Common debate topics for high school debates include the death penalty, single-sex schools, teaching creationism, animal testing and climate change. Other frequently debated topics include job outsourcing, censorship, drug testing, euthanasia and whether violent video games contribute to real world violence.
For high school debates, topics must be controversial enough to have very clear pros and cons, but not so controversial as to be inappropriate for the teenage participants. Because most high school students are in the first stages of becoming aware of politics, their own places in society and other serious issues, debate topics should focus on issues to which they can relate. For instance, these students can engage more readily with the issue of same-sex schooling than they can to sensitive, obscure international trade deals or territorial disputes.
For university students, on the other hand, debates usually involve more serious topics. Common debate topics at this level include whether or not torture is ever justified, whether the media plays a positive or negative role in peoples' lives, and whether harmful products such as junk food should be banned or more highly taxed. College and university debates often focus on topical issues related to the current news landscape. While the subject matter is usually more serious, college level debates sometimes use topics similar to those in high school debates.