High school is one of the most pivotal times in a person’s life, bringing new challenges both academically and socially.

Children form their core beliefs, opinions, and values at this age and work out where they stand on major political issues and discussions. As such, it’s an excellent time for them to learn about other people’s opinions to gain a whole outlook on society.

That’s why we believe that debating is a great tool to introduce at this age. It allows the students to practice vocalizing their opinions and learning to argue and solidify their position constructively and respectfully. It also allows them to be exposed to alternative mindsets, which will help them to fully understand their argument in the sense of how it applies to others. This ability to question their beliefs will make society more tolerant in the future, as it will encourage open, honest conversations that will promote change.

This article will provide an insightful look into the many topics you could challenge your class to debate.

Education resources


Why high school students should debate

There are many benefits to incorporating debating activities into your lesson plans. Below is a list of some of these:

  • Improves communication
  • Improves persuasion and argumentative skills – which is suitable for tests and long answers
  • Helps with regulating emotions – it will teach students to remain level-headed even when they disagree with someone
  • It teaches them to stand up for their beliefs
  • It teaches them to respect different beliefs
  • It exposes them to different mindsets and gives them a broader perspective on life
  • It encourages them to be open and honest, which they can take with them in the future and utilize in their careers and relationships

High school debate topics you can use in your lessons

You could use many topics in your class for your students to debate. Below is a variety of categories and appropriate debate topics for your students. These should be presented as statements; the student’s job is to decide their personal opinions and debate these with their peers.

School and education debate topics

  • Final exams should be abolished
  • It’s better to be good at academics than to be good at sports
  • Students should have to wear school uniforms
  • Private schools are better than public schools
  • Year-round school is better for students
  • Every student should have to participate in athletics
  • All students should be required to volunteer in their communities
  • Junk food should be banned from school cafeterias
  • Single-gender schools are better for students
  • Math is the most critical subject
  • Letter grades should be abolished
  • People who get better grades will be more successful
  • Sometimes it’s okay to cheat on homework or a test
  • Students should be allowed to grade teachers
  • The school day should be shorter
  • Schools should eliminate dress codes
  • Everyone should be required to go to college
  • College should be free for everyone who wants to attend
  • Schools should be allowed to ban some books from their libraries
  • Religion has no place in schools
  • Life skills like cooking or personal finance should be taught in schools
  • Book smarts are better than street smarts
  • Students who fail a test should be given a chance to take it again
  • Discipline is the biggest problem facing schools today

Life and ethics debate topics

  • Girls face more peer pressure than boys
  • The voting age should be lowered to 16
  • Humans should not eat animals
  • Democracy is the best form of government
  • All Americans should be required to vote
  • Cigarette smoking and vaping should be banned entirely
  • Giving is better than receiving
  • Parents should be punished for their children’s mistakes
  • Animals should not be kept in cages
  • Happiness is more important than success
  • The drinking age should be lowered to 18
  • Plastic bottles should be banned
  • People should have to take a parenting class before having a child
  • If you find money on the ground, it’s automatically yours to keep
  • It is better to be kind than to be truthful
  • Learning about history can stop us from repeating past mistakes
  • It’s essential to spend money exploring space
  • While-collar jobs are better than blue-collar jobs
  • The death penalty should be abolished
  • Drug addicts should receive help instead of punishment
  • Euthanasia should be legal
  • Human cloning should be legal
  • A progressive income tax is better than a flat tax
  • Supreme court judges should be appointed for fixed terms
  • Vaccines should be mandatory
  • We should ban the use of fossil fuels
  • Marijuana should be legal everywhere
  • All drugs should be legalized, regulated, and taxed, like alcohol
  • Nuclear weapons should be banned worldwide
  • Police force funding should be redirected to social services
  • Religion does more harm than good
  • Healthcare should be universal
  • Gun safety laws infringe on the second amendment
  • Anyone over 12 should be tried as an adult in court
  • American footballers are paid too much money

