Controversial Topics

List of Controversial Topics

Controversial topics are a great way to stir a heated discussion and capture audience attention. Presenting controversial material and allowing audience members to view opposing perspectives makes it more engaging and interesting.

Whether you use these topics in your speech or essay, the end goal is still the same. You need to have an objective and productive dialogue with your audience.

Given that your leading discussions are about controversies, you need to discuss opposing viewpoints and allow your audience to decide for themselves. 

Issues and controversies stem out when the public has a stark difference of opinion. That being the case, objectivity is your best-guiding principle when it comes to writing your controversial speech or essay. 

So in order to help you get started, we have listed some interesting topics as well as a few information that you need to know before you write your essay or speech. 

What are Some Good Controversial Topics?

We have collated several topics from different education portals that you can hopefully get inspiration from. 

The McLennan Community College website has cited in their website a few broad topics that have been popularly debated and discussed.

  • Activism
  • Human Trafficking
  • Child Labor
  • Immigration and Refugees
  • Nuclear Weapons or disarmament
  • Education system
  • Race
  • Election
  • Religion
  • Epidemics and pandemics
  • Media Literacy 
  • Reproductive health
  • Gun control
  • Human rights
  • Social media

The Assumption University in Massachusetts has also pitched a few topic ideas in their university portal such as:

  • Abortion
  • Alternate Energy
  • Bullying and Cyber Bullying
  • Climate Change/Global Warming
  • Cost of Higher Education
  • Economy
  • Education and Standardized Testing
  • Ethics and Animal Rights
  • Ethics and Human Rights
  • Gay Marriage
  • Globalization
  • Gun Control/Gun Violence/Violence
  • Health Care
  • Immigration
  • International Affairs
  • Internet and Media
  • Marijuana
  • Obesity
  • Politics
  • Privacy
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Religion and Religious Conflicts
  • Science and Technology
  • Steroids
  • Teen Sex and Teen Pregnancy
  • U.S. Foreign Policy

As for some of the recent events that have circulated the news for the whole year of 2020, the University of Michigan-Flint has cited a few controversial topics that are worth looking into like: 

  • 2020 Census
  • Affordable Care Act
  • Alt-right
  • Antifa
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Border security
  • Coronavirus
  • Cybersecurity
  • DACA
  • Early voting
  • Equal Rights Amendment
  • Executive order
  • General Data Protection Regulation
  • Gerrymandering
  • Green New Deal
  • Hate speech
  • Health insurance
  • Human trafficking
  • Immigration
  • Mail-in ballots
  • Me Too movement
  • Misinformation
  • Net neutrality
  • Paris Climate Agreement
  • PFAs
  • Police reform
  • Political activism
  • Prescription drug addiction
  • Russian hacking
  • Sanctuary city
  • Socialism
  • Stimulus packages
  • Supreme Court confirmation
  • Syrian civil war
  • Trade tariffs
  • Transgender rights
  • Vaccination
  • Voter fraud
  • White nationalism
  • Wildfires

It is worth noting that these topics are broad and have a few subtopics within them. 

You can also get inspiration from other organizations that tackles specific or targeted subjects like the ones cited below from the American Public Health Association

  • Chronic Disease
  • Community Water Fluoridation
  • COVID-19/Coronavirus
  • Ebola
  • Environmental Health
  • Global Health
  • Health Equity
  • Health in All Policies
  • Health Rankings
  • Health Reform
  • Healthy Community Design
  • Healthy Housing
  • Immigrant Health
  • Injury & Violence Prevention
  • Lead Contamination
  • Maternal and Child Health
  • Mental Health
  • Preparedness
  • Prescription Drug Overdose
  • Public Health Accreditation
  • Public Health Standards
  • School-Based Health Care
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Substance Misuse
  • Suicide
  • Tobacco
  • Vaccines

What are the Hot Topics?

We have listed some of the most Googled questions relating to controversial topics.

