The Youth of Today are the Changemakers of Tomorrow.
From capital riots in America to the increase in extreme nationalism in Europe to police brutality in response to protests in Hong Kong, the beginning of the 2020s has put democracy to the test. We have witnessed firsthand the essentiality of protecting fair and free government by speaking out against injustice; as our world becomes increasingly polarized, it is imperative that today’s youth use their voices to advocate for positive change. The generation of today is the generation of the future, making investments in education absolutely crucial for progress towards a better planet.
Yet, even in today’s modern world, most schools do not teach students the basics of public speaking, effective communication, argumentation, and critical thinking. Students are set free into the world, expected to soar, but lacking the wings to do so. A study published in the Journal of Community Health found that, in their sample, less than 30% of secondary schools offered a debate program; moreover, they noticed that ~82% of independent schools offered such a program, compared to only ~24% of public schools. Finally, their study also demonstrated that minority students were significantly less likely to have a debate program at their disposal: schools with programs had an average non-white student population nearly 20% lower than their counterparts without programs. No longer can we allow students to end their education without having mastered the ability to raise their voice, fight for their beliefs, and exude confidence when speaking to the masses. No longer can we allow debate to be a sport for only the white and wealthy; to foster a free and equitable world, we must ensure that students of all backgrounds have access to resources that are nearly guaranteed to improve their future prospects.
Yet many schools’ resources are already stretched thin with their current programs and lack the time and motivation to add more to their plate by starting a debate and/or public speaking program. In light of this issue, I founded Debate 4 All: a global, student-run non-profit with a mission to empower the youth of our world by providing students, parents, and educators with accessible debate and public speaking resources.
Only a small percentage of students graduate having participated in some form of debate and public speaking, both of which are proven to raise test scores, increase preparation for the real world, boost confidence, strengthen critical thinking and analytical skills, encourage civic involvement, and fortify teamwork skills. Studies show that high school graduation rates for debaters were, on average, 40% higher than the ones for non-debaters. In addition, debaters have higher SAT and ACT scores by 6 to 19 percent in all subjects than non-debaters. Other studies show that when kids begin debate at an early age, they tend to be more motivated and have more successful careers.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Supreme Court Justice to be a black woman, said in 2017 that “[debate] was an experience that I can say without hesitation was the one activity that best prepared me for future success in law and in life…I learned how to reason and how to write…and I gained the self-confidence that can sometimes be quite difficult for women and minorities to learn at an early age.”
By enabling students to raise their voice, we encourage them to take the lead in reinvigorating the democratic process. Rather than allow our world to be controlled by the elites who have historically had a disproportionate influence on political debate and hence public policy at large, our new generations can be empowered to fight for minority rights, represent those who do not have the ability to do so themselves, and focus on real-world issues rather than allow government to direct their efforts toward issues that are better left in peace.
Having partnered with Claremont McKenna College, an accredited top US university as well as the Public Debate Program, a global nonprofit, we have had extensive impact thus far. We have amassed over a thousand followers on social media, our platform for educating young people on empowerment through debate, and have established debate programs in schools across the planet, ranging from Huntington Beach, California to Kazakhstan and India. Furthermore, we have hosted workshops on public speaking and debate for hundreds of students and assisted a number of under-resourced students obtain the skills needed for a successful future. Though in operation for only 2.5 years, we have already collaborated/partnered with a number of organizations, including KYCC, Systems Change Summit, Bloom Foundation, Student Speakers of America, and Published Points of View.
As we continue to expand equitable access to debate and public speaking across the globe, we hope to implement debate programs in every continent, begin programs in languages other than English to assist more under-resourced students, partner with national and international debate leagues such as the NSDA, offer opportunities for more high schoolers and college students to directly teach students, raise money to fund programs in remote areas, and establish international debate leagues to allow students to compete.
You can learn more about Debate 4 All at our website, debate4all.org, or by visiting our Instagram, @debate4all_.