Academics and Research / Magazine Feature

The reward debate students receive: not up for debate

David Milavetz is the first to admit he’s always been a little argumentative, but the senior international studies major from West St. Paul, Minn., says he decided to do something constructive with his affection for dispute.

Milavetz joined the University of Denver’s debate team. Now competing in his fourth season, Milavetz says his time on the team has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things he’s done.

“It’s more fun than it sounds,” he says. “It makes things a lot easier; I can write a 20-page paper in a week now.”

“Debate does the equivalent of writing a master’s level thesis each year,” says Justin Eckstein, director of debate at DU. “The amount of research required is immense, but it teaches critical thinking. Students learn how to back up claims with data and test their ideas to the fullest extent.”

While Eckstein is now Milavetz’s coach, he was his teammate in 2007. The two competed at the National Debate Tournament; Eckstein was a senior who invited Milavetz to join him as his partner leading up to the National Debate Tournament.

“He’s been with me since day one,” Milavetz says. “I’ve learned a great deal from him.”

While DU’s team is in a rebuilding year, they held their own at the Idaho State tournament in October. The varsity team won three out of their six rounds and the junior varsity team won two of four rounds. The next tournament begins Jan. 2 at the University of California-Berkeley.

Part of the reason research and writing come so easy to DU debate team members is because they compete in tournaments in the Cross Examination Debate Association and National Debate Tournament.

Each year these organizations select a topic and debate teams across the country prepare both sides of an argument. For the 2009–10 calendar year, the topic is “Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reduce the size of its nuclear weapons arsenal, and/or substantially reduce and restrict the role and/or missions of its nuclear weapons arsenal.”

Dan Lair, assistant professor of human communication studies at DU, believes students who compete in debate gain immense research skills and an intangible education because of the breadth of material they investigate.

“They learn how the world works; they get a more holistic education,” Lair says. “The debate experience was the best part of my college education.”

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