Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Debate activities hold an important position in most college and university extracurricular activity programs. Debate is an activity which involves an extensive amount of work and time on the part of both the participants and the faculty. Some teachers feel that the time spent on debate activities is excessive in terms of the educational value received by the student. Writers in the field of speech have frequently discussed the value of debate to the college student. For example, The proponents of debate tell us that it is an admirable form of speech activity for training students to think clearly and quickly, to collect and sift facts, to acquire poise and adaptability in public speaking, and to achieve ease and power in talking to an audience. Those of who feel that debating as it now exists in some places is a dangerous and often anti-social form of activity, point out that debate tends to develop in students an attitude of exhibitionism, to foster glibness and insincerity, and to put undue stress upon the element of competition and the desire to win at all costs. Either one of these sets of things may happen and anyone who has had any experience with the student debate must be aware that at times each has happened. To some of us, it seems, however, that from debating as conducted at present, the undesirable results are more likely to occur than the desirable. Other writers reach a quite different conclusion. The example that follows is representative if those who believe that the value of debate outweighs its limitations. The greatest number of sponsors if Pi Kappa Delta Chapters reported the belief that the following possible effects of debate training and experience were observed as being generally true: aids in personality development, provides recreational opportunities, develops respect for the opinions of others, increases knowledge of the use of the library, increases self-confidence, develops a broad knowledge of numerous subjects, increases ability to distinguish between the important, and the unimportant, prepares students to accept leadership, increases the use of reason rather than emotion, promotes effective speech habits, heightens ability to think clearly and rapidly, develops methodical reasoning, develops the ability to weigh evidence without prejudice, and focuses diffuse knowledge and information. The greatest number of sponsors of Pi Kappa Delta Chapters reported the belief that the following possible effects of debate training and experience were observed as being seldom true: develops a contentious nature, increases frustrations and tensions, develops insincerity, causes appeals to intolerance, debate becomes an exercise in sophistry, promotes dishonesty, influences debaters to listen for arguments that can be altered or misrepresented, provides opportunities to use persuasion to injurious limits, encourages speakers to debate on what they believe to be the wrong side of the question, and stereotypes the individual as an “intellectual”. Such comments as the two above have made primarily by debate coaches and teachers in the field of speech. It appears that no serious attempt has been made to gather student opinion on this controversy. A search of pertinent literature suggests that only a few studies dealing with student opinion on this question, such as Braden’s, have been completed. Thus, the objective of this study was to secure the opinions of former college debate students concerning the values and limitations of debate. The major question was, what benefits, if any, have graduates of South Dakota State College received from their participation in a college debate program?

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Debates and debating -- South Dakota
College students -- South Dakota -- Attitudes


Includes bibliographical references



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University