the CHOC Board
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Argumentation and Debate
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Argumentation and Debate

Teaching with Homeschool Debate
 A Help Article from the CHOC Board
Homeschool Debate is a great way to teach communication, research, analytical and argumentation skills to the next generation of communicators for Christ's kingdom...skills that are often overlooked or weakly developed in other school subjects.
Debate also makes a great multi-subject teaching unit, and a full year of debate can create 1 to 2 (or more) high school credits per year when the skills, topics, club or event time, and research efforts are factored in. (Oregon considers 130 fifty-minute class hours to equal 1 credit which equates to 108 sixty-minute clock hours for 1 credit and 54 sixty minute clock hours for 1/2 credit.)
Debate can cover the topics of government, economics, business, law, politics, current events, speech, rhetorical skills, research skills, worldview study, US History, US Constitution, as well as communication and argumentation.
Types of High School Debate
The two most common types of debate used in high school are policy debate and value (or Lincoln-Douglas) debate. 
Policy debate argues over whether a certain government policy should be reformed.  Evidence from experts is considered very important for validating a position, and thus policy debate requires substantial research to defend a position.  Policy debate is a team event requiring a two-man team on each side of the issue.  One team will take the "for" position while the other will argue the "against" position.
Value, or Lincoln-Douglas, debate argues over the merits of a certain value or ethic. (Example: Cooperation is superior to competition).  While evidence is still used, less emphasis is placed on it and more emphasis is placed on persuasion through good logic and fluid presentation. Value debate is an individual event, ie, it is a one to one debate between the person for and the person against.
Beginning with Debate
Many debaters begin by simply joining a club and learning as they go.  It is an excellent way to learn necessary skills while you immediately apply them. Most debate clubs offer theory classes that will teach the basic theories of debate argumentation and their league's rules as each league will have slightly different rules of engagement.
Choose a Debate League
There are two Christian homeschool debate leagues with publically active clubs in our area.  Both leagues have debate events throughout their tournament season which are open to the general public, so you can observe an event before committing to a league.
CCNW exists for Christian homeschooling families in Oregon and Washington who are looking for a team policy debate program with local control that is responsive to the needs and interests of the participating families.  CCNW practices a more structured style which discourages the abusive forms this policy debate has acquired in many high school and college leagues (such as the practice of reading huge volumes of evidence quickly with little thought to persuasive logic or presentation).
The age requirement for participation is 14 to 18 years of age by January 1st. Tournament season involves 4 events from January through April. CCNW sponsors introductory workshops and resources to new clubs. Currently, the CCNW debate club in the Portland metro area is the Beaverton Homeschool Debate Club which is open to all Christian homeschooled students who meet CCNW eligibility standards and are willing to travel to their meeting location in Beaverton.
NCFCA is a national association which promotes competitive speech and both policy and values style debate events through member chapters. Participants must be between the ages of 12 and 18 by January 1st. Qualifying tournaments and elimination events occur throughout each NCFCA region culminating in the National Invitational Tournament in June. Oregon is part of Region 2 which incorporates 6 western states.

For more information about joining a NCFCA competitive debate club (or starting your own local chapter), please contact either the Oregon State Representative, Shelley Miller, or the Washington State Representative Brad Frye at Currently, Rainmakers is the NCFCA club for the Portland metro area.
Other National Leagues
While currently no participating clubs have come to our attention in our local are, Stoa is a national Junior High and High School Speech and Debate League serving the needs of Christian Homeschooling families. Stoa is very popular in California and has spread to other states, the closest currently being Washington. Stoa offers a National Invitational Tournament of Champions, inviting students from across the United States to perform, speak and debate.
Christian Communicators of America is another Christian national league with little obvious presence in our local area. It provides competition and club support in both debate types, platform speeches and apologetics. The largest participation has been in Ohio and eastward. Contact their organization to see if a club has started in our area or if you would like to start one in their league.
Volunteer as a Community Judge
As a parent, experiencing the subject first-hand can be very beneficial before attempting to teach or reinforce it to our children. All homeschool debate clubs run by the efforts of volunteers.  Many clubs, especially in the CCNW League, encourage the general Christian public to participate as a volunteer judge.
Contact the local leagues mentioned above for a club near you that can use your services as a volunteer judge. It is a great way to learn debate skills for yourself (since we adults are too old to have the fun of debating in these leagues!).
Locally for the Portland metro, the Beaverton Homeschool Debate Club is part of the CCNW League and appreciates the help of Christian adult volunteers (ages 20 and above) from the general community as judges. Please contact the Beaverton coach directly at if you are interested in volunteering as a judge for their Club. You may see their volunteer judge orientation on their website. 
Finding Resources
For Team Policy
There are a number of good Argumentation and Debate books available.  The most commonly used for team policy style has been An Introduction to Argumentation and Debate, 4th Edition, by Christy Shipe which was considered by many to be the main primer for homeschool high school debate students. HSLDA has discontinued that book and replaced it with Introduction to Policy Debate which came out September 2010, and is the 5th Edition of Shipe's work, although the title name has changed.  It provides some valuable updates to the 4th Edition, and we find it a useful tool in teaching homeschool policy debate.  
