Looking for amazing college debate topics
July 14, 2016 6:21 AM   Subscribe

I once participated in a Latke–Hamantash Debate that went incredibly well, head and shoulders above any other recreational debate I've done or attended. I want more!

I know the quality of a debate doesn't depend completely on the subject, and one thing that made this one so magical was the occasion and the sense of tradition and the combination of participants. But I would love to hear about other topics that, in your experience, have led to wonderful debates. They don't have to be entirely humorous, but they should not be about super-hot issues and they should be suitable for a social evening. Thanks!
posted by BibiRose to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I saw a good humorous debate back in the 90s on whether Grinnell College should act in loco parentis to its students. It worked well because there has been such a change over the decades and lots of good material on the positive and negative aspects of parenthood could be worked in by speakers for and against.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 6:38 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think the key is it should be two completely different things (with one commonality) that you can feel passionately about one way or the other, but with no stakes. So Dogs vs. Cats, Star Wars vs Star Trek, Santa Claus vs. The Easter Bunny.

For actual debates, look no farther than all the gems in this MeTa, especially this one: Is cereal soup?
posted by Mchelly at 6:57 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

You actually answered your own question: "the combination of participants". Even the most interesting subject will be a bore if your debaters lack personality and charisma, or if one is clearly better than the other. For an example, watch an episode of Firing Line with WFB and Christopher Hitchens, two guys who obviously enjoy what they're doing, and are good at it. Contrast that with the "debates" you see on contemporary cable news. It's not really a question of subject; good debaters can make any subject interesting. If they already know each other and get along well despite their differences, so much the better. It puts the debaters at ease, and the debate goes more like a conversation between friends than an argument.

Stay away from competitive debaters or mock trial types. In general, they're more interesting in the formal elements of the debate and in scoring points with the judges than entertaining or educating the audience. Instead, if possible, try to find people with a comedy background. Comedians have an easygoing demeanor and have a knack for blowing up absurdities in their opponents' arguments. This is what made the Daily Show so successful.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:48 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: CBC has The Debaters, which has lots and lots of topics like that. Cake vs. Pie! Laundry vs. Grocery Shopping! Are dinosaurs the greatest? Was Darth Vader a bad father? Monotheism vs. Polytheism! Is William Shatner Canada's Greatest Actor? Etc...
posted by clawsoon at 8:25 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding clawsoon's suggestion of The Debaters topics. Some that might work well for your purposes:
  • checked luggage vs carry-on only
  • texting vs old fashioned phone calls
  • buttons vs zippers
  • fork vs spoon
  • superpowers: invisibility vs flight
  • limericks vs haikus
  • mythical animals: dragons vs unicorns
  • bridges vs ferries
  • pigeons vs crows
  • rain vs snow
  • paper books vs e-books

posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:11 AM on July 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, yeah, the CBC ones are awesome!
posted by BibiRose at 5:02 AM on July 15, 2016

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