Classroom debate ideas

Classroom discussion is one of the most powerful tools for fostering students’ critical thinking, communication skills, and intellectual curiosity. What’s more is that you can incorporate class discussion — and get its many benefits — across many subject areas! With all this in mind, we at Kialo Edu have assembled a treasure trove of classroom debate ideas that are guaranteed to ignite lively discussions and stimulate growing minds in the classroom.

From timeless topics to contemporary conundrums, these debate prompts will challenge your students to articulate their thoughts and take on different perspectives. These debates are perfect for middle, high school, or even university students — but can be easily adapted for elementary students as well. Be sure to also check out our library of Kialo Templates to get more ideas for classroom debate topics

Fun debate topics

  • Are ghosts real?
  • Are New Year’s resolutions worthwhile?
  • Are professional athletes overpaid?
  • Do aliens exist?
  • Does pineapple belong on pizza?
  • Does stubbing your toe hurt more than banging your elbow?
  • Is a beach vacation better than a vacation in the mountains?
  • Is Black Friday worth it?
  • Is listening to books better than reading them?
  • Should Halloween costumes be allowed in schools?
  • Should Santa bring naughty children presents?
  • Should Santa’s elves demand better working conditions?
  • Should students have exams right after winter holidays?
  • How, if at all, should bullies be punished?
  • Should cursive be taught to children?
  • Should we allow people to have pets?
  • Which country would be the most interesting to visit?
  • Which video game console is the best?

History debate topics

  • Which would be better to visit: ancient Egypt or ancient Greece?
  • Ancient Athens or Sparta: which was the better place to live?
  • To what extent was Athenian Democracy democratic?
  • Should we admire Alexander the Great?
  • Were the Mongol conquests a good thing in the end?
  • Was Europe more religiously tolerant in 1250 or in 1750?
  • How did the Roman Empire become so great?
  • Was the Industrial Revolution good for society?
  • Which technology had the biggest impact on the world: the railroad, steamship, or telegraph?
  • Was the atomic bombing of Japan justified?
  • Did the French Revolution have predominantly negative consequences?
  • Did the American Revolution advance the rights of women in the colonies? 
  • To what extent were the 1848 revolutions inspired by new political ideas?
  • What was the main cause of the US Civil War?
  • Was Manifest Destiny a positive ideology to have followed?
  • Was the New Deal a success?
  • Was the Treaty of Versailles the main cause of World War II?
  • Which US President was the most significant?
  • Was the United States responsible for the outbreak of the Cold War?
  • What was the main cause of World War I?
  • Should we still celebrate Columbus Day?
  • Should the British Museum return artifacts to their countries of origin?
  • Should European countries pay reparations to their former colonies in the developing world?

Civics debate topics

  • Should public prayer be allowed in schools?
  • What is the strongest argument in favor of the separation of church and state?
  • Should vaccines be made mandatory?
  • Is democracy a good form of government?
  • Should climate policy be decided by a panel of experts rather than by politicians?
  • Should people be able to own personal vehicles?
  • Do public libraries have a role in the future?
  • Should schools be able to ban books?
  • Would it be better to have one universal language?
  • Should all citizens be required to vote?
  • Should 16-year-olds be allowed to vote in general elections?
  • Do the benefits of direct democracy outweigh the costs?
  • Should citizens have to pass a political knowledge test in order to vote?
  • If one benefits from a public good, do they have an obligation to pay tax for it?
  • What is the best mode of peaceful protest?
  • Is Affirmative Action a desirable policy?
  • Should the monarchies be abolished?
  • Are social media explanations or economic explanations of the Arab Spring more convincing? 
  • Which group of people have the most influence over US government policy today?
  • Is taking care of global issues more important than caring about local issues?

Education debate topics

  • Should homework be banned?
  • Should exams be banned?
  • Should students have to wear school uniforms?
  • Should students have exams right after winter holidays?
  • Should it be mandatory for university students to spend one term abroad?
  • Should students be allowed to use smartphones in school?
  • Should art and music be taught in schools?
  • Should fee-paying schools be abolished?
  • Could technology ever replace teachers?
  • Should Irish be a required subject in Irish schools?
  • Should financial literacy classes be required for all students?
  • Should students be required to take sex education classes in school?
  • Should students be forced to learn math?
  • Should schools start later in the day?
  • Should a nutrition class be included for grade school and high school?

