Debating at Harvard has fallen on evil days; of the inter-class and inter-club debates that flourished a few years ago there is no remnant left. Annually the debates with Princeton and Yale bring into momentary prominence a small group of men, but these occasions once past, debating sinks from public notice. Possibly its lack of popularity is a phase of the present trend away from things scholarly; more likely it arises in some defect of the system by which debating is carried on here.
We can think of no activity in which are combined so many elements of value, for debating involves valuable training in research, in writing, in argument, and in public speaking. The number of men who are taking courses in these very subjects makes futile any argument as to lack of interest in the fundamental principles of debating.
An opportunity is given the Freshman debating club, which has recently been organized, to establish debating again on a sound basis. It is important that the club should have broad aims, and should seek to develop its members in more than the mere parliamentary forms of public meetings. Debates with teams from other institutions ought, in such a club, to be made subordinate to the stimulation of an interest in debating for its own sake. As close a relationship as possible should be maintained with the departments of English and of public speaking, and the subjects discussed should occasionally at least be of local and contemporary significance. If in the attainment of these objects the social needs of the members be also recognized, the Freshman debating club should make an important place for itself in the life of the class.