The Big Questions Debates will create a public forum to disseminate research on Big Questions through competitive debates involving high school students. We seek to create, administer, and promote a national high school debate contest that centers on a Big Question and is accessible to the public in style and format. Unlike academic debates, competitive debates force student participants to research and advance both sides of a controversial issue.

Defending both sides of an issue demands that students become well-versed in the entire body of literature and that students both understand the complexity of an issue and critically examine their own beliefs on an issue. We request support to begin a planning phase of this effort that will immediately result in a proposal that will implement a nationwide series of Big Questions Debates.

The planning phase will identify the specific questions to be asked in the debates, confirm the format, strengthen the necessary internal and external relationships, create the resources needed for students, judges, audience members, and build the assessment models that will allow the project to be measured and evaluated. The planning phase will last approximately ten months and allow our staff to consult with experts, similar organizations, and stakeholders within our organization to ensure that the contest is successful. This planning phase will also establish the logistical, administrative, and budgetary needs of a national contest that would appeal to the widest possible audience. During this phase, our team will be focused on creating a contest that meaningfully engages students in critical examination of deeply held beliefs, provides audiences with an opportunity to be involved in Big Questions, and creates a sustainable series of debates that will extend far into the future.