50 Argumentative Essay Topics

Illustration by Catherine Song. ThoughtCo. 

  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

An argumentative essay requires you to decide on a topic and take a position on it. You'll need to back up your viewpoint with well-researched facts and information as well. One of the hardest parts is deciding which topic to write about, but there are plenty of ideas available to get you started.

Choosing a Great Argumentative Essay Topic

Students often find that most of their work on these essays is done before they even start writing. This means that it's best if you have a general interest in your subject, otherwise you might get bored or frustrated while trying to gather information. (You don't need to know everything, though.) Part of what makes this experience rewarding is learning something new.

It's best if you have a general interest in your subject, but the argument you choose doesn't have to be one that you agree with.

The subject you choose may not necessarily be one that you are in full agreement with, either. You may even be asked to write a paper from the opposing point of view. Researching a different viewpoint helps students broaden their perspectives. 

Ideas for Argument Essays

Sometimes, the best ideas are sparked by looking at many different options. Explore this list of possible topics and see if a few pique your interest. Write those down as you come across them, then think about each for a few minutes.

Which would you enjoy researching? Do you have a firm position on a particular subject? Is there a point you would like to make sure to get across? Did the topic give you something new to think about? Can you see why someone else may feel differently?

50 Possible Topics

A number of these topics are rather controversial—that's the point. In an argumentative essay, opinions matter and controversy is based on opinions, which are, hopefully, backed up by facts.   If these topics are a little too controversial or you don't find the right one for you, try browsing through persuasive essay and speech topics  as well.

  • Is global climate change  caused by humans?
  • Is the death penalty effective?
  • Is our election process fair?
  • Is torture ever acceptable?
  • Should men get paternity leave from work?
  • Are school uniforms beneficial?
  • Do we have a fair tax system?
  • Do curfews keep teens out of trouble?
  • Is cheating out of control?
  • Are we too dependent on computers?
  • Should animals be used for research?
  • Should cigarette smoking be banned?
  • Are cell phones dangerous?
  • Are law enforcement cameras an invasion of privacy?
  • Do we have a throwaway society?
  • Is child behavior better or worse than it was years ago?
  • Should companies market to children?
  • Should the government have a say in our diets?
  • Does access to condoms prevent teen pregnancy?
  • Should members of Congress have term limits?
  • Are actors and professional athletes paid too much?
  • Are CEOs paid too much?
  • Should athletes be held to high moral standards?
  • Do violent video games cause behavior problems?
  • Should creationism be taught in public schools?
  • Are beauty pageants exploitative ?
  • Should English be the official language of the United States?
  • Should the racing industry be forced to use biofuels?
  • Should the alcohol drinking age be increased or decreased?
  • Should everyone be required to recycle?
  • Is it okay for prisoners to vote (as they are in some states)?
  • Is it good that same-sex couples are able to marry?
  • Are there benefits to attending a single-sex school ?
  • Does boredom lead to trouble?
  • Should schools be in session year-round ?
  • Does religion cause war?
  • Should the government provide health care?
  • Should abortion be illegal?
  • Are girls too mean to each other?
  • Is homework harmful or helpful?
  • Is the cost of college too high?
  • Is college admission too competitive?
  • Should euthanasia be illegal?
  • Should the federal government legalize marijuana use nationally ?
  • Should rich people be required to pay more taxes?
  • Should schools require foreign language or physical education?
  • Is affirmative action fair?
  • Is public prayer okay in schools?
  • Are schools and teachers responsible for low test scores?
  • Is greater gun control a good idea?
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100 Engaging Controversial Essay Topics

When students are asked to write an argumentative paper, they start with looking for controversial argumentative essay topics. It’s a good decision: if you succeed in finding something great to write about, you stand more chances at getting a satisfying grade. But despite knowing this, making a choice is not easy. For one thing, you should have a clear idea of what a controversial essay even is. It is a genre of writing where you present an opinion others could dispute and prove its validity as well as accuracy. In other words, you pick a subject that causes arguments among society members, voice your point of view, and work hard to prove it by relying on scientific evidence.

In the long run, you’ll benefit from completing a fair number of similar essays: you’ll understand what it takes to participate in debates and how to defend your position. The choice of topic is tough since while there are many potentially interesting things to discuss, only some of them will be to your liking, and even fewer will be something you understand well enough to argue about. We’ll be glad to show you how to approach the choosing process and how to settle on the best theme possible.

How to Pick Controversial Argumentative Essay Topics for College

At times, students are given a list from which they should pick their essay topics. This is a frustrating experience since they don’t get a right to really choose the topic they like. But fortunately, it doesn’t happen often, so if you are studying at college, you can expect to be given a free reign. Four tips below will show you how to go about picking an essay topic for a controversial paper.

  • Go through things you find engaging.  Good controversial topics for essays are the ones that evoke some intense feelings in you. They could be positive or negative, but in any way, they should be something that makes you want to speak up. Recall the arguments you had online or with your friends and family recently. Maybe you saw something in the news and got angry? Did you read an article that got you passionate about the discussed topic? It could be anything, so think carefully.
  • Play a choosing game.  If you have some essay ideas in mind but cannot settle on any of them, try a choosing game. This could also work in case you haven’t decided on anything at all yet. Pick a place, sit there, and note down everything you see or hear. Assign numbers to these things, and then ask a friend to choose one. Such an approach is fun, and it’s an easy way to arrive at a decision regarding your topic.
  • Check sources.  When preparing for essay tasks, your first question should be, what are some controversial topics to write about? The second question should concern sources. Whatever subject you selected, it should be supported by credible resources that are peer-reviewed and have a DOI. Having an opposing position could be great, but if you are the only person who shares it, it’ll create some difficulties. Academic essays should be supported with some evidence, so your analysis cannot be performed merely based on your opinions. If you cannot locate trustworthy sources, better choose another topic.
  • Discuss with the supervisor.  Once you made a decision, consult with your professor. They could give you valuable advice or warn you against some topics. If you are moving in the wrong direction, they will let you know in advance so that you wouldn’t waste your time for no reason.

100 Top Controversial Topics to Write About

There are many classical ways of choosing between topics on debatable issues, but with the evolution of the Internet, things have become much easier. You can search for online lists with suggestions, and they’ll give you the inspiration you need. We prepared this kind of list just below. There are ten popular topic categories there, with ten diverse themes in each. Take whichever you like best!

Controversial Essay Ideas on Education

Here are some traditional controversial argument topics related to education. All students will likely find them relatable!

  • Education Gained in the US Has Lost Its Prestige
  • The Importance of Doing Homework Diligently Is Overestimated
  • Education Has become Redundant Today Because You Can Find a Job Anyway
  • Governments & Universities Should Pay Full Tuition For All Their Students
  • Physical Punishments for Children and Animals Should Be Made a Crime
  • Minors Should Have the Right for Purchasing Condoms
  • Children Should Be Taught About Different Kinds of Sexuality From Early Age
  • Parents Should Never Supervise Their Children’s Online Actions
  • No Student Should Ever Be Expelled From Educational Establishments
  • Competitions Among Students Encourage Hurt and Feeling of Inadequacy

Controversial Essay Prompts on Technology

Technological progress has changed our lives to a profound extent. These controversial persuasive essay topics reflect this.

  • iPhone Is an Uncomfortable and Highly Overrated Phone
  • Cloning Must Be Provided for Acceptable Prices to Grieving Families
  • Drones Could Be Used for Turning Wars into Soldier-less Fights
  • Wi-Fi Has Many Serious Drawbacks & Should Be Used with Care
  • Youth Depend on Technology Too Much & Become Helpless in the Process
  • No One Should Be Punished for Saying Anything Online
  • GPS Poses Serious Threats to Privacy & Safety
  • Most Surveillance Cameras Should Have Better Level of Quality
  • Internet Helped Queer Community Meet New People
  • Cancer Rates Have Increased Due to Technological Developments

Controversial Topics for Philosophy Essay

Philosophy is a dreamy but also precise science, so you could find some good controversial topics to write about here.

  • Some Universal Truths Are Actually Falsehoods
  • We Underestimate Philosophy Because We’re Scared of Its Truth
  • Existentialism Is Caused By Flawed Social Expectations
  • Feminism Has Turned Into a Movement of Violence & Bigotry
  • Some Problems Do Not Have Any Resolution
  • Not All Mysteries Should Be Solved by Humans
  • Every Person Should Be Allowed to Rebel Against Government
  • Being Loved Is More Important Than Loving
  • Emotions Could Be Hindrance to Having Successful Life
  • Animals Do Not Differ From Human Beings In Any Relevant Aspects

Controversial Essays Ideas About Environment

Environment is a sphere that always fuels fierce debates. There is a big number of great controversial arguments topics here.

  • Humans Should Be Forbidden to Eat Animals
  • Recycling Must Be an Obligatory Part Of Every Person’s Life
  • No Country Could Be Allowed to Have Nuclear Weapon
  • People Who Actively Work to Protect Environment Should Receive Money For It
  • Companies Who Break Environmental Laws Should Be Stopped from Operating
  • Current Air Quality in Big Cities Is Unacceptably Bad & This Issue Must Be Resolved
  • Alternative Fuels In Their Current State Are Not Effective
  • Deserts Should Be Forcefully Turned Green Areas
  • Global Warming Is More Dangerous Than We Believe
  • Preventing Pollution Under Current Conditions Is Not Realistic

Science, Biology, and Health Topics

When writing controversial topics essay, these days, scientific and medical spheres are definitely among the most popular ones.

  • Assisted Suicide Must Be Officially Permitted in All Countries
  • Deadliness of COVID Is Overstated
  • Food Created With Science Is More Useful Than Natural Food
  • Some Illnesses Will Never Be Cured
  • People Producing & Selling Alcoholic Beverages Must Be Imprisoned
  • Biology Should Be Taught in All Schools From the First Year
  • Eugenics Should Not Exist for Perfecting People
  • GMO Is Not As Dangerous as We’re Led to Believe
  • Fish Can Feel Emotional Attachment to Their Owners
  • Science Is Not as Precise as We Think

Religious environment is relevant for many people, so it has plenty of controversial argumentative essay ideas.

  • The Fact of Life Existing After Death Could Be Proven Scientifically
  • Idea of Humans Evolving From Animals Is Not Sustainable
  • Religion Kills More People Than It Saves
  • Bible Has Been Written by Multiple Individuals
  • People Should Be Allowed to Pray to Whichever God They Believe In
  • Religion Is Not Based on Science
  • Faith Is the Most Important Part of Life
  • Violence Promoted by Religions Should Partly Discredit Them
  • Words of Prayers Do Not Matter: Only Feelings Behind Them Do
  • Stereotypes About Religions Unleash Violence Among People

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Controversial Essays Topics for Law and Politics

Controversial writing topics about justice and politics never end, considering how passionate everyone feels about them. Everyone wants the best for their country, so why not explore ways of achieving this in an essay?

  • Death Penalty In Its Present Form Is Useless
  • Death Penalty Is a Useful Method of Fight Against Human Monsters
  • Multiculturalism Fuels Tolerance in the Society
  • American Women Have Equal Opportunities with Men
  • Electronic Voting Is Ineffective: Too Much Cheating
  • Gun Control Is Not as Relevant as It Is Presented
  • Free Journalism No Longer Exists
  • Racist Allegations Are Often Exaggerated
  • Hate Crimes Should Automatically Receive Death Penalty
  • Presidents Who Allow Wars to Break Out Must Be Removed from Power

Current Events

The world is constantly undergoing changes, so unique controversial essay topics about it are in perpetual supply.

  • Amount of Taxes People Pay Does Not Correspond to Benefits They Get
  • Concept of Fashion Is Invented Solely by People
  • Trump Should Have Never Been a President in US
  • Trump Brought Positive Changes to Some Parts of the World
  • World Has Become Too Demanding & Unfair to Still Live in It
  • Mental Health Therapy Should Receive Additional Funding Due to COVID Impacts
  • Quarantine Measures Should Be the Same in All Parts of the World
  • People Should Be More Caring In These Difficult Times
  • Food Should Be Made Free During COVID
  • Rich & Poor People Should Be Treated in Equal Conditions

Prompts on Entertainment

How about some fun and easy controversial topics about things that work as distractions from everyday worries?

  • Violent Games Do Not Affect People Playing Them Negatively
  • Modern Ads Could Be a Form of Art
  • Fiction Is the Best Way to Distract Yourself From Troubles
  • Media Should Be Regulated More Strictly
  • Having Fun Is Essential for Mental Health
  • Modern Entertainments Are Dangerous & Should Be Modified
  • Nobody Falls In Love at the First Sight
  • Entertainment Is Not to Blame For People Becoming Addicted
  • Reality Shows Create Impossible Expectations
  • Home Alone Is Still an Excellent Movie

Controversial Essay Ideas For College Students

College essays are more complex than those in high school, but they are also easier than those at universities. If you are a college student, take a look at these good controversial essay topics.

  • Teenagers Should Be Allowed to Work Whenever They Want
  • Teens Should Not Be the Ones Paying for Their Education
  • College Students Do Not Need Cars Because They Are Not Prepared to Drive Them
  • Internet Addiction Is a Myth in Most Cases
  • Students Should Not Expect That They Will Find Love in College
  • Gender Expectations Among Students Are Not Equal
  • Serving the Military Is Romanticized to a Dangerous Degree
  • Sororities and Fraternities Must Be Forbidden in the US
  • Polygamy Is Vastly Misunderstood in Modern Society
  • Love is Portrayed in Harmful Ways in Fiction

Controversial Essay Topic Ideas to Transform Your Writing

As you can see, topics are vital. You should pay extra attention when choosing them because your final success depends on it. Take your time and think carefully. In case nothing comes to your mind right away, try utilizing the tips we offered above. Still, we understand that writing is a tricky process that could be frustratingly difficult. If you have any questions, contact our support team via our website. They’ll be happy to help you with your problems! Whether you’d like us to guide you or write an essay in its entirety, we can do that. Drop a message and tell us what needs to be done. Your unique controversial essay on an original topic will be delivered on time.

