High School Controversial Speeches

The 11th grade “Controversial Speech” is a capstone project in our High School. Students are tasked with studying rhetoric, analyzing historical speeches, drafting persuasive arguments, and researching opposing material. The culmination of their efforts is to take a definitive stance on a controversial topic (which may differ from their own view on the matter) and present their speech to a community of peers. 

At the end of each speech there is an opportunity for the audience to ask questions, often calling on students to demonstrate the wealth of knowledge they accrued in the process of researching their topics. They discuss the difference between debates and discussions, how with the former the focus is on winning the argument, while with the latter the emphasis is on winning over the audience. 

The richness of the Controversial Speech capstone project lies partly in allowing each student to find a topic that deeply resonates with them. Some students pursue their passions, while others look to produce the “most” controversial topic they can find, encouraging and savoring the potential pushback they will receive from their peers in the audience.

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