CNN Profiles: The best debaters in the land
Champion debater Ryan Beiermeister (right) says listening is one of the keys to good debating.
October 19th, 2012
09:35 AM ET

CNN Profiles: The best debaters in the land

By Michael Schulder, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @schuldercnn

(CNN) - With the last presidential debate upon us, we felt it was time for a real education in the art of debating.

We decided to go out on a search for the best debater in the land.

Well, to name one individual as the best debater in the land would trigger a debate too long for this CNN profile.

But we certainly found one of them. And we found one of the best debate coaches in the land too, David Vincent Kimel of Yale University.

And when you listen to them on this CNN profile, we promise you will never listen to a debate with your old amateur ears again. You will be a formidable judge if you just listen.

Which, by the way, is one of the key skills of being a great debater: the art of listening.

And those cheap shots, taking the weakest point of the other side’s argument and tearing it down, in other words, creating a straw man, that does not impress great debate judges.

If you’re a great debater, you’re expected to acknowledge the other side’s strongest argument, and rip that apart. That takes talent. And requires respect for the opponent – which is something else we learned is critical in debate.

And there’s so much more. In fact, if you’re a parent, as I am, I can tell you that listening to our two guests convinced me that debating may be the best training imaginable for our young students who hope to thrive in this world. You’ll hear why, on this CNN Profile.

Editor's Note: Listen to the complete story in the player above and join the conversation below.

soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Voice of Reason

    All those commentating that David's points were not important are simply ignorant and represent exactly why policy debaters are seen as closeminded and eager to bash on other styles of debate just by virtue of their differences.

    October 28, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bruce Lee

    Stop fighting guys. They both were good.

    October 25, 2012 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bruce Shin

    Overall very interesting. I particularly enjoyed David's discussion of clash. Ryan seemed to spend more time on personal anecdotes and less discussing the presidential debates or debate theory. It seems the people suggesting that David didn't add to the conversation don't really understand debate.

    October 25, 2012 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Bruce Lee

      Bruce understand debate very well. You should be very proud of yourself.

      October 25, 2012 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. An Independent

    I thought this was a very thought-provoking interview. Both participants made excellent points based on their different perspectives, and complemented each other nicely. I find it interesting that some of the commentators seem to fall into the trap that both the student and coach warn against: a facile dismissal of one "side" . Too much discourse today, particularly in the political arena, is reactionary, inflammatory, and just not very nice. I think the Yale coach made an excellent point, that from a strategic point of view, black and white thinking not only effectively stops discourse, but also alienates half of the audience. So easy to be a critic...and how much harder, and more worthwhle, to take what is of value and build from there.

    October 24, 2012 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. John Danzig

    They should have invited Ryan's coach instead of David in this interview.

    October 24, 2012 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. A Former Debater

    Why they would interview a Parliamentary debate coach is beyond me! Ryan clearly understands debate and is very eloquent; David on the other hand was more demonstrative of a politician trying to apply memorized answers.

    October 23, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • John Danzig


      October 24, 2012 at 6:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Bruce Shin

      Parliamentary debate is the international standard and what is used for the world championships (WUDC), whereas policy (the style Ryan does) is only in the US and only done at some schools. As both a former policy and parliamentary debater, both styles have their merits, but there is absolutely no reason to suggest they should not have invited a parliamentary coach. Why not get more perspectives?

      October 25, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
  7. Shai Omer

    This was definitely an interesting conversation! I especially enjoyed the Yale debate coach's description of dialectic and clash, and his point about style being overrated over substance by the press.

    October 22, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. Larry Brown

    What just the Yale fellow said is something that anyone who debated for a month in college can say. Ryan's advice was a lot more useful. Well done.

    October 21, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Tgdouglas

    Lee Quinn is the best debater in the land.

    October 20, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robert Simmermon

    Cary, that is a great idea. I really like the concept. Well articulated.

    October 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Cary Rosner

    Very interesting conversation. We all know that the college-style debate format isn't suited very well for a presidential debate, but something the Yale fellow said made me realize that it is180 degrees wrong. The President's job is not to debate – it is the opposite; to listen to others who debate, and then deliberate. What we should have are televised debates in which the candidates are the moderators, who we then judge on their ability to judge the debaters.

    October 19, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |