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Controversial Debate Topics To Engage Your Students

Debate topics can be discussed in the classroom to expand your student’s thinking and bring awareness to the world around them.

It can aid them in exploring their viewpoints in a safe environment and listening to and understanding the opinions of their peers.

Controversial Debate Topics To Engage Your Students

It can also help to develop their critical thinking skills.

If you are keen to introduce controversial debate topics to your class, we’ve included some ideas for you below.

These are largely suited to middle school and high school students, but you can adapt some of these controversial topics for younger students.

Let’s get into it.

1. Climate Change Solutions

Climate solutions can be a good way to introduce your students to debate topics. You can adapt this topic to middle schoolers or opt for more challenging topics for high school students. We’ve included some ideas below:

  • Is the Green New Deal a viable solution to combat climate change?
  • Should governments prioritize economic growth over strict environmental regulations?
  • Discuss the importance of preserving natural habitats for endangered species
  • Should plastic products be entirely banned to protect the environment?

2. Technology And Privacy

As regular users of technology, many students will have strong opinions about debate topics related to tech and IT. Below are some questions you can post to middle school or high school students:

  • Should governments be allowed to access private encrypted communications to ensure national security?
  • Does our society rely too heavily on technology?
  • Does technology affect the laziness of humans?
  • Should cryptocurrencies be recognized and regulated as official currencies?

3. Healthcare Systems

Below is a selection of healthcare debates for high school students to consider:

  • Is universal healthcare a right or a privilege?
  • Should vaccination be mandatory for all citizens?
  • Should the government tax unhealthy food?
  • Do prisoners receive adequate healthcare?
  • Should alternative medicine practices be given the same legitimacy as traditional medicine?
  • Do pharmaceutical companies suppress alternative medicines because they can’t profit from them?

4. Education

Students will often have strong opinions about education, so this is a good topic to pose to your class:

  • Should university education be free for everyone?
  • Is standardized testing effective in measuring student’s abilities and school quality?
  • Should students be required to wear school uniforms?
  • Should all students be given laptops for their studies?
  • Is online schooling a better option for students?
  • Should the school week be shortened to four days?
  • Is it ever acceptable to cheat on a test?
  • Should homework be banned?
  • Should all school fees be scrapped?

5. Economic Policies

Below are some ideas for economic policy debates:

  • Should there be a universal basic income for all citizens?
  • Are high taxes on the wealthy beneficial or detrimental to the economy?

6. Social Issues

Social issues can be an effective topic to engage students – we’ve included some ideas below:

  • Is the legalization of recreational drugs beneficial for society?
  • Should there be legal restrictions on hate speech?
  • Should the drinking age be lowered?
  • Should all citizens be required to vote?
  • Should the voting age be lowered?

7. Global Politics

Global politics debate topics help students widen their awareness – here are a few topic ideas:

  • Should countries prioritize their own interests over international cooperation?
  • Is intervention in another country’s internal conflicts justifiable?
  • Is world peace ever a possibility?
  • Should nuclear weapons be banned?

8. Justice And Punishment

Justice and punishment can be heavy topics, but the below are suitable for high school students and bring their attention to issues they perhaps wouldn’t generally consider.

  • Should the death penalty be abolished worldwide?
  • Is a life sentence without the possibility of parole a more humane alternative to the death penalty?

9. Bioethical Concerns

Below are some bioethical debate topics geared toward high school students:

  • Should genetic engineering on humans be allowed for non-medical reasons?
  • Is it ethical to use animals in medical research?
Controversial Debate Topics To Engage Your Students

10. Native Rights, Cultural And Social Norms

Students will be surrounded by cultural and social norms without realizing it, so debating the topic can help them become more aware:

  • Should cultural traditions be respected even if they conflict with modern values?
  • Do individuals have an obligation to stand up against societal norms they believe are wrong?
  • Does society have an unhealthy relationship with body image and dieting?
  • Is it ever acceptable for one culture to adopt elements from another culture?
  • Where is the line between appreciation and appropriation?
  • Should lands be returned to indigenous groups from whom they were taken?
  • Should controversial historical monuments (e.g., those of figures associated with colonialism or racism) be removed from public spaces?

11. Artificial Intelligence And Ethics

AI is on the rise and provides a relevant debate topic for students:

  • Should there be a limit to the development of artificial general intelligence?
  • Can machines ever possess rights similar to human rights?
  • Can AI be used to better civilization?