Politics and law debate topics

  • Should the US adopt a form of proportional representation for its presidential elections?
  • Should countries have quotas to ensure representation of minority groups in parliament?
  • What provides a better account for the causes of armed conflict: “greed” explanations or “grievance” ones?
  • Can war ever be justified? 
  • Is populism caused mainly by economic frustrations?
  • Are stable dictatorships more likely to pursue economic liberalization than weaker ones?
  • Is dictatorship preferable to democracy in some instances? 
  • Are nation-states better than any other form of political entity?
  • Which model of representative democracy best achieves the Founding Fathers’ intent for a stable, democratic government in the US?
  • Can nationalism be compatible with democracy?
  • Should there be a cap on private donations to electoral campaigns?
  • Should judges be elected by the people?
  • Is Marx’s theory of value convincing?
  • Should intellectual property be abolished for medicine?
  • What is the best method of constitutional interpretation? 
  • Which purpose of the criminal justice system is most important?
  • Should courts be quick to disregard separate legal personality?
  • Should strict criminal liability be removed from all imprisonable offenses?

Technology debate topics

  • Should digital devices replace paper and books?
  • Should kids be able to have social media?
  • Should deepfake technology be regulated by law?
  • Should we break up big tech companies? 
  • Should social media websites have the right to de-platform public figures?
  • Do smartphones make us less smart?
  • Which social media platform would be best to ban?
  • Should coding be a required subject in school?
  • Are there more advantages than disadvantages to open-source software?
  • Are online privacy protections more important than safety?
  • Does technology make us less intelligent?
  • Have mobile phones improved people’s lives?
  • Is it a good thing that most human work will likely be done by machines?
  • Is the internet an overall good thing for society?
  • Should the government protect net neutrality?

Literature debate topics

  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was Willy Wonka good at heart?
  • In The Tell-Tale Heart, do you believe that the narrator is truly mad or is he correct that he only suffers from nervousness and overly acute senses? 
  • In Jack and the Beanstalk, was Jack right to steal from the giant?
  • Should Ebenezer Scrooge be forgiven at the end of A Christmas Carol?
  • Were Romeo and Juliet’s parents responsible for their children’s deaths?
  • Is Jane Eyre a feminist novel?
  • Last Days of Summer: Are Craig Nakamura’s descriptions of his and his family’s experiences preceding and during internment at Manzanar historically accurate? 
  • Of Mice and Men: Was Curley’s wife a bad person?
  • Of Mice and Men: Was George right to kill Lennie? 
  • Should we still teach To Kill A Mockingbird?
  • To Kill A Mockingbird: Should Atticus have defended Tom Robinson?
  • Does The Outsiders argue for a more even distribution of wealth in society?
  • Lyddie: Should Lyddie sign the petition? 
  • Is the World State of A Brave New World really a dystopia?
  • Who was George Orwell’s target in 1984?
  • Should the animals of Animal Farm have ever revolted against Jones?
  • At the end of A Doll’s House, is Nora’s decision to walk away justified?
  • Is Nick Carraway a reliable narrator in The Great Gatsby
  • Is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn too racist to be taught in schools?
  • In A Streetcar Named Desire, does Tennessee Williams portray Stanley Kowalski as a mere brute?
  • How does Edward Albee use absurdist themes in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
  • Was Macbeth a victim of fate?
  • Are plays or novels better?
For more inspiration, browse Kialo Edu’s extensive library of classroom debate topics. Each template comes with background info and prompts, so you can get discussing straight away!

Arts debate topics

  • Will digital art experiences replace physical art?
  • Should art be publicly funded?
  • Are NFTs good for art?
  • Is jazz neglected in contemporary society?
  • What is the main purpose of music?
  • Is art an effective method of driving social change? 
  • Should the state ban offensive art?
  • Is art an effective method of driving social change?
  • Should prizes be given for the arts?
  • Who decides the meaning of art?
  • Can art be separated from the artist?
  • Is it justified to regard medieval European art as crude compared to antiquity?
  • Is abstract art inferior to representational art?
  • Should museums be publicly owned? 
  • Does modern art belong alongside classical art?
  • Is graffiti art?
  • Is fashion art?
  • Should video games be considered art?
  • Should art serve a purpose, or is it valuable for its own sake?

