Persuasive Speech Topics
in which we play devil’s advocate

When the audience already agrees, persuasion is not necessary. These topics were chosen because people do not agree with them. They are not the views of the author. They are thoughts about which audiences might need to be persuaded.

However, in these times when political correctness is required, caution and wariness are important. The fact that a subject is included on this list does not imply that it is either safe or accurate. These persuasive speech topics are meant only as food for thought. Use your own judgment as to what to present to your audience.

Among the original 13 colonies, there was great debate about whether there should be trade restrictions and tariffs between the colonies. Since they opted for free trade between the colonies, Manhattan continues freely to outsource its wheat and potato growing to other states. For the same reasons, shouldn’t it outsource its telephone call centers to India and its garment production to China? Doesn't outsourcing make sense in the long run?

To back up this persuasive speech topic with statistics, studies can be found on the web that suggest that although there are short term dislocations, the economy and the people as a whole are better off when they outsource. Of course, there are analyses that make other points against it if you want to support a different view. Like this cartoon.

They have ended the careers of a couple of journalists who were guilty of journalistic indiscretions. But the bloggers themselves operate like an unruly mob. Should they be taken down a notch or two?

War on Drugs
You can get most any drug you want at a reasonable price. So what’s the point of the war? Doesn't it just turn people with drug problems into criminals in order to support expensive habits? Doesn't that lead to their committing crimes against the rest of us? If the drugs came through legal sources, like alcohol from a state liquor store, there would be more opportunities to help them, and less stigma associated with seeking help. And the drugs could be so much less expensive that people would not have to turn to crime to support their habits. Some women become "ladies of the night" in order to support drug habits. Hasn't criminalizing drugs has only bred more crime? People who do not smoke or drink or use drugs become victims of crimes committed by people with expensive habits to support. Doesn't the war on drugs cause innocent people to become victims? Shouldn't we declare a truce and find a peaceful solution?

Prayer in Schools
If we’re going to have it, shouldn’t it be inclusive and allow Muslims to lead classes in prayers to Allah sometimes? In what kinds of prayers might American Indians want to lead classes? Do Agnostics deserve equal time?

Classroom size
In Japan they apologize if there are too few students in a classroom. They like to have more than 60, especially in the youngest years, in order for students to learn how to function in groups. Could we learn something from them?

Boxers or Briefs
It doesn't all have to be serious. Ask Bill Clinton, as MTV did while he was campaigning to become President.

Suggestion for original research: post four women near a well-traveled sidewalk and have them try to figure out which type is being worn by the guys who pass by. Have a couple of guys with clip boards a distance away stop the subjects and ask for the truth "in order to help with their science project."

A more subtle way to do this might be not to tell the women what the issue is, but to have them rate guys according to whether they would or would not like to go on a date with them, and then have the clipboards find out from the guys whether they are wearing boxers or briefs to see if there is any correlation.

Isn’t society’s knee-jerk suppression of how-to information concerning suicide the opposite of a sensible reaction? Doesn’t it add to a person’s depression to feel trapped with no reasonable escape possible? Might not knowing reliable and painless ways to accomplish it raise spirits enough to help the most desperate people cope? And for those others who are going to attempt it no matter what, wouldn’t succeeding be better than becoming injured and becoming vegetables that need to be cared for by the state for the next forty years - and that while having to live through the torture of really not being able to escape now?

Whose life is it anyway? Do we not have the right to choose to die?

From military school to college fraternities, initiations have always had moments that went too far. Isn't learning about that a valuable experience? Rather than banning it, shouldn't we allow it to continue in order to give people the experience of learning how to recognize and moderate excessive behavior so that when functioning in groups in the future they will know how to prevent catastrophes like Abu Ghraib?

Before the 400-pound sturgeon had been fished out of American rivers, caviar was so plentiful in the USA that it was pressed into wafers and dried and given away free as bar food, like potato chips. When it became rare, it became expensive. Yes, caviar is good, but so are potato chips. Being good is not what made caviar expensive. Would potato chips be as expensive as caviar if they were as rare? This is a persuasive speech topic that has opportunities for tactile demonstrations with the audience or volunteers from it. A taste test of caviar versus potato chips perhaps?

Another subject Caviar can address is how it is an example of problems with integrity in certain businesses (in terms of grading and ingredients – the market has gone through periods of corruption). It also can address issues of scarcity and marketing.

Other possible persuasive speech topics to accompany the tactile presentation:
Is the stratospherically expensive Russian Beluga really any better than cheap American Salmon Roe? Does eating it off metal utensils, rather than mother-of-pearl (or plastic if no one is looking) really alter its taste?

