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Sample Essay on the Top Five College Debate Topics for 2016

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Let’s face it: everyone loves a good argument. For the purpose of this sample essay these arguments will be referred to as debates. As long as there is conflict, which is a byproduct of human nature, there will be debating. 

Playing devil’s advocate: The top 5 college debate topics for 2016

 “I love argument. I love debate. I don’t  expect anyone just to sit there and agree with me, that’s not their job.”  -Margaret Thatcher

Debate comes in many forms. We see it in politics, the educational system, and in the comfort of our own homes. History is full of masterful debaters that have left long-lasting marks on humanity. Some of the most famous debaters include the likes of:

  • Plato
  • Martin Luther
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Winston Churchill
  • Christopher Hitchens (Mason)

There are many reasons why healthy debates can be beneficial. The International Debate Education Association talks about the benefits of debating in regards to the individual, society, and the world. They report that some of those benefits include:

  1. Once students have learned how to debate, they are better able to critically examine the pronouncements of their political representatives and to make informed judgments about crucial issues.
  2. Debate can help fledgling democracies heal from the wounds inflicted by oppressive dictatorships and ethnic violence by providing a forum where these volatile issues can be openly discussed.
  3. Debates break down national, economic, cultural and ethnic boundaries, showing that opposing views can be explored in a way that connects rather than divides people. (IDEA)

College debating

James farmer Jr. was recruited by Wiley College in September 1934 by Melvin Tolson to become a member of the school’s debate team (Beil). Debate had been a part of college life around the country before this, but Farmer had a finely honed set of skills that rivaled many of his peers. With Tolson driving the proverbial bus, history was made in intercollegiate debating, Wiley College, and also African-American history.

Wiley College initiated intercollegiate debating among Negro institutions in the Southwest. For ten years the forensic representatives of the college went undefeated, meeting debaters from Fisk, Morehouse, Virginia Union, Lincoln, Wilberforce, and Howard universities . . . The debaters also participated in the first inter-racial debate ever held in the history of the South. (Beil)

College debate has come a long way since Wiley College and 1934. There is now a full set of terminology that accompanies formal debates, as well as many different formats. There are always two sides to any given debate, and similar to structuring an argumentative essay, there are the propositional and oppositional sides. Those two sides must enter their arguments to come to a resolution. “The job of the proposition side is to advocate the adoption of the resolution, while the job of the opposition side is to refute the resolution” (CSUN). The formats include NDT Debate, CEDA Debate, and Parliamentary Debate. 

  • NDT Debate: National Debate Tournament; oldest and most popular
  • CEDA Debate: Cross-Examination Debate Association; newer form of debate in reaction to NDT
  • Parliamentary Debate: based on persuasiveness, logic, and wit; reaction to NDT and team policy debate (CSUN)

Popular college debate topics for 2016

There are many topics that may emerge in collegiate debates in 2016. Topics are generally chosen by ballot, current trends, and viability for propositional and oppositional viability. In order to understand the debate process, taking a look at the resolutions and arguments can give pure insight into debating. Cutting straight to the chase, here are some of the more popular topics and arguments up for grabs in the next year. Please note, each topic is followed by an example of a scholarly essay that further explores each topic.

College Debate Topic #1: Is Torture Justified When Used for National Security?

Resolution: Torture is necessary for national security.


      • The proposition side believes that torture is one of the only ways to prevent future terrorist attempts and enforce the security for our people.
      • Torture is the same as justifying an act of self-defense.
      • Torture is worth the temporary pain to the victim to save lives. (DeBre, Sanders)


      • Torture is not necessary for national security.
      • Torture is not necessary because information from the United States Military states that information obtained by torture is generally not reliable.
      • Torture, as well as being ineffective, draws negative attention to the United States. (DeBre, Sanders)

Example of Supporting Evidence: An essay examining torture as being morally mandatory.

College Debate Topic #2: Are Security Cameras an Invasion of Our Privacy?

Resolution: Security cameras are an invasion of our privacy.


      • Security cameras cause irritation and discomfort since we know that somebody is watching us. (Prezi)
      • Security cameras make people feel like they are untrusted because someone is monitoring them. (Prezi)


      • Security cameras deter crime from happening. (Prezi)
      • Security cameras provide a method of removal from reaction to prevention in regards to violence. (Dershowitz)

Example of Supporting Evidence: A critical essay depicting security camera footage being used against its owner.

College Debate Topic #3: Should the Death Penalty Be Eradicated?

Resolution: The death penalty should be eradicated.


      • It is a barbaric way to deal with criminals.
      • It is against moral and religious principles.
      • To kill a killer for killing does not make sense. (Debate.org)


      • Killers should be put to death.
      • It offers a safer environment.
      • Prevents criminals from repeating the same crimes over and over again. (Debate.org)

Example of Supporting Evidence: A research paper with sources debating the death penalty.

College Debate Topic #4: Are Single Sex Schools more effective than co-ed schools?