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Controversial topics are a good choice for an essay or debate because they immediately draw in the reader or listener. The adage that “controversy sells” is so rooted in society that even the rapper Chamillionaire named his second album after it! Controversial issues are also a good topic because it’s easier to write a strong thesis and find sources to back up your argument . After all, when something is controversial, everybody wants to have their say over it.

However, it’s also important that you address controversial issues with sensitivity and care. Because controversial topics tend to raise emotions, you must walk a thin line between opinion and fact in order to build trust between you and your reader/listener.

In this article, we’re going to give you the best controversial topics you can use for essays and debates—and we’ll explain the controversies for you, too! We’ll also discuss when to use controversial topics, the pros and cons of choosing a controversial issue, and tips for making sure you’re treating a controversial topic with sensitivity and respect.

That’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!


Controversial topics are issues that can really get people up in arms. (Yes, it's a dad joke. No, we're not sorry.)

What Are Controversial Topics?

If you’ve flipped on a television lately, you’ve probably seen people on the news arguing different sides of an issue. (Occasionally, these arguments can get pretty emotional!) When you see this happening, there’s a good chance that the people you’re watching are discussing a controversial topic. 

Controversial debate topics include subjects that create strong differences of opinion. They are issues that can affect politics, society as a whole, individuals on a personal level, the environment, or any other area of life that people feel strongly about. Additionally, controversial issues often have no clear answer because people’s feelings and personal beliefs are often strongly involved.


3 Pros and 3 Cons of Using Controversial Topics in Essays or Debates 

It might be tempting to pick any old controversial topic and run with it. Not so fast! While controversial topics definitely give you a lot to talk about in an essay or debate, there are some definite drawbacks to dealing with hot-button issues.

Here are the pros and cons you should consider before deciding to use a controversial topic in your work. 

Pro #1: It’s Usually Easy to Find Sources

Everyone wants to have their say on controversial topics, which is great when you need sources to include in your paper! A quick library or Google search will turn up tons of information. It can make that part of writing (or preparing for a debate) much easier. 

Con #1: It Can Be Hard to Find Good Sources

When you Google a controversial source, the results can be overwhelming. While you’re probably going to have tons of hits, they'll be from a wide range of sources like social media, personal blogs, podcasts, and message boards (like Reddit and Quora). Just because something appears high in a Google result doesn’t make it a good source that you can site in a paper or speech.

Good sources are ones that are written by credentialed authors (they are experts in their field) and include reliable, cited evidence. A good place to find good sources are scholarly databases, like JSTOR and ProQuest, since the articles on these databases have been vetted by other experts before they are published. Reputable news outlets can also be good resources, too. 

Pro #2: It’s Easier to Talk About Things That Interest You 

If you care about a topic you probably already know a little bit about it. This is especially true for many controversial issues. After all, they tend to be controversial because many people have opinions on them! If you pick a controversial issue that’s near and dear to your heart, you’ll find that you have a lot to say about it. 

Con #2: It’s Hard to Keep Your Emotions In Check 

If it is a topic you care about a lot, you probably already have strong opinions formed. But in order to build trust with your reader/listener and to be accurate, you need to use neutral language so that your reader/listener can draw their own conclusions based on your work. While it’s tempting to call people out or get heated, those are both pitfalls you should avoid . 

Pro #3: Controversial Issues Capture Attention 

Tackling a subject like mass incarceration, the death penalty, or abortion is a good way to get your audience to sit up and take notice. People want to hear your opinion to see how it does—or doesn’t—match their own. 

Con #3: You Open Yourself Up to Criticism 

On the flip side, if your argument doesn’t align with their beliefs, the people reading or listening to your argument may criticize your opinion or belief because it is not the same as theirs. You’ll have to spend extra time making sure you’ve created a strong argument since people have often spent more time thinking about a controversial topic and are better able to challenge your position. 


How to Pick Good Controversial Topics for Teens

When picking what topic to write about, it’s important that you pick a good strong topic that is relevant and that has an amount of easy to find good sources. When deciding on a topic, try to keep these tips in mind! 

Tip #1: Choose a Topic That Interests You 

It’s easier to work on a subject you enjoy. Don’t use a topic you find boring or have no interest in. Write about a topic you are passionate about, since your own interest will shine through in your writing or speech. Also, when you pick a topic you like, the assignment can actually be fun. Imagine that! 

Tip #2: Be Passionate...But Not Too Passionate

Stay away from topics where you might be too passionate about one side since it can be tough to distance yourself enough to see both sides of the argument. You’ll want to know what good arguments the other side has so that you can defend your position against them. If you're too passionate about a subject, you might miss key details that help you defend your position. Every side has good points—that’s why there’s an argument in the first place!

Tip #3: Make Sure There’s Hard Evidence

Pick a topic where there’s evidence, not just a “he said, she said” kind of thing. Avoid arguments that don’t have any facts or figures backing them up or they are entirely opinion based. Examples of topics that are controversial but lack compelling evidence include government conspiracies or theories that have been proven false, like the Earth being flat or that pineapple belongs on pizza (it doesn’t).


Tip #4: Know Your Audience

If you are writing about controversial debate topics, ask yourself who it is you are trying to persuade. Is it your teacher? A certain segment of the population? If you know who your audience is, you can better tailor your argument to hit on the points they care about. 

For example, say you’re writing an essay about how teacher’s unions are unnecessary. If your audience is your teacher—who's probably in a union!—you’re going to have to work harder to prove your point since they’re more likely to be in favor of unions. (You’ll also need to make sure you’re being fair and respectful to avoid offending your teacher. We’ll talk more about how to do that in a minute.) 

In the example above, knowing your audience can (and should) change the way you write your argument in order to make it as persuasive and convincing as possible. 

Tip #5: Narrow Down Your Topic 

Make sure your topic is broad enough that you have plenty of information sources to choose from but narrow enough that you aren’t overwhelmed by the amount of information. An easy way to narrow a broad topic is to limit it to a time period or geographical location. For instance, let’s say that you want to write an argumentative essay about climate change. Climate change covers a lot of ground, so you could narrow it down to only writing about climate change in the last 15 years. You could narrow it down even more by writing about how climate change has affected a small geographical location, like California or your own city, in the last 15 years.


Gun control is a perennially controversial topic in the United States.

The Best Controversial Topics of 2019

Here are some of the most controversial topics discussed this year. Many of these issues are evergreen topics, which means you’ll be able to find plenty of information for them! 

These are topics related to current political subjects both in the US and abroad. 

Is Brexit a good or bad idea? 

In 2016, the United Kingdom voted to settle the question of whether or not they should leave the European Union. Proponents of Brexit argue that leaving the EU would save money for the nation as they would no longer need to pay a membership fee to the EU. Opponents argue that the UK will lose money due to new trade restrictions. 

Did Russia interfere with the 2016 Presidential Election? 

After Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election , there were several investigative reports published that suggested that Russia used targeted Facebook ads to encourage people to vote for Trump , and Russia may have been the ones who hacked the Democratic National Convention. Trump supporters have been quick to rebuff this claim, arguing that the election results reflect the will of the American population. However, those who are anti-Trump argue that Trump did not legitimately win the election and that the results were due to Russian interference. They cite the fact that Hilary Clinton had a larger popular vote than Trump to support this. 

Should there be stricter gun control?

The United States has experienced more than 200 mass shootings in 2019, and each new incident brings up controversial questions about gun control. Those in favor of gun control argue that more gun laws would reduce gun deaths. Those against gun control argue that the Second Amendment protects their right to own guns and any legislation for stricter gun control would be unconstitutional. 

Should America allow illegal immigrants to become American citizens? 

As more and more immigrants arrive at America’s borders, the debate over immigration becomes even more heated. On the pro side, people argue that illegal immigrants help the economy by paying taxes and that most immigrants came here as asylum seekers, which is legal. Opponents argue that these immigrants have crossed the border illegally and that a large portion of these immigrants are violent criminals and should be sent back to protect American citizens. 

Should the death penalty still be allowed?  

Many states have done away with the death penalty, yet some states still support it. Many have questioned if the death penalty is a moral, ethical, and effective way to deal with crime. On the pro side, the argument is that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to crime and can help bring closure to families affected by heinous criminal activity. On the con side, the argument is that it violates the 8th amendment and that sometimes innocent people have been put to death. 

Should abortion be allowed? 

Recently, several states have enacted new legislation limiting access to abortion. The pro-choice/pro-abortion side argues that women should be allowed to control their bodies without any interference from the government or religious authority. The pro-life/anti-abortion side argues that abortion is murder and inflicts pain and suffering on the unborn fetus. They are also opposed to Roe vs. Wade , a court decision that made abortion legal in the United States.  

Should doctor-assisted suicide be allowed? 

In January of 2019, Hawaii will join six other states in enacting Death with Dignity laws for patients with terminal illnesses . However, unlike in countries like Belgium, Luxembourg, Canada, and the Netherlands, doctor-assisted euthanasia is still illegal according to US federal laws. Many believe it should also be legal on the federal level. Those for doctor-assisted suicide argue that allowing those with chronic pain or terminal illnesses to end their lives is a compassionate act that relieves their suffering. Those opposed argue that it violates the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm,” and allowing euthanasia is a slippery slope that will lead to doctors deciding who is worthy of life and who is not. 

Should the government legalize recreational marijuana?

As of 2018, there are 11 states that have legalized recreational marijuana: Alaska (2014), California (2016), Colorado (2012), DC (2014), Maine (2016), Massachusetts (2016), Michigan (2018), Nevada (2016), Oregon (2014), Vermont (2018), and Washington (2012). Legal marijuana proponents argue that the War on Drugs was a failed initiative that unfairly affected minority communities,and that marijuana isn’t any worse for you than drinking alcohol. Those against legal marijuana argue that the drug is addictive and leads to a higher percentage of school dropouts, car accidents, and crime.

These are topics based on current controversies happening in the scientific field.

Are humans causing global warming?

As the polar ice caps continue to melt, people question whether or not human activity is responsible for raising the temperature of the Earth . Proponents of this idea argue that due to human-generated waste and carbon dioxide, we are responsible for this rise in temperature. Opponents argue that the earth has gone through many warming and cooling cycles and that human activity is not to blame.

Are GMOs good or bad?

  In recent years there has been an increase in the number of controversial questions raised by GMO, or genetically modified, crops. Those in favor of GMOs, which stands for genetically modified organisms, argue that without genetically modified crops and animals, there would be food shortages; they also argue that GMOs have been around for millennia. Those opposed to GMOs argue that GMOs could be the cause of the rise of cancers and that the pesticides needed to grow GMO crops contribute to pesticide-resistant pests. 

Will work done on artificial intelligence eventually lead to our demise? 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming more sophisticated, which raises questions about the ethics and eventual outcome of creating artificial intelligence . Proponents believe artificial intelligence will keep us safer and solve many of the world’s problems; but opponents believe that developing AI might not be ethical, they ask whether or not robots programmed with AI count as  conscious beings and should be given rights, or if AI will eventually lead to humanity’s downfall. 

Should we allow gene editing on human beings? 

2017 saw exciting advances in the science of gene editing with the arrival of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing method. However, it’s also raised some controversial debate topics regarding the ethics of allowing gene editing. Gene editing proponents argue that gene editing will allow us to cure genetic diseases and prolong life. But opponents argue that the technology will create more social inequity because only the rich will be able to afford it. They also argue that editing the genes of human embryos is tantamount to playing God. 

Are self driving cars really safe?  

In 2018, a car accidentally ran over and killed a pedestrian as she was crossing the street in Tempe, AZ. Despite this, driverless car manufacturers like Tesla and transportation companies like Uber argue that driverless technology is ultimately safer than human piloted transportation. This is due to the fact that driverless cars would feature many sensors and safety features whereas human drivers have a tendency to get distracted or sleepy while driving, and some may be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There are many pro and con arguments about the controversial issues related to driverless technology , which makes this a great controversial topic for essays and debates! 

Should anti-vaxxers be forced to vaccinate their kids?

Recently a measles outbreak has spread throughout Europe. According to the World Health Organization, there have been at least 40 measles-related deaths associated with the outbreak. Many blame anti-vaxxers, or parents who believe vaccines cause autism and other illnesses, for the spread of this disease. Those who are pro-vaccine argue that vaccines save lives and by not vaccinating their children , anti-vaxxers are putting others at risk. Anti-vaxxers argue that vaccines can cause serious side effects like autism, seizures, or Guillain-Barre Syndrome. They also argue that getting vaccinated is a personal choice that should be respected by the government.

Do we really need a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)? 

In April of 2016, the European Union enacted the General Data Protection Regulation, which is designed to protect EU citizens’ personal data. Proponents for the GDPR argue that it will prevent the number of wide-scale data breaches and hacking that occurs on a day to day basis. Opponents argue that the GDPR doesn’t do enough to protect data and that it will negatively impact the economy because of the fines that will be enforced if a company fails to comply with GDPR guidelines. 

Should we grow our meat in a lab? 

Recent advances in technology have allowed scientists to experiment with lab-grown, edible meat that doesn’t require animal slaughter. Supporters of lab grown meat claim it is better for the environment and does away with the moral issues surrounding animal husbandry, including animal abuse and inhumane farming practices. Opponents claim lab grown meat may have adverse health effects on people who eat lab-grown meat, especially since the technology is so new. Opponents also argue that lab-grown meat could end the farming industry and put thousands of people out of work. 


Uber is great when you need a lift...but does it treat its employees fairly?

Society & Culture

These are current topics that involve our day to day lives. 

Should transgendered people be allowed to use the bathroom of their choice? 

Earlier last year, North Carolina passed a law that prohibited transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice based on their expressed gender rather than their biologically assigned sex . The “bathroom bill” is the first of its kind to specifically address the issue of transgender public restroom access. Proponents for the bill argue that allowing biological males and females to use the same restroom will lead to a higher percentage of sexual assault and was a risk to public safety. Opponents argue that the bill is discriminatory.

