Passion & Civility Debate: a 30 minute no-preparation debate tournament


"Debate is a skill in critical thinking and rapid response. The cliché falls short, lack of knowledge is showcased and one’s weakness is exposed. We need civil debate in a time of ‘spin doctors’ and media manipulators that try to do our thinking for us. Life is too complex to let someone else form our opinions. If we had more debate, we might have less conflict." -- Fr. Rick Wilkinson, CSC, former Director of Campus Ministry, St. Edward's University

What is it?

This tournament, hosted by the Center for Ethics and Leadership and Campus Ministry, brings students together to debate the issues that affect our world. Unlike the tone of rhetoric that one might find within the current mainstream news and talk-radio, the purpose of this tournament is to promote debate topics that are passionately argued, but with civility and respect for one’s opponent. The format of the debate allows beginners and experienced debaters to enter and is intended to minimize personal investiture in a particular issue as topics and positions are not determined until the start of the debate. You might find yourself arguing for a particular stance that you personally might not support. Such a scenario is meant to help promote understanding and openness to the position of those we might be in disagreement with, and to foster the ability to assess and formulate a reasoned argument.

Why do we do this?

This tournament seeks to capture the intent of the Holy Cross understanding of forming both “mind” and “heart.” The Catholic tradition is one rooted in our current reality that we are called to navigate:

Catholic institutions need to encourage debate, even on the most controversial issues. Such debate will lead opposing sides to become more informed about one another's views and, in the long run, can promote a greater appreciation of the complexity of the created world. The mystery of Christ as revealed in creation and to creatures is a superabundant, all-encompassing reality that is continually unfolding. Careful research and free debate is essential for advancing knowledge.

St. Edward's University seeks to foster students who are “trained in creative and critical thinking as well as moral reasoning, to analyze problems, propose solutions and make responsible decisions.” Graduates are asked to “confront the critical issues of society and to seek justice and peace.” This is an explorative process that does not always offer clear direction. In the words of one Holy Cross educator: “The heart struggles with ambiguity, weighs choices, and considers consequences. The heart given space learns to risk once it finds courage and hope.” It is our hope that these debates will offer such an opportunity for students to engage global topics in a public forum, utilizing the best attributes of a Holy Cross education while providing an example to a world that tends to polarization rather than constructive debate.

So, take a risk and enter into the fray. There’s nothing to lose -- except a debate.

Tournament Directors:

James Puglisi, Associate Director of Campus Ministry,, 512-233-1693

Jack Green Musselman, Director of the Center for Ethics and Leadership,, 512-428-1026