Tips for High School Debate Topics to Engage Students

Debate topics are a universal language. You can debate over anything, from politics to pop culture. Debate topics also help students develop their critical thinking skills and hone their background knowledge on the topic before they talk in-depth about it to others. 

To keep students engaged, schools across the nation have put together new debate topics that are pertinent and demand analysis that they might not find in other past debates. 

Here are some tips for high school debate topics to engage students, whether you’re a teacher looking for methods to keep your students’ attention or a student who wants to look at more interesting topics instead of the typical fare:

Politics and Current Events most demanding Debate Topics

Teachers should consider politics and current events sources of high school debate topics. There’s always something going on that forces people to think about issues in the news and their everyday lives. In addition, elections have become increasingly important, so allow students to get involved in learning the latest debates on a local or national level.

Even if students aren’t politically active, they can focus on how the current political discussion has shaped their position on a particular issue. Debate clubs can even hold mock political conventions to mimic how a real party convention works before elections in the fall.

Media Discourse and Technology

The media discourse is another area where students can find high school debate topics that interest them. The media informs them of current events and spurs discussions on social issues that people are too worried about or scared to voice themselves. Examples include whether people should be allowed to use cell phones in restaurants or if there should be a law against texting while driving.

This debate topic can stir up arguments for and against a certain topic because it’s so personal, and teachers have the perfect opportunity to get students talking about social issues they might normally shy away from.

Sociology and Social Issues Debate Topics

Whether it’s poverty or legalizing marijuana, students at high school can debate social issues on any number of topics. Socio-economic class is a common topic in high school that allows students to think about why they do what they do and how society influences their lives.

It also forces them to get involved in other real-life topics such as hunger, global warming, and homelessness. While many Americans fear being labeled liberal or conservative, these debates are still rewarding because there’s no right or wrong answer to any of the questions. 


Another high school debate topic that students should consider is Immigration. Before they even consider a career, students can debate whether illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. or not. They can also debate whether American citizens should be able to immigrate to other countries for different reasons such as education or work opportunities.

Students often worry about their or family’s future regarding these debates. Teachers can use this fear and uncertainty to get them thinking about other issues they might otherwise ignore and forget about later in life.

Health Care

One of the toughest debates for students is health care reform. It’s so complicated that students believe it can’t be solved, and they’re right. However, teachers should allow them to debate the pros and cons of health care reform before making up their minds. They can find out why every issue is important before they’re allowed to discuss it with others.

Women’s Rights, Workplace Issues and College Costs

Teachers can also use women’s rights in an educational setting. Students can debate topics such as workplace issues and whether one gender should have more rights than the other or not. College costs are also a hot topic nowadays, so students can pick which side they’re on before they have to cough up their own money.

Sports and Entertainment

Sports and entertainment are some of the most heated topics among high school students. They often view celebrities as idols because of their wealth and fame. However, these topics still provide an opportunity for critical thinking before assumptions are made about people in the spotlight who might be different from them.

Music is another debate topic that sparks many arguments because both sides think their favorite artist or musician isn’t getting the respect they deserve. But, again, these topics can help students see how other people see both positive and negative attributes in music that impact what they listen to daily.

Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs and alcohol are also topics that get heated because so many high school students think about their own drug use or their parents’ drinking if they’re worried about their own futures. Teachers should allow them to debate the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana.

Still, it’s always important to remind students that marijuana isn’t safe for young people or those who haven’t developed a tolerance. Teachers can also have students write essays on whether they believe drinking is more addictive than drugs.


Teachers should take advantage of debates that students typically shy away from. For example, they can use social issues or media discourse to get students talking about various topics or even create their debates. Students will have a lot of fun debating these hot topics, and they might even be able to use the skills they learn in high school to help them one day.

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