30 Controversial But Good Debate Topics For High School Students

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 11/30/23 •  Classroom Resources

Are you searching for thought-provoking and engaging debate topics for your students? Look no further! In this article, we have compiled a list of 159 very good debate topics that will challenge and stimulate discussions in your classroom. Whether you’re a teacher, student, or parent, these topics will surely pique your interest and inspire critical thinking.

Debate Topics For Students

In this section, we will explore a variety of controversial debate topics that are perfect for students to discuss and analyze. These topics range from issues within schools such as cell phone usage and dress codes, to larger societal issues like social media’s impact and the death penalty.

Each sub-section will provide thought-provoking debate questions and keywords to help guide the discussion. So whether you’re looking for an ESL activity or a stimulating classroom debate, these topics are sure to engage and challenge your students.

1. Should Cell Phones Be Allowed In Schools?

Pro-tip: Use this topic as an engaging ESL activity by encouraging students to debate the issue using their English language skills and critical thinking abilities.

2. Is Social Media More Harmful Than Beneficial?

Social media’s impact on mental health is a topic of concern, particularly among younger individuals. The debate on whether social media is more harmful than beneficial raises significant points.

Users, including white people and individuals of other races, are affected by cyberbullying and negative self-comparison. On the other hand, it provides connectivity and a platform for activism. Balancing these aspects is crucial.

3. Should Schools Implement Dress Codes?

When debating this topic, students can explore the impact of dress codes on self-expression, examine cultural and gender implications, and discuss the balance between individual freedom and school discipline.

For ESL activities, encourage students to articulate their viewpoints, use debate questions from educational platforms like Kialo Edu, and foster critical thinking skills.

4. Is Homework Necessary?

For the debate topic ‘Is Homework Necessary?’ considering teens’ daily leisure time is crucial. College Vine suggests that homework should be meaningful, original, and not just busy work. Public libraries are excellent resources for teens to conduct research and gather evidence to support their arguments on this topic. Understanding how homework affects teens’ lives is essential, as it sparks interest and impacts their academic performance.

5. Should The Voting Age Be Lowered To 16?

In Scotland, the voting age for Scottish Parliament and local council elections was lowered to 16 in 2015. It allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the Scottish independence referendum, marking a historic democratic expansion. Should other countries model after this?

6. Is Climate Change A Hoax?

Climate change is not a hoax, evidenced by scientific consensus and observable phenomena. In the United States, government structures have implemented policies to mitigate its impact. This topic sparks intense debate, reflecting the relevance of environmental issues. Just as same-sex marriage, drug legalization, and other controversial topics, the urgency of climate change demands attention.

The relevance of the topic is crucial, influencing its significance in modern discourse.

7. Should The Death Penalty Be Abolished?

8. Is Gun Control Necessary?

Yes, gun control is essential for public safety and crime prevention. It’s a hotly debated issue in the United States due to its government structure and constitutional rights. Finding a balanced approach is crucial, similar to the deliberation on same-sex marriage or the legalization of drugs.

One true story that aligns with this discourse is the advocacy for stricter gun regulations following tragic mass shootings, reflecting the ongoing debate on this pivotal topic.

9. Should College Education Be Free?

Whether college education should be free is an engaging debate topic for students. Considering College Vine data, 79% of teens love to know they can access higher education without financial constraints. It’s a pertinent topic, given that students spend their daily leisure time at public libraries, and original sources indicate the rising cost of tuition. To encourage critical thinking, students can research and organize arguments, preparing for an insightful discussion.

10. Is Online Learning As Effective As Traditional Classroom Learning? (Keywords

The effectiveness of online learning compared to traditional classroom learning has been a topic of debate. Both methods have their own advantages, with online learning offering flexibility, accessibility, and a wide range of resources.

Traditional classroom learning, however, allows for face-to-face interaction and immediate feedback. The effectiveness of each method may vary depending on individual learning styles, subjects, and teaching approaches.

11. Universal Basic Income (UBI)

The debate over Universal Basic Income (UBI) centers on whether providing a fixed income to all citizens, regardless of employment status, is an effective strategy to alleviate poverty and reduce income inequality. Proponents argue that UBI can offer financial security and address economic disparities, while opponents express concerns about feasibility, economic sustainability, and potential disincentives to work.

12. Climate Change Policies

This debate delves into the adequacy of current global initiatives to combat climate change. Advocates argue for more ambitious policies, emphasizing the urgent need to address environmental issues, while skeptics may question the feasibility, economic impact, and effectiveness of proposed measures.

13. Is the trade-off between convenience and online privacy justified in the digital age?

The debate on online privacy revolves around the balance between the convenience of digital services and the protection of individuals’ privacy.

Supporters of a more permissive approach argue that convenience is essential for technological advancements, while privacy advocates stress the importance of safeguarding personal data in an era of increasing digital connectivity.

14. School Uniforms need to be enforced for students benefits

Supporters argue that uniforms promote equality and reduce distractions, while opponents emphasize the importance of students’ freedom to express themselves through clothing.

15. Censorship in the Arts

Should there be limits on artistic expression, and to what extent should art and media be censored Advocates for censorship may emphasize societal values and protecting audiences, while opponents argue for artistic freedom and the importance of diverse perspectives in creative works.

16. Social Media Regulation

Should governments regulate social media platforms to prevent the spread of misinformation and protect user privacy? Supporters of regulation highlight the need to curb the spread of misinformation and protect user privacy, while opponents may express concerns about potential infringements on free speech and innovation.

17. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Are genetically modified foods safe for consumption, and should they be more widely embraced to address global food security? The discussion on GMOs focuses on the safety of genetically modified foods and their role in addressing global food security. Advocates argue that GMOs offer solutions to food scarcity and agricultural challenges, while critics raise concerns about potential health risks, environmental impact, and ethical considerations.

18. Mandatory Voting

Proponents argue that mandatory voting ensures broader representation and a more engaged electorate, while opponents may express concerns about individual freedoms and the potential for uninformed voting.

19. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Should there be ethical guidelines and regulations for the development and use of artificial intelligence The discussion on artificial intelligence delves into the ethical implications of AI development and use.

Advocates for regulation stress the need to address potential risks, biases, and accountability issues, while proponents of a less restrictive approach may emphasize the benefits of technological advancement and innovation.

20. Affirmative Action

Is affirmative action in college admissions a fair and effective way to address historical inequalities?

Affirmative action is a contentious policy that seeks to redress historical disadvantages faced by certain groups. The debate centers on whether this approach is justifiable and successful in promoting diversity in educational institutions or if alternative methods should be considered to address inequality.

21. Space Exploration Funding

Should governments invest more in space exploration, or should those funds be allocated to address pressing issues on Earth?

The allocation of resources for space exploration is a perennial debate. Advocates argue that space exploration drives scientific innovation, while opponents question the prioritization of these endeavors over more immediate and pressing concerns on Earth. This debate delves into the balance between advancing human knowledge and addressing critical issues on our planet.

22. Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide

Should individuals have the right to choose euthanasia or assisted suicide when facing terminal illnesses?The ethical dilemma surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide revolves around individual autonomy, the sanctity of life, and medical ethics.

This debate explores the extent to which individuals should have the right to make end-of-life decisions, considering the implications for personal autonomy, medical ethics, and societal values.

23. Animal Testing

Using animals in scientific research raises ethical concerns regarding animal welfare and the necessity of such practices. Advocates argue that animal testing is crucial for medical advancements, while opponents advocate for developing and implementing alternative methods.

This debate delves into the balance between scientific progress and the ethical treatment of animals. Is animal testing justified for scientific and medical research, or should alternative methods be prioritized?

24. What level of gun control is appropriate to balance public safety with individual rights?

Gun control debates revolve around finding a balance between individual rights to bear arms and the need to ensure public safety. Advocates for stricter gun control measures argue that they are necessary to reduce gun violence, while opponents emphasize the importance of protecting individual liberties. This debate explores the nuanced relationship between personal freedoms and societal safety.

25. How should the education system be reformed to better prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century?

The ongoing debate on education reform centers on the need to adapt traditional educational models to meet the demands of the 21st century. Discussions often revolve around curriculum changes, the integration of technology, and the fostering of critical thinking skills. This debate explores how educational systems can evolve to prepare students for an ever-changing world.

26. Should countries have more open or restrictive immigration policies, and how should they address the refugee crisis?

Immigration policies are a global issue, with debates surrounding national security, economic impact, and humanitarian considerations. Advocates for more open policies emphasize cultural diversity and economic benefits, while those favoring restrictions focus on cesources and national identity. This debate delves into the complex balance between humanitarian efforts and national interests.

27. To what extent does the use of social media contribute to or alleviate mental health issues among young people?

The pervasive use of social media among young people has sparked discussions about its impact on mental health. Advocates argue that social media provides a platform for connection and support, while critics highlight its potential adverse effects, such as cyberbullying and unrealistic body image standards. This debate explores the nuanced relationship between social media use and mental well-being.

28. Is nuclear energy a viable and safe alternative to fossil fuels, or should we focus more on renewable energy sources?

The debate on nuclear energy centers on its potential as a clean energy source and concerns about safety and environmental impact.

Advocates argue that atomic energy can significantly reduce carbon emissions, while opponents express reservations about the potential for accidents and the long-term effects of nuclear waste. This debate explores the trade-offs between addressing climate change and ensuring energy production safety.

29. Should the start times of high schools be adjusted to better align with students’ sleep patterns and well-being 

The debate on school start times revolves around the impact of early start times on students’ sleep patterns and overall well-being. Advocates for later start times argue that they contribute to improved academic performance and mental health, while opponents question the logistical challenges and potential disruptions to family schedules. This debate explores the intersection of education and student health.

30. Privacy vs. Security – What should be our focus?

Balancing individual privacy rights with national security measures in the age of technology. Advocates tend to argue that privacy is a fundamental human right that should be protected against unwarranted intrusion.

Proponents emphasize the necessity of robust security measures to safeguard citizens from various threats, including terrorism and cyberattacks.

Where can I find varied viewpoints on controversial issues?

Websites like 5 Star Essays and The Top Tens offer lists of debate topics with varied viewpoints. You can also look for articles and resources from reputable sources to gather different perspectives on an issue.

Can students participate in group discussions on controversial issues?

Yes, group discussions can be a great way for students to explore controversial issues and hear different perspectives. You can facilitate a respectful and productive discussion by setting ground rules and actively listening to others’ viewpoints.

Key Takeaways:

Wrap up

That’s it for our guide on broad, controversial debate topics that are good for students. You can delve into each topic in more detail and of course adjust each debate topic for relevance and appropriateness depending on the maturity and age of your students.

Editorial Staff

I'm David Unwin and I head the editorial staff here at Teach and GO. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I and my team now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more.