At its basis, Lincoln-Douglas Debate will always be a debate about values. As someone that has taught students with a variety of different experience levels, from beginning freshmen to seniors receiving TOC bids, I make an effort to ensure that my debaters have a background in moral and political philosophy. Unquestionably, between both national circuit and local tournaments, philosophical debate is the most common style of argument. Further, the type of thinking that learning philosophy provides a student, from being able to break down ideas to their core assumptions, to learning how to look deeper and justify why they believe what they believe, is unparalleled in its impact on the mind of a young student.
When I was the coach at Byram Hills High School in New York, the reading I assigned for students over the summer was Professor Michael Sandel's Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do. This is an excellent, synthesizing text on some core theories in moral and political philosophy. For example, John Stuart Mill's theory of utilitarianism and Immanuel Kant's intention based theory of morality of deontology. What I love about this book is that the chapters are easy to read, while also providing condensed information similar to the way that the best debaters approach and think about debate. Further, nearly every chapter of the book denotes an essential concept for a Lincoln-Douglas debater, and it's better than the vast majority of summaries of work available online.
For further delving into Sandel's work, his class was recorded (also titled Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do) and is easily available on iTunes U or YouTube. For students who prefer watching a lecture over reading, this course is well edited and Sandel maintains his articulate, focused understanding of philosophy from his book into his lecture series. For summer reading or for a mid-season catch up, Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do is an excellent choice! The book is available at most bookstores in addition to online providers.
-Benjamin Koh, Director of NSD Philadelphia
Ben Koh is the Director of NSD Philadelphia which will take place from July 16-29 at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia. He debated for 4 years at Loyola High School in Los Angeles where he was the team captain his senior year. He was the Head LD Coach at Byram Hills High School for three years and now coaches privately. He has coached finalists at Scarsdale, Yale, the Penn Round Robin, and TOC as well as champions at Walt Whitman, the Ohio State Tournament, and NCFL Nationals. In his three years of coaching, he's coached 5 TOC outround appearances, 12 TOC qualifications, and TOC outround participants every year. He is also on the planning committee for the Texas Debate collective in addition to his role at NSD. For a more expansive bio: click here