By the way, for those possibly planning to use grocery store caviar, any caviar that is shelf-stable (meaning that it doesn’t have to be refrigerated before opening) has as much to do with fresh caviar as canned peaches have to do with fresh peaches. Normally fresh caviar is overnighted from sites you can find on the web. An American trout caviar is not expensive and could be all that is needed for the taste test.

Mandatory Reporting in Healthcare
According to a 2010 study by Health and Human Services, only about 2% of adverse events are accurately reported in medicine. This study only corroborates what other studies have shown before. Medicine covers up its problems.

How safe are patients be when no one keeps track of and learns from errors, to say nothing of unfriendly practices?

Animal Testing
Who else is going to be the guinea pig? We eat them. Why not test products on them? Within strict, compassionate limits, of course.

Hate Speech
Isn't it protected by the First Amendment whether we like it or not? Are not regulations and ordinances passed against it violating the First Amendment and recent precedents passed by the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court struck down a St. Paul, Minn. ordinance that criminalized symbols and writing that "arouses anger, alarm or resentment in others on the basis of race, color, creed, religion or gender," saying that by protecting some categories and not others, the ordinance was  unconstitutionally content-based and overbroad. 

They said, "[F]reedom of speech, though not absolute, is nevertheless protected against censorship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. There is no room under our Constitution for a more restrictive view. For the alternative would lead to standardization of ideas either by legislatures, courts, or dominant political or community groups. This was in R. A. V. v. City of St. Paul, 505 U.S. 377 (1992)

The Supreme Court also said that prior restraints on speech and publication are the most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights. This was in Nebraska Press Assn. v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 559 (1976)

There is no need to protect speech we like - only speech we don't like.

Isn't hate speech protected by the First Amendment? And isn't it right that it be?

Intelligent Design / Creationism
Schools now avoid the term “Creationism” by calling it “Intelligent Design.” They maintain that living creatures are too intricate to have been created by evolution. Without using the word “God” they say that throughout the natural world there is evidence of deliberate design. Is this science? Is this religion? Is it just a political gambit allowing creationism to squeak in under a new name? 55% of the citizens in the United States believe that God created man with no help from evolution. Does that mean it should be taught in schools?

Citizen President
Should there still be an elected office from which immigrants are banned? What was the purpose of the ban in the first place? Does it still serve a purpose? Doesn’t the ban prevent people from voting for the person they want to elect? If Ronald Reagan could be president, why cannot Schwarzenegger? Reagan doesn't even own www.reagan.com. But have you been to www.schwarzenegger.com? Based on their web presences alone, who would you rather have be president? (Sometimes being silly is persuasive.)

Abortion / Reproductive Rights
This persuasive speech topic inspires such ire that we are not going to suggest thoughts about it.

This topic effects everyone in your audience everyday. All people always have problems that need to be solved. How they behave in the quest for solutions is crucial to how they fare in life. Most people behave in ways that stifle creativity and discourage imaginative input from others.

On reality shows like "The Apprentice" one sees examples of the wrong behavior. Often teams roll their eyes and dismiss ideas suggested someone in the group the moment the ideas are mentioned. That kills the creative energy of the group. The more outrageous the idea, the more off the wall, the better it is in terms of how it fertilizes creative energy. Instead of judging or eliminating ideas, all ideas should be treated equally and built upon. They are points of departure or foundations for the next ideas. All contributors need to be made to feel as though their thoughts are helping to lead to a possible solution. Otherwise the group ends up with hurt feelings and people who become afraid to stretch and explore creatively for fear of negative responses. Dismissing or negating people's ideas results in time being wasted with bickering and hurt feelings rather than finding good ideas.

Whether people encourage or discourage creative solutions depends on whether they behave in a way that fertilizes or poisons creative energy. Your audience should get in the habit, even in personal conversations, even with siblings and spouses and friends, of treating all ideas in a positive way in order to encourage more of them and use them as stepping stones on the path to possible solutions. Dismissing them results in living and working without benefit of them. It takes practice to learn how to find their benefit. That's the change in behavior they should start working on from the moment they hear your speech in order to have more productive lives. It should become a habit. It effects all aspects of their lives, everything from where they end up living and working to what they end up eating, to how successfully they manage their healthcare, to how well off and happy their neighbors and loved ones and friends are as a result of their association with them.

You could subtitle this "Bad Ideas" and suggest that there are none. Doug Hall, who has written about this a lot, is one of the proponents of it. Searching on his name along with "creativity" would be one way to begin the research. His role as one of the judges on the reality show "American Inventor" might produce a lot of extraneous hits. However, creativity and how to nurture it in a group was his subject decades before he was on TV. Essentially the idea is that whenever someone makes a suggestion, the worst thing you can do is dismiss it.

Cosmetic Surgery
Even smiles are beginning to look as though they have come off of production lines. Teeth are bleached and perfectly even. Are cosmetic standards rising to a level that exceeds good sense?