12. Migration And Borders

Migration can be a difficult subject for students to discuss, so doing so in a safe environment can help them express their views:

  • Should there be open borders between countries?
  • Is the concept of sanctuary cities, which protect undocumented immigrants, justifiable?
  • Should immigration laws be relaxed?

13. Religion In Schools

Below are three religious topics to debate with middle school or high school students:

  • Should religious practices, like prayer, be allowed in public schools?
  • Does religion have a place in modern schools?
  • Should religious symbols be displayed in public institutions?

14. Media And Influence

Growing up in an age of social media and influencers doesn’t come without its problems, so this is an important debate topic for students:

  • Is the media responsible for promoting negative body images?
  • Should there be stricter regulations on the portrayal of violence in entertainment?
  • Does social media affect mental health?
  • Should companies like Facebook or Google be regulated in how they use and sell user data?
  • Should there be age restrictions on accessing social media platforms?
  • Is the current generation’s dependence on technology detrimental to their mental health?
  • Should there be age restrictions on accessing social media platforms?
  • Is the current generation’s dependence on technology detrimental to their mental health?

15. Euthanasia And The Right To Die

Euthanasia is a classic debate topic to pose to students – here are a few ideas.

  • Should individuals have the right to choose euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide?
  • Can there ever be a clear line between a right to die and potential abuse?
  • If suffering animals are euthanized, is it cruel to not offer the same to humans?

16. Animal Rights

Your students may have strong opinions about animals and animal rights, making this an excellent debate topic:

  • Should animals have rights equivalent to human rights?
  • Is it ethical to consume animals for food?
  • Should all animal testing be banned?

17. Gender And Society

Students are highly engaged by topics around gender and society and will throw themselves into debates on this:

  • Is gender a social construct or a biological reality?
  • Should there be more than two gender categories on official documents?
  • Should gender-specific public bathrooms be abolished?

18. Space Exploration

Space debate topics are great for middle school and high school students – here are a few ideas to engage your class:

  • Should governments prioritize the colonization of other planets?
  • Is it ethical to exploit resources from other planets or moons?
  • Is it ethical to send one-way missions to other planets with no plan for the astronauts’ return?
  • Should we prioritize finding another habitable planet or focus on fixing the problems on Earth?

19. Internet Regulation

Students, as heavy internet users, will be engaged in debating topics surrounding internet regulation. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Should the internet be considered a basic human right?
  • Is net neutrality essential for a fair and open internet?

20. Gun Control

With the impact on schools of gun ownership, students will have strong opinions on the topic:

  • Should there be stricter gun control regulations?
  • Do individuals have an inherent right to bear arms for self-defense?

21. Childhood And Parenting

Below are three questions to pose to your students about childhood and parenting:

  • Should parents have the right to choose not to vaccinate their children?
  • Is there a line between parental discipline and abuse?
  • Is surrogacy an ethical way for individuals to have children?
Controversial Debate Topics To Engage Your Students

22. Sports

Students will find it easy to engage with debate topics surrounding sports – here are a few suggestions to pose to your class:

  • Should performance-enhancing drugs be allowed in professional sports?
  • Are contact sports, like American football, ethical, given the potential for long-term health issues?

23. Censorship

Below are ideas for censorship topic debates for your students:

  • Is censorship ever justified in a democratic society?
  • Should books with potentially offensive content be banned or restricted in schools?

24. Corporate Social Responsibility

The topics below are suited for high school students to discuss corporate social responsibility:

  • Should corporations be mandated to allocate a portion of their profits to social causes?
  • Are companies genuinely interested in social change, or is it just for public relations?

25. Food Production And Ethics

Here are two debate topic ideas on food production and ethics to pose to your students:

  • Should lab-grown meat replace traditional animal farming?
  • Do consumers have a moral obligation to buy products from sustainable sources?

In Summary

Learning to debate difficult topics in a controlled manner is an important skill for children to learn.

Engaging students in meaningful discussions is an effective way to enhance critical thinking skills and expose them to various perspectives. Controversial debate topics can serve as a powerful tool for this purpose.

When selecting a topic, teachers should ensure it is appropriate for the age and maturity level of their students.

The aim is to promote constructive debate and allow students to express and defend their views while also respecting the opinions of others.

Simon Lewis

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