In A Manual of the Art of Prose Composition: For the Use of Colleges and Schools (1867), John Mitchell Bonnell explained the value of Extemporaneous Composition; Debating by the Class; and proposed a list of topics for debate. This is an extract from his book.
The following list presents a few of the questions that afford good fields for debate.
Does wealth exert more influence than intelligence?
Should a criminal be capitally condemned on circumstantial evidence?
Are banks more beneficial than injurious?
Ought military schools to be encouraged?
Should colleges be endowed?
Did the French revolution advance the cause of liberty in Europe?
Is there any real danger of the over-population of the globe?
Is country life more favourable to the cultivation of virtue than life in a city?
Is history a more useful study than biography?
Is ambition more destructive of personal happiness than avarice?
Is it the duty of good men to discountenance the theatre?
Is the Bible more essential to the spread of Christianity than the living ministry?
Does poetry demand a higher order of genius than oratory?
Does military life tend to qualify men to become good civil governors?
Has Mohammedanism produced more evil than good?
Is it ever right to deceive a rational man?
Should the chief end of civil punishment be the reformation of criminals, or the prevention of crime?
Ought the state to provide for the free education of all children within its borders?
Is it expedient to form colonies of convicts?
Would a congress of nations be practical or beneficial?
Was the field of eloquence in ancient Greece or Rome superior to that in our own country?
Are novels more injurious than beneficial?
Is it expedient to unite manual with mental labour in an educational establishment?
Which exerts the greater influence on society, the teacher or the preacher?
Which controls public opinion more extensively, the ministry or the newspaper press?
Does a natural proclivity to crime diminish the guilt of the act?
Should a member of the American House of Representatives be bound by the will of his constituents?
Do savage nations possess an exclusive right to the soil?
Should the right of suffrage be co-extensive with resident manhood?
Is a lawyer justifiable in defending a cause that he believes to be bad?
Ought the Protective Policy or the Free Trade principles to prevail?
Ought gambling to be suppressed by law?
Which is the better for the development of good character, poverty or riches?
Ought the liberty of the press to be restricted?
Ought imprisonment for debt to be abolished?
Should corporal punishment be allowed in schools?
Ought religious institutions to be supported by law?
Should infidel publications be suppressed by law?
Should atheists be eligible to office?
Has government a right to suppress Mormon or Mohammedan polygamy?
Are all mankind descended from one pair?
Is man responsible for his belief?
Can any of the moral attributes of God be proved from the light of nature?
Is a scholastic education preferable to a private one?
Are the principles of the Peace society practicable?
Should the course of study in college be the same for all pupils?
Are monastic orders favourable to the cultivation of true piety?
Are inequalities of rank in society favourable to social progress?
Was the influence of Jefferson upon his age and country beneficial?
Was Bonaparte greater in the field than in the cabinet?
Have the United States the right to forbid European interference with other American governments?
Does morality keep pace with civilization?
Which has done the greater service to the cause of truth, philosophy or poetry?
Is the cultivation of the Fine Arts conducive to virtue?
Has sectarianism done more to advance or retard the interests of Christianity?
Is a "little learning" more dangerous than ignorance?
On Extemporaneous Composition and Debating by the Class... here.
Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)