Indian Names
Is it demeaning to Indians to have sports teams named after them? Is it demeaning to Indians to have states and rivers named after them? To some Indians the term "Red Skin" is the equivalent of "Nigger." But if the only native Indian family in the school is proud that the team is named after their people, should white immigrants tell them they are wrong and the name must be changed for their own good?

Is western society in denial about alcohol’s being a drug? Audience’s found the movie “Sideways” charming. Polly McCall, an alcohol and drug therapist in New York City said, of Miles, the lead character in the movie, that there is a connection between all of his troubles and his drinking, from finding it hard to get up in the morning to his failed relationships and money problems. She said that when you are stealing from your mother, you’re an alcoholic.

In the novel the word “sideways” is a synonym for “drunk.” Do we need a new perspective on what should be considered acceptable behavior with regard to alchohol?

Crime in Medicine
According to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare organizations, 4.1% of sentinel events in medicine are healthcare workers committing assault, rape and homicide against patients, and the least likely of all people to report those crimes are healthcare workers. Imagine how many lesser offences are committed against trusting, helpless patients. Healthcare professionals almost never are punished for committing these crimes.

How is it that this state of affairs is allowed to exist? State medical boards are run by physicians that don't believe patients but do believe other physicians. A study of the Ohio State Medical Board shows that they virtually never discipline anyone on the basis of complaints filed by patients. It appears that people in medicine cannot police themselves and yet they are the only ones who claim to be doing that. This makes medicine a safe place for people who cannot be trusted.

Search on "crime in medicine" with the asterisks to read more.

Chocolate or Vanilla
Perhaps present two milkshakes as visual aids. Do the taste test yourself on the spot. To prepare some phrases to use, search on restaurant and wine reviews and appropriate their vocabulary. "A generous nose of aromas and scents to entice. . . smooth body, broad flavors, well-balanced, bright, fresh, lengthy finish. A quaffer for the crowd." Or borrow vocabulary from another field: interactive, multi-dimensional, linear, definitely milkshake 2 point oh.

If you have a pet, perhaps a mouse, that is manageable in front of an audience, pouring a little of each flavor on a surface to see which one the animal prefers might be amusing. It would be possible to have a cardboard box into which the audience cannot see and persuade them that a roach or rat is in it and relate the choices and behavior of the creature. "Oh, he's curling his lips back and shaking his head. He didn't like that one at all."

Under God
Should “Under God” have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States of America? The pledge was written in 1892. “Under God” was not added until 1954. Is it fair to citizens who are Muslims or Atheists?

For someone over 21 years old, is it wrong? Is it just chatting? For a person in a relationship, is it cheating? Is it sex?

Between pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and such, we use a lot of petroleum to create each calorie of food that we produce. Turning corn into fuel for cars is not escaping dependence on oil.

In addition, a study has concluded that when current farmers stop selling corn for fuel, it creates a market for farmers elsewhere to grow food. To do so they clear tropical forests and grasslands that were helping to cleanse the atmosphere of greenhouse gases and now instead create more of them.

On top of that, all of the biofuels we can grow can replace only a fraction of the fossil fuels used.

What is the legacy we leave to the future when, to power cars, we use up topsoil they will need to feed increasing populations? And when we will have removed even more of the atmosphere-cleansing forests and grasslands to do so? And left the future with an even larger national debt to pay as a result of subsidizing farmers to turn corn into ethanol? Does this make sense? If not, is there anyway to overcome the political power of the farmers who get rich from the subsidies?

Anchorwoman Fashion
Tyler Brule wrote that talking heads on TV dress as if they worked in radio. She calls it the least elegant place on the broadcast landscape. Does it matter if they do? What would it say about the United States if the president lived in a mobile home? What does it say when American anchorwomen on CNN are seen all over the world in the fashion equivalent?

When Mussolini was establishing his fascist regime, he said that the three disciplines most likely to sway the minds of people were architecture, film, and fashion. Has anything contributed more to the worldwide seductive power of the United States than Hollywood movies and blue jeans?

Visual aids could turn this persuasive speech topic into an opportunity to raise the consciousness of an audience that does not understand the power, the substance and the impact of fashion.

Nuclear Energy
Burning coal and petroleum to fuel power plants spreads acid rain and other pollutants across the entire continent. People and the environment everywhere suffer as a result, just ask the Canadians who hate American power for killing their fish and destroying their environment by spreading acid rain over their environment. Using nuclear power instead concentrates the problem in a small area in a salt mine where the waste is stored. It also reduces dependence on foreign oil. Shouldn’t we embrace it?

Miss America & Miss Universe
Is it demeaning for swimsuits to be part of the competition?

