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Spinoff from the Public Speaking thread - At what age(s) do your dc begin Debate?

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I have noticed that several of you have recommended the National Christian Forensics and Communicators Association for Debate.


I've just become aware of a group near me, and so far they've pointed me to the NCFCA website. But I would like to hear from some WTM boardies as to what has worked with your families.


At what age did your dc begin participating in this activity?


Did your dc have any informal and/or formal logic under their belts before they began debate?


And what book(s) can you recommend for those just starting out?


The group near me has indicated that they meet from 2 to 3 hours per week, and that there is a "significant" time requirement needed for prep work for tournaments.


I guess my initial reaction is that it might be a tad early for my rising 8th graders (13yo boys) to get involved with this. They will work through Traditional Logic I this next year, and most likely won't do TL II until 9th grade. They'll also have quite a time commitment with CW - Diogenes, which includes some beginning Rhetoric work.


Dh and I had no experience with debate when coming through school and don't know if it is best to get your feet wet while still in middle school, or if waiting until high school would be a better plan.



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My son started at 16. Some of the kids his age had already been doing it for several years, so he felt a little behind. On the other hand, the 12 year olds struggled some. So, I think probably 13 or 14 would be a perfect age. If they are not ready for debate, doing some speech would be a great start.

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It was my son's first year, and he was in 10th grade. He had completed TL I & II, and Material Logic by then.


Our club was an NCFCA one, and the time commitment was significant. It ended up being a lot more than what they told us at the beginning of the year. He struggled in the beginning but really showed improvement throughout the year. I'm really glad for the experience for him, but, again, it was a BIG commitment.


I think 9th grade would be a good time to start. A lot of the kids in our club who started in 7th grade (through a different club) were really burned out by their senior year.

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You commit what you can commit. Take the first year to learn the basics and if there is a group or club nearby with which they can begin practicing the new skills, try it. But just always make clear what you're comfortable committing to and what you're not.

Just because you join a club doesn't mean you have to do 12 tournaments that year. Start slow - let them observe - they'll catch the vision for it by observing.


Then, it is likely, they'll want to MAKE time for debate.


Go to Monument Publishing. They sell a lot of the debate teaching materials. Actually, that is speechsupplies.com, I believe.

And at the NCFCA site there's a page with resources listed.


They do not need to have studied logic beforehand, but it will certainly help them. Any previous knowledge of world politics, government, economics helps, but is not necessary. Believe me they'll learn as they go and when they take those actual courses, they'll be strengthened AS they debate each successive year.


I hope some of this helps. I can confidently, honestly say I am so very thankful that my kids have been involved in debate. It has taught them so very much (critical thinking, research skills, listening and notetaking skills, writing and organizing) and they have made friends from all over the country.

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just as I was about to hit send, dh's laptop decided to HIBERNATE for the night! Lucky for you, you get the short version. :)


I coach team policy debate locally and have been involved with NCFCA for about 4 years. My dc began debating at 12 and 13. Starting at 12 is a bit young for most, but by 13 most kids are ready. And the *starting age* has pros and cons. The middle-schoolers tend to have more time to devote to reading, research and practice but have a steeper learning curve. Conversely, high schoolers typically have heavier academic loads and extracurricular commitments and therefore, less time for debate, but they also tend to have an easier time learning debate theory and practice.


My rising 11th grader no longer has time for speech and debate this year due to his academic load (and volunteer work, sport and lawn work) so I'm really glad he started young and got in 4 years.


My kids had no formal logic when they started debate. But debate has been invaluable in teaching them how to reason, discern, analyze, think on their feet and look at an issue widely, deeply and from mutiple perspectives. Formal logic is certainly a helpful companion in teaching students to break down and analyze issues/statements.


Re: time commitments. That really depends on the requirements of your local club. If participation in NCFCA competition is required, the time and expense will be greater. We allow our families to choose their commitment level, but the minimum includes class/club meetings, reading the text, lots of research, and participation in at least our practice tournament. My kids spend at least 1 hour a day on debate (outside of class) but this balloons to every spare minute (!) when they are preparing for a tournament. And when they've been away at a tournament, they have lots of math/science/lit/everything else that they have to come back and hit hard. But, given your flexibility, you can certainly adjust your dc's schedules as needed when needed.


One last suggestion: one thing that's worked well for my dc is to start with a year of speech and *audit* the debate class working as a timer. As a timer, they will be able to watch and learn all year long and will be well-prepared if you want to wait another year to actually start debating. They can also go to tournaments as a timer.


HTH! I'm happy to answer any other questions. Debate has been hands down the single best extracurricular activity my dc have done (so far). I have a huge, growing list of character and academic skills that debate develops. Big fan. Highly recommend it. :D



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