Is it still okay to use UBER? 

In 2017, UBER was rocked by claims of sexual harassment, sexual discrimination, and false advertising. The hashtag #DeleteUber went viral in January 2017, and many users and drivers boycotted the company. This situation raises two controversial questions. First, what rights do contract workers have in this new, emerging gig economy ? And second, is UBER the victim of cancel culture , or do customers have an ethical obligation to boycott companies with shady practices? 

Cultural appropriation or cultural appreciation? What’s the difference?

Katy Perry has been criticized for her 2017 music video "This Is How We Do” because the singer wore cornrows in her hair. Many have claimed the appearance of a Caucasian woman with a traditionally black hairstyle is cultural appropriation . These opponents argue that because people of color have been discriminated against for wearing traditionally black hairstyles, white women who sport the same hair styles profit from it. However, some argue that without cultural appropriation, many elements of minority cultures have become popularized, like rap music and R&B .  

Should we give men accused of sexual misconduct a second chance? 

In 2017, comedian Louis CK was accused of sexually harassing his female colleagues . Since these accusations went public, Louis CK has tried to rehabilitate his image, and h e has since publicly apologized. But this raises the question of whether we should give men accused of sexual misconduct a second chance if they seem to have learned their lesson. 

Is social media ruining society? 

According to a 2018 survey, approximately 70% of Americans use at least one social media site including Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter . Those in favor of social media argue that it  promotes a sense of community and helps create social interactions. But social media detractors argue that sites like Facebook or Reddit waste time, trigger mental illnesses, and encourage dangerous bullying.

Should people get fired for what they say on social media?

Recently, James Gunn, the director of Guardians of the Galaxy , was fired by Disney because there were several tweets on his Twitter feed they believed were offensive. He is not the only one, either: Roseanne was fired by Netflix after she made an offensive tweet towards politician Valerie Jarrett. This has raised some controversial questions, like whether someone be held professionally accountable for what they say on social media . Proponents for social media accountability argue that what someone posts on social media is a reflection of who they are as a person. Opponents argue that posting on social media is protected by free speech and that the context of the posting should matter. 

Is the #MeToo movement helping or hurting women? 

The #MeToo movement began in 2017 with a series of articles that accused Harvey Weinstein of rape and sexual assault. These articles led to Weinstein’s ostracization from Hollywood and eventually led to criminal investigations into his behavior. The #MeToo movement has brought down several powerful men with accusations of sexual misconduct. But some argue the movement has set the feminist movement back by discouraging companies from hiring women due to their fear of lawsuits. 

Is Gen Z worse than previous generations? 

Someone is always complaining that the generation after them is worse than their generation. As members of Gen Z mature and reach adulthood, they face many criticisms from the preceding generations. For example, d etractors have accused Gen Z of being lazy and introverted. However, others think Gen Z might be the generation that saves the world.  


Arts & Entertainment

These are topics that are currently affecting sports, tv, Hollywood, literature, music, and art.

Should movies and television shows be forced to hire more diverse casts? 

Hollywood has come under fire for “whitewashing” or the act of casting a white actor when the role should have gone to a person of color. An example of this is when Rupert Sanders, director of Ghost in the Shell , cast Scarlett Johansson as the Asian protagonist Major . Opponents of this practice argue that “whitewashing” takes jobs away from deserving POC actors. However, others argue that art should be free of any restrictions or boundaries . 

Should the show 13 Reasons Why have removed its controversial scenes?  

In 2017, Netflix released an original show based on the young adult novel 13 Reasons Why , which focuses on the suicide of 17-year-old Hannah Baker. Parents and educators opposed the release of this show due to the fact that it involved several controversial topics for teens such as suicide and rape. But those that support the show have argued that it provided a way to start conversations with teens about these tough topics . Ultimately, Netflix went back and edited out the controversial scenes. This topic gives you the opportunity to talk about whether mature content like suicide and rape is appropriate in shows aimed toward teenagers. You can also discuss whether Netflix’s removal of the offending scenes is the right decision or not. 

Should male and female actors make the same amount of money? 

In 2018, Hollywood came under fire after the internet learned that Michelle Williams was paid substantially less for her role in “All The Money In The World” than her male co-star, Mark Wahlberg. Some argue that as the bigger star, Whalberg deserved to be compensated at a higher rat e. Others argue that Williams did the same amount of work as Wahlberg and should receive the same amount of pay. This issue plugs into the larger social issue of pay discrepancies based on race and gender.

Should athletes be allowed to kneel during the national anthem? 

People have started to boycott Nike for their commercial featuring Colin Kaepernick . Kaepernick is a San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has received a lot of press for being the first athlete to kneel during the national anthem in protest the treatment of African Americans and minorities in the United States. President Trump has publicly stated that any athlete who kneels during the national anthem is being disrespectful and should be fired. Yet others defend kneeling during the anthem, regarding it as an expression of free speech that’s protected under the First Amendment. 

The 5 Best Tips for Treating Controversial Topics With Sensitivity and Respect

In order to write a good argument and convince your reader/listener to agree with you, you will need to treat your controversial issue with sensitivity and respect. This helps the reader/listener to trust you. 

But that can be really hard when you feel passionately about your topic and your opinions! Here are the best tips for making sure you stick to the facts, not the feelings. 

Tip #1: Avoid Charged Language

An author is accused of using loaded language when they substitute words with positive or negative connotations instead of using more neutral language. Some examples of this are using the word “superior” instead of better, calling the opposition “stupid,” or using biased terminology (“infanticide” vs. “abortion”). While emotional appeals are a great tool to persuade people to your point of view, when they’re used in the wrong way, they come across as overly aggressive and biased. 

Tip #2 : Avoid Logical Fallacies

A logical fallacy is an error in your argument’s logic because it presents the topic’s information in a deceptive way. Below are some common logical fallacies to watch out for.

Straw Man Fallacy: this is when you ignore your opponent’s real argument and instead argue that your opponent believes something easily ridiculed or proved false.

Slippery Slope: this is when you argue that something seemingly benign will lead to an unlikely extreme. 

Generalizations: generalizations are statements about an idea that do not have any facts to support them. They tend to play into stereotypes and often rely on exaggerations or over the top statements.

For more information on logical fallacies and how to avoid them, check out this resource. 


Tip #3: Do Not Attack Your Opponent Personally

This is called an ad hominem fallacy, and is often referred to as “mud-slinging” or “bashing.” When you do this, it implies that the only way you can counter your opponents viewpoints is through personal attacks. (Also, it’s just not cool.) Instead, stick to using facts and figures to show why their argument is wrong.

Tip #4: Avoid Hyperbole, Stereotypes, and Clichés 

These are common issues that crop up in argumentative writing that ultimately weaken your position.

Hyperbole happens when you exaggerate. When you use hyperbole, you risk misrepresenting the issue at hand—which is an argument killer. For example, take this statement: “If we don’t stop climate change now, we’ll all be dead in 10 years.” While climate change is definitely a huge risk to humanity, saying everyone on Earth will die in a decade if we don’t fix is a significant exaggeration. It would be better to say something like, “If we don’t start to solve climate change now, we’re risking the livelihoods and safety of future generations.” This is a more moderate statement that you can back up with facts, like scientists’ belief that climate change will put coastal cities underwater. 

Stereotypes are oversimplified, misinformed, or prejudiced assumptions held about other people or things. For example, a common stereotype is that all women love pink. (Spoiler alert: they don’t.) While stereotypes like this seem harmless, most are not. For example, a stereotype like the idea that all immigrants are criminals is extremely harmful. Stereotypes are not only false, they make you seem biased and ill-informed. 

Finally, clichés are overused or commonplace phrases, themes, or expressions . These are often phrases that have been said so much that they’ve lost all real meaning. For example, the idea that people can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” is a textbook example of a cliché. Instead, it’s better to explain the idea behind the cliché in more detail. In this case, it would be better to say that people—no matter their station in life—can create opportunities for themselves through hard work.

Tip #5 : Don’t Beat a Dead Horse

Remember that your job is to present them with the facts in an open and honest way. If you have done a good job, your reader or listener will come away with the same opinion as you, or at least more informed. It’s okay to state your opinion in your paper as long as you use other sources to back your opinion up and are fair to the other side. (Also resist the urge to restate your opinion every other sentence—it’s monotonous and doesn’t do much to win your reader over!)  


5 Resources for Finding More Controversial Debate Topics

If you’re not inspired by the topics we’ve already mentioned, don’t worry. There are many other controversial topics out there! Here are some other places you can look to find a topic that’s perfect for your essay or debate. 

#1: ProCon.Org 

You probably noticed that we’ve included links in this article that take you to ProCon.org . That’s because this website is a treasure trove of controversial issues! The website has lists of ideas that they break down into general pro/con lists, and each topic links you research starters. 

#2: National & Local News 

Much of the modern news cycle is devoted to discussing hot-button topics of our time. If you’re looking for topics related to current events, news sources like The New York Times and The Washington Post will help! Also, don’t discount your local news resources, either. They’ll give you valuable information about what’s going on in your community and how larger, national issues are impacting where you live. 

#3: They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (Fourth Edition) by Cathy Birkenstein & Gerald Graff  

Writing argumentative papers where you have to pick (and defend) your perspective is a skill you’ll use throughout high school, college, and beyond. They Say/I Say walks you through everything you need to know to write an argument. Even better: the book uses controversial issues as a way to teach writing, so you’ll get expert instruction on how to use them to write an amazing paper.

#4: Documentaries

Documentaries provide more in-depth perspectives on topics—both historical and contemporary—that have shaped the world. A great documentary can give you a thorough overview of an issue, and often they dig into different perspectives around an event, idea, or historical moment. The PBS series, Frontline , is a good place to start, but don’t be afraid to look at critically acclaimed films (like The Times of Harvey Milk or How to Survive a Plague ) for inspiration as well.  

#5: The Learning Network

The Learning Network , a blog run by The New York Times, is a great resource for students and teachers. They have lots of great resources, and their article on 200 prompts for argumentative writing is amazing for anyone looking for essay or debate topics. The article split into categories by topic and links to articles that can help explain each issue. It’s a great place to find a topic that interests you.


What’s Next?

Controversial topics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things you can research and write about for class. Check out our list of 113 amazing research paper topics to put you on the path to an A+ paper grade! ( If you’re looking for speech topics or argumentative essay topics , we’ve got you covered, too.)

Researching a controversial topic is just the first step in the argumentative process. You also have to be able to persuade your reader or listener to believe in your point of view. Here are 3 killer tips to help you write an amazing argumentative essay.

Learning how to read critically, come up with an argument, and communicate it is one of the fundamental skills you’ll need to tackle the writing portions of the SAT and ACT. To make sure you’re prepared, check out our step-by-step guide to the essay portion of the SAT ( and the ACT ).

These recommendations are based solely on our knowledge and experience. If you purchase an item through one of our links, PrepScholar may receive a commission.

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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200 Controversial argumentative essay topics

Controversial argumentative essay topics ignite debates, challenge norms, and inspire critical thinking. These contentious subjects compel individuals to confront differing perspectives, question societal conventions, and defend their beliefs.

Exploring controversial topics in an essay offers a platform for discourse, enabling readers to delve into complex issues and examine them from various angles. From politics to ethics, religion to technology, controversial argumentative essay topics push boundaries, fostering intellectual growth and stimulating dialogue.

What is Controversial argumentative essay?

Controversial argumentative essay topics

A controversial argumentative essay is an academic piece of writing that focuses on a contentious issue or topic. Unlike other types of essays, where the aim might be to inform or persuade without stirring controversy, the purpose of a controversial argumentative essay is to explore a topic that elicits strong opinions and heated debate.

In such essays, writers present their arguments and evidence to support their viewpoint on the controversial topic. However, they must also acknowledge and address opposing viewpoints, providing counterarguments and rebuttals where necessary. The goal is not only to express one’s own perspective but also to engage critically with alternative viewpoints and contribute to a deeper understanding of the issue.

Controversial argumentative essays require careful research, thoughtful analysis, and persuasive writing to effectively present and defend a stance on a contentious topic. They often tackle subjects related to politics, ethics, social issues, religion, science, technology, and more, where there is significant disagreement or ambiguity.

Importance of choosing the right Controversial argumentative essay topics

Choosing the right controversial argumentative essay topics is crucial for several reasons:

  • Engagement: Selecting a compelling topic ensures that both the writer and the audience are deeply engaged in the essay. Controversial topics tend to evoke strong emotions and opinions, sparking interest and fostering debate.
  • Relevance: Opting for a relevant topic ensures that the essay addresses issues that are significant and impactful in contemporary society. By tackling pressing issues, the essay can contribute to ongoing discussions and potentially influence opinions and policies.
  • Depth of Analysis: The right topic provides ample opportunities for in-depth analysis and exploration. It allows the writer to delve into complex issues, examine multiple perspectives, and consider various aspects of the topic, resulting in a more thorough and nuanced argument.
  • Critical Thinking: Controversial topics often require critical thinking and analytical skills to navigate conflicting viewpoints and evidence. Choosing the right topic encourages the writer to critically evaluate arguments, assess evidence, and develop well-reasoned conclusions.
  • Impact: A well-chosen controversial topic has the potential to make a meaningful impact by raising awareness, challenging assumptions, and prompting reflection and action. It can contribute to social change, policy reform, or increased understanding of complex issues.
  • Audience Engagement: Selecting a topic that resonates with the target audience increases the likelihood of capturing their attention and sparking meaningful dialogue. By addressing issues that matter to the audience, the essay can foster greater engagement and participation in the discussion.

Controversial argumentative essay topics

Here are 10 categories with 20 controversial argumentative essay topics each that you can consider to use for your next contest.