Science debate topics

  • Is it important to explore outer space?
  • Are we doing enough to protect biodiversity?
  • Should Pluto be considered a planet?
  • Should we colonize other planets?
  • Should the periodic table be organized differently?
  • Should human doctors be replaced by automated ones?
  • Should scientists prioritize reproducing results over innovation?
  • Should animal testing be banned?
  • What alternative energy source is the best?
  • Should stem cell testing be banned?
  • Should the genetic engineering of human embryos be banned?
  • Which line of evidence provides the strongest support for evolution? 
  • Is de-extinction worth the cost?
  • Should we create artificial wombs for humans?
  • Should euthanasia be legalized?
  • Should we ban zoos?
  • Should genetically modified crops be banned?
  • Is nuclear power our best option for energy production?

Environmental debate topics

  • Is it better to buy an electric car or a gasoline car?
  • What is the best form of renewable energy?
  • Should we begin relocating people from coastlines vulnerable to climate change?
  • Should fracking be banned?
  • Should individuals assume responsibility for climate change?
  • Can individual conservation efforts successfully protect the environment?
  • Is climate more important than soil for determining vegetation characteristics in cold environments?
  • Should mining be banned?
  • Should plastic bags be banned?
  • Should single-use plastics be banned?
  • Could lab-grown meat be a useful tool for fighting climate change?
  • Should people have fewer children to help tackle climate change?
  • Should we use geoengineering to offset the impacts of climate change?

Human geography debate topics

  • Does tourism help reduce developmental gaps?
  • Is rewilding a good idea? 
  • Will the world face a major food insecurity crisis by 2050?
  • Has human activity affected the migrations of various species?
  • Is the trend of rural-urban migration a positive thing?
  • What is the greatest challenge to megacities?
  • Should governments impose population controls?
  • Is the expansion of cities into surrounding areas a good thing?
  • Is it possible to build cities that don’t harm the environment?
  • Has globalization had a positive impact on a country you have studied?
  • Is urban density a good thing? 
  • Should we work to conserve endangered languages?

Philosophy & ethics debate topics

  • Can morality exist without religion?
  • Is it immoral for people to own pets?
  • Is war a necessary evil?
  • Do negative life experiences help the creative process?
  • Is religious faith compatible with science?
  • Should human cloning be legal?
  • Is mandatory organ donation ethical?
  • Should there be a death penalty?
  • Should the Pavolsk Experimental Station scientists have eaten the seeds during the siege of Leningrad?
  • Is justice more important than peace?
  • Can our senses be trusted?
  • Should humans eat animals?
  • Is Rawls’ “veil of ignorance” too far removed from the realities of political life to make meaningful arguments about what justice should be?
  • Should speech be regulated in line with John Stuart Mill’s harm principle?
  • Is a truly cosmopolitan global ethics impossible?

Economics and business debate topics

  • Should the minimum wage be raised?
  • Is it better to have high taxes or low taxes?
  • Should tipping culture become a thing of the past?
  • Should people invest in cryptocurrency?
  • Under what conditions are expansionary monetary policies likely to create greater economic growth?
  • Is the Gini coefficient a useful way of measuring inequality?
  • Is the recent increase in inequality in rich countries the result of diminishing trade union power?
  • Are price caps a useful economic tool?
  • Are price floors a useful economic tool?
  • Should the United States adopt a balanced budget amendment?
  • Should countries pursue full employment as an economic goal?
  • Should society reject fast fashion?
  • Is the culture of companies like Google preferable to that of traditional companies?
  • What is the best method for business expansion (e.g. merger, takeover, strategic alliance)?
  • To what extent does intrapreneurship improve the performance of a business?
  • Is “delayering” an effective strategy for business to become more profitable?
  • Should you buy Fairtrade? 
  • Are qualifications more valuable than experience?
  • What should the role of companies be?
  • Should we shorten the 40-hour workweek?

International relations debate topics

  • Should we lower international trade barriers?
  • Do international economic institutions, like the WTO and IMF, operate as liberal theorists intended, or do they exemplify the logic of realism?
  • Are certain countries doomed to remain emerging economically?
  • Is the US-China relationship the new Cold War?
  • Is the two state solution dead?
  • Should governments spend money on foreign aid?
  • Are states still the most important actors in international relations?
  • Are democracies less likely to go to war with each other?
  • Was Hong Kong better off under the “one country, two systems” arrangement or now as a part of China?
  • Is the US embargo of Cuba justified? 
  • Is international law truly law?

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