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30 Controversial Debate Topics | Controversial Issues For Debate

One of the biggest challenges when teaching debates and discussions with teenagers at middle school and high school is to motivate them to actively participate in class. This is especially difficult if the topic you are teaching is not particularly interesting to them. A fantastic way to get your students engaged and invested in a debate is to use a controversial debate topic.

It can, however, be difficult to think of many controversial issues for debate and that’s why we have put together this list of controversial debate topics. All these debate topics are suitable for middle school, high school, teenagers, and adults. If you are teaching kids, then you might want to check out our other post about funny debate topics.

Controversial Debate Topics

Here is a list of 30 controversial debate topics for your next class discussion. These are great for classes with teenagers and adult students.

  1. Testing on animals should be banned.
  2. The death penalty is sometimes justified.
  3. Women should be paid less than men in some professions.
  4.  Assisted suicide should be made legal.
  5. The voting age should be reduced to 16.
  6. Smoking should be made illegal everywhere.
  7. Prisoners should be allowed to vote.
  8. Drug addicts should get help, not punishment.
  9. Advertising to children should be banned.
  10. Beauty competitions create unrealistic beauty standards.
  11. Police should be immune from prosecution.
  12. Violent video games should be banned.
  13. Obese people should pay more for healthcare.
  14. Healthcare should be free for everyone.
  15. Rich people should pay more taxes.
  16. War is never justified.
  17. Some soft drugs should be made legal.
  18. Marriage is no longer necessary.
  19. Children should not have smartphones.
  20. If you have more money, you will be happier.
  21. Governments shouldn’t track their citizens.
  22. People should have to take a test to become a parent.
  23. Fast food should be banned.
  24. Men and women should be allowed to compete against each other in the Olympics.
  25. Celebrities should earn less money.
  26. All people should receive a basic income.
  27. Everyone has the right to own a gun.
  28. The age at which you can buy alcohol should be increased to 25.
  29. Eating meat is unethical.
  30. Social media has ruined society.

Tips For Conducting A Class Debate

When conducting a debate with students on a controversial debate topic the discussion is likely to be quite heated. To ensure the debate runs smoothly, and to ensure students benefit the most from the activity, follow these simple tips.

Introduce Both Sides Of The Issue

When first introducing a controversial topic, it is important to present both sides of the debate. This will help students later when they must argue for or against the controversial issue. You will probably find that your students hold very strong opinions about some topics. Introducing the opposing side of the argument will help them to understand why the issue is controversial for some people.


Once students understand both sides of the issue and why it is controversial, initiate a brief discussion about some of the reasons why people might hold different opinions about this topic.

This will help students to think about why someone with an opposing opinion to them would hold the beliefs that they do. This will be valuable when preparing their counterarguments.

Prepare A Case Study

If possible, while planning your debate lesson find a case study about the controversial issue. Case studies help students to connect the debate topic with real life. Real life issues are not black and white and using real situations will encourage students to really think about the issue and students might even change their opinions.

Help Students Prepare Their Arguments

Debate Worksheet

Before the debate can take place students will need to prepare their arguments. This debate plan worksheet will help students to prepare their opening statements and to write down their arguments and supporting facts.

Moderate The Debate And Facilitate Discussion

You will likely have your own strong opinions about the controversial issue but when teaching a debate a teacher must act as the moderator and facilitate discussion.

Encourage students to express their opinions, whatever they may be. Students should feel free to express themselves even if they hold a minority opinion.

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