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Controversial Debating Topics

Updated April 17, 2017

Debate topics that generate controversy can be broken into a few categories. There are issues that can be argued on state or national level. Then there are questions that pertain to local rules and government. Third, there are issues that address our core beliefs and go beyond government, such as issues that divide religions and philosophies. Many subjects can present themselves in all three categories.

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National and State Debates

State and national issues are those that society tries to address in the broader sense. Abortion, whether it should be freely available or limited or abolished, is an issue that inspires passions on both sides. Other issues include immigration policies, the death penalty, war, welfare policies, Social Security, Medicare, taxation, health care laws, drug laws, prison policies, criminal justice, international relations, national security, privacy standards, campaign finance rules, racism, the rights of victims versus the rights of the accused, the place for gay people in society, freedom of speech, government transparency, climate and other ecological policy, energy policy, smoking rules, the role of God in government and school, education and restrictions to personal freedoms.

Local Debates

On a more local level, controversial debates tend to centre on issues that affect neighbourhoods and communities. Traffic enforcement can be a hot topic, such as whether a community employs cameras to catch speeders or red-light runners. Other subjects include land-use laws, parking rules, police interaction with the public, favouritism in local government, government priorities, business regulations, local education policies and racism.

The Personal Debates

Some issues do not easily find solutions in a government setting, but the debates can be controversial as well. Evolution has sparked many a debate, and most notably, goes public when it involves how schools teach the history of the Earth. Whether schools were involved or not, the debate would exist. Another issue that can be controversial is human sexuality, because people will differ on when, where and with whom sex is appropriate. Other issues include the importance of religion, sports, arts and other societal ingredients.

Subjects for Students

Students can learn to debate using questions that do not typically come up in public arguments, but can be personally controversial as well. Questions such as whether television should be avoided, or whether breakfast really is the most important meal of the day can inspire a little passion. Other subjects can include whether students should be required to wear uniforms, whether males or females are better students and whether there should be mandatory drug testing at school or in the workplace.

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About the Author

Steven Gardner's journalism career began in 1987. Now reporting for the "Kitsap Sun," he has also contributed to "The Columbian," "The (Provo) Daily Herald," "Deseret News" and the "Salt Lake Tribune." Gardner earned his B.A. in journalism from Brigham Young University.

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