Social Security
Should a portion of it be privatized? What if there is another prolonged decline in the market? These come around from time to time and sometimes last for years. In such an event, won’t the rest of the country have to bail out the retirees anyway?

What about the idea of the government giving every child a retirement account to which the government adds a small amount each year for their retirement? That could produce a generation of millionaires by retirement.

Children and Wedlock
It seems as though there are more and more couples who live together and have children but never marry. Does this have consequences for the children? Does it matter to society?

Affirmative Action
Should it go on forever?

Importing labor
They say that in the USA we need foreigners to do the low paying jobs that Americans won’t do. But if there weren’t inexpensive foreigners doing those jobs, wouldn’t employers raise wages to attract American workers?

Racial Profiling
Is profiling always bad? Is any kind of acceptable. When was the last time a woman hijacked an airplane? When was the last time a senior citizen threatened a pilot or mugged someone? Can't one look at statistics and narrow the field of who watch in order to do a better job of protecting ourselves? Bill Maher says that in order to make profiling politically palatable it should be renamed “Proactive Intelligent Screening.” He says that color blind or any other kind of blind is blind and we need to see in order to protect ourselves.

Are there cases in which profiling makes sense and should be accepted in order for us to be able to protect our lives?

They are coming back. One matchmaker charges $20,000 to weed through her database to find a spouse for you. In present day America, can this create marriages that last?

Psycho pharmaceuticals / psychiatric medications
Are we, as a nation, drugged into complacency? Every time someone is depressed, they are given something that makes them not care. Isn’t caring, and caring desperately, what drives innovation and improvement? If you get raped in a hospital, everyone tells you to see a therapist, take a drug and get over it, rather than rise up and scream about a health care system that allowed that to be done to you, that continues to protect the miscreant who raped you (to avoid liability), and that fights you when you try to warn other patients about the predator working there. Shouldn't some thought be given to social responsibility rather than just to personal comfort? Isn't pain and rage necessary to get people to fight hard enough to make a difference for the common good? What if the founding fathers had seen a therapist and taken drugs to calm down rather than write the Declaration of Independence?

Increasingly people say they need drugs to become normal. Is happiness normal? Is complacency normal? What happened to duty? Doesn't society deserve the benefit of your pain?

There are people who are born with no sense of pain. They don't live very long. Being aware of what hurts is essential to survival, both for the individual and the society. If we escape it through drugs when we hurt, are we not denying society a motive force essential to growth and survival?

(Also, see below)

Mood Drugs / Sleep Aids (psycho pharmaceuticals II)
Some drugs that purportedly help people sleep, don't. But they do create amnesia of the time it took to get to sleep. Studies have shown that people who take them do not fall asleep any faster and do not wake up anymore rested, but they don't remember the time they laid there awake. The patient returns to the doctor and the doctor asks how the patient likes the drug. The patient likes it and it is prescribed again.

Is this the best way to decide what drugs to give to patients? For instance, schizophrenics. If they are given something addictive, even if it makes their problem worse they will tell the physician it is helping and get more.

According to Robert Whitaker in "Anatomy of an Epidemic," it is better if the community around the patient is involved in directing the care through a community response, including the employer, rather than just asking the patient if the patient likes the drug.

Whitaker says that psychiatry was losing ground to other professions, like social workers, until psychiatrists became the prescribers of chemical solutions. Then chemical imbalance became the focus of everything. In such a scenario, physicians see more patients, prescribe more drugs in a shorter period of time, and make more money if they just ask the patient. So there is little motivation to enter into a more complex relationship that is better for patients.

Obese Children
It can’t be the fault of the children. Who is at fault and what can be done?

Cholesterol Lowering Drugs
They are being prescribed to everyone with high cholesterol in spite of the fact that there is no evidence that it actually prolongs anyone’s life. Isn’t this the same as their telling everyone to switch to margarine decades ago only to find out now that everyone would have been better off sticking with butter?

Keep in mind that these topics are supposed to be controversial so that it will be necessary to be persuasive, not because the authors agree with them.

Feminized Culture
About the only thing men are allowed to do is apologize. Whatever is wrong, men caused it. Wars supposedly are caused by too much testosterone, as though too much estrogen was a fountain of peace. Does it interfere with progress on issues when half of the country is being neutered and blamed and the other half walks away feeling no responsibility?

Immigrant Students
An executive at General Motors said that the USA could wipe out its trade deficit if it put a 100% tax on tuition for students coming from other countries to study. Would they still come if the price doubled? Isn’t having young people come here to make friends and learn who we are and how we can live together one of the most valuable cultural exchanges there is? Wouldn’t we be better off subsidizing foreign students in order to encourage more of that?

