The Great Debaters

The Great Debaters



The Great Debaters

What wins the debate, why

Clear knowledge of the debate topic is important in winning debates. This is made possible by reading on the topic and through prior knowledge and experience of diverse issues. The final team that debated Harvard was aware of Gandhi’s actions of resistance to the British. They were also aware of the teachings of Augustine. Applying these principles was important in ensuring their victory. Tolson ensured that the team was not afraid of their opponents. The big Harvard name was enough to make the Wiley team afraid and discouraged. This was coupled with the fact that the students were black in a society that encouraged racism and prejudice, and in which some of the white people seemed to find pleasure in lynching the colored. The Wiley team could have felt small because of their circumstances and the size and reputation of their opponent but they did not. Constructing a good argument is important in winning a debate. Tolson demonstrated the importance of ensuring that all statements are logical. When debating with Samantha, he proved that giving a faulty premise would cause the syllogism to fall apart (The Great Debaters). Booke had a good argument in her argument for welfare but she did not construct it in a way that could help her win the debate.

Lessons learnt from watching the film

I learnt many things that I can apply in class. In the first place, it is always good to be prepared for any argument. When given a chance, it is always important to read thoroughly about the topic. Preparation is important because it will ensure that one has a response for the opponent. It is always good to look at all possible angles of a debate. This means that one has to consider what the opponents will argue, and find a way to downplay their arguments. Confidence is also important. Those students should have been afraid of their opponent, since they had never debated such a big team before, but they were not. They presented their arguments in an articulate and convincing manner and this was important in their final victory.

Significance of the quote

It was important for the Wiley team to know that their opponents did not determine their success in the debate. According to them, God was the only judge in the team because He would determine whether they won or lost the debate. This was important because the students were living in an era of prejudice and they were could have been afraid that the judgment would not be fair.

During a fair debate, no one can determine the winner before the debate begins. It is only when both sides to an argument have presented their arguments that the audience and the judges can determine the winner. The opponent is not a position to decide who wins. The debate team repeated the sentences several times. This helped them to become aware of the significance of the words. To them, the opponents were just a dissenting voice to the truth that they spoke. Debates do not have to be based on falsified facts and other arguments. The students believed that speaking the truth would help them win the debate. The strength was more in how they presented their case. It is important for people to feel confident and to believe in themselves when presenting an argument.

By disregarding the opponents and by seeing them merely as a dissenting voice, the students were able to concentrate with the issue at hand. They chose to do this instead of focusing on their opponents. Focusing on the opponent makes one to lose sight of the most important issue. It will not do a person any good, if he only concentrates on the strategies and techniques that the opponents will use yet he has not prepared his argument adequately


Black, T., Forte, K., Roth, J., Winfrey, O. (Producers), & Washington, D. (Director). (2007). The Great Debaters [Motion picture]. United States: Harpo Productions.

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