Tapestry of Faith: A Place of Wholeness: A Program for Youth Exploring Their Own Unitarian Universalist Faith Journeys

Faith In Action: Reasoned Debate

Materials for Activity

  • Handout 2, Debate Preparation Steps, for all participants
  • Research resources - the church library, computers with Internet access, etc.

Preparation for Activity

  • Decide how much time you wish to devote to this activity. Participants can prepare for debate using only resources you have on hand or they could research the topic in advance of the workshop.

Description of Activity

One definition of reason is "the faculty or power of acquiring intellectual knowledge... by argument" (Dictionary.com). Therefore, one way of putting faith in action is by acquiring knowledge and engaging in reasoned debate. Explain that participants will practice using their reason to reach a conclusion and then put it into practice through debate. Remind them that this practice requires keeping an open mind to listen and learn, as well as bringing their own knowledge and experiences to bear.

The issue to be debated is: the death penalty.

Divide participants into two teams, and assign debate arguments to each team: the first argues for the death penalty in some situations and the second argues against the death penalty in all situations. Remind everyone that they may need to put their personal opinions aside and argue as strongly as possible for their team's position.

Distribute Handout 2, Debate Preparation Steps. Ask for volunteers to read the steps aloud.

Then give the teams 30 minutes to prepare for the debate if only using the resources on hand. If you wish to give participants longer to prepare their case, encourage youth to take the materials home, confer with their teammates, and be ready to debate during your next meeting.

After 30 minutes, gather the teams back together and ask each team spokesperson to share their three-minute argument.

After each team has had a chance to speak, ask for clarifying questions. Make sure that participants understand that this is not a time to offer responses.

After clarifying questions, give the teams 15 minutes to meet again to develop responses to the other team. Then do a go-around again, giving each team a chance to offer their response. After this round is over, thank everyone for engaging in reasoned debate.

Lead a short discussion with the following reflection questions:

  • What was your team's process like?
  • When you heard the other team's arguments, did it affect your reasoning?
  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • Optional topic: If debating the death penalty seems to emotionally difficult, substitute a less difficult topic, such as the case for and against childhood immunizations or whether cell phones should be allowed in schools.