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  • Writer's pictureBGC Metro Baltimore

Speaking On It: How Debate Helps Members to Establish Points of View and Life Skills For Tomorrow

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

Stepping Up To The Podium: Club member Parker reviews his team's prepare notes on the day's topic before speaking to the crowd of his peers at Westport.

Exchanging perspectives to gain clarity creates a far better understanding of how the world operates from the view of the individual. This attribute is critical to have now more than ever. We live in a world where televised pundits and social media platforms present opinions as indisputable truths with very little fact-checking done to support stances. That is why at our Westport Club, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore implemented a debate activity on Thursday evenings to help our teen members objectively create their thoughts using a methodical approach to generate a well-rounded, balanced view of society. With this being its first week back on the programming schedule after a brief absence at Westport (and today being National Speech & Debate Day), Debate has made its vocal return to the Club’s after school curriculum to help enrich the leadership-building talent present with our pre-teen and teenaged members. Club Manager Wes Pindell is eager to see the impact it can have on the youth at Westport.

“I’m glad to see that this activity came back to our schedule,” Wes says before the first session of the season begins. “Debate is important because it gives our kids a chance to better discuss any issue by using their critical thinking skills to choose which side they stand on an issue before illustrating a point. We also see this as a way to use facts to help them be able to resolve issues verbally to deescalate tense situations with peers.”

Learning How To Arrive At A Clear Point: Youth Development Coordinator Nathan McTeer explains to Club members the proper, step-by-step method how to build a great stance by asserting 'Claim' followed by the evidence that would 'Warrant' the view.

Through this activity, we are helping our Club members develop the communication skills that will help them now and later in their lives. When debating, they must be able to present their perspective clearly and listen attentively to contrasting points of view. It is a major step in eliminating the sweeping prejudices one may have of an opposing stance while helping them to thoroughly analyze the strengths and weaknesses of their own beliefs on the subject. Gaining factual proof decreases the emotiveness linked to guesswork. Research is the lone solution for both debaters. The facts gained by each side are what make for riveting dialogue for the listeners independent of where they collectively stand on an issue. This weekly activity structured within Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore’s afterschool programming currently at Westport is showing members how beneficial this step-by-step process of learning how to develop a stance is a moveable skill that will help them throughout life. Club members Taylor and Tamia are both strengthening their critical thinking and ability to speak to an audience this afternoon. Taylor shares her view on what Debate offers her.

Developing Their Own Stance: On paper and dry erase board, Club members Tamia and Taylor draft their team's respective list of points to support their collective points of view before their speaker presents.

“Debate gives you the chance to also hear what other people think because you can hear and learn from them, too.” Tamia, who participated in Debate before at the Westport Club before its year-long hiatus, also sees the benefits of being able to construct a thought during this effective activity. “You can learn a lot when you’re get ready for a debate or just listening to one,” Tamia says. “Getting all the thoughts you and your team researched down on paper is good because it helps you build a good argument for your side.”

Debate is an arena of ideas, a proving ground of theories and a space where well-constructed points are championed. Being able to verbally illustrate their stances is a part of what our members learn during these sessions. Club staff offers positive critiques to improve everything from the speaker’s pace of speech, vocal projection, annunciation, posture and other techniques associated with this art form of public speaking—one of the most nerve-racking experiences anyone can be asked to perform. The skills our Club members are gaining outweigh the angst linked to speaking aloud before an audience. Being able to add the talent of public speaking to their repertoire is a beyond-necessary trait for these future decision-makers perfecting their crafts during these afternoon sessions. Westport’s Youth Development Coordinator Nathan McTeer, an orator himself who studied Speech and Debate during his time at West Virginia University, explains how this activity can help members speak for themselves behind the podium, in the office and out in the real world.

The Final Point: 'Is It Beneficial To Attend a Single Gender School' was the debated question of the day that Taylor's team was asked to show why it was not the best idea by showing their points.

"This activity is very important specifically for young people because they need to learn how to advocate for themselves. Speaking for themselves is vital to their futures.” Nathan states as participants still discuss the day’s topic in the background after the session concluded. He was instrumental in bringing back Debate. He hopes to one day expand this activity into a debating league to the other Clubs in our region. “So many people are stuck in how they live and what they believe. Debate forces you to take sides you may not naturally agree with and puts you in the position of someone else. This makes you more empathetic to a point of view they may not have understood at first—which helps them gain a balanced perspective of others and themselves.”

A bright future directly links to the transferrable skills of the individual. Hearing the voices of our teen members echo off the walls at our Westport Club is an example of the great after-school programming helping them to further advance into productive and thoughtful leaders.

Want to learn more about the effective ways Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore is preparing members for greatness with our afterschool programming? Click here to find out what we're doing to keep enriching opportunities like these happening for all our Club members and their communities. Click here to find out how you can add to the impact shaping the lives of our youth all year long.

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