Debate is as old as ancient Greece and is still relevant today. Debate is a useful teaching tool to have students practice public speaking, critical thinking, and research skills. Especially when debates are organized as opposing groups, rather than pairs, students are able to demonstrate their personal strengths while moving towards the same goal. As educators, debate can be a long project or a one-time activity depending on the subject and the curriculum arrangement.
When planning your lesson involving debate it’s possible to get creative with what you want the students to get out of the experience. Learning new vocabulary and research practice are reasonable objectives but also consider empathy building or gaining cultural perspective. Using debate could be a way of teaching about cultural perspective. Although debate itself comes from a specific worldview, the topics debated can take into account other cultural perspectives by assigning the teams specific values or beliefs that they need to “act” out while debating.
I definitely recommend that sexual health topics are debated in groups, preferably large groups. It’s easy enough to divide the class in half. With sensitive topics, it’s probably not a good idea to expect students to publicly express their personal opinion on a controversial topic. To avoid discomfort, assign the students to a position that you determine, rather than ask them to define their own. This also will allow you to determine which concepts you want them to better flesh out and understand.
Once the teams are established, each needs time to research their argument. This could be an overnight assignment, a week, or even just a few minutes. Have students understand both sides so they can defend the opposing team
You can make the debate very structured with time limits and scoring but keeping aligned with sex education objectives, it might be more effective to have a loose back-and-forth between sides. Although maintaining a level of competition can be a way of keeping the class engaged. In conclusion you could have students discuss possible solutions that would accommodate both sides of an issue and follow up with individual essay assignment that gives each participant to express their personal feelings and what they learned.
Before a debate would be a good time to remind students of the classroom guidelines and think of some new rules that can be instated for this particular exercise. Not only are ground rules important for creating a manageable classroom, it creates a safe space where learning can happen freely and students can engage with the material without fear of unanticipated limits. A few ground rules that should be emphasized during debate are:
- -Raise hand to speak/ No interrupting
- -No personal attacks
- -Acknowledge and praise each other’s work
- -Give full effort to your position no matter personal preference
Topics in Sexuality Education for Debate
When choosing the topics that your students will be debating, it’s important to keep in mind the general atmosphere of the class. If the students (and administration) are open to discussing difficult topics then push your students to think about those. If your students (or administration) are slow to open up about sexuality issues, start small so they can gain confidence in this technique. Always be up to date with current issues around sexuality and bring them into the classroom. This is an easy way to keep students engaged with current events.
Possible topics for debate in a sex education setting might be
- Should abortion be legal without restrictions?
- Is it necessary to have laws mandating condom use in pornography?
- Should babies born with ambiguous genitals be surgically modified to an assigned gender?
- Is sex education in schools necessary?
- Should schools provide free barrier contraception?