Why Should Debate Be Part of Your Homeschool Curriculum by: Amy Eichholz

Amy Eichholz is part of the Lasting Impact! Teaching Team. She has graduated two sons and is teaching two daughters, still at home. Her journey in Speech and Debate started over a decade ago. She began as a novice parent, and is now preparing for her sixth year teaching Novice/Beginning Debate for the largest Homeschool Speech and Debate Club in Wisconsin. She is eager to see the transformation of another group of young students, both in person and online! Prior to homeschooling Amy taught fifth through twelfth grade. She will be teaching Debate Readiness for Lasting Impact! in the fall for ages 10-14. Sign up NOW or read her thoughts on why debate should be a part of your curriculum…

Why should debate be part of your homeschool curriculum?

If you grew up attending Sunday school or have read the book of Daniel, you are probably familiar with the story of Daniel in the lion’s den.  You likely also know of the trials of his three friends, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace and remember the miraculous ways that God delivered them all from certain death sentences.  But have you ever thought about how these four particular young men found themselves serving as advisors to a conquering king?

Daniel 1:3-4 indicates that their Israelite royal or noble heritage brought them to the king’s attention, and that their physical and mental abilities made them stand out for service. 

              “ Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the                                                       nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.”  (Daniel 1:3-4).  

Clearly, there were factors that made these young men desirable that they inherited and over which they had no control: high birth, natural intelligence, and good looks.  But the passage also alludes to the idea that they were also well-educated.  

Scripture indicates that they received intensive tutoring in Babylon’s language and literature.  However, what kind of education did Daniel and his friends receive in Israel that prepared them to remain faithful to the Lord and his precepts while being indoctrinated in the ways of Babylonian culture, which did not know or honor the true and living God?  

According to Charles Strohmer, who has studied and worked with businesses, churches, and institutions to apply wisdom-based strategies to modern contexts, “the royal courts of the old-world Middle East (in Egypt, Israel, Babylonia, and elsewhere) ran both temple schools and wisdom schools, the latter probably usually connected with the former.” (Strohmer, Charles. “Daniel’s Wisdom Education in Jerusalem and Babylon, part 2 of 4, Waging Wisdom, April 7, 2014, https://wagingwisdom.com/2014/04/07/daniels-wisdom-education-in-the-babylonian-royal-court-part-2-of-4/)

As we steward our children’s homeschool education, what would it look like for our homeschools to be “wisdom schools?”  What is needed to help them become “well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve” in whatever capacity they find themselves in the future?  

First and foremost, our students need a thoroughly biblical education and personal discipleship that ground them in the truth of God’s word and help them get to know Him personally.  But I propose that our children also need the knowlege and skills of debate to help them become “well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve.”  

Debate instruction offer the opportunity to immerse students in the study of logic, rhetoric, economics, government systems, and history.  Each season’s unique policy or value resolution allows focused study of an issue such as prison reform, higher education reform, terrorism, preventive war, or US foreign policy toward countries like China.  This deep dive allows students to develop skills to process the events of the day, ask critical questions, and form their own opinions, rather than simply accepting a narrative they are offered in the media and culture.  Years of debate study does develop students who are well-informed and able to consider issues and events from multiple perspectives and considerations.  It also makes them care about and develop positions on issues they might not otherwise.  After eight years of studying debate resolutions and two specific resolutions that have dealt with foreign policy toward the Middle East and terrorism, our family has watched the recent events unfold in Afghanistan with heightened awareness, concern, grief, and frustration. 

Learning to formulate speeches and responses within the time limits given in debate rounds provides ample opportunities to become “quick to understand.”  Students develop strategies to read, synthesize, and analyze information quickly and formulate coherent responses to ideas and arguments.  How many times have you walked away from a conversation about a controversial topic and found yourself paralyzed in the moment, but later thinking of all the important responses that would have added value to the conversation?  Consider debate a speed training drill for our brains.  

Ultimately, one of our primary goals as homeschool parents is to equip our students with the skills they will need in the future.  Only the Lord knows all the skills our children will need to “be qualified to serve” in our uncertain future.  And debate requires a weighty investment of time, energy, and resources- time that could be spent studying other subjects.  But the expertise honed  in learning debate provides tools for our students that they can use and apply in every future situation and course of study, especially college.  It is not just for students who think they want to be lawyers or politicians some day.  All of our children have debated over the years, and two have launched. They often comment on how debate is helping them in some aspect of their current education and work. The skills really do transfer and train our students to be “well-qualified to serve.”  Debate is truly a worthwhile and fruitful investment.

There is no better time to jump into Debate (and Speech). Clubs are popping up and starting all over the country. No club near you? You can sign up to be part of a club in the convenience of your home! Lasting Impact! has been running Speech and Debate Clubs online for over five years! We know how to make meaningful and engaging conversations, with the power of technology. Check out your options… https://lastingimpact.info/shop/ we hope to see you soon.

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