about the benefits of exercise as well as the problem of childhood obesity.

●Guess what the other side will say. In a debate, the idea is to convince people that you have the correct position. If you think that the anti-recess side will argue that the time could be better spent learning math facts, you should be able to explain why 20 minutes of exercise is more valuable than 20 more minutes in the classroom.

●Use humor. It’s important to have the facts, but people may be more likely to support your position if they like you. Making them laugh is a good way to make them like you.

We’d love to hear from any classes or families that hold their own debates. Tell us the issue you debated, the positions you took and let us know if you changed people’s minds. You can send information about your debates to . Please put “debate” in the subject field.

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