An article in the Shreeveport times defends the value of debate
During the Middle Ages, rhetoric was one of the seven required liberal arts.
For definitional purposes, academic debate is much like any sport out there. Teams meet in various formats and engage in a battle of research, wit and delivery in front of any number of judges and a winner is determined.
Unlike the normal classroom, competition drives students to achieve and studies confirm the benefits.
The article can be found here