This section is broken down into three topics: 1) Arguing For and Against a Proposition; 2) Ethics and Evidence; 3) Debating.

Glossary items, student activities, and teacher resources deal with how to structure and support arguments for and against a particular action or judgment, how to judge and use evidence responsibly, and how to prepare for an actual debate.

The learning goals and objectives for each topic have been adapted from the Illinois Learning Standards for the Language Arts, which were adopted in 1997 (visit for more information). These standards are easily adaptable to learning standards in other states.

Language Arts Goals

  • Locate, organize, and use information from various sources to answer questions, solve problems and communicate ideas.
  • Analyze and evaluate information acquired from various sources.
  • Apply required information, concepts and ideas to communicate in a variety of formats

Arguing For and Against a Proposition

Analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating. These higher-order thinking skills are the crux of debate whether one is arguing for or against a particular proposition. In order to build these skills, students can:

  • Evaluate the usefulness of the information, synthesize information to support a proposition, and present information in a logical manner in oral and written form.
  • Prepare for and participate in formal debates.
  • Organize and integrate information from a variety of sources.

Ethics and Evidence

Is there a responsible way to judge evidence? Is there a responsible way to use evidence? Why do such questions even matter? With access to information growing ever greater, students need the skills that will allow them to wade through what is useful and what is useless, what is sound and what is questionable, what is responsible and what is irresponsible. As students prepare themselves for formal and informal debate, they can:

  • Determine the accuracy, currency and reliability of materials from various sources.
  • Cite sources used.
  • Identify, evaluate and cite primary sources.


Whether or not presidential debates qualify as actual debates, they say much about the need for effective communication, strategies for developing an argument, and concentration. Against the backdrop of the presidential debates, students can:

  • Use verbal and nonverbal strategies to maintain communication and to resolve individual, group, and workplace, conflict.
  • Prepare for and participate in formal debates.