1. Politics and Government:

  • Gun control laws: Should they be stricter or more lenient?
  • Electoral college: Should it be abolished in favor of a popular vote?
  • Immigration policy: Should there be stricter border controls or more lenient pathways to citizenship?
  • Universal healthcare: Should healthcare be a right guaranteed by the government?
  • Capital punishment: Should it be abolished or retained as a form of punishment?
  • Affirmative action: Is it necessary to promote diversity, or does it promote reverse discrimination?
  • Military intervention: Should countries intervene in foreign conflicts for humanitarian reasons?
  • Taxation: Should the wealthy be taxed more heavily to address income inequality?
  • Surveillance: Is mass surveillance justified for national security purposes?
  • Freedom of speech: Should hate speech be protected under the First Amendment?

2. Social Issues:

  • Abortion: Should it be legal, and under what circumstances?
  • LGBTQ+ rights: Should there be more protections and rights for LGBTQ+ individuals?
  • Racial profiling: Is it an effective law enforcement tactic or a form of discrimination?
  • Gender equality: Are gender disparities still prevalent in society, and how should they be addressed?
  • Animal testing: Is it ethical to use animals for scientific experimentation?
  • Legalization of drugs: Should drugs like marijuana be legalized for recreational use?
  • Poverty and welfare: How should society address poverty and provide assistance to those in need?
  • Cyberbullying: What measures should be taken to combat cyberbullying?
  • Climate change: Is it primarily caused by human activity, and how should it be addressed?
  • Prostitution: Should it be legalized and regulated, or remain illegal?

3. Ethics and Morality:

  • Euthanasia: Should individuals have the right to end their own lives, and under what circumstances?
  • Genetic engineering: Should there be limitations on genetic modification of humans?
  • Animal rights: Do animals have rights, and if so, how should they be protected?
  • Cloning: Is human cloning ethically acceptable?
  • Environmental conservation: How much should society sacrifice for the sake of environmental preservation?
  • Cultural appropriation: Where is the line between appreciation and appropriation of other cultures?
  • Stem cell research: Should government funding be allocated to stem cell research?
  • Endangered species protection: How far should society go to protect endangered species?
  • Pornography: Is it a form of expression or exploitation?
  • Organ donation: Should there be an opt-out system for organ donation?

4. Technology and Privacy:

  • Online privacy: Should individuals have the right to complete online privacy, or should there be limits for security reasons?
  • Artificial intelligence: Should there be regulations on the development and use of AI?
  • Surveillance technology: How much surveillance is too much in the name of public safety?
  • Social media: Should there be stricter regulations on social media platforms to prevent misinformation and hate speech?
  • Encryption: Should governments have backdoor access to encrypted communication for national security reasons?
  • Autonomous vehicles: Should they be allowed on the roads, and who is responsible in case of accidents?
  • Data mining: Should companies be allowed to collect and sell personal data without consent?
  • Internet censorship: Should governments have the authority to censor the internet for national security or moral reasons?
  • 3D printing: What are the ethical implications of 3D printing, especially in terms of copyright infringement and weapon manufacturing?
  • Virtual reality: How will virtual reality impact society, and what ethical considerations should be taken into account?

5. Education:

  • Standardized testing: Are standardized tests an accurate measure of student achievement?
  • School vouchers: Should public funds be used to support private education through vouchers?
  • Affirmative action in education: Does affirmative action in college admissions promote diversity or perpetuate discrimination?
  • Sex education: What should be included in comprehensive sex education programs in schools?
  • Homeschooling: Should parents have the right to homeschool their children, and what regulations should be in place?
  • Free college tuition: Should college education be free for all students?
  • Teaching evolution in schools: Should creationism be taught alongside evolution in science classes?
  • Bullying prevention: What measures should schools take to prevent bullying?
  • Technology in the classroom: How should technology be integrated into education to enhance learning?
  • Critical race theory: Should critical race theory be taught in schools, and how should it be approached?

6. Health and Medicine:

  • Vaccination: Should vaccines be mandatory, and should there be consequences for those who refuse?
  • Mental health care: Is there enough support and resources for mental health care in society?
  • Physician-assisted suicide: Should terminally ill patients have the right to end their own lives with medical assistance?
  • Obesity: How should society address the obesity epidemic?
  • Alternative medicine: Should alternative medicine practices be regulated, and should they be covered by insurance?
  • Prescription drug prices: How should society address the rising costs of prescription drugs?
  • Healthcare for undocumented immigrants: Should undocumented immigrants have access to healthcare services?
  • Organ transplantation: Should organs be sold for transplantation, and if so, under what circumstances?
  • Plastic surgery: Should cosmetic surgery be regulated more strictly?
  • Mental health stigma: How can society reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness?

7. Economics and Business:

  • Minimum wage: Should the minimum wage be raised, and if so, to what level?
  • Income inequality: How should society address the growing gap between the rich and the poor?
  • Corporate responsibility: Should corporations prioritize profits or social responsibility?
  • Globalization: Is globalization beneficial for everyone, or does it primarily benefit the wealthy?
  • Sweatshops: Should consumers boycott companies that use sweatshop labor?
  • Universal basic income: Should every citizen receive a basic income from the government?
  • Trade tariffs: Are tariffs an effective way to protect domestic industries, or do they harm consumers?
  • Monopolies: Should government regulate or break up monopolies to promote competition?
  • Environmental regulations: Should businesses be subject to stricter environmental regulations?
  • Corporate taxation: Should corporations be taxed more heavily to fund social programs?

8. Media and Entertainment:

  • Media bias: How should society address bias in the media?
  • Violence in media: Does exposure to violent media contribute to real-life violence?
  • Censorship in the arts: Should governments censor art and literature for moral or political reasons?
  • Celebrity culture: Does celebrity culture have a negative impact on society?
  • Representation in media: How can media better represent marginalized groups?
  • Video game violence: Does exposure to violent video games contribute to aggression in players?
  • Reality television: Does reality TV have a negative impact on society?
  • Freedom of the press: Should there be limitations on freedom of the press to prevent misinformation?
  • Internet piracy: How should society address internet piracy and copyright infringement?
  • Advertising to children: Should there be restrictions on advertising targeted at children?

9. Religion and Spirituality:

  • Separation of church and state: How should the relationship between religion and government be defined?
  • Religious freedom: To what extent should religious beliefs be protected in society?
  • Evolution vs. creationism: Should intelligent design be taught alongside evolution in schools?
  • Abortion rights: How do religious beliefs influence views on abortion?
  • LGBTQ+ rights and religion: How do religious beliefs impact attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals?
  • Religious extremism: How should society address religious extremism and terrorism?
  • Interfaith marriage: Should there be restrictions on interfaith marriages?
  • Religious education: Should religious education be mandatory in schools?
  • Women’s rights and religion: How do religious beliefs influence attitudes towards women’s rights?
  • Blasphemy laws: Should blasphemy laws be enforced to protect religious sentiments?

10. Miscellaneous:

  • Space exploration: Should space exploration be prioritized over other societal needs?
  • Legalization of prostitution: Should prostitution be legalized and regulated?
  • Gambling: Should gambling be legalized and regulated, or remain illegal?
  • Right to die: Should terminally ill patients have the right to end their own lives with medical assistance?
  • Artificial sweeteners: Are artificial sweeteners safe for consumption, or do they pose health risks?
  • Mandatory voting: Should voting be mandatory for all citizens?
  • Plastic bag ban: Should single-use plastic bags be banned to reduce environmental pollution?
  • Body modification: Should body modification practices such as piercings and tattoos be regulated?
  • Legalization of euthanasia: Should individuals have the right to end their own lives, and under what circumstances?

These topics cover a wide range of controversial issues across various fields, providing ample opportunities for in-depth analysis and discussion.

Controversial argumentative essay topics serve as catalysts for critical thinking, engaging discourse, and societal progress. By delving into contentious issues across various domains, these topics challenge perspectives, prompt reflection, and inspire meaningful dialogue.

Through rigorous analysis and the exploration of opposing viewpoints, writers and readers alike are empowered to broaden their understanding, challenge societal norms, and contribute to a more informed and inclusive discourse. Controversial argumentative essay topics are not just subjects for debate; they are vehicles for intellectual growth, empathy, and positive change.

What (if Anything) Did You Change Your Mind About This Year?

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The 22 Debates That Made Us Rage, Roll Our Eyes, and Change Our Minds in 2022

Debating is what we do here at Times Opinion. Good-faith back-and-forth is at the core of our mission and our daily work. We give you arguments, you decide what to think. And so when we review the major events of the past year — which included a land war in Europe, the collapse of crypto and, yes, The Slap — it’s only natural for us to reflect on the debates: What can the United States do to try to end that war? Is crypto a reasonable thing to invest in? When is it appropriate to hit someone in the face for making a joke about your wife?

As 2022 nears its end, we are presenting 22 of the debates that defined the year, revisiting the ones you might remember (and reminding you of the ones you might have tried to forget) and asking the most important question of all: Did you change your mind?

Click on the topics to read more and vote.

Like them or hate them, masks long ago became culture war fodder — that is, the debate around wearing them was so laden with subtext that it was hardly about the value of masks at all. And this year the debate dragged on.

After the T.S.A. lifted its mask mandate on airplanes in April, videos went viral of mid-flight celebrations as pilots announced that the rules had changed. This was proof that Americans were ready to bare their faces and inhale. Or was it? Some public health advocates — and public commentators — argued that our noses and mouths should stay covered, for the good of ourselves and our neighbors. A late autumn surge in respiratory viruses brought the issue back.

But at this point in the pandemic, most minds are probably made up. So would all that energy be put to better use pushing for better building ventilation instead? At least open windows aren’t fraught with symbolism — yet.

Experts waxed poetic about the potential of the hybrid workplace, if only every company’s existing offices, workflows and managerial structures were completely redesigned around it. Companies trying to enforce some amount of mandatory in-office time, meanwhile, gestured back to the halcyon days when merely the zip produced by passing a warm body in the hallway resulted in unparalleled creative output.

Yes, there are real reasons to love the hybrid work model (less commuting time, but you still know your colleagues) and reasons to hate it (going to an empty office just to sit on Zoom feels like a scene from “Dilbert”). But until every company’s return-to-office plan is final and firm, we’re going to keep the conversation going — around the water cooler or over email.

Crime rates have risen in many parts of the United States over the past few years. But they remain far lower than they were as recently as the 1990s. One thing that’s definitely spiked: heated, politicized, polarized discussion around the issue.

What’s the deal with crime? Has much of America descended into lawlessness thanks to soft-on-crime progressive prosecutors and a movement to “defund the police”? Are liberals refusing to grapple with reality when it comes to robberies and murders? Or is it essentially all in our heads, really more of a story about bad vibes than bad guys? Are people confusing other issues — especially homelessness — with crime? In the run-up to this year’s midterm elections, crime was a top issue in races from Oklahoma to New York, but ultimately it rarely proved decisive.

There are serious, unsettled questions about how crime is measured: Statistics are notoriously unreliable, outdated and piecemeal. And policing — and everything around it — remains as fraught as ever. Let’s see if the vibes improve in 2023.

When President Biden announced in August that the federal government would forgive up to $20,000 per borrower in student loan debt (estimated to total roughly $400 billion), the response was fierce. Activists, anxious debtors and Senator Elizabeth Warren — to name just one prominent voice — said that the package was a huge step toward fixing the problem of America’s costly higher education system. Some even said Mr. Biden’s debt relief plan didn’t go far enough.

Many other Americans, on the other hand, felt that the White House’s plan was just plain unfair: They had scrimped and saved to pay for post-high school education and now others were getting undeserved handouts. And anyway, would a payout do anything to solve the real issue, which is that higher education in America is far too expensive?

In the end, it won’t be the court of public opinion that matters: The administration’s debt relief plan has been tied up in legal challenges practically since the day it was announced, and it’s headed for the Supreme Court. That means we’re in for at least another year of disagreement.

The event that would come to be known as The Slap — the actor Will Smith’s assault on the comedian Chris Rock after the latter made a joke about Mr. Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith — was so shocking (Physical assault! During one of live television’s most stage managed events!) and touched on so many of America’s most neuralgic subjects (Free speech! Toxic masculinity! Ableism! Black manhood! Black womanhood!) that it spawned a flurry of takes in the aftermath that few other events this year have matched. (Remember when Judd Apatow tweeted that Mr. Smith “could have killed him”? Remember when a spokesman for the British prime minister weighed in?)

It seemed like every possible angle had its proponents: Mr. Smith was defending his wife in a way that Black women are rarely defended; defending a woman’s honor with physical violence was an expression of toxic masculinity. Will and Jada were longtime celebrities who should know by now how to take a joke; no one should have to take a joke. Mr. Smith should be arrested for assault; calls for his arrest showcased Americans’ carceral attitudes toward Black men.

In the end, the fact that The Slap — a minor scuffle involving three famous people — was being mustered as evidence for so many different agendas and worldviews should perhaps be taken as a sign that the simplest take is the right one here: America really likes talking about celebrities.

This year, the digital gold rush dried up. Prospectors who had mined speculative assets weathered a series of crashes that threatened to bust their boom towns while everyone else watched. Even “no coiners” finally had to figure out how crypto works, if only to learn enough to mock its true believers.

One might think that after a year of crypto implosions, culminating in FTX’s November mega-collapse (to blame: the Democrat-boosting billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried’s bad business practices — and maybe even criminality), faith in the currency’s sanctity might finally fail. After all, even if workplace harassment, a trash-talking C.E.O. turned fugitive or an embarrassing series of hacks didn’t kill your faith in crypto’s prophets, surely the loss of your teacher’s pension fund would.

But crypto’s not gone yet. Its boosters are still boosting, insisting that this short-term dip in the market amounts to nothing more than growing pains. And large firms like Fidelity and BlackRock haven’t given up on crypto investing, either. In doing so, they’re transforming glimmering speculative mumbo-jumbo into just another line item in your friendly neighborhood investment portfolio.

The Depp vs. Heard trial produced so many grim details about the pair’s life together that it’s hard to single out a defining moment. Was it Mr. Depp’s texts to a friend about wanting to have sex with Ms. Heard’s corpse? Or when he accused her of defecating in their bed? It produced audio clips in which the whole country heard two Hollywood stars screaming at each other like the most toxic couple you know stumbling home after last call. At first, following the trial seemed tawdry, like being invested in some especially prurient celebrity gossip.

