Topics to go
Written by John Millen
Topics and more
The most important thing about a debate is the motion. You should choose a topic that will interest everyone taking part. Some people attend a debate to listen and some to speak. Listening is as important as speaking in a successful debate. If your motion is boring, no one will want to take part.
Once the topic has been chosen, the four speakers must construct what they have to say very carefully and precisely. A messy debate is a bad debate.
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Topics for debate
Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when you choose a topic for debate. First of all, complete each sentence with one of the words in brackets, and then decide which ideas are good ones and which are not.
1 A debating topic should be (negative / challenging) and it should make people (think / yawn).
2 Topics should be (simple / complicated) and should concern one idea.
3 Debating topics should concern issues of (international / legal), national or local interest.
4 A debating (argument / motion) should never be controversial.
5 A school debating topic should be (relevant / boring) to the age of the students involved.
6 Adults should always (advise / bully) pupils in the choice of a debate topic.
7 A (school / local) debating topic should always be connected to the curriculum.
8 The motion for a debate in school should always be (approved / rejected) by a teacher.
Interesting or weak topics
What do you think about these 10 suggested topics for a debate? Match up the two halves of each motion and then rank them in the order (1-8) in which you think they would make an interesting debate. Say whether you would want to speak for or against each motion.
1 This House believes that sports education should ...
2 This House believes that newspapers should ...
3 This House believes that private cars should ...
4 This House believes that celebrities should ...
5 This House believes that nuclear energy ...
6 This House believes that household recycling should ...
7 This House is against the development of ...
8 This House believes that tourism ...
a. damages a city or country.
b. not be allowed in city centres.
c. genetically modified crops and vegetables.
d. be compulsory in all schools.
e. be banned from reporting details of the private lives of public figures.
f. not get involved in politics.
g. is the best alternative to fossil fuels.
h. be made compulsory.
now do this
Where you stand
If someone asks you 'Where do you stand?', they want to know what your opinions are on an issue. 'Where do you stand on nuclear energy?' means 'What are your opinions on nuclear energy?'
Where would you stand on the motion 'This House would break the law to protect the rights of animals'? Think about these things:
1 What rights do you think animals have in our society?
2 Do you think animals should have rights?
3 Should humans use or look after animals?
4 How do humans use animals? Is this appropriate behaviour?
5 Are there laws to protect animals?
6 Is it ever right to break the law to protect or rescue an animal?
7 Do some research. Ask 20 people in each year at school if they would break the law to protect animal rights. Use the results to support your own argument.
8 Give examples from old news stories of when people have broken the law to protect animals.
9 Make up your mind. Get information and present your case with confidence.