Resolution: Single sex schools are more effective than co-ed schools.


      • Single-sex classrooms can make it easier for teachers to match their instructional style to behavioral characteristics of the students.
      • Students will have greater concentration based on not being concerned with their appearance.
      • Offering single-sex classrooms in public schools is the cheapest, most effective, and simplest “innovation” available to improve achievement, particularly in math and science. (Kirschenbaum, Boyd)


      • Same sex classrooms offer diversity in perspectives, opinions, and ideas.
      • Same sex classrooms offer encouragement to unmotivated students.
      • Same sex classrooms encourage respect and acceptance of the opposite sex. (Kirschenbaum, Boyd)

Example of Supporting Evidence: A comparative essay that weighs the differences of requiring students to wear uniforms at same-sex and co-ed schools.

College Debate Topic #5: Is It Important for all schools to conduct mandatory drug testing on their students?

Resolution: It is important for all schools to conduct mandatory drug testing on their students.


      • Drug testing in schools would deter drug use.
      • Drug testing athletes and other student role models would send a powerful message to the entire student body.
      • Drug education is not enough. (Debatepedia)


      • Drug testing in schools is an invasion of privacy.
      • Drug testing does not deter drug use.
      • Mandatory drug testing in schools would be expensive. (Morgan)

Example of Supporting Evidence: Research addressing workplace privacy and drug testing.


Structured debates have always been a healthy way of bringing hot, controversial, and taboo subjects to light far more effectively than delivered speeches. They take their own special place in history that no other form of public rhetoric has been able touch. Collegiate debates have brought together students, faculty, and community members from a variety of ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds. With a variety of different formats, venues, and institutes of higher learning participating, the world is surely a more intellectual and understanding place. The James Farmer Jrs and Tolsons of the world probably smile down on how far the collegiate debate circuit has become.

Collegiate debate topics are vast in number and rich in possibilities for discussion. Just as in choosing a research paper topic, debate topics should mean someting to the debaters and be something they feel passionately about. Research and debate topics often coincide with debates that are currently circulating in legal, educational, and governmental circles as well. These student debaters that are found in colleges around the world may rise to positions of power, including presidencies. Debates and argumentative writing among college students should be encouraged, facilitated, and treated with the utmost respect. Atifete Jahjaga summed it up best when he said:

Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation.

Works Cited

Beil, Gail. "Wiley College's Great Debaters." Articles. Humanities Texas. Feb. 2008. Web. 06 June 2016. http://www.humanitiestexas.org/news/articles/wiley-colleges-great-debaters.

CSUN. "Debate Formats." 5 Sept. 2000. Web. 06 June 2016. http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/debformats.html.

Debate.org. "Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished?" Opinions. The Premier Online Debate Website. N.p., 2016. Web. 06 June 2016. http://www.debate.org/opinions/should-the-death-penalty-be-abolished.

Debatepedia. "Debate: Drug Testing in Schools." Debatepedia. 22 June 2011. Web. 06 June 2016. http://www.debatepedia.org/en/index.php/Debate:_Drug_testing_in_schools.

DeBre, Isabel, and Paris Sanders. "Is Torture Necessary for National Security?" Debatefinalproject. Google Sites. May 2010. Web. 06 June 2016. https://sites.google.com/site/debatefinalproject/is-torture-necessary-for-national-security.

Dershowitz, Alan. "State Surveillance." Debates. Munk Debates. 2 May 2014. Web. 06 June 2016. http://www.munkdebates.com/debates/state-surveillance.

IDEA. "Why Debate?" Idebate.org. n.d. Web. 06 June 2016. http://idebate.org/about/debate/why.

Jahjaga, Atifete. "Kosovar President Atifete Jahjaga: The four key ingredients for peace." International. The Hill. 14 June 2012. Web. 06 June 2016. http://thehill.com/policy/international/232703-kosovar-president-atifete-jahjaga-the-four-key-ingredients-for-peace.

Kirschenbaum, Robert, and Andre Boyd. "Debate: Do Students Learn Better in Single-sex Classrooms?" 2015. Web. 06 June 2016. http://www.nea.org/archive/17276.htm.

Mason. "Famous Debaters in History - A Knowledge Archive." A Knowledge Archive. 28 Nov. 2013. Web. 06 June 2016. http://infomory.com/famous/famous-debaters-in-history/.

Morgan, K. C. "Arguments Against Drug Testing in Schools" Synonym. Demand Media. 2016. Web. 06 June 2016. http://classroom.synonym.com/arguments-against-drug-testing-schools-4899.html.

Prezi. Are Security Cameras an Invasion of Privacy? Prezi.com. N.p., 19 Nov. 2013. Web. 06 June 2016. https://prezi.com/kjziaebobrie/are-security-cameras-an-invasion-of-privacy/.



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Ultius, Inc. "Sample Essay on the Top Five College Debate Topics for 2016." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. July 29, 2016 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/sample-essay-on-the-top-five-college-debate-topics-for-2016.html.

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