Debate Ideas for Your Classroom

Below, we’ve collected a set of debate and classroom discussion ideas for a range of age groups and classroom contexts!

Ages 10 and Under

Classroom Discussion

Ages 10-14

Social Studies

  • Does Ancient Rome matter to the modern world?
  • Does voluntourism do more harm than good?
  • Did the industrial revolution do more harm than good?
  • Was Manifest Destiny a positive ideology to have followed?
  • Would it be better to have one universal language?
  • Should fee-paying schools be abolished?
  • How did the English Civil War change English society?
  • To what extent was ‘Athenian Democracy’ democratic?
  • Should all countries return artifacts back to their countries of origin?

English

  • Do public libraries have a role in the future?
  • The Tell-Tale Heart: Do you believe that the narrator is truly mad or is he correct, that he only suffers from nervousness and overly acute senses? 
  • Were Romeo and Juliet’s parents responsible for their children’s deaths?
  • Last Days of Summer: Are Craig Nakamura’s descriptions of his and his family’s experiences preceding and during internment at Manzanar historically accurate? 
  • Are plays or novels better?
  • Are broadsheets or tabloids better?
  • Of Mice and Men: Was Curly’s wife a bad person?
  • Of Mice and Men: Was George right to kill Lennie? 
  • Are metaphors a useful literary device?

Arts

  • Is jazz neglected in contemporary society?
  • Should art and music be taught in schools?
  • What is the purpose of music?
  • Is art political? 
  • Should the state ban offensive art?
  • Should prizes be given for the arts?
  • Should studying the arts be mandatory for middle school students?

Science

  • Should the United States continue investing time and resources into space exploration?
  • What is the best way to collect samples in fieldwork? 
  • Should a nutrition class be included for grade school and high school? 
  • Should Pluto be considered as a planet?
  • Should the periodic table be organized differently?

Ages 14-16

History

  • Was Columbus a hero?
  • Was the ‘New Deal’ a success?
  • Was the Treaty of Versailles the main cause of World War 2?
  • Did the French Revolution have predominantly negative consequences? 
  • Did World War One have a beneficial impact on the rights of women in Europe?
  • Was industrialization a good thing?
  • Which US President was the most significant?
  • Was the United States responsible for the outbreak of the Cold War?

English

  • Was Shakespeare a feminist?
  • To Kill A Mockingbird: Should Atticus defend Tom Robinson?
  • Lyddie: Should Lyddie sign the petition? 
  • How does Shakespeare portray revenge in Hamlet?
  • Who is George Orwell’s target in 1984?
  • How does Christopher interpret and experience the world in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime?

Geography

  • Is rewilding a good idea? 
  • Will the world face a major food insecurity crisis by 2050?
  • Should we protect properties affected by coastal erosion?
  • Should wild animals be kept in zoos?
  • Has human activity affected the migrations of various species?
  • Can individual conservation efforts successfully protect the environment?
  • Should mining be banned?

Science

Arts

  • Can art be objectively perceived?
  • How do Dorothy Lange’s photographs of the Great Depression express the suffering of her subjects?
  • What artistic features characterized the art of Impressionist painters, like Monet?
  • Should museums be publicly owned? 
  • Does modern art belong alongside classical art?

Politics

  • Should the UK Monarchy be abolished?
  • Is dictatorship preferable to democracy in some instances? 
  • Should the voting age be lowered?
  • Should the US adopt a form of proportional representation for its Presidential elections?
  • Should countries have quotas to ensure representation of minority groups in parliament?

Social Studies

  • Should public prayer should not be allowed in schools?
  • Should vaccines be made mandatory?
  • Should climate policy be decided by a panel of experts rather than by politicians?
  • Should social media websites have the right to de-platform public figures?
  • Should we break up big tech companies? 

Ages 16-18

History

  • Is war a necessary evil? (Writing activity / Art activity)
  • What were the causes of WWI?
  • What impact did the American Revolution have on the rights of women in the colonies?
  • To what extent were the 1848 revolutions inspired by new political ideas?
  • What caused the US Civil War?
  • Were the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?
  • Was there an increase or decrease in religious tolerance between 1250 and 1750?
  • Which technology had the biggest impact on the world: the steam engine, railroad, internal combustion engine, steamship, or telegraph?
  • Did the Mongol conquest stifle or stimulate economic growth in Asia?