  • Will work done on artificial intelligence eventually lead to your demise?
  • How should the government address issues related to criminal justice in this country?
  • Or do customers have an ethical obligation to boycott companies with shady practices?
  • Do you need the Olympic games or is this a matter of the past?
  • Should police departments be defunded, if not abolished?
  • Should people get fired for what they say on social media?
  • Should the united states have mandatory national service?
  • Do violent video games contribute to youth violence?
  • How do you deal with the problem of teens and eating disorders?
  • What are the solutions to illegal immigration in America?
  • Should we give men accused of sexual misconduct a second chance?
  • Can alternative energy effectively replace fossil fuels?
  • What are the solutions to illegal immigration in America?
  • Should the drinking age be lowered from 21 to a younger age?
  • Should the united states keep daylight saving time?
  • Should animals be used for scientific or commercial testing?
  • Should the president govern the nation by a set code of ethics?
  • Should the united states maintain its embargo against Cuba?
  • Should marijuana be a medical option?
  • Should students have to wear school uniforms?
  • Should the election day be made a national holiday?
  • Should the united states return to a gold standard?
  • Should recreational marijuana be legal?
  • Should parents assist their children with home tasks?
  • Are social networking sites good for your society?
  • Should the electoral college be replaced by the popular vote?
  • Should movies and television shows be forced to hire more diverse casts?
  • Should male and female actors make the same amount of money?
  • Do electronic voting machines improve the voting process?
  • Should more gun control laws be enacted?
  • Should transgender individuals be allowed in the military?
  • Should transgendered people be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice?
  • Did Russia interfere with the 2016 presidential election?
  • Should the federal government pay reparations to the descendants of slaves?
  • Should student loan debt be easier to discharge in bankruptcy?
  • Is a hotdog a sandwich argument?
  • Should parents or other adults be able to ban books from schools and libraries?
  • Should adults have the right to carry a concealed handgun?
  • Should the federal government implement a school voucher program?
  • Should evolution or creationism be taught in public high schools?
  • Should athletes be allowed to kneel during the national anthem?

Keep in mind that even though some of the questions sound silly or the answers to these questions are already obvious, some people still have a hard time grasping these concepts or topics.

Having said that, it is worth looking into these topics and discussing them in your essay or speech. 

Why is it Important to Address Controversial Issues at School?

For those of you who are looking for controversial topics as part of your schoolwork or project, we thought it is also important to discuss why it is important to further talk about these issues at school. 

First, discussing a controversial topic in a classroom setting is a great way to practice your debate skills. This would not only improve your critical thinking, but it would also allow you to be updated with the latest issues and current events. 

Aside from being a great debate topic, discussing controversies at school would let you have a more productive and intelligent dialogue with your classmates and teachers.

Third, addressing these topics at school would help you resolve conflict more peacefully in the future. Since discussing controversial topics means facing opposing viewpoints, you would be more sensitive and receptive to other peoples’ opinions.  

Other than that, your perception would not be limited within the four walls of your school. When you write a controversial speech or topic, you would be exposed to a lot of articles and reading materials. 

Bearing that in mind, you would hear several information and opinions about social issues and controversies. 

So although it might not seem important, choosing a controversial topic for your next school project is an important feat that requires a lot of thought and consideration.  

What is a Debate for Students?

Student debates are mostly performed in a formal setting and students usually have a theoretical debate on social and global issues. 

However, they are equally important as those debates happening in congress, senate, court, or in any other work settings. 

It might seem like another task that you need to do to pass a subject in school, but it also has real-world repercussions outside your school. 

For one, you would be able to form a balanced and informed argument based on evidence and logic. 

That being said, you would have a healthy dialogue with your family and peers outside your school. 

And since every controversial issue has multiple perspectives and viewpoints, having an experience in debate would ultimately bid well for you, especially after you graduate from school.

Student debate helps you prepare for the real-world. 

With the help of student debates, you would be able to form a more coherent, structured, and organized argument when you start working. 

In fact, previous researchers have found that former student debaters tend to be very successful people.

Most of the representatives and people in congress, the senate, and other important positions have undergone debates back when they were still in school. 

That being said, discussing and debating these issues in school will always be relevant and important. 

Controversial Topics

What are Good School Debate Topics?

An online course provider called Udemy has listed some fun and interesting topics such as 

  • Should cell phones be used during class?
  • Should laptops be allowed in classrooms?
  • Should high schools provide daycare services for students who have children?
  • Are single-sex schools more effective than co-ed schools?
  • Is television an effective tool in building the minds of children?
  • Is it effective to censor parts of the media?
  • Do school uniforms make school a more effective place to learn?
  • Does school detention do any good in high schools?
  • All schools should make it a requirement to teach arts and music to their students?
  • Will posting students’ grades on bulletin boards publicly motivate them to perform better or is it humiliating?
  • Is peer pressure harmful or beneficial to individuals?
  • Should homework be banned?
  • Is the grading system used in high school effective?
  • Can bullying in schools be stopped? How so?
  • Should animal dissections be banned in schools?
  • Are security cameras an invasion of our privacy?
  • How far is competition necessary in regards to the learning process?
  • Are beauty pageants a way to objectifying women?
  • Should school attendance be made voluntary in high school?
  • Is the boarding school system beneficial to children?
  • Should fried foods come with a warning?
  • Are curfews effective in terms of keeping teens out of trouble?
  • Should parents not purchase war or destruction type toys for their children?
  • Is it important for all schools to conduct mandatory drug testing on students?
  • Should libraries have a list of books that are banned?

