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Introduction to Policy Debate: An Interview with Christy Shipe

January 7–11, 2013   |   Vol. 114, Programs 41–45

“Debate teaches so many useful skills like logic, speaking skills, how to analyze the important issues, how to make decisions, and Christians can use these skills to study the Bible and know why you believe what you believe, to share the gospel, defend your faith, make wise decisions, and be prepared to speak in almost any situation.”

Is your student interested in formal debate? This edition of Home School Heartbeat, with host Mike Farris and guest Christy Shipe, shares resources that can help encourage that interest.

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Could your teen’s tendency to argue over just about anything be transformed into a tool that helps him serve God wholeheartedly? Join Mike Farris and Christy Shipe, as they talk about the value of learning formal debate on today’s Home School Heartbeat.

Mike Farris: It’s my pleasure to welcome my daughter Christy Shipe, who is here to talk about a new book she’s written and a DVD set. It’s called An Introduction to Policy Debate with Christy Shipe. And her name happens to be Christy Shipe. We’re going to be talking about training students in formal debate. Welcome, Christy.

Christy: Thanks, Dad.

Mike Farris: Christy, you got seriously involved in formal debate in college, although I will say you debated a lot as a kid, and helped launch a national homeschool debate organization. Why do you think the skills learned in debate are tools that all Christians can use?

Christy: Well, debate teaches so many useful skills like logic, speaking skills, how to analyze important issues, how to make decisions, and Christians can use these skills to study the Bible and know why you believe what you believe, to share the gospel, defend your faith, make wise decisions, and be prepared to speak in almost any situation. Most people are afraid of public speaking, and that’s because they usually haven’t really done much public speaking. But what if Christian young people were the ones who were willing to speak up in public because they had overcome their fears through the training that debate can provide? They could have so many opportunities to speak up for the cause of Christ.

Mike Farris: Great idea, and next time we’re going to discuss your book and DVD set An Introduction to Policy Debate. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: Christy, you’ve created a great set of tools to help parents equip their children in formal debate. Describe it for our listeners.

Christy: Well, I have written two textbooks. The first one is called An Introduction to Policy Debate, and it’s for the beginning high school debater. It’s been out for about fifteen years, but recently we completely rewrote it so it’s in a new, fresh edition with discussion questions and exercises that help reinforce the material. And then, we just created a DVD set that goes along with this textbook, so it’s the Introduction to Policy Debate DVD set. It’s brand new, there’s a lecture that amplifies each chapter in the textbook, and there’s two full sample debate rounds on this DVD, so it’s a great resource for teachers and students alike, especially homeschool students who may not have access to a debate coach. And then finally, there’s another textbook called Taking the Next Step. It teaches more advanced debate theory and it includes both policy and value debate. And there’s also a complete teacher’s manual that goes with that textbook.

Mike Farris: Christy, it’s great to watch debate become a passion of yours, and your enthusiasm has inspired many students, some of whom I’ve coached into national champions at the college level. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: So, Christy, you’ve made an excellent argument for studying formal debate. How can a student or parent who is interested get started?

Christy Shipe: Well, I recommend starting with An Introduction to Policy Debate, which is my textbook, and also DVD set that accompanies the textbook. It begins at the most basic level of just learning debate; if you’ve never done it before, that’s where you want to start. And you can go through that on your own at home, or you can find a local club through the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association, or NCFCA. It’s a Christian forensics league for homeschool students and you can go to their website, ncfca.org, and look for a club in your area. If you happen to be in Classical Conversations, they actually use my textbook in that course, so if you’re there, you’re good to go. But I also recommend getting beyond the classroom and actually competing in a debate tournament.

Mike Farris: Parents, I want to encourage your kids to try formal debate. Learning to present and apply Biblical truth in an honest and respectful way will help them serve God for a lifetime. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: Christy, what do you think is the very best way to learn about formal debate?

Christy Shipe: Well, I remember my first experience in learning debate in college; I showed up at the debate club meeting and I was so overwhelmed; it was like they were speaking a totally different language. So I actually didn’t compete that year, but waited until the next fall to take a debate class. And that really helped me understand what debate was all about. So I’d recommend beginning with some kind of class or academic instruction. I realize not all homeschool students are going to have access to a formal class, and that’s why I worked with HSLDA to create a textbook and DVD series that beginning students can use, and that’s called An Introduction to Policy Debate. And each chapter of the book has a lecture that goes with it on the DVD, so we worked really hard to make it as simple and understandable as possible. I really believe any high school student can learn this skill and learn it well. And then I’d also recommend getting involved in NCFCA, a Christian forensics league for homeschool students. They offer practice tournaments, local clubs; you can check it out on their website, ncfca.org.

Mike Farris: Christy, I know from experience that many students are going to benefit from these resources. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: Christy, how can parents inspire and help their kids as those students are learning the rigorous skills of formal debate?

Christy Shipe: Well, to me the most inspiring reason to learn debate is to think about how we can use those skills for God. Proverbs 31:8 says, “Speak up, for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” I love that verse. And then, Acts 18 tells us that Apollos was a great help to the early believers because he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. So parents need to keep reminding their kids why they’re doing what they’re doing. And they also need to encourage them that any fears they have about public speaking can be overcome through practice; I’ve seen it happen so many times.

Mike Farris: How might these young debaters contribute to our country’s future?

Christy Shipe: They could have a tremendous impact. Just think of the role rhetoric has played in the history of our country. I mean, they could become the next Patrick Henry, or Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King.

Mike Farris: The world needs skilled communicators who love God and are able to argue based on the sure foundation of Scripture. I’m Mike Farris.

Christy Shipe

At the urging of her father, Mike Farris, Christy Shipe first became involved in debate at Cedarville University in 1995. She competed on the Cedarville debate team for three years and won the Outstanding Graduate Award in 1998 from the National Educational Debate Association. She graduated from Cedarville summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in political science and received the Edmund Burke Award for excellence in the field of social science. While still a student at Cedarville, she helped Home School Legal Defense Association launch a homeschool debate program and served as its director for four years, until the birth of her second child. That program grew into the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association, where Christy has served on the board of directors for many years, four of those years as vice president.

Christy has spoken on debate at seminars around the country and taught several debate classes. She loves her current job as the wife of Richard Shipe (associate pastor of Blue Ridge Bible Church) and homeschooling mom of three daughters and two sons.

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