As today’s conversations become increasingly more polarized and absolute, it is imperative to ensure that the next generation of leaders is equipped with strong critical thinking and communication skills. Big Questions debate provides educators with an organized way to engage over 50,000 students in dialogue about concepts they may not have previously confronted.
Students will not only grapple with complex worldview topics such as morality, the reaches of religion, and the limits of science; they will be required to debate each issue from multiple perspectives. Switch-side debating has repeatedly been shown to help individuals not only better understand their own beliefs, but also better understand the opposing side. In fact, years of using switch-side debating in the unique Big Questions format have proven that this project encourages students to become more open-minded on core questions. At a time when members of our society are becoming more and more wedded to their beliefs and cutting off discourse in the middle, Big Questions is teaching a generation of students that prosocial dialogue and continuous learning is important. More than just an educational experience for the students, these events have become a way to spur conversation amongst the adults who join as judges and spectators. The John Templeton Foundation’s generous support of Big Questions Debate will catalyze a self-sustaining debate event that will impact generations of young people.
During the grant period, the National Speech & Debate Association will track student and event participation numbers and locations to show the national reach of the Big Questions debates. Through a variety of strategically placed financial resources and free educational materials, this three year grant will expand Big Questions opportunities and find strategic partnerships to propel Big Questions forward for years to come.