Debate and the Central Six
The University of Central Oklahoma’s debate represents the school’s commitment to transformative learning. As traditional universities seek to provide meaningful educational experiences for their students, many have been engaged in practices of transformative learning from the very beginning. The University of Central Oklahoma has maintained a debate team since the 1890s. Like UCO, debate has changed a great deal since the days of the Territorial Normal School, and these changes have allowed debate to evolve into one of the strongest examples of transformative learning on the UCO campus. Transformative learning is a holistic process that revolves around the “Central Six.” The debate team at UCO provides student with experiences with each of the “Central Six.”
Discipline Knowledge: Debate provides students with in depth research and knowledge of a variety of academic disciplines. One of the central aspects of policy debate is evidence based argumentation. On average, a competitive debater will complete the equivalent of a Master’s Degree of research in a single year preparing for debates. The debate topic varies from year to year and evolves from tournament to tournament. In order to keep be competitive, debaters must have expertise in a wide variety of subjects. The average debater will be expected to have in depth knowledge of political science, sociology, communication theory, philosophy, general sciences, economics, education theory, and other bodies of knowledge depending on the debate.
Leadership: Debate instills in individuals the skills needed to be leaders in the world. Students are expected to be leaders among themselves as debate requires a high level of self-motivation and student coordination. The critical thinking and decision making skills debate instills in its participants prepares students for a lifetime of leadership. Former Presidents, members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, Circuit Court Judges, and political leaders across the spectrum participated in college or high school debate.
Problem Solving: The constant process of debate preparation leads to the production of numerous scholarly works by students. The arguments debaters write undergo extensive peer review through the process of competition. Many students use their research in debate to produce scholarly materials for classes, conferences, and publications. The close work with members of the coaching staff leads to a form of faculty/student collaboration capable of producing a variety of high quality and unique scholarly works. The number of debate students who are able to succeed in graduate and law school is evidence that debate is a unique student centered activity designed to foster research, scholarly and creative activities.
Service Learning and Civic Engagement: Participation in debate also entails numerous service learning and civic engagement opportunities. Members of the UCO debate team are required to provide coaching and judging services to local high school debate programs. This experience helps students learn how to be better teachers, helps foster relationships between UCO and the Oklahoma high school community, and provides valuable services to the high school speech and debate community. UCO debate also hosts numerous public debates in conjunction with community organizations and faculty members on the UCO campus in order to raise public awareness of critical issues. All UCO debaters are required to participate in service learning and public debate activities in order to participate competitively.
Global and Cultural Competencies: Debate requires students have in depth understandings of the world around them. Debaters acquire awareness of issues of identity and the implications of different identity issues for public policy and interpersonal interactions. Student perspective of cultural differences shapes the arguments that are made in debates and the style of argumentation employed. Many debaters use issues of personal identity to challenge the policies of others and as a starting point for their argumentation. Students become aware of cultural differences and practices around the world and adapt their argumentation in order to account for differences.
Health and Wellness: The critical thinking skills that come from debate help students make proper judgments about their own health and wellness. Students regularly debate issues surrounding health providing debaters with the information they need to make healthy life choices. Debate also provides a social support system for students. Many students refer to their debate teams as a family because of the time spent and close relationships formed among team members. Debate provides students with a way to meet students from other universities with similar interests and develop meaningful relationships with people from around the country. For many former debaters, their best friends are those they made in the college debate community. This social support system provides students with a healthy learning environment they may not find in the traditional classroom setting.