Debate is the foundation of democracy, of true education, of reason itself. To debate is to consider two sides of a (usually contentious) issue. Since we can't understand one side of an issue without understanding the other, debate is crucial to a fundamental understanding of our world. Here, Aristotle's words come to mind: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
Think of current debate scenarios, though, like the U.S. presidential debates, and the word conjures heated rhetoric, pandering, and avoidance of the issues. Where is one to turn for true debate on the most pressing modern issues? Munk Debates is your best bet.
I've been watching Munk Debates for awhile, and, simply put, I am a better person for it. The Debates are an event set in Toronto, Canada, and cover a variety of weighty topics, like Iran's nuclear ambitions, climate change, and religion. To date, eleven debates have taken place.
Tickets to the event itself are available if you happen to be in the Toronto area, but video and transcripts of each are available online through the Munk Debates website, which is members-only. Membership comes in three tiers. Basic membership is free, and allows access to downloadable debate transcripts. Video membership costs $10 (or more, if you choose), and allows streaming of past debates. Premium membership is $20 and up and includes debate streaming and a 48-hour advanced ticketing notice.
The debaters are generally supreme experts on their subject. Past debaters include Paul Krugman, Fareed Zakaria, and the late, great Christopher Hitchens. At the beginning of each debate, the attending audience is polled on their beliefs regarding the issue. At the end of the debate, they're polled again. The debaters who sway the most attendees to their side of the argument "win" the debate.
The next debate is scheduled for Friday, November 15, although debaters and subject matter won't be revealed until September 17. I've shown you the best way to spend 20 minutes online, but if you have a bit more time (say, an hour and a half), Munk Debates will make it well worth your while.
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