But then something seemed to shift. The internet appeared, en masse, to side with Captain Jack Sparrow, going into meme-making overdrive with such fervor that it was almost suspicious. (Indeed, there’s evidence that bot accounts were created to retweet hashtags like #AmberHeardIsALiar.) Then came the verdict, which awarded a whopping $8.35 million to Mr. Depp at a moment when it felt like women’s rights were on the ropes: Less than a month earlier, a draft of the Supreme Court opinion that would eventually repeal Roe v. Wade had leaked.

Many argued that what we were seeing unfold around Depp vs. Heard was the inevitable #MeToo backlash. Some found this idea delightful and hoped Ms. Heard’s ugly behavior, as revealed in court, might succeed in undermining the idea of “believe women” for good; others felt that the reaction to the trial proved just how deep misogyny still runs through American culture. But by the time it was over, most seemed to agree that this trial wasn’t just about a messy celebrity couple but something bigger.

The moment that Queen Elizabeth II died in September, the future of the British monarchy suddenly seemed like an open question. And so did how to assess the late royal’s legacy.

To many, she was an icon: She ruled for 70 years, presided over the transition from empire to commonwealth and served as a living link to the generation that won World War II. (She herself worked as a mechanic during the war.) She was, her supporters said, a steady figurehead for the ship of state during a tumultuous period and a leader of a British democracy that took decades to extract itself from a postwar malaise and emerged with diminished influence and power.

On the other hand: She ruled for 70 years and presided over the transition from empire to commonwealth, a process that was sometimes ugly. Under her ceremonial gaze, the fading empire brutally repressed people in its colonies — the Kenyan Mau Mau rebels and the Catholic Irish most famously — and was reticent to condemn apartheid South Africa and committed atrocities against Malayan National Liberation Army rebels. Queen Elizabeth was not making governmental decisions that led to policy, exactly, but the legacy of her rule is still the legacy of the Britain she presided over, republicans claim.

Under her son and successor, Charles III, certainly less popular than his mother, questions about the monarchy’s future — and its past — will likely only intensify.

Inflation made life expensive in 2022, and the Federal Reserve came to the rescue by raising interest rates for the first time in years. But it’s a finicky process: Raise them too little and inflation persists; raise them too fast and the economy falls into a recession. People will lose their jobs and be unable to buy the goods that inflation was making unaffordable anyway. In a survey of America’s top academic economists, nearly 70 percent said they expected a recession in 2023.

The Federal Reserve is famously tight-lipped about its policymaking. But that didn’t stop economists, politicians and pundits from squabbling over what the central bank should be doing. If price increases were being caused primarily by a spike in the price of oil (or, to use President Biden’s attempt at a coinage, “the Putin price hike ”), how much would raising interest rates actually help? Some economists worried about a return to the dreaded stagflation of the 1970s. (Though Ben Bernanke, a former Fed chairman himself, wrote in The Times that that wasn’t going to happen.) Other economists said it was time to cool down the economy before wages started to rise too much, creating an unstoppable spiral.

As the year draws to a close, it looks like inflation may be slowing , and the Fed’s rate increases with it. We may never know what actually was the cause.

The House’s hearings into the Jan. 6 riot were many things: a piece of political theater, a ratings (and traffic) boon for the political news media, a second draft of history, a formal investigation into the actions of Donald Trump and those around him during the day’s events.

But did they matter beyond a record for posterity? In a country riven with partisan polarization and divided into information bubbles, could they? Judging by the reception that election denial got at the polls, it seems that the American voter did consider them important: None of the election deniers in states that Mr. Biden won in 2020 were elected to office, and no candidates that ran on election denial anywhere won their elections.

But Mr. Trump is running again in 2024. The hearings did not end his political career any more than the riot itself did, and the movement that he galvanized is still around. Changing minds is different from rallying the converted. Whether the hearings were truly important might not be known until the ballots are counted in two years. Until then, we may have to make do with half-verdicts.

Two political truisms: Elections are mainly about economic conditions, and the president’s party is at a severe disadvantage during midterm elections. So with high inflation, high gas prices in particular and a possible recession on the horizon, prospects for a Republican blowout seemed good. But instead of a red wave that would set the stage for a Republican trifecta in two years, Democrats added to their Senate majority (even if they did lose the House).

Was the verdict of the voters motivated by Mr. Biden’s policy agenda and a fulfillment of his promise to restore the soul of America? Or was it a vote of no confidence in the Republican Party’s culture war politics, continuing fidelity to the unpopular Mr. Trump and anti-abortion overreach? It’s hard to divine an answer from the inkblot test of the exit polls, but Mr. Biden is not a popular figure.

It could be that even if voters were mostly voting against Republicans and not for Democrats, they were mobilized to do so by the Democrats’ political strategy, which emphasized attacking Republicans on abortion rights and election denial as much as talking about pocketbook issues. If so, this could bode well for their chances of retaining the presidency when voters go to the polls in two years.

Cake frosting smeared on the Mona Lisa. Mashed potatoes flung at a Monet. Tomato soup splashed across a van Gogh. This year, environmental activists all over the world made headlines with a series of shocking (and somewhat bizarre) attacks on famous works of art, vandalizing them with what seemed to be whatever was in their refrigerators. (Though it’s worth noting that none of the paintings were actually damaged.)

The attacks were certainly successful at getting people’s attention — newspapers across the world, including this one, published stories about them — though reactions were mixed. Many were outraged by the defacing of these masterpieces, insisting that the activists be held legally or even criminally responsible. Others who were more sympathetic to the activists’ cause came to their defense, arguing that their actions were justified given their noble intentions and the truly dire state of our planet.

The stunts, some of which were accompanied by sit-ins and speeches, were intended to draw international attention to the climate crisis at a moment when tamer forms of protest have not inspired collective action. Which raises the question: What is effective protest?

In April the Tesla C.E.O., wealthiest man on Earth, and avid tweeter Elon Musk moved to purchase Twitter for $44 billion. When, after many months of waffling, the sale finally went through in late October, Mr. Musk announced sweeping changes. He laid off nearly half the staff and announced that he would crack down on misinformation and impose an eight-dollar monthly subscription fee for verified status.

The world erupted into debate about the company’s future — much of it taking place on Twitter itself. Some mourned the imminent demise of the beloved platform, worrying that Mr. Musk’s more laissez-faire approach to content moderation would turn the site into a cesspool of misinformation and hate speech; others countered that Twitter already was a cesspool of misinformation and hate speech, and if Mr. Musk ran the company into the ground the world would be better for it.

The whole ordeal has reinvigorated a long-simmering debate about the role of social media in American politics and modern life.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi decided this summer that she would visit Taiwan, she knew she was stirring up a geopolitical hornet’s nest. China considers the island an integral part of its country and intends to reclaim it someday; Taiwan sees itself as a democratic fortress standing up to the world’s most powerful authoritarian. Ms. Pelosi seems to agree with the Taiwanese.

Even before her plane took off, commentators began weighing in. The Times Opinion columnist Thomas L. Friedman called it “utterly reckless, dangerous and irresponsible.” More hawkish commentators, meanwhile, urged her not to back down in the face of Chinese threats. In an Op-Ed of her own in The Washington Post, Ms. Pelosi wrote that the visit “should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.”

In the end, the speaker’s trip didn’t lead to a war between China and the United States. But it did ratchet up tensions in the Pacific, with the Chinese military circling the island and issuing warnings. It’s pretty clear that Xi Jinping’s mind didn’t change.

It wasn’t just about Maitland Jones Jr. But his story seemed to encapsulate what was on many Americans’ minds. When The Times reported in early October that Mr. Jones, a chemistry professor at New York University, had been fired following a petition from students complaining that his organic chemistry class was simply too hard — impossibly hard! — a debate erupted across the country: Is the problem students or the system?

The professor wasn’t just speaking for himself when he said that universities “coddle” students instead of giving them “tough love.” Many inside the academy and beyond feel that students these days prefer spoon feeding to long hours in the library. And it’s not just about orgo, either. The same generation that can’t handle hard work can’t handle ideas that it finds too “triggering,” either.

Or … maybe not. The Jones story was also instructive about changes to American higher education: how its increasing cost has led many debt-laden students to feel more like customers than pupils; how a system of gatekeeping is past its expiration date; how students are challenging old hierarchies of power; how colleges are relying on adjuncts to do more and more work — all topics worthy of serious discussion.

The Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade was hardly a surprise. Just weeks earlier, a draft of the decision was leaked to Politico. Still, it felt like a shock to Americans on both sides of the divide over abortion rights. Even the pro-life movement has to admit that the court’s decision was out of step with public opinion: More than 60 percent of Americans want abortion to be legal in most cases.

While much discussion focused on the future of reproductive health care and rights, another issue quickly arose in the wake of the decision, and other conservative rulings on gun control and the environment: Was the Supreme Court losing its legitimacy? The court’s official duty is to interpret the Constitution, but historically, its rulings have largely been in line with popular opinion. Not anymore. Opinion polls showed that faith in the justices was at an all-time low.

Many legal scholars warned that America’s highest judicial body was undermining itself by moving too far to the right. Many conservatives, meanwhile, argued that that bridge had already been crossed with liberal rulings — including Roe — making the court seem like a political body rather than an independent arbiter of the law. Maybe the question is not if the court has lost its legitimacy, but when.

That the number of young people who identify as transgender is on the rise is not in dispute. But what does it mean? Is this a sign that more are living openly as their real selves, in a more welcoming society? Or a sign that the standard tumult of adolescence is being channeled in a new direction with potentially unintended consequences?

There are those like Erica Anderson, a transgender psychologist, who argue that clinicians today, acting in the name of tolerance and inclusivity, have become too ready to default to interventions like hormones or puberty blockers for every young person experiencing gender dysphoria, without performing the comprehensive individual mental health assessments that should accompany them. And then there are others — including many advocates for trans rights — who argue that the debates around trans youth are just another facet of a larger moral panic around gender, and dismiss the idea that joining the ranks of one of society’s most marginalized and vulnerable groups is a choice anyone would make lightly.

Where is all this going? It would be one thing if it could remain a discussion among those who, in good faith, are simply seeking the best way to help young people who are indisputably in distress. Unfortunately, these same young people are also indisputably being used by right-wing politicians across the country as cannon fodder in the culture wars. (See: Gov. Greg Abbott’s order that Texas health agencies should treat the provision of medical treatments to transgender young people as “child abuse.”) That’s a development that adds heat to the debate, but not much light.

“I’ve heard the word ‘diversity’ quite a few times, and I don’t have a clue what it means,” Justice Clarence Thomas told a lawyer for the University of North Carolina in a much-quoted line from oral arguments before the Supreme Court this fall that will determine the fate of affirmative action in America.

All signs point to the conservative court ending the current form of race-based preference in higher education admissions, many of which have been in place since the late 1960s. Some are cheering the looming end of a flawed system, which has succeeded in making elite campuses more racially diverse while still leaving them woefully out of touch with — and out of the reach of — most Americans. Others fret that the end of race-based preferences will come long before they have succeeded in their initial goal, as articulated by Lyndon Johnson in a 1965 speech at Howard University: giving Black people the same chance of success in America as white people.

But the discussion around affirmative action has also broadened. Diversity on campus: What does it mean? Would class-based admissions help achieve a better version of it? And who does it actually serve? Does it imply that minorities are instruments to improve the educational experience of the majority? Is the goal to make elite campuses more diverse or to help underprivileged Americans receive the best possible education — in which case, why focus on a handful of selective schools that serve a tiny percentage of the population?

The Supreme Court is expected to rule next summer — but it’s unlikely to be the last word.

Golf is supposed to be boring, right? Maybe not. The so-called gentleman’s game found itself in the center of a firestorm this year, with players openly sniping at one another in the press and pundits debating major ethical questions.

The firestorm began when plans for the LIV Golf Tour were announced this summer. The new tour, which kicked off with a tournament in Britain in June, is to be a rival to the more established P.G.A. and DP World Tours. Some players and fans say that LIV will undermine the legacy tours and permanently alter the professional game for the worse; LIV’s backers say it will push needed reforms to the P.G.A. But the biggest source of controversy? LIV’s primary backer is Saudi Arabia, which put some $400 million into getting it off the ground. (And, of course, there was Donald Trump: Several of LIV’s events have been held at clubs owned by the former president.)

Phil Mickelson, a P.G.A. champion, called the Saudis “scary” to get involved with, citing the 2018 killing of the Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi — the very reason, detractors say, that Saudi Arabia is trying to rehab its reputation through sports. But that wasn’t enough to stop Mr. Mickelson from joining LIV in the hopes that it puts pressure on the P.G.A. Now he insists that the new tour is “the winning side.” His biggest foil is also one of the game’s biggest stars: Tiger Woods, who was reportedly offered around $700 million if he signed onto LIV, has been one of its most vocal opponents, saying that the flood of money is bad for competition.

Even if this debate may have escaped your attention, its implications could be enormous for a world of sports increasingly awash in foreign cash.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, condemnation of President Vladimir Putin was swift and loud from across the political spectrum. So was support for the government in Kyiv. Out-and-out defenders of the Kremlin were exceedingly difficult to find in America.

But once Ukrainian forces drove the Russians back from Kyiv, and as the war dragged on through the summer and the fall, disagreements began to emerge. The United States and its European allies poured weapons and aid into Ukraine, but how was this going to end? Some figures — including left-wing members of Congress, anti-intervention analysts and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — suggested that the United States should begin pushing for negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv. How many more lives needed to be lost before a settlement was reached? Didn’t the dangers of the war spiraling out of control (Mr. Putin has, more than once, raised the threat of using nuclear weapons) make peace an imperative? Only diplomacy could bring the bloodshed to an end. Louder, though, were the voices calling for Washington to continue to back Ukraine as it made gains on the battlefield. The realist argument was, in the words of one Washington foreign policy specialist, “baloney.” And anyway, it would be up to Ukraine — not its allies — to decide when it’s finally time to come to the table.

