Why Debate

The St. Louis Urban Debate League addresses three main areas of concern for metro-St. Louis youth:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1) Academic Achievement                                                                                                  2) Graduation Rate                                                                                                              3) College Readiness 

Longitudinal research conducted by Briana Mezuk, PhD Virginia Commonwealth University, and Susannah Anderson, MPH Tulane University, finds there is a significant difference in academic achievement, graduation rate, and college readiness when measuring debaters vs. their non-debater peers. While debate increases reading, writing, and communication skills, it also fosters critical thinking, active listening, independent learning, research, and other key academic and life skills essential for student achievement.

Over time, students involved in debate transfer and apply their debate skills in core subject areas including Language Arts, Science, and Mathematics. This translates into higher school attendance rates, improved test scores, and an overall increase in graduation and college placement rates.

Mezuk and Anderson conclude the following:

  • Debaters are 85% more likely to graduate high school than non-debater peers.
  • Debaters who graduate high school are 63% more likely to matriculate than non-debater peers, due primarily to better performance on the ACT.
  • Debaters who graduate from high school are 89% more likely to matriculate to four-year institutions than non-debater peers attending post-secondary schools.

Among students who matriculate, debaters are 80% more likely to graduate with a college degree.

Additional Benefits of Policy Debate

Policy Debate transfers into all academic areas and…

  • Fosters critical thinking and research, analytical, problem-solving, and verbal and non-verbal communication skills essential for academic achievement and success beyond the classroom.
  • Develops students’ understanding of government and politics and empowers them to become active participants in their schools, homes, and communities.
  • Empowers students to find their “voices” and to use them to generate positive outcomes in their immediate environments and for society.
  • Prepares students to be successful within rigorous, higher education institutions and, ultimately, to become productive members and leaders of the workforce.