English

  • Should we still teach To Kill A Mockingbird?
  • Do negative life experiences help the creative process?
  • The Great Gatsby: Is Nick Carraway a reliable narrator? 
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Is the book racist? 
  • What does A Streetcar Named Desire say about America in the mid-20th century?
  • How does Edward Albee use absurdist themes in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Geography

  • Is the trend of rural-urban migration a positive thing?
  • Is the expansion of cities into surrounding areas a good thing?
  • Has globalization had a positive impact on a country you have studied?
  • Is having a nation-state better than having any other form of political entity (e.g. nations, stateless nations, multinational states, multistate nations, and autonomous and semiautonomous regions, such as American Indian reservations)?
  • Is high urban density desirable? 
  • Should fracking be banned?
  • What is the best method of resource extraction?

Science

  • Which line of evidence provides the strongest support for evolution? 
  • Is it better to buy an electric car or a gasoline car?
  • Should fast fashion be banned?
  • Is mandatory organ donation ethical?
  • Is de-extinction worth the cost?
  • Is science a truth in-and-of-itself, or a means to find the truth? 
  • Should euthanasia be legalized?
  • What is the best form of renewable energy?

Arts

  • What does Picasso’s Guernica tell its audience about the experience of the Spanish Civil War?
  • Is “readymade” art real art?
  • What does the statue of Augustus of Prima Porta imply about political power?
  • How does Da Vinci’s portrayal of Christ in the Last Supper emphasize his godliness? 
  • Can art be separated from the artist?
  • Will digital art experience replace physical art?
  • Should the government subsidize art?
  • Are NFTs good for art?

Economics

  • Is free trade a good thing?
  • Is it better to have high taxes or low taxes?
  • Under what conditions are expansionary monetary policies likely to create greater economic growth?
  • Can price ceilings successfully protect consumers?
  • Should the United States adopt a balanced budget amendment?
  • Should the United States federal government adopt a $15 minimum wage?
  • Should countries pursue full employment as an economic goal?

Business Studies

  • Is the culture of companies like Google preferable to that of traditional companies?
  • What is the best method for business expansion (e.g. merger, takeover, strategic alliance)?
  • To what extent does intrapreneurship improve the performance of a business?
  • Is ‘delayering’ an effective strategy for business to become more profitable?
  • Should you buy Fairtrade? 
  • Are qualifications more valuable than experience?
  • What should the role of companies be?

Politics & Government

  • Which of the three models of representative democracy — participatory, pluralist, and elite — best achieves the founders’ intent for American democracy in terms of ensuring a stable government run by the people?
  • Is Affirmative Action a desirable policy?
  • What group has the most influence over government policy in the US today? (e.g. citizens, social movements, interest groups, etc.) 
  • Can nationalism be compatible with democracy?
  • Should there be a cap on private donations to electoral campaigns?
  • Should Supreme Court judges be appointed for predetermined fixed periods?
  • Are foreign military interventions ever justified?

Ages 18+ (Tertiary Education)

Politics

  • Are social media explanations or economic explanations of the Arab Spring more convincing? 
  • What provides a better account for the causes of armed conflict: ‘greed’ explanations or ‘grievance’ ones?
  • Do sanctions work?
  • Can war ever be justified? 
  • Is populism caused mainly by economic frustrations?
  • Is the recent increase in inequality in rich countries the result of diminishing trade union power?
  • Are stable dictatorships more likely to pursue economic liberalization than weaker ones?

International Relations

  • Do international economic institutions, like the WTO and IMF, operate as liberal theorists intended or do they exemplify the logic of realism?
  • Are certain countries doomed to remain emerging economically?
  • Is the US-China relationship the new Cold War?
  • Is the two state solution dead?
  • Is foreign aid good?
  • Are states still the most important actors in international relations?
  • Are democracies less likely to go to war with each other?
  • Should the world continue to recognize China and Hong Kong’s ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement, or consider Hong Kong a part of China?

Political Philosophy

  • Is Rawls’ ‘veil of ignorance’ too far removed from the realities of political life to make meaningful arguments about what justice should be?
  • Is a democracy desirable because it tends to produce better outcomes?
  • If one benefits from a public good, do they have an obligation to pay tax for it?
  • Should speech be regulated in line with John Stuart Mill’s harm principle?
  • Is a truly cosmopolitan global ethics impossible?
  • Is Marx’s theory of value convincing?

Law

  • What is the best method of constitutional interpretation? 
  • Should courts be quick to disregard separate legal personality?
  • Should strict criminal liability be removed from all imprisonable offenses? 
  • Is international law truly law?
  • Should Intellectual property be abolished for medicine?
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