Janet Jackson
Wasn’t her Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction less obscene than the surrounding commercials for products for diarrhea, flatulence, erectile dysfunction and feminine protection?

Stem Cells
Using a treatment based on human embryonic stem cells, Dr. Hans S. Kierstead, an assistant professor at the University of California in Irvine, California, has enabled paralyzed rats to walk. His work was a rallying point for the passage of Proposition 71 in California, a ballot measure enacted to award public grants for stem cell research. Isn't it time to give scientists the freedom to do whatever work they feel necessary to enable them eventually to heal people with stem cells?

Home schooling
Do home-schooled children miss necessary social interaction and growth

Art Subsidies
Should government ever subsidize the arts? Should they step in and say something when they don’t like what subsidized artists create?

Space Program
Does it really benefit anyone?

Death Penalty / Capital Punishment
The Supreme Court of the United States determined that it was less expensive to give criminals life-sentences than to go through the costly appeals process that death penalty cases always engender. Even on the part of those employed to incarcerate and carry out the executions, there is so much resistance to carrying through with it that it appears that the community no longer can stomach it. It has no deterrent effect on criminal behavior and decreases our standing in the world community - most nations consider it barbaric and inhumane. Even we, the USA, have a policy against extraditing criminals to countries that have the death penalty. Why is it making a comeback?

Gun Control
The second amendment of the Constitution of the United States guarantees the right to bare arms. That amendment was written at a time when people needed to hunt for food, weapons were much less destructive, and the militia depended on people to arm themselves. Should that old amendment be obeyed in this new world? Is there anything to be learned from Kosovo? What about the study “More Guns, Less Crime” that proves once and for all that its title is true?

School Food
We blame school cafeterias for feeding junk to our children, but say nothing about the pop and chip machines in the hallway that support school athletics by tempting children to eat there instead of in the cafeteria. Also, parochial schools often flaunt laws and regulations governing sensible nutrition for children as well as safe food handling practices (is it just a myth that parochial schools are the hardest hit by flu epidemics, and could unsafe food handling practices be part of the cause).

Music Education
More and more schools drop it to save money. Does that matter?

Third Party Candidates
Do they add anything to elections? Or are they weeds in the lawn that are killing the grass? Eugene Debs never got elected president, but when asked he said that he didn’t need to because the other parties, in order to gain the votes of his supporters, kept adopting the elements of his platform. So he didn't need to get elected in order to get his platform established. Is that an example of a third party candidate getting representation for minority views for which there otherwise would have been no room in the platforms of the major parties?

Medicare and Prescription Drugs
In the United States 1 percent of the elderly spend a quarter of their income on prescription drugs. Should the government bail them out?

Political Correctness
Does the constitution guarantee freedom from being offended? Doesn’t maturity mean understanding that you are not going to like everything that others have a right to say and do? Isn't maturity being tolerant enough to coexist peacefully with people who have different beliefs, interests and behavior than you?

Are the forces of political correctness among the least tolerant of all. While preaching tolerance and diversity, do the forces of political correctness destroy diversity of opinion and diversity of perspective by demanding that everyone regurgitate their party line?

Jury Award Caps
In the first place, they probably are a violation of our constitutional right to equal protection, as the Wisconsin Supreme Court has found. In the second place, research shows that malpractice suits are almost never "frivolous" and contribute only about one half of one percent of the cost of medicine in this country. So the original reasons for liability limitations are highly suspect in the first place. But the effect of them is a problem also.

A lawyer who checks into a hospital gets extremely careful attention because a lawyer is considered someone who would be more likely to sue. Doctors and other healthcare professionals are extremely aware of who their patients are. More powerful and more important people get more attention. Powerless people get less and are more likely to suffer neglect or even to become targets of those in medicine who do bad things to patients. When injured patients try to respond afterwards, they can be faced with jury award caps. Often those caps make it so that the only thing that patients can sue for is loss of income. Retired people and poor people don't have enough income to make it worth bringing a case. So patients with low incomes cannot get lawyers because there is not enough money in their cases to interest the lawyers. This make them even less powerful in the eyes of medical professionals and makes them a class that is more likely to become targets of unfriendly practices and negligence in medicine.

This is something that is ignored by the medical industry and is not thought about much by patients, until they have become victims. It is something about which there needs to be more public awareness.

To read a short report on this search on "their wallets versus our lives" with the asterisks included. Other search terms to try can be found in that report.

Information Time Lag
35 years ago the fact that trans fats are bad for you was publicly available. Also available at that time was information about how many calories of petroleum it took to produce one calorie of corn and therefore why ethanol was a bad idea. Why does it take so many years for such information finally to become mainstream?

Yard Pollution
Do we put too many pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers into the watershed in order to meet the high standards of modern lawn care? Fifty years ago lawns were not expected to look as perfect as they do now. Are our standards too high for our own good?

