We all know that the British Columbia Ministry of Education is rewriting the competency standards for BC students to align with twenty-first century skills that are necessary for all contributing members of society to possess. To date it has identified several cross-curricular competencies as crucial: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, problem solving, digital literacy, emotional literacy, interpersonal skills, citizenship, resiliency, and collaboration.

And for over a year, the Ministry, as part of its BCed Plan has been soliciting input from British Columbians, and specifically teachers, parents, and students. 

Recently, I received an email via the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and BCTLA asking teacher-librarians feedback on determining curricular avenues that allow students to demonstrate their learning within and through the competencies.

My response? 

Debate.

For the past several years I’ve often wondered why debate process is not part of curriculum planning either present or future. The skills that develop as a result of participation in debate clubs across the province readily address all of the cross-curricular competencies. The process of debate allows participants to analyze the similarities and differences between differing viewpoints, so that the audience can understand where opinions diverge and why. Debate is also an excellent way to model the analytical and communicative processes that students are learning whenever they examine course material through oral or written work.

Past-president of the Columbia University Debate Society, Denise Yu, notes that 

[th]e critical reasoning skills learned through debate are perhaps what motivate some to choose the activity. Debaters will develop the ability to construct logically-structured arguments, and, just as importantly, how to deconstruct these types of arguments.  Many debaters put these reasoning skills to use on the LSATs and the GREs, but those who do not choose that route still enjoy benefits such as being able to write better philosophy papers or winning arguments against stubborn siblings.
 The reasons for debate are endless with many lists created to help justify the important of debate as a ‘curricular extracurricular’ that really does have an impact in the ‘new curriculum’ of British Columbia.

Want to have students that develop the necessary competencies to navigate and contribute to society? Require them to debate.

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