How will you create a comfortable environment conducive to productive dialogue?

Given that controversial topics usually have opposing views, it is important to create a comfortable environment for both sides. 

When you are in a classroom setting, it is usually easy because your teacher is there to act as a mediator. 

However, outside the classroom, it is quite difficult to have a productive discussion with other people on certain issues. 

Since not everyone would agree with your views, it is hard to reason with someone outside the classroom and without a mediator.  

Oftentimes, it just result in heated discussion and hate speech. 

So in order to avoid such conflict, we highly suggest you use the Rogerian Argument.

What is a Rogerian Argument?

It is an argumentative reasoning that aims to establish and find a middle ground between opposing views. 

Without noticing it, you might already be familiar with the Rogerian Argument. 

For example, you might want to watch a comedy movie but your sibling wants to watch a romantic movie instead. To compromise and establish middle ground, you and your siblings both agreed to watch a rom-com movie.

To put it simply, the Rogerian argument is having a mutual understanding of an issue and avoiding the negative effects of a polarized discussion. 

You can also use the Rogerian argument in your essay as illustrated below.

Controversial Topics

The information cited in the infographic is based on Purdue Online Writing Lab

It is worth noting, however, that this form of argumentative reasoning also has its disadvantages. 

The Rogerian Argument may not be effective especially if the opposing side is unable to compromise. It may also lead to sacrificing your own opinions just to accommodate the opposing side. 

Bearing that in mind, you should know the magnitude and impact of the topic that you want to discuss before writing your speech or essay. 

That way, you would be able to know whether a Rogerian argument applies to your chosen topic or not. 

What is the Goal of Having this Discussion?

As we have implied a few times, social issues and controversies are tough topics to discuss. 

Whether you are having a work or class discussion, the end goal is to always have a productive and sound dialogue.

You can only achieve this if you listen to the different viewpoints of your classmates, friends, teachers, peers, etc.

By having this discussion, you would be more receptive to other people’s opinions and emotions. 

That way, you would not only be reliant on what you hear on social networking sites, but you would also have primary sources of what other people are thinking and feeling. 

You can easily resolve problems and establish a relationship with other people because you have a better understanding of how they think. 

At the end of the day, engaging in a debate and discussing these issues would help you transition into a wiser and more confident adult. 

So it is never a bad idea to pick a controversial issue or topic for your next essay or speech. 

It would not only push you to think more critically, but it would also help you gain mental and emotional maturity. 

Controversial Topics

Why is it Important to Have this Debate?

Teaching students about social issues and allowing them to express their opinions is a vital feature of a free and inclusive community. 

By addressing these controversial issues at school, students can better transition into a more rational and compassionate adult. 

It is one of the most appropriate ways to teach students the value of peacefully solving conflicts. 

Without these controversial issues and opposing views, we would not be able to understand our true values and we would not be able to hear what other people have to say. 

Usually, when we think of controversies and issues, we oftentimes associate them with hostility and disagreement. 

But, in reality, discussing controversial topics is what pushes us to have communication with other people that is more dynamic, conducive, and inclusive.

We would be able to promote an exchange of ideas as well as generate a more thoughtful and better-fitted solution to an issue or a problem. 

That being said, it is important to kick start a conversation regarding these controversial topics. 

And where should we best have and start this conversation other than in school?

School is the best place to discuss these issues because it would not only empower them but it would make them a better, more rational and compassionate adult.

Having this conversation and dialogue at school would help mold students into becoming a more informed decision-makers of the future. 


Hopefully, you are able to get inspiration for your controversial speech or essay. 

To briefly recap, we have discussed 

All in all, we still highly suggest you formulate and research your own topic for your essay or speech. 

This way, you would be able to write something that not only sparks your interest but is also familiar and reflects to who you truly are. 

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
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