Feng Shui
Is there scientific proof that it works? Does the color and placement of furniture in a room really direct energy?

How much of our weight is a matter of genes and how much is it a matter of habits? How often does dieting work in the long term? Is it silly to keep saying "just diet" to people who are overweight? Do we need a new perspective on the problem?

Electoral College Voting System
It was developed at a time when it was impossible for people in the Carolinas to get to know a presidential candidate in Massachusetts. It was created so that people in the Carolinas, or wherever, could pick someone they trusted to go to Massachusetts to get to know the candidates and choose one for them. In the age of mass communication does this still make sense? In the light of how it skews elections and confers power on relatively small groups of voters, is it time to abandon the electoral college system of voting?

Communal Equipment
Does it make sense for every house in a neighborhood to have its own lawnmower? Currently each household owns a small, highly polluting machine that takes 45 minutes to mow half an acre. Wouldn’t it be better if ten houses together owned one great machine that would mow the half acre in ten minutes, cost less per household, do a better job, and create less pollution? Couldn’t the same philosophy be applied to snow removal equipment, table saws, chain saws and other tools needed for living?

Elder Care
It has been said that 80% of what we spend on healthcare is spent in the last two years of life. Is it worth it even to the patients who are getting the healthcare? Doesn’t it just create two years of agony?

Anti Depressants in Children
Is it OK for children to be developing and maturing in a state of mind altered by drugs? What is the downside of that?

Criminals are not prosecuted for the crimes they actually commit. Juries are persuaded by style more than substance. The kind and amount of information that must be considered in some cases requires teams of specialists working for months to prepare for the trial. How can a lay jury ever hope to understand the truth? Is there any hope for justice?

Even during the 1960s, most Americans were humming “Welfare Cadillac” rather than “Free speech” and “Revolution.” Does freedom really matter as long as people have security and healthcare and enough of what they want in life?

Wilderness Protection and Snowmobiles
People have left their homes in rural Michigan just to escape the constant 24-hour a day din of snowmobiles. Can a national park or wilderness area maintain any semblance of being natural with that kind and amount of traffic?

Between cable TV, the Internet and what children can get on disks from friends, is there any point in the FCC regulating what the networks air?

Global Warming
How much can you really do to reduce your carbon footprint?

Cars, for instance. Half of the fuel your car consumes in its lifetime it consumed before it reached the new car lot. Mining the ore, smelting the metal, forming it, painting it and all of the petrochemicals used to make the synthetic substances out of which your car is made used a lot of energy. Besides not driving your car, isn't one of the most fuel-efficient things you can do is to keep the same one. Don't buy a new one for twenty years, if it will keep running. According to the Hertz corporation, it is cheaper to keep repairing an old car than to buy a new one anyway. The reason is all of the fuel that must be used to make it for you. But if you own one at all, no matter how little you drive it or how fuel efficient it is, creating that car for you used a lot of energy.

It's the same for your dwelling. It helps a little to heat it less and cool it less, but the amount of energy used to build it and maintain it are huge. Hauling the trash away from it, hauling food to it, creating the food to haul to it and all the other support mechanisms necessary to survive in the modern world use fuel. Even if you became homeless you still would have a significant carbon footprint, as you probably are aware from the MIT study about that.

The MIT study found that even the homeless have large carbon footprints because of how life is sustained in the modern world (see http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2008/footprint-tt0416.html). People who don't buy new clothes, don't live in heated dwellings, and don't own cars still have large carbon footprints. Achieving significant reductions requires changes so drastic as to limit the likelihood of their being made, both at a personal level and at a national level.

Michael Crichton has doubts about global warming anyway. He says that many problems that we might want to study scientifically can be sent to 20 independent labs around the world and have all of them come up with the same, or nearly the same, answer. But with global warming, there will be 20 different answers. Can people be asked to sacrifice now for something that no one can predict?

Should this even be discussed any longer? Are there not alternatives to its medical use? Isn’t the culture so deeply engrained against it that discussion of legalization merely makes the discussers look like crackpots (so to speak)?

The Right to Know
In the USA, if you saw that your congressperson was drunk on the floor of the House, you could tell people about it without getting used. A couple of hundred years ago our forefathers saw that it was essential for we the people to be able to discuss matters of such importance. So politics was defined legally as being “public” in the sense that we can talk about it without getting sued. If you see that your surgeon is drunk while operating, you cannot tell anyone without getting sued for more money than you ever will have, and bankruptcy will not escape the burden. So you cannot warn anyone and they cannot warn you in medicine. Whose sobriety is more important to you? Your congressperson’s or your surgeon’s? Shouldn’t medicine be redefined so that we can have some control over our healthcare?