As 2022 draws to a close, the fighting continues and peace talks look as distant as ever — which probably means that the debates will continue.

This summer, the art world was set abuzz when the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition awarded its top prize to an A.I.-generated image: Jason Allen’s “Théâtre d’Opéra Spatial.” The image, which was created using an online software that produces complex and highly stylized images based on words entered into a text box, swiftly inspired a backlash from other artists who accused Mr. Allen of essentially cheating, and ignited a conversation about what, in the age of A.I., counts as art.

A.I.-generated art has been around for years. But tools released in 2022 — with names like DALL-E 2, Midjourney and Stable Diffusion — have made it easier than ever to produce visually striking images with little more than a few clicks. This has made many human artists understandably nervous about their futures. Why would anyone pay for art, they wonder, when they could just generate it themselves? It has also generated a fierce debate about the ethics of A.I.-generated art. On the one side are people like Mr. Allen, who believe A.I. art is the way of the future. As he put it: “Art is dead, dude. It’s over. A.I. won. Humans lost.” On the other are those who believe that something that requires so little skill or effort can’t truly rise to the level of art — or who say that what these apps produce essentially amounts to a high-tech form of plagiarism. Of course, that’s not going to stop people from using them.

We debated The Slap.

Was chris rock asking for it was chris rock asking for it.

controversial essay issues

We were split over what purpose the Jan. 6 committee served.

Was it necessary and vital to continued democracy, or an exercise in partisan politics was it necessary and vital to continued democracy, or an exercise in partisan politics.

controversial essay issues

We argued about crime.

Was crime a real problem — or was the perception of crime the problem was crime a real problem — or was the perception of crime the problem.

controversial essay issues

We mourned the queen. And debated her legacy.

Was queen elizabeth a high-minded public servant or a relic of imperialism was queen elizabeth a high-minded public servant or a relic of imperialism.

controversial essay issues

We debated (and debated and debated) about Twitter.

Is it a crucial town square worthy of saving or a force for the terrible is it a crucial town square worthy of saving or a force for the terrible.

controversial essay issues

We pondered Bitcoin and Ethereum and FTX and S.B.F.

Was it all just a fad or were you team buy-the-dip was it all just a fad or were you team buy-the-dip.

controversial essay issues

We debated student loan forgiveness.

Was president biden’s plan the way to a more just america or a handout for people who didn’t need one was president biden’s plan the way to a more just america or a handout for people who didn’t need one.

controversial essay issues

We argued about whether it was time to put away masks.

Are people who still wear them living in the past or looking out for their communities are people who still wear them living in the past or looking out for their communities.

controversial essay issues

We questioned the Supreme Court.

Did overturning roe make the court seem less legitimate did overturning roe make the court seem less legitimate.

controversial essay issues

We analyzed and argued over the Johnny Depp- Amber Heard case.

What did the trial reveal about the limits of #metoo what did the trial reveal about the limits of #metoo.

controversial essay issues

We discussed the rise in transgender youth.

How should we think about the fact that the number of trans kids has nearly doubled in recent years how should we think about the fact that the number of trans kids has nearly doubled in recent years.

controversial essay issues

We debated the lessons of the midterms.

Were they a victory for democrats or a defeat for republicans were they a victory for democrats or a defeat for republicans.

controversial essay issues

We gasped as beloved paintings were doused with soup.

Is anything that brings attention to climate change worthy, or were these just juvenile acts of vandalism is anything that brings attention to climate change worthy, or were these just juvenile acts of vandalism.

controversial essay issues

We debated hybrid work.

Is it the best of both worlds or the worst of both worlds is it the best of both worlds or the worst of both worlds.

controversial essay issues

We worried about inflation — and fought over how to fight it.

Prices are too high. would a recession be even worse prices are too high. would a recession be even worse.

controversial essay issues

We worried about Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.

Was the house speaker standing up for human rights or making world war iii more likely was the house speaker standing up for human rights or making world war iii more likely.

controversial essay issues

We blew our minds over A.I. art.

Is it a real art or just a silly gimmick is it a real art or just a silly gimmick.

controversial essay issues

We debated how hard school should be.

Are we raising a generation of snowflakes or are some classes just plain unfair are we raising a generation of snowflakes or are some classes just plain unfair.

controversial essay issues

We asked if golfers are supposed to care about human rights.

Is a new saudi golf tournament about sportswashing or just another chance to hit the links is a new saudi golf tournament about sportswashing or just another chance to hit the links.

controversial essay issues

We argued about affirmative action.

Is diversity on campus an important enough goal to justify racial preferences is diversity on campus an important enough goal to justify racial preferences.

controversial essay issues

We debated how to end the war in Ukraine.

The bloodshed continues. when is it time to talk the bloodshed continues. when is it time to talk.

controversial essay issues

We debated the apocalypse.

Nuclear war and the death of american democracy were just around the corner. or were you just freaking out.


Controversial Topics for Essays and Speeches

31 July, 2020

10 minutes read

Author:  Mathieu Johnson

When professors leave the choice of essay or speech topic on you, there's a myriad of options to choose from. It's easy to drown in a sea of subjects to write or talk about, and the list can extend to hundreds and hundreds of issues. However, there's likewise a collection of notorious topics, writing or talking about which can ignite heated arguments and vivid discussions. In this article, we'll share controversial topics for essays and speeches which will hopefully help you with the ultimate decision for your next assignment topic.

Controversial Topics

How to Find the Best Debate Topics?

You cannot make a sandwich without the necessary ingredients, right? The same goes for provocative essays and speeches: you need to have all the tools and enough confidence to make readers stroked with your piece of writing. But how do you find the best debate topics to spark that interest?

We could say that surfing the Internet space for this purpose is the best solution, but we won’t. Of course, you can pick a random topic from the first site, but the point here is not about the fastest way to find the right controversial topic, but about the quality of your search. Thus, the best way to pick topics for a debate is to understand the audience which you address in the first place and estimate their intellectual level. This is a necessary step that’ll help you know for sure if the target readers will even bear your ideas and statements. Otherwise, people might not understand you or refuse to read your controversial topic whatsoever. The same net effect goes for speeches: listeners will be simply reluctant to hear the words that are too offensive or too provocative for them.

You can also find multiple controversial topics easily by following a couple of easy steps:

  • Brainstorm. Don’t search for essay or speech issues panically in a hope to get the best one in a matter of minutes. Think carefully of at least three topics you can potentially use for your debate and list them down.
  • Focus on Relevant Issues. Exclude the matters and questions that might be too difficult to reveal or too wide or narrow. Moreover, the topic should by no means be boring – in this case, the interest will be lost as well.
  • Make the Ultimate Choice. Once you’ve filtered controversial topics, concentrate on the most appropriate and acceptable one for the audience. Finally, start writing and enjoy the process.

Choosing the best debate topics

Feel free to buy essay tasks if you’re facing some problems with your essay !

Funny Controversial Topics

Causing sincere laughter is one of the most significant points which your audience will certainly appreciate either on speech or in writing. Because ultimately, everybody enjoys a good laugh. However, you need to be ready to write or speak about those issues that are mildly humorous, not sarcastic or mocking. In two words, you’ll need to come up with something that’ll cheer up the crowd and give them positive energy. Luckily, you don’t have to search for endless lists of funny controversial topics because we’ve gathered them for you. Take a look at the examples below and use them as a guide to your topic selection.

  • Is it even okay to have coulrophobia?
  • Is reggae music the best genre in the world today?
  • How can you use the skills of playing video games to work in a great company?
  • When she laughs at your jokes, does it mean she likes you?
  • Is there any secret thing which women do that men don’t know about?
  • Best Star Wars character
  • Men gossip more than women
  • What pizza toppings are the best?
  • Is it weird if your boss is your best friend?
  • What is more real: a pirate or a ninja?
  • Who are more likely to achieve success in life: introverts or extroverts?
  • Why should homework be banned from the education system for good?
  • Does the practice of playing video games increase IQ levels?
  • Friends or How I Met Your Mother?
  • Why Coke is better than Pepsi
  • Should humans eat to live or live to eat?
  • Why fish make the ultimate pets
  • If Harry Potter magic was real, should it be made legal for all to practice?
  • Santa’s elves should be paid minimum wage
  • Why cute pets videos are ruining the Internet
  • Why the Kardashians family is more popular than the president
  • Should juveniles be treated as adults
  • Is there life with unicorns after death?
  • Is eating ice cream with fries actually a good idea?

List of Controversial Topics for Essays

If you or your professor decide to depart from humor and give readers some real food for thought, consider these argumentative essays topics

  • What is the correlation between food, fitness, and weight?
  • What are the side effects of different diets?
  • Is swimming the best type of sport?
  • The most appropriate age for people to vote
  • Are electric vehicles the best solution to global pollution?
  • Advantages and disadvantages of globalization
  • Is gun control an ultimate way to diminish crime levels?
  • Violent video games should be prohibited
  • Does technology make people feel alone?
  • Are people gradually transforming into technological zombies?
  • Will people even reach a time when there will be no more technological advancement?
  • The impact of communication on social networks for contemporary education
  • Is censorship of Internet necessary?
  • Parents should not control their children above 16 years old
  • What is the division of roles of partners in terms of relationship and family?
  • Is online dating effective and reasonable?
  • Will people reach the point of marrying their computers soon?
  • Is abstract art the most admirable and progressive in history?
  • Why is the majority of up-to-date movies deprived of a meaningful plot?
  • Should abortion be made illegal?
  • Should men get paternity leave from work?
  • Should animals be used for research?
  • Does boredom lead to trouble?
  • Are girls too mean to each other?
  • Is college admission too competitive?

Choosing Controversial Topics

Arguable Topics for Research Papers

  • Is obesity a problem of the American population?
  • Modern diets are not as effective as people expect them to be
  • Eight hours is the most optimal duration of sleep for every student
  • Sports with high-risk levels should be banned
  • Parents should by no means allow their children to watch films with cruel or adult scenes
  • Marijuana should be forbidden in the majority of countries
  • The US government should implement strict rules to fight with alcoholism
  • Energetic drinks consumption can be more dangerous than usual alcohol drinks intake
  • Documenting court cases shouldn’t be forbidden in any court
  • All people should be given the right to start voting at the age of 25
  • The usage of animals in research and for testing should be banned
  • Every individual who contributes to the development of environmental pollution should be punished
  • Local authorities need to work more on protection after tornadoes
  • Indians residing in America are not real representatives of their kind
  • Every financial crisis to come will bring worse consequences than previous
  • Acceptance rates in colleges and universities should be significantly higher than now
  • The official permission of gay marriages displays a high level of development in societies
  • What are the means of combating corruption more effectively?
  • The current political system is not the most effective ideology for today’s world
  • Interactive computer-mediated technologies are not as safe as they were told to be
  • The effects of contemporary teaching methods
  • How to stop wasting paper and save trees?
  • Can the overpopulation issue be managed?
  • How tv shows impose fake moral standards?
  • Do beauty contests set non-achievable beauty standards?

Current Controversial Issues 2023

  • What is your stance on abortion?
  • Should local authorities continue to support Planned Parenthood financially?
  • Should gay couples have equal adoption rights as those of straight couples?
  • Should marital rape be considered and punished as severely as non-marital rape?
  • Should “gender identity” complement the list of anti-discrimination laws?
  • Should an enterprise be in force for refusing to serve a customer if the request contradicts the owner’s religious beliefs?
  • Should the military give women a permission to participate in combat roles?
  • Should transgender athletes be given the right to participate in athletic competitions?
  • Do you support the death penalty?
  • Should businesses allow women to become members of their board of directors?
  • Should all states be permitted to show the Confederate flag on government property?
  • How should we stop massive shootings from occurring?
  • What are the sustainable development programs for the next four years?
  • How do we overcome inequality in society and defend human rights?
  • What should the relevant education funding in America be?
  • How do we rebuild the old energy infrastructure?
  • Should we redesign the immigration policy?
  • Benefits and negative consequences of developing genetically modified children
  • Using Photoshop in the media promotes an unhealthy body image
  • The positive effects of dealing with stress through music
  • Should Bottled Water Be Banned?
  • Is human activity a substantial cause of global climate change?
  • Should adults carry a concealed handgun and use it for self-protection?
  • What are the solutions to illegal immigration in America?
  • Is the implementation of standardized tests bettering the state of education in America?

The next time you’ll write an essay or think of a speech idea, take into account the list of our controversial topics suggestions. These examples can give you a helping hand during the selection of the most burning issue and provide some guidance for the creation of an excellent essay or speech. 

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50+ Collection of the Most Controversial Argumentative Essay Topics

By Evans , 19 July, 2020

Superman vs. Batman. Chocolate donut vs. bagels. Communism vs. Capitalism. Religion vs. Atheism. Gun Control. Do you see where I am going with this? Each of the topics stated above has been subject to discussion at one point or the other. This is the basis for argumentative essays.

controversial essay issues

Argumentative essays are fuelled by controversy. Facts are not debatable until they can be. For example, you cannot debate that the US has 50 states. It is a fact, and until a state decided to secede (if ever), this will remain undebatable.

To pull off a great argumentative essay, you will need as much controversy as you can master. Below, I have listed the most controversial argumentative essay topics for you to choose from when writing your paper.

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The Most Controversial Argumentative Essay Topics

1. global warming.

Is it happening or is it just a myth to scare us off? What measures can be taken to prevent even more global warming? How can governments ensure that each person plays their part in reducing this phenomenon?

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controversial essay issues

2. The Death Penalty

Is it effective? Should it be scrapped off? What are the arguments for and against the death penalty? What kind of crimes warrant death as punishment?

3. Gun Control

This is one of the most controversial argumentative essay topics. What are the effects of the lack of control and distribution of guns? Should there be a bill in the Senate to better control the licensing of guns?

What are the common causes of war? Can it be justified in the eye of the common people who bear the brunt of it? What can be done to prevent war in the world?

5. Computer Games and Mass Murders

What is the relationship between computer games and mass murders in the US? Do violent video games increase the chances of shootouts in schools? Therefore, should these games be regulated?