Another good resource for policy debate is "It Takes A Parent" or "Coaching Policy Debate" by Terry and Deanna Stollar of Eugene's Anti-Thesis Debate Club.  Contact them at or call 541-736-9054. NCFCA publishes "The Source" which is available for free to those students that participate in their league in either team policy or values debate .
For Values Debate
As well as "The Source" published by NCFCA, there are several other sources for values debate especially for those who are not participating in the NCFCA league. The debate organization Hear and See provides the resource "Lincoln Douglas Values Debate" student workbook. The Institute for Cultural Communicators, which produces the Communicators for Christ tours, provides "The Art of Value" as a curriculum resource for students learning values debate.
For Debate, Apologetics, and Platform Speaking
The NCFCA also offers competition in the various platform speech types and in apologetics. Monument Publishing produces curriculum for both team policy and lincoln douglas debate (an edition for generic leagues and an NCFCA edition).as well as competitive platform speeches and apologetics.
Other general speech and persuasion books may be found at the local curriculum store Exodus Books. For more information about speech and debate opportunities in our area, please go to our  "Setting up a Co-Op" page.
Teaching Subjects as a Unit with Debate
Some study areas are a "natural" to teach through debate, either directly in conjunction with debate or indirectly as a supplement.
We've listed our favorite resources in each subject area that we found helpful to prepare a current or future debate student.
Communication Skills
Debate naturally encompasses learning good speaking skills.  The most intelligent argument will be lost if it can't be understood or heard due to poor speaking skills.
In preparation of debating events, or before becoming involved, have your student practice reading selections from stories or factual articles while speaking clearly with a loud voice, good ennunciation and pleasant phrasing.  The piece should be read with some emotional character to avoid being monotone but should not be overly-dramatic. They should also practice using good eye contact with their audience, taking time to look up and speak to the listeners as they recite.
A step further is to have them then explain what they just read in their own words.  (good ole' Charlotte Mason type narration).  This will strengthen their comprehension and impromptu skills.
During debate events it will be important to convey your team's position with clear communication and application to the judge. Debaters should continue to practice good speaking skills in their debate rounds. Debaters are judged on these speaking skills individually during the debate rounds.
Research and Internet Skills
Each debate topic will require study to understand the topic and the government policy about which the resolution is arguing.  Also, both policy and values debate arguments are supported by evidence from experts. 
Debaters gain research skills as they sift through information looking for expert sources and understanding of their topics.
It is helpful to have a computer connected to the internet to practice research skills.  We tell our students "Google is our friend" and have taught them how to do "advance" searches to narrow the information down.
Become familiar, if you haven't already, with the research section of the library.  Black's Law Dictionary and other reference materials will be available there.  Professional periodicals will also be accessible at the libary (as well as on the internet if you have journal access.)  Talk with the research librarian to learn how to effectively use the reference section.
Logic and Reasoning Skills
Application of good logic and reasoning is crucial in argumentation.  Debate is an excellent vehicle to teach and practice logic skills.
Our favorite quick studies in logic and reasoning are the two Bluedorn books "The Fallacy Detective" and "The Thinking Toolbox."  Both of those books teach basic logic and reasoning skills in a fun way that will be very useful in debate.  The Fallacy Detective website has a number of informative and fun articles, additional logic resources, and provides sign up for a periodic newsletter.
Analysis of Current Events
To gain critical reading and analysis skills about current events, "The Student Daily News" provides online daily news selections analyzed from a Christian perspective.  Students may go online and read the selections and then take the optional weekly quizzes. Parents can sign up to have the answer key to the weekly quizzes emailed directly to them.  An excellent free resource for current politics.
God's World News also provides a monthly printed magazine that discusses current events from a Christian perspective.  The magazine subscription (about $25 per year) is arranged according to student grade level.  Order the level for your student. (Top Story and World levels would be appropriate for upper junior high and high school.)
Government and Economics
Since the debate argument in "policy debate" is over whether a certain government policy should be changed, understanding some basic federal government and economic principles is essential for effective policy debate arguments.
If your student has not already studied government or economics separately, the annual policy topic will offer a natural "launching pad" to study how federal laws are made, how administrative agencies enforce them, how judicial decisions interpret the laws, and how the laws affect the economics of our nation.
Government Study
For a first federal government primer, we suggest "Government 101: A Beginner's Guide to the Federal Government" by Laurie Petrisin.  This short booklet provides a concise overview of our American system of federal government and how laws are made.  We highly recommend it for all policy debate students who have not had a government course prior to beginning debate.