Visual Aids
Sure, they’re memorable, but sometimes don’t they sensationalize a speech, undermine discourse and pull attention away from logic and reason?

Does attacking it at its source just make more enemies waiting for opportunities? Beirut suffered from constant terrorist attacks for years until that generation of terrorists finally got old. The next generation had better things to do. Wouldn’t it be better for the USA to stop making enemies and concentrate on befriending the next generation?

How can people be persuaded to avoid risky behavior? When someone is found to be carrying a deadly, drug resistant strain, what measures ethically can be taken to prevent that person from infecting the community?

There is so much talk about keeping hydrated and almost none about what is too much. A study of marathon runners who had collapsed found almost none had as a result of being dehydrated, but quite a few had problems that can result from hyponatremia, or over hydration. Hyponatremia depletes minerals, which can cause disorientation, illness and even death. Wouldn’t we be better off if we stopped consciously trying to hydrate ourselves and just drank when we were thirsty?

An environmentalist who was instrumental in the first initiative to recycle paper, when visiting the plant where it was being done for the first time and seeing how much effluent it made, wondered if it might not have been better just to cut down another tree. Is a lot of recycling merely political and not actually good for the environment?

When word processors first became available, secretaries went on strike to try to prevent their use. They were afraid these machines would replace them. Which they did, but with better, higher paying jobs. Isn’t automation always better in the long run, even though specific people might lose jobs in the short run?

Red Cross
Is it wrong or misleading for the Red Cross to play on people’s emotions in response to specific disasters to get donations that end up in the general fund for all Red Cross work?

Same Sex Marriage
Who does it help? Who does it hurt? Is it a civil right or just a choice?

Fraternities / Sororities
Do they contribute anything to society? Does banning drinking in them just move the party off campus?

What obligations do we have to accept dislocated people from around the world? What are the pitfalls of doing so? Especially in the age of terrorism.

Homeland Security
What might be done with the information in the future? MATRIX (the Multistate Anti-TeRrorism Information eXchange) is a data-mining program that combines information from government and the private-sector for officials to search for terrorist or criminal activity. This already had been tried by the Pentagon’s ‘Total Information Awareness” data-mining program. Congress had been forced to shut that down. It is too intrusive. Isn’t the government now using the furor over terrorism to push through the same thing again?

Does it matter if people know that Diogenes was the original contrarian or whether they know the origins of “That is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper?” Isn’t it enough for schools to teach job skills?

Can anything other than the party line be said about the issue without suffering severe consequences? Can progress be made on an issue that cannot be discussed with any integrity?

Prison Reform
Gangs inside prisons have gotten so powerful that they control people outside of prison. Murders are ordered on others just for something that was said. Drugs are rampant. Robbing a convenient store can result in a death sentence from fellow inmates. Death row might be the safest place behind bars. Can anything be done?

New Age religion
Does it matter what people believe? Is one religion as good as the next? If they believe that there are seven Gods, doesn't that bring the same moral authority to their lives as believing in one? Is morality actually tied to the idea of God anyway?

Attention Deficit Disorder – ADD
There are ways to learn for people with this condition, but rather than creating a system in which they can function, we drug them to fit the system we already have. Between the side effects of those drugs and the way people who take them become increasingly resistant to them, shouldn’t we save the usefulness of those drugs for later in life when those people are trying to cope with career and family as adults? Shouldn't we allow them to grow up in a system that does not require them to use drugs? Might they not figure out how to implement some of that system in the real world when they get out of school if they have enough experience with it in school?

Safe Ports
The Department of Homeland Security says that an attack on one of the nation’s ports would cause a 500-point drop in the stock market and a $58 billion hit to the economy. 98% of shipping containers arrive without being inspected. Inspecting every one of the millions of containers that arrive each year would cost about as much as one day of the war in Iraq. A plan has been devised for inspecting them all. Shouldn’t we be doing it?

Does it Matter If Students Vote?
A radio station that wants to attract a certain age group cannot play music that was produced more than four years after that demographic graduated from college. After that age they are not open to new music. Music taste isn't the only thing that is decided by age 25. According to Professor David Mindich's book on the subject, if you haven't started listening to the news and voting by age 25 you never will. A student who thinks he or she will tune in later is fooling him or herself.

They might not have been paying attention to the news, they might not have much at stake in the election, they might simply vote the way their parents vote (which is almost always the case for students), but shouldn't students vote anyway if only to begin having the habit of being responsible participants in democracy?

Irradiating Food
There are people who have weak immune systems and whose lives depend on having their food be very safe. They are the ones currently going to the trouble to find food that has been irradiated. If all food were irradiated, there would be no recalls of meat with e. coli or salmonella. Shelf life would be longer and people would be safer. Shouldn’t we overcome the frantic fringe that has gotten it barred from our grocery stores?