6. Tobacco Products

Should these products be outlawed? If yes, why? Will it be a practical idea seeing as a very big percentage of people in the world are addicted to these products?

7. The Use of Animals for Research

The use of animals for research is a good and controversial argumentative essay topic. Is using animals for extreme scientific experimentation humane? Should it be forbidden to do this? Is it practical to make this ban?

8. Globalization

Globalization is another good argumentative essay topic. Is it a good idea? If you are for it, what are the advantages of globalization? If against it, what are the challenges you foresee?

9. Sex Before Marriage

Is it morally right to have sex before marriage? What are the arguments for it? Why should teenagers avoid sex until after marriage?

10. LGBTQ Rights

Should gay marriages be legalized all over the world? What ways can be used to encourage countries that are uncomfortable with the idea of gay marriages?

11. Media and Fear

Does the media go out of its way to create hype or to scare the public? Should this be allowed? What can be done to control this?

12. TV Shows and Movies and their Role in Diversity

What are the role of TV shows and movies when it comes to showing racial and sexual diversity? Should they be held to a particular standard when it comes to being diverse?

13. Non-alcoholic Drinks

Are these drinks just as dangerous as alcoholic ones? Should there be tighter regulations when it comes to the content of non-alcoholic drinks?

14. Steroids

Do steroids serve to help or destroy your body? Should they be made illegal for use where sports is concerned? What are the arguments for its illegalization?

15. The Sex Talk

Should parents have the sex talk with their children? If yes, how old should the child be for this to be practical? What exactly should parents discuss when having the sex talk?

16. Physical Punishment

Should parents, or even schools, be allowed to physically punish the children? If yes, what are the acceptable ways through which children should be punished? What should be the extent of this punishment?

17. Sex on TV

Should TV shows and movies with simulated sex scenes be portrayed on prime time TV? What are the arguments for and against this?

18. Advertisement

Where is the line to be drawn between advertising points and facts? Should companies be compelled more to ensure that the advertisements they make are more factual than convincing? Should the show each and every side effect of the product they are selling?

19. Violence on TV

Are we at a point where their networks are showing excessive violence on TV? Should there be a regulation for the violence portrayed? What is the standard that should be set for “acceptable violence”?

20. Obesity VS Anorexia

Two opposite sides to the same coin. Is there a lesser evil in the argument between obesity and anorexia? What can be done to control or prevent these two eating disorders?

21. Dieting

Is dieting an effective method of losing weight? How can it be supplemented in order to ensure better weight loss results?

22. Abortion

Should abortion be legalized throughout the world? What are the disadvantages to legalizing it? Are there any better options we have to abortion?

23. Cheating in Schools

Is cheating during examination and CATS getting out of control? What does this mean for the kind of professionals being released into the market? Are there any measures that can be taken in order to reduce this phenomenon?

24. Torture

Is there a word in which torture is acceptable as a method of interrogation? Is it in any way more effective than the standard methods of interrogation? What is the moral ground on which it stands?

25. Teens and Contraceptives

Should teenagers be given access to different contraceptives for birth control? Will this in any way have an influence on the number of teen pregnancies as we see it today? What is the moral ground to be used in order to give teenagers access to the contraceptives?

26. The Income of Athletes and Actors

Are these professional paid too much for the services they give? How can their pay be justified? Should they pay more taxes?

27. HIV/AIDs

Is this the illness of the century or just a big myth made to scare people away from irresponsible sexual behaviors? Are we any closer to finding a cure for the disease? What are the improvements we have seen over the years as concerns the treatment and management of the disease?

28. Religion and Politics

What is the role that the religion plays when it comes to the politics of any country? Should the church butt out or take a more active role in a country’s politics? What is the line drawn between these two?

29. Religion VS Science

30. world peace.

Is this feasible or are we building castles in the air? What can be done to ensure that we head in the direction of universal peace? What are the challenges that will for sure be encountered in this journey?

31. ingle-sex Schools

Are there any particular benefits associated with attending a single-sex school? What are the disadvantages to it? Should such schools be completely scrapped off?

32. Religion and Terrorism

What is the influence that religion has on terrorism? Does it in any way foster this menace? Will controlling or even scrapping off religion reduce the cases of terrorism in the world?

33. Bullying in Schools

Is this a cause for concern? What are the main causes of bullying and how can it be prevented? Alternatively, should we just ignore it, I mean, people have been bullying and still made it in life?

34. Marijuana

The debate on the legalization of marijuana makes another controversial argumentative essay topic. Should it be legalized? What are the arguments for its legalization? What are the arguments against it?

35. Technology and Social Habits

What is the effect of technology on the social habits of teenagers and children today? Will it ultimately affect their social lives as they grow older? Should parents regulate the use of devices by their children in order for them to foster social relations with their peers?

36. Social Media

Do you think social media has resulted in more benefits than negatives or the alternative? What are the advantages to it? What are its disadvantages?

37. The Legal Age

The debate on the legal age also makes for one of the most controversial argumentative essay topics. Should the current legal age be pushed? If so, should it be pushed higher or lower? What about the age for drinking alcohol, should it be lowered below 21 seeing as most teenagers take alcohol before then?

38. The Voting Age

At 18, is a person able to make the conscious decision to vote for a particular candidate? Depending on your answer here, should this age be pushed either way?

39. Cloning

Is it okay to clone? What are the scientific and moral arguments for and against it? Should it, therefore, be banned?

40. Euthanasia

Where a patient is suffering from extensive physical pain, is euthanasia (assisted suicide) right? If not, what do you think are the legal measures that should be taken against a medical practitioner found guilty of euthanasia?

41. Smoking in Public Places

Are the regulations that are there at the moment as concerns smoking in public areas working? Should the governments introduce stricter regulations? Ultimately, should smoking in public placed be completely banned?

42. Cross-Cultural Marriages

Do such marriages improve racial tolerance among the races? Or does it actually lead to the festering of the racial wound? Therefore, should it be encouraged?

43. The Destruction of Rain Forests

Should rainforests across the globe have better care taken of them? Is their destruction justified? Is planting trees to replace them a solution to the problem?

44. Children’s School Performance

Should parents pay their children when they get good grades? If not, what ways of encouraging their children should they use?

45. Prostitution

Prostitution has sparked quite a number of debates, hence making a good argumentative essay topic. Should it be legalized in every country? Should the laws of a country be amended in order to incorporate the rights of commercial sex workers?

46. The Cost of College

Is the cost of college too high? If it is completely subsidized to make it more affordable, will we have more people going to college? What will this mean for the job market? Compare this to countries that have free college education. Is their economy better for it?

47. Homework

Are school assignments and homework helpful or not? Give your reasons for supporting either side. Should it, therefore, be scrapped off the system?

48. Taxation

Are we paying too much tax? To reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, should the rich people pay more taxes?

49. Public Prayer in Schools

Is it okay for public prayers to be held in schools that are not Christian-based? Does it infringe on the religious rights of the students in the said school? Should it be prevented?

50. Controlled Substances

Does the banning of controlled substances have ultimate negative effects due to the larger black market? Therefore, should these substances be legalized?

You may also like: The little secret why your friends are earning better grades

Writing an argumentative essay is not difficult. It first requires that you have a good argumentative essay topic before you begin any writing. This topic should be familiar to you, should have enough sources of information and should not be common. To get to know how to write an A+ Essay on any of the argumentative essay topics above, you can read our series of articles entitled “the Writing process” starting from Essay Writing Guide

You can also look at some of our How to write a research paper

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Hand writing in a book on a persuasive essay topic, and a cup of coffee in the background.

15 Persuasive Essay Topics About Controversial Issues

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Controversial issues can be a great way to get your students engaged, and they also make perfect persuasive essay topics.

Whether your goal is to explore the controversial issue itself or to teach the mechanics of persuasive writing, controversial issues and persuasive essays go hand in hand.

In order to write a good persuasive essay, you need to feel passionately about an argument. Having a good prompt and a good issue let’s you do that.

The flip side is that to show you really understand a controversial issue, you have to make an argument about it. A persuasive essay is the perfect summative assessment to see whether a student really understands the issue and can articulate their opinion.

Below, I’ll share a list of 15 persuasive essay topics and writing prompts that you can use with your class. If you scroll down to the bottom, I’ll also wrap up with some other methods and resources that can help you teach these controversial issues and how to write argumentative essays.

List of Persuasive Essay Topics and Writing Prompts

So, without further ado, here’s a list of questions that would make great writing prompts for a persuasive essay.

Should the Government Ban or Regulate Indecency on Television?

This is a controversial issue as old as the airwaves. As long as there’s been radio and television, there have been arguments about what is acceptable and what is obscene.

If you’re studying constitutional law or taking AP U.S. Government, you’re probably familiar with George Carlin and his famous “ Seven Dirty Words ” bit. But for the average student, this persuasive writing topic is still relevant.

Think about the music you hear on the radio. What is bleeped out? Why do we have “dirty” and “clean” versions of hit songs? Why are some television shows allowed to curse, be violent, and have nudity, while others don’t?

You could definitely take this broader topic and make it more specific and timely by relating it to a current hit song or television show that your students are in to.

But however you phrase it, whether or not the government should regulate indecency on television is a great persuasive essay topic.

Should Voters Be Required to Show Identification?

For the last few years, this has been an increasingly hot topic as individual states have moved to implement various forms of voter ID laws. On the face of it, this sounds reasonable, but underneath the surface there are arguments about voter suppression and exclusion.

Is voter fraud a problem that needs to be dealt with? An answer to this question should likely depend on some research about the extent to which people are impersonating voters to enter the voting booth.

What kind of ID should be required? Different types of ID have different requirements to obtain them, and so this choice matters to.

Finally, how do you deal with the potential for discriminatory exclusion? Some people – the elderly, the young, low income – are more likely to not have ID, and for some people it can be a financial burden to secure the documentation necessary to get an ID.

Here’s a great, short NY Times Op-Doc video about the issue, which leans more to the “against” side of voter ID laws .

This ongoing policy debate about Voter ID laws makes for a great argumentative essay topic.

Should Race Be a Factor in Admissions to Universities?

Affirmative action has been a controversial issue for decades. Initially, the debate was over whether or not strict racial quotas were an appropriate way to make up for centuries of discrimination and segregation.

These early forms of affirmative action were struck down by the Supreme Court in Regents of the University of California vs Bakke , but other forms of affirmative action survived. Bakke affirmed that universities could use race as one factor in their admissions, and universities have been trying to strike the proper balance since.

A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in again – in Fisher v. University of Texas – and upheld more holistic processes designed to ensure diversity. But in the aftermath of Fisher , a group of students have brought a case against Harvard that is likely destined to find itself at the Supreme Court soon.

Which begs the original question – is it appropriate for a University to use race as a factor in admissions in order to guarantee diversity of its student body?

Should the Government Limit the Amount of Money Spent on Political Campaigns?

The influence of money in politics is another issue that has been fought out in the Supreme Court over the last 50 years. Money in politics is nothing new, and there are plenty examples of its corrupting influence in the early history of the United States.

But since the 1970’s, the federal government has struggled to strike a proper balance between regulation and free speech. Early campaign finance laws sought to restrict spending, and that was ultimately overturned. More recently, McCain-Feingold (aka BCRA) tried to funnel campaign spending into committees that have strict disclosure and contribution regulations.

Much of that came to an end with Citizens United , and since 2010 there has been a renewed surge of “dark” money in politics. So there’s really two parts to this question – a) should there be restrictions on how much money people can contribute and/or spend and b) does the public have a right to know who is contributing money to whom?

One way or another, the question of campaign finance is a great persuasive essay topic.

Should the Government Publicly Finance Campaigns?

Related to the previous question, you might also use this question as an argumentative essay prompt – should the government avoid the influence of money altogether by publicly funding campaigns?

There are some examples to look at. In 1974, the federal government set up a Presidential Election Campaign Fund, and candidates can use it to get matching dollar amounts if they agree to certain restrictions. But since Citizens United , the program has largely fallen out of favor.

New Jersey is one of several states with a public funding option for gubernatorial campaigns, and Arizona and Maine have more comprehensive systems offering public funding for state legislative elections. But these laws have also been challenged in court, and part of Arizona’s public financing law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2011.

A simple version of this persuasive essay topic would focus on whether or not the government should publicly finance campaigns, while a more complex version might touch on how the government could do it in a way that withstood judicial scrutiny.

Should the United States Intervene When Foreign Dictators Use Chemical Weapons on Their Own People?

This is a more narrow version of the general question – should the United States intervene in foreign countries or mind its own business?

In some historical cases – like World War II and the Holocaust – it seems pretty obvious that intervention is a good idea. But in the present moment, it’s a little harder to identify that dividing line.

There have been a number of recent cases along these lines – Syria, Iraq, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Students will likely have a huge range of opinions on the issue, with some being fiercely isolationist and others advocating intervention on the slightest chance of abuse.

This is one of my favorite persuasive essay topics because it links up so directly with a theme that I talk a lot about in class – conflict. Read more about teaching with themes here.

Should the Federal Government Raise the Minimum Wage to $15 per hour?

The federal minimum wage is $7.25, and it’s been there since 2009. With the Fight for $15 movement is gaining steam around the country, this would make a great persuasive writing topic.

What once seemed kind of crazy is slowly becoming more realistic. First, some progressive cities took the lead, like Seattle. Now, some states are following suit – including New Jersey and Illinois.

Of course, there’s still plenty of pushback against this idea and a national minimum wage hike doesn’t seem to be in the cards in the near future. But a student could certainly take a side and stake out an argument – and maybe even send it to their legislature.

This is another one of the persuasive essay topics that relates directly back to a major theme in social studies – this time the theme of economics, and whether or not the economy is fair. Read more here about essential questions related to economics.

Should Congress Require Annual Standardized Tests in Schools?

Here’s another essay topic that’s particularly relevant for students. Every student knows the pain of testing – in fact just this morning, I spent several hours proctoring the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment (NJSLA).