We would add to this "The Story of the Constitution" published by Christian Liberty Press. "The Story of the Constitution" is not meant to be a full government course, however it does mean to study the founding document of our American government, from a Christian perspective, and that it does well. In its coverage of the Constitution, however, it does end up covering a lot of how our American system of government works--and naturally so since it is the document that created that system. Since team policy debate argues federal policy, which should adhere to our Constitutional standard (contrary to what some modern politicians may think), a thorough understanding of the Constitution is very beneficial and rounds the student's studies for both debate and government as well as helping them become a well-informed citizen.
If desired,  fill in state and local government with sections of Christian Liberty Press "Land of Fair Play." Written at a junior high level, it provides a good overview of our different government systems (federal, state, and local) and the concepts of civic duty.
For the motivated who want to dig deeper in their study of government, and possibly prepare for the American Government CLEP exam for college credit, round out with Clarence Carson's "Basic Government" in whole or in section (especially the court case studies).  This is not a concise book, but Carson's works are brilliant; and this book covers both the history and structure of our American form of government with insightful commentary and important Supreme Court cases that have transformed our government from what it was originally intended to be to the progressive form it is today.
For those families who prefer a less eclectic approach and want to complete a separate full government study that is still understandable and concise, we recommend Notgrass "Exploring Government."  The student text can be used as a stand alone spine.  The addition of the original source documents book ("We Hold These Truths") adds further depth beyond the standard textbook. Optional tests provide materials for a full separate course.
For those looking for supplemental historical depth, Wall Builders "Of God and Government" video series provides a detailed history of the Christian heritage behind our American system of government which is often glossed over in other curriculum (and denied by secular). Their website provides a number of online resources. 
Economics Study
We recommend that all  policy debate students read "Free Enterprise Economics in America" by Tom Rose.  This short booklet packs a lot of information into its quick read.  Although short, it lays a solid foundation of why the American system of free enterprise is based upon Christian principles and why it provides both prosperity and freedom for its citizens and how government intervention interfers with both.
While we have many favorite economics books, we can recommend this trio for a concise non-technical but thorough eclectic study of economics that would be easy to do alongside debate.  Begin with "How We Live: Economic Wisdom Simplified" by Fred C. Clark for a short primer of basic concepts of work, tools, employment and the capital system. Next follow with Whatever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard Mayberry which provides a quick, fun study of basic economic principles from a conservative libertarian approach (albeit not from a Christian worldview). "Penny Candy" lays a good foundation for understanding how the government's actions affect economic stability, what prompts business cycles, and how the real value of things is determined. Then finish with "Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt which lays out common economic fallacies and why they won't work even though modern politicians continue to contend they will -- in spite of historical proof they don't. These books are very useful for the policy debate student since all government policy impacts a nation's economics whether it was intended to do so or not.
For an advanced economic read, Clarence Carson's "Basic Economics" provides both historical analysis as well as examination of the various economic systems.  His insightful and probing analysis won't be a quick read, but it will be a valuable read that is still approachable for the motivated high school student.
For a full, separate economics study from a Christian perspective that is easily understandable, we recommend Notgrass "Exploring Economics."  The student text can be used as a stand alone spine.  The addition of the original source documents book ("We Hold These Truths") adds further depth. Optional tests provide materials for a full separate course.
Christian Worldview
Since our purpose is to create effective communicators for Christ, worldview is another natural subject area to teach with debate.  Discussion over the debate topic lends well to worldview discussions.
Both policy and value styles of debate will implement understanding of worldviews as applied to personal values, theology, philosophy, and ethics. Policy debate also implements worldview application in government, economics and law.
Our "hands-down" favorite Christian worldview study is Focus on the Family's "The Truth Project DVD Series."  If you can find a church or study group going through that study, we highly recommend joining it.
Our favorite very quick study on worldview is another Focus on the Family resource...Frank Peretti's presentation "God's Way or My Way."  It is a very entertaining, biblically presented nutshell of all worldviews with a powerful message.  All packed in about 60 minutes on an audio cd. 
We also highly recommend reading David Noebel's "Understanding the Times, 2nd Edition " for a good comparison of different worldview types (secular humanism, Marxism, cosmic humanism, post-modernism, islamic, and Christian) as applied in separate disciplines (theology, philosophy, ethics, biology, psychology, sociology, law, politics, economics and history).  Chapters stand alone within the discipline topics.  Law, politics and economics are especially helpful for policy debate.  Ethics and philosophy are especially helpful for values debate.  All chapters are excellent and useful in understanding how the different worldviews impact each subject area in our society.
Further helpful reading can be found in Francis Schaeffer's "How Shall We Then Live" (both in book and video series) and David Breese's "7 Men Who Rule the World from the Grave."  These provide solid foundations although not light reading. (You can usually find these books in most church libraries and often in your county library.)
For ongoing worldview support and research, we recommend the Chuck Colson Center's Wilberforce Library which includes current articles arranged by world spheres, article type, and comprehension levels (highschool through graduate level).   We also recommend Chuck Colson's daily e-commentary "Breakpoint" which deals with current events and social situations from a Christian worldview (some topics are of adult nature but all are presented in a non-graphic and Biblical way).

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