Switch-Side Policy Debate Essay

Through switch-side policy debate I not only discuss a multitude of competing ideas, but also argue from both sides of widely disputed issues. By equipping me with Protagoras’ antilogic and Dissoi Logoi, switch-side policy debate has provided me with a forum to cultivate a diversity of intellectual perspectives that has informed my own intellectual growth.

I strive to give others the same opportunity for intellectual stimulation. Over the past two years, I have helped expand my debate team from a struggling club of 15 to a force of over 100 debaters, leading my team to place first in our debate league. As team President, I teach new debaters fundamentals in communication theory while facilitating formal and informal debates. Playing a dual role as instructor and competitor has allowed me to establish debate as a lasting forum for discussing ideas at my school.

The lessons I learned as both a leader and debater have helped me to succeed beyond my debate circles. Inside the classroom, I possess the openness to consider the views of others and the courage to voice my own opinions. Having been elected to student office four times, I have used these skills to sell my ideas to the student body and earn its vote. More importantly, debate has taught me how to transform these ideas into concrete actions. As the current ASB Vice President, I have used the managerial and communication skills I developed as a debater to spearhead a school wide sustainability campaign that spanned issues concerning water scarcity, ecology, and campus beautification.

Similarly, the lessons I learned in debate will be instrumental in my future work as an entrepreneur and engineer, both of which require the capacity to approach problems critically and clearly articulate complex ideas. Continuing to develop these skills will be crucial if I am to become a competitive member in the future marketplace of ideas.

(313 words)

Brief Notes and Analysis of this Essay

  1. This essay uses what I call the “firehose” approach. It’s a straightforward account of this student’s accomplishments and the lessons he has learned. Does it feel too braggy? Maybe, since culturally we sometimes recoil when folks too boldly or plainly state their achievements. But maybe not, as I really appreciate how he connects each accomplishment (“Having been elected to student office four times…”) to lessons he’s learned through debate (“…I have used these skills to sell my ideas to the student body and earn its vote”). 
  2. I also appreciate how this essay weaves together different parts of his application, describing both his role in the classroom and his work in student government. In this sense, debate ends up being a thematic thread that connects many parts of his life. 
  3. Also note that, while a few of the connections he makes are somewhat uncommon (e.g., debate taught him managerial skills and how to transform ideas into concrete actions), many of his values are somewhat common, like how debate has taught him courage and openness. And the essay works. One thing that I think prevents his essay from sounding cliché is the specificity of his language throughout the essay.