Testing has been around a long time, but the frequency of it increased – and was required nationwide – after the 2001 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka “No Child Left Behind”). Congress took another look at the issue with the next reauthorization – the Every Student Succeeds Act – but they ended up leaving the testing mandate alone.

So what do your students think? Ask them and have them write an argumentative essay about it.

You could also put a twist on this question by focusing on the use of tests as an exit requirement. There’s no federal mandate for this, but some states do require students to pass a standardized test to graduate. For older students, this surely a topic about which they’ll have an opinion.

Should the United States Grant Asylum to Refugees?

This is another age old question that has taken on new relevance. From the beginning of its history, the United States took in people who could be considered refugees. Historically, the greatest test of this question may be the Holocaust, and early on the United States failed that test.

You can watch this PBS Frontline episode, Forever Prison , to learn about the plight of Haitian refugees to the United States in the 1990’s. More recently, there are refugees looking to come to the United States from the Middle East and from Latin America. If your students spend any time watching the news, they’ve surely heard something about this.

This topic could revolve around what people are fleeing from. Should we only accept refugees from religious persecution and human rights abuses? What about crime or poverty? Or natural disasters?

It’s a complex question that gets to the heart of the immigration policy debate – and makes a perfect argumentative essay prompt.

Should the Government Have Access to Encrypted Devices and Communications Platforms?

The topic of government surveillance pops up in the news from time to time. Under Bush, there was the warrantless wire-tapping, the use of phone metadata, and the FBI snooping on e-mails.

More recently, this question focuses on access to encrypted communication platforms – like WhatsApp. To your students, these are probably just convenient ways to chat with each other. But to people with security concerns, they’re also a way to make sure that no one is listening in on their conversations.

There could be some good reasons for that. There could also be some bad reasons. Apparently terrorist groups like ISIS have used these encrypted communication platforms to plan attacks, which begs the question – should the government have some kind of backdoor to get in?

Some students will shrug this off and think it’s no big deal, while others will probably react with quite a bit of concern.

Should the Federal Government Permit or Ban the Death Penalty?

This is a good argumentative essay topic to use in conjunction with the Bill of Rights. The Eighth Amendment says no cruel unusual punishment – which should mean no death penalty, right?

Of course, there’s a historical angle to this. The death penalty was widely accepted in 1789, so you can make an argument that the Eighth Amendment doesn’t forbid it.

But there’s also the angle of justice and equity. In the 1970’s, through a series of court cases, the death penalty was deemed arbitrary and capricious – because it tended to be used more against certain offenders (i.e. African Americans).

This led to some reforms, and some states have continued to use the death penalty. Texas is leading the way on that front. Other states, however, have banned it, while others have put a moratorium on executions because of concerns over the method of execution.

Should Hate Speech Be Protected by the First Amendment?

This is another great writing prompt to use with the Bill of Rights, and it’s one that’s sure to elicit strong reaction from your students.

Supreme Court caselaw has held that speech – even hate speech – is protected by the First Amendment. A pivotal case in this vein was Brandenburg v. Ohio . In that case, the Court decided that speech could only be limited if it created an imminent danger, not because it was hateful.

Another way to frame the question is to focus on social media platforms. Recently, Facebook, Twitter, and other companies have come under fire for allowing White Supremacists to share various forms of hate speech on their platforms. One could then make a connection to any number of violent incidents throughout the country (or the world).

So if the government can’t regulate hate speech because of the First Amendment, does a platform like Facebook have an obligation to do so? Great topic for a persuasive essay.

Should the Government Send a Manned Mission to Mars?

I love space, so this question really appeals to me. Fifty years ago, people might have thought JFK was crazy when he planned to send a man to the moon. I’m sure there were plenty of heated debates about that.

Today’s frontier is a bit further away, but is it any more crazy? Sure, there are some technological leaps that need to be taken before it’s possible. But in the early 1960’s, putting a man on the moon may have seemed crazy, too.

But it’s an important question for the space program. What’s next? Back to the moon, on to Mars, or something else? Or should we just hang out on Earth for a while and try to fix what we’ve got here?

Maybe it’s the science fiction fan in me, but I just think this is a great topic to think about. I’d love to see what students would write about this in an argumentative essay.

Should the Federal Government Have to Balance the Budget?

This is a question that should come with a heavy dose of economics and economic policy. But it’s one worth asking. It could also be a good vehicle for teaching some of these concepts that might otherwise seem boring and wonky.

You could also connect this back to history. When you teach about the early years of the nation and Alexander Hamilton’s role as the Secretary of the Treasury, there’s undoubtedly something that comes up about the National Debt. Instead of talking about that in historical isolation, you can connect that today and think about the current federal budget.

This is also back in the news this week, with moderate Democrats (i.e. the Blue Dog Coalition backing a concept that has traditionally been more closely associated with Republicans. Perhaps it’s a blip on the national scene and the topic will fade away, but if it’s in the headlines why not use it as a persuasive essay topic?

Should the Voting Age be Lowered to 16?

We’ll end with this one because it has a direct impact on students. Should teenagers be allowed to vote?

A few years ago, this might have sounded crazy. But over the last few years there have been several municipalities that lowered their voting age to 16. At the federal level, Rep. Ayanna Pressley introduced an amendment to a bill on federal election reform that would have lowered the age for participation in Congressional and Presidential elections.

There’s also a historical angle to this question. Once upon a time – not all that long ago – you couldn’t vote at 18. To today’s students it may seem like a fait accompli , but the 26th Amendment that lowered the voting age was less than fifty years ago. At the founding of the country, some states required voters to be as old as 25.

So let students wrestle with this writing prompt in an argumentative essay and put together an argument for (or against) lowering the voting age.

Other Methods and Resources for Teaching Controversial Issues and Persuasive Essays

A big piece of teaching how to write a persuasive essay is the topic, but – especially with controversial issues – it also helps to teach some background about the topics.

One place you can look for resources for these questions is C-SPAN’s Classrooms Deliberations . These are in depth lessons on current policy debates that come scaffolded with C-SPAN videos and other resources. Some of these questions are featured in these Deliberations lessons, and this can be a great place to find the factual resources your students need to write good arguments.

Two other methods that you could think about using with these controversial issues are Take a Stand and A/B Writing . With the Take a Stand activity, students arrange themselves on a continuum based on how they feel about a question. With A/B writing, students choose a statement to agree with and write down their reason for choosing it. Either method is a great way to get students to start thinking about a topic that’s going to turn into a persuasive essay.

Finally, a lot of these issues are things that are debates that are playing out in the country right now. If you follow the news, you’re bound to hear about many of these issues on a weekly basis. Better yet, if you teach current events on a regular basis in your class, you can have your students relate what they’ve learned in the news to these essays. Here are some resources on how to use CNN10 to teach current events in your class .

Which Issue Have You Used From These Persuasive Essay Topics?

Have you used one of these topics in your class? How did you students respond?

Do you have another controversial issue that you’ve used as a topic for a persuasive essay? What was it?

Drop a line in the comment below and share with our readers.

1 comments on “15 Persuasive Essay Topics About Controversial Issues”

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  • Anna H. Smith
  • November 27, 2020

I really appreciate this website. I have learned some inciteful writing information. I feel strongly that I can go forward with the information that I have gained from this post. Great persuasive controversial essays you have shared. Thanks very much.

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16 Persuasive Essay Topics About Controversial Issues

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Jim Peterson has over 20 years experience on speech writing. He wrote over 300 free speech topic ideas and how-to guides for any kind of public speaking and speech writing assignments at My Speech Class.

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One of the best ways to make your persuasive essay engaging is to pick a controversial topic. But, of course, that’s just the start of the writing process. Students often get stuck at the very beginning as the page in front of them seems blank.

To help you overcome your writer’s block, we’ve compiled a list of several interesting topic ideas along with brief persuasive writing prompts. These can give you a headstart and guide you through the initial stages of your research and the actual writing.

In this article:

Is Global Warming Humanity’s Greatest Threat?

Is the death penalty effective, is the us criminal justice system fair, should the voting age in the usa be lowered to 16, should fast food be taxed at a higher rate, is social media increasing political polarization, do violent video games cause violent behavior, are cell phones addictive, should students be required to learn a foreign language, is college education worth the cost, are good grades a predictor of career success, is online learning an effective alternative to in-school classes, at what age should sex education start, should middle-school students be drug tested, should animal testing be banned, should people be allowed to keep exotic animals as pets, list of 16 good persuasive essay topics and writing prompts.

Below is a list of 16 interesting persuasive essay topics and a brief elaboration on the arguments you can make on them. There’s plenty of information online on each of these, so it’s not difficult to build a strong argument.

Keep in mind that our topics for essays and speeches are the same, and we have a huge list of these on our Essay Topics page if you’re looking for more ideas.

Many questions related to climate change are hotly debated (pun intended), but most of them are virtually settled by scientists, at least to the degree that scientific inquiry allows any issue to be conclusively established.

Is climate change real? That question is about as meaningful as asking, “Does the Earth revolve around the Sun?” Scientists have long ago verified that our planet goes through natural cycles of changes to the climate. Thus, the more pressing question is, “Is climate change accelerating?” Once again, the scientific consensus points to a resounding, “Yes.” 

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The next logical step is to ask, “Is the acceleration of climate change caused by humans?” Here, we are faced with another question that experts answer affirmatively. All evidence points to the fact that we produce a large amount of heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide, which are proven to cause our atmosphere to get warmer.

So we come to the question in the title of this section. Humanity faces many existential threats, such as nuclear war, rogue biotechnological attacks, or artificial intelligence. Likewise, global warming is undoubtedly on this list, so it’s an interesting topic to examine in your academic paper.

This is a question that we’ve tried to answer for ages—and for a good reason. It encapsulates many issues from different spheres. For one thing, you can look at it as a question of whether governments should have the power to determine who has the right to live. It also touches on the purpose of sentencing in general—is it primarily meant to protect society from violence or punish perpetrators for wrongdoing?

Besides the ethical issues, we also have purely practical ones. Is capital punishment effective in deterring violent crime, or is it just a remnant of a crueler past? To date, there have been no credible studies establishing a connection between the death penalty and crime deterrence, so we can safely say that it’s ineffective in this respect.

As for the moral side, there’s a strong argument against the use of lethal force in the name of justice. Amnesty International is just one global NGO that strongly condemns capital punishment. The organization argues that state-sanctioned executions violate two of our fundamental human rights established by the United Nations—the right to life and the right to live free of torture or inhumane treatment.

Amnesty International also cites the many examples of corrupt governments using the death penalty to eliminate enemies, wrongfully sentenced individuals on death row, and its disproportionate effect on minorities.

Although it’s an age-old debate, it’s far from over, so it’s a great chance for you to pitch in and practice persuasive essay writing.

This is a multifaceted question that you can explore from more than one side or pick an aspect you want to look at. There is a movement in the USA that’s in favor of a complete justice overhaul, but most groups focus on specific issues and call for reforms of certain parts of the system.

Two of the most controversial issues that often come up in relation to this debate are drug possession charges and institutional racism. These two come together in one of the most salient examples of injustice—the disparity between sentences for powder cocaine and crack cocaine possession.

Although the two drugs are, in essence, one and the same, possession of crack, which is stereotypically associated with Black people, comes with one hundred times longer sentences than powder cocaine on average. This leads many to blame the disparity on racism. A group of bipartisan lawmakers has recently introduced a bill to reform this discriminatory sentencing trend, so the debate is ongoing.

This is just one example of a good persuasive essay topic related to justice system reform. Since fairness is something we all seek, it’s an issue that’s worth exploring.

Did you know that the voting age in the USA used to be 21 until 1971? That was when a long campaign that transcended partisan lines achieved its goal of convincing lawmakers to introduce the 26th Amendment to the Constitution, reducing the voting age to 18.

This movement began during World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the draft age to 18, and suddenly young people were going to war to protect America but couldn’t vote in its elections.

Some argue the USA is currently at a similar crossroads. There’s a growing movement among progressives to lower the voting age to 16. According to supporters of the reform, teenagers 16 and above have the right to work and have to pay income taxes, so they should have a say in the policies that affect them. Proponents also cite research that says there’s little difference between the knowledge and cognitive abilities of 16- and 18-year-olds.

Whether you agree or not, this topic provides a great chance to develop your persuasive writing skills.

This has become a topic of discussion in many countries in recent years, as developed and developing nations alike face an obesity epidemic. Colloquially referred to as a “fat tax,” this measure is intended to disincentivize consumers from buying unhealthy foods, such as those high in sugar or fat.

However, the effectiveness of the “fat tax” is far from established. Opponents claim that imposing such a tax does little to curb obesity and promote a healthier diet. Instead, it disproportionately affects poorer communities that live in so-called food deserts—urban regions where healthy food options are lacking and the only available options are processed foods with a long shelf life.

Supporters of such a measure cite success stories from countries that have given this tax a try and have seen positive results. A recent study from New York University and Tufts University looked at several places where such a tax was imposed, such as Mexico, Hungary, and several US regions, and found some benefits for public health after the measure was implemented.

Since this is an issue with a lot of solid evidence on both sides of the argument, it’s a great topic for a persuasive research paper.

Few would deny that social media has a massive effect on our lives. Studies show that we spend more than two hours on various social media sites every day. How does that exposure affect our political views?

Many blame social networks for the increased political polarization we see around the world. The algorithms these platforms use are believed to create “echo chambers” in which every person is exposed to information that only confirms their preexisting views. This can cause near-total dismissal of opposing perspectives and pushes a person’s opinions to the extreme of the political spectrum.

Social media companies have faced a lot of scrutiny from the public lately, and some have tried to take measures to amend the adverse effects of this polarization. To address concerns, some platforms made changes to their algorithms so that people would get more opposing views in their feeds. However, that effort backfired.

It turned out that this only makes things worse. Why? It is because of these platforms’ tendency to amplify radical opinions . It turns out being exposed to extreme views from the other side of the spectrum only strengthens one’s existing beliefs.

That’s just one aspect of the huge debate around social media’s role in the shape of