How debate shapes personality and polishes inter and intrapersonal skills

Rajiv Kacholia

– Rajiv Kacholia, Former U.S. State Debate Champion

With the rise of automation, personal skills, that are distinctly human, will distinguish students equipped for success in the 21st century. Yet, parents often worry about diverting attention from academic rigor for their children. Personality skills development is still commonly viewed as an ‘extra’ curricular activity. Do parents really need to make a binary choice between academics and the personality development needs of their children?

About 50% of kids are introverted and many suffer from fear and difficulty in expressing themselves. A majority of young girls will suffer from anxiety and lack of confidence, with 20% likely to become clinically depressed at some point during their teenage years. Does academic focus warrant neglecting equipping our next generation with confidence and the tools to express themselves?

Debate and Academics – U.S. Debate can serve as a critical supplement to a child’s holistic development, advancing both core academic skills and essential life skills including self-confidence to express oneself. Research has proven that U.S. Debate is unsurpassed as a rigorous and highly respected academic activity that stimulates and supports a child’s development across so many core academic skills including writing speed, reading comprehension level, listening, note-taking, research, data analysis, evidence-based reasoning, test taking, grades, and overall school performance.

Debate and Personality – Equally important benefits of rigorous U.S. Debate are that it prepares our kids for the future. U.S. Debate uniquely empowers students with 21st century skills that employers view as the widest gaps, such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and persuasive communication. Studies have found that many debaters value their experience as the highlight of their educational years, and that the time invested pays dividends in both academic efficiency gained and in life skills gained. Debate thus supports intellectual growth, while helping to shape the personality of children by polishing both their interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. 

Personal Skills for Success – Interpersonal and intrapersonal skills are critical to long-term success but unfortunately are generally not mastered in traditional classrooms. Interpersonal skills include collaboration, leadership, and persuasion. Intrapersonal skills emerge from self-awareness and character building qualities including attentiveness, critical thinking, and creativity. Both interpersonal and intrapersonal skills are interwoven to form our personality, self-reflection, and social interactions.

Also read: Empower children with debate skills

Interpersonal Skills – Students in U.S. Debate gain valuable real-world lessons on working together effectively with other kids. Collaboration, leadership, and persuasion start to develop long before the debate round as students prepare with teammates by dividing tasks, researching, and negotiating how they will consolidate their findings collectively as a unified team. Collaboration is a critical judging factor during a U.S. Debate round and an integral aspect of winning as teammates closely support one another while racing against the clock to persuasively communicate for a positive ballot. Moreover, each student takes ownership and leadership before and during particular stages of the debate. 

Intrapersonal Skills – U.S. Debate raises self-awareness as students learn to recognize and articulate their viewpoints, using evidence and logic, rather than simply expressing opinions. Students learn patience and the importance of listening attentively to the opposing team, while thinking critically to define questions that will challenge assumptions. Another important judging criteria is the creativity that students employ in formulating out of the box policy proposals and innovative solutions to real-world issues, whether in healthcare, education, climate change, technology, business and entrepreneurship, government, or other social impact areas. 

Inter and intrapersonal skill development shouldn’t have to be a binary choice against academics. These are critical social and life skills, which U.S. Debate harmonizes together to empower our kids with the academic rigor and soft personal tools to adapt successfully in our rapidly evolving world. 

Rajiv Kacholia, is a Former U.S. State Debate Champion, an alumnus of Stanford University, and Founder of Speech and Debate India, empowering students across India with rigorous U.S. Debate training and tournaments.

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