Why We Thrive On Debate

Ashwin Prabaharan ’26

Opinions Editor

America finds itself at a critical juncture as the political scene continues to polarize people farther apart. But also being lost in this wide gap of political commonality is the willingness to engage in fruitful and civil debates with those who hold opposing views and perspectives. How many of us have seen discussions or conversations in person or online devolve into shouting matches, and the topic often being politically or socially charged? It seems unreasonable, irrational, and even upsetting to see friends and colleagues tear each other down with vindictive arguments without appropriately considering the merits of such a debate. College campuses are not immune to this, and are often considered a prime sanctuary of protected or restricted forums of debate. 

Debate offers us a chance to understand any opposition to our beliefs and views, and to articulate it in a manner that primarily considers the merit of such an opposing argument. Our ability to rationalize and therefore grasp those arguments allows us to reconsider our own views, whether we hold them on logical and proper grounds or simply because we were told so. In this way, we enhance our own functionality and understanding of the environment around us without necessarily ceding ground on the invalidity of our beliefs. History, through numerous other factors, also credits its creation to the debates and discussions held by many interested groups, from the suffragettes of the Seneca Falls Convention to the Framers who crammed themselves in the old Philadelphia State House to draft our national Constitution. But today, we need debates more than ever.

Specifically, college campuses would benefit from such vigorous and spirited debate today more than ever before. Echo chambers often become the byproducts of college campuses when considering the topics and debaters of such a forum. Diversity in opinion and perspective needs to be valued especially in an environment designed to challenge and enhance the convictions of its people. Campuses ought to be breeding grounds for thoughtful and merit-based debate that invites those from all sides of a topic. Then only can they claim to have meaningfully prepared their students for the real world, a venue often unwelcoming for those afraid to be challenged or fight back for their convictions. These debates expect respect, civility, merit, rationale, and challenge. We can truly learn more about ourselves and our world through it, and I believe those unwilling to engage in such a forum are leaving themselves exposed to so many more obstacles in the real world, often more damaging, than they would otherwise face on their campus. 

I encourage anyone reading this to seek out challenges to your thoughts, opinions, and perspectives. Learn what the rationale is behind opposing views, and trust that your opponent is not your enemy, but rather someone you ought to engage for your own benefit. Holy Cross has graduated brilliant men and women over its 180 years, but our social climate today could prove to be detrimental to how we are prepared to engage with the world outside of our gates. We need diversity in opinions, guest speakers, lecturers, engagements, and events, not any less of it. The diversity that comes not only in terms of ideology, but background, experience, and association. We need to be less afraid of ideological adversity and challenges. Instead, we need to send it a Google Calendar invite to come on to our campus.

Featured image courtesy of NPR

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