Foreign Ownership of the USA
Our trade deficit is so bad that we can stay afloat only by selling our assets. What if the foreign countries that own our assets decide to use their ownership as a weapon? Or is owning us what gives them a stake here and makes them want to live in peace?

Patient Safety
The reason patients are not safe is that the healthcare industry has not found a way to make a profit on safety. They get paid no matter what the outcome for the patient. In fact, if the outcome is bad, they get to sell more healthcare to the patient. The incentive structure competes with safety. The interests of healthcare providers is at odds with the interests of patients. If it weren't safety would not be an issue because healthcare would be self-cleansing. Consider how differently the medical profession would approach safety if 100 doctors died unnecessarily each year instead of 100,000 patients. As it is, people in healthcare are inured to the frequency of errors large and small. They say that their top priority is the safety of patients, but it's simply not true.

For more about this, click on: http://patient-safety.com/conflict_of_interest.htm

Illegal Aliens
Control of borders might be the primary definition of statehood. Illegal aliens have violated that control. They then work here without paying taxes, but still take advantage of the services, everything from free education and police protection to healthcare. One New York hospital pointed out that its annual deficit is equal to the amount it spends giving healthcare to illegal aliens who show up in need, but without insurance or way to be sent a bill. Is this OK?

Faith Healing
Should people who believe in faith healing be allowed to withhold medical care from their children in the believe that they can be healed through faith?

There were novels written in America before Mark Twain, but they were European novels. The first truly American literature, and possibly the best to this day, is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a masterpiece written by Mark Twain. It is the book that taught the world that a book written in the American vernacular could be legitimate and compelling. That might be the very reason it is not acceptable to the forces of political correctness. What might be the most important piece of literature in the United States of America has not been read by people graduating from high school and even college. Apparently it is too contentious for school curriculum because the word “nigger” appears in it. In some cases Shakespeare’s plays are not taught for similar reasons. This when those same students listen to rap lyrics that we would shudder to repeat here. Has our culture been usurped by small-minded, self-righteous, politically correct, ner-do-wells?

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer also has been banned. So has One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Color Purple by Alice Walker and Little Red Riding Hood by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

Could a persuasive speech topic include an oral reading of passages from one of these books in a school where it has been banned?

Alternative Fuels
Do they really exist? Wouldn’t we be using them already if they made sense economically? Even if they were subsidized, can get enough power be gotten from them to run a modern industrial country?

Hearts and Minds
In some countries they think all Americans carry guns and could become violent at any moment. Shouldn’t we be doing more to win the minds, if not the hearts, of the rest of the world?

Racial Equality. Are the races really equal?
Gabriel Alvarez, a hip-hop journalist of Mexican descent, says that race is the new pornography. He says, “It’s the only thing in our culture that people are still uncomfortable talking about.” We can think of one or two others, but certainly not much is more volatile. For all of the calls for a frank discussion of race, no such thing is possible. There is no tolerance of contrary viewpoints or frank discussion. The party line must be regurgitated or the career and the social standing of the speaker are destroyed. Even college campuses, once thought to be the bastion of free speech, are among the least safe places for such a discussion.

There are some who say the tide has turned and it might now be possible to broach the discussion. Witness the book “Ego Trip’s Big Book of Racism,” made up of lists like the “Top 10 Reasons Latins Steal.” If you are black you are allowed to make black jokes. If you are Latin you are allowed to make Latin jokes. Frank discussion though? We are not sure the tide has turned that far yet.

As much as it might light a fire under your audience, we advise you not to use race as a persuasive speech topic. Even the writers of Beavis and Butthead wouldn’t go near the subject. But if you do, perhaps by sticking to discussing why it cannot be discussed, let us know how it went so that this page can be informed by your experience.

Medical Complaints
When a patient witnessed Dr. Michael Swango poisoning another patient, she called out for help. The nurses and doctors who responded handled it in house, as is always the case in medicine. No one called the police. No one called security. No one reported it to the state medical board. The patient had no idea who to call. Patients usually don't, and with good reason. There is no one for patients to call. There is no phone number that a patient can call to get guidance from someone on their side who knows something.

The result is that patients don’t report. Since it is rare for anyone in medicine to report the worst events, very little ends up being reported. Nothing is learned from errors and crimes. Future ones are not prevented. Shouldn’t there be a phone number patients can call for help? Shouldn’t it be advertised so that when something untoward happens, witnesses and victims already know to whom to report it?

Some information to begin your research can be found at:

Web Art
Is the web an entirely new medium from which is springing a new kind of art that never before was possible? To see a series of flash art files that explore and discuss that, click: http://joel.com/images/wordgifs/purposeless/1.swf