Entertainment and technology debate topics

  • Reality television depicts real life
  • Schools should allow students to use phones in class
  • Macs are better than PCs
  • Androids are better than iPhones
  • Social media is making us less social
  • Social media does more harm than good
  • Video games are better than board games
  • Video gaming is a sport
  • Reading books is better than watching TV
  • We should replace all paper documents with electronic ones
  • The book is always better than the movie
  • Parents should use their kid’s cell phones to track where they are
  • Scientists should try to develop a way for everyone to live forever
  • Paper books are better than e-books
  • Schools should have surveillance cameras in classrooms and hallways
  • All museums and zoos should be accessible to everyone
  • There is intelligent life on other planets
  • People rely too much on technology these days
  • Everyone should play on the same sports team, regardless of gender
  • Net neutrality should be mandatory for internet service providers
  • Expand use of artificial intelligence will be good for humanity
  • Technology is creating more jobs than it eliminates
  • The United States should provide free internet access for everyone
  • Cryptocurrencies should replace cash

Environmental debate topics

  • Climate change is already irreversible
  • We should ban plastic bags and packaging
  • Genetically modified foods are a viable solution
  • There should be more national parks in the United States
  • All people should become vegetarian
  • Live animal exports are not ethically acceptable
  • Zoos should be shut down
  • Scientific testing on animals should be banned
  • We should invest in more green energy

Parenting debate topics

  • Children should not be able to use smartphones without parental supervision
  • Teenage girls should be able to have access to birth control without parental supervision
  • Parents should not decide what career their child will pursue
  • Gay couples should be able to adopt children
  • Parental support is essential for the future success of children
  • Parental supervision is different from parental control
  • Parents should control their children’s activities on social media
  • It is not ethical for parents to pick the genders of their future children
  • We should fine parents when their children don’t do their homework
  • Parents are to blame for crimes committed by their children

Leisure debate topics

  • A summer vacation is better than a winter vacation
  • Social media has taken over our leisure time
  • Women spend their leisure time differently than men
  • Leisure time is essential for productivity in the workplace
  • Daily leisure time can not be a substitute for a yearly vacation
  • Technology has changed the way young people spend their leisure time
  • It’s good to encourage teenagers to read books
  • Work-life balance has changed due to the advent of technology

Fun & funny debate topics

  • Dogs are better than cats
  • Summer is better than winter
  • Pepperoni is the best pizza topping
  • Clowns are more scary than funny
  • Modern music is better than classical music
  • It would be better to be able to fly than to be able to turn invisible
  • Captain America is better than Iron Man
  • The ’80s had the best music
  • Pluto should still be considered a planet
  • We should allow people to go barefoot anywhere if they want to
  • Fiction is better than non-fiction
  • The Harry Potter series is better than the Lord of the Rings series
  • People shouldn’t have to go to school or work on their birthdays
  • Basketball is better than football
  • Stephen Curry is a better basketball player than Lebron James

How can you use these topics in your class?

If you’re thinking of introducing debate activities to your class, there are many ways you can do this to benefit your students. Some of these are:

  • Debate teams – divide the class into teams and give them a statement to argue. Assign for/agree to one team and against/disagree with the other. Allocate them time to plan and prep their arguments as a group before discussing and debating with the other students in the class.
  • Model UN – these are excellent practice debate runs and allow students to debate real political issues. It also allows them to gain a more comprehensive knowledge of the world and see societal issues through the eyes of someone in a different situation.
  • Written debate – students discuss both sides of an argument in their written work.
  • Mock trial – you can create your mock trial to allow students to debate in an environment they feel comfortable in.

Debating is a great way to encourage different opinions and will teach your students how to communicate and articulate their thoughts clearly. This is a great skill to have in education – for example, when answering questions on exams – and in life when forming new relationships. Being open to listening and understanding different opinions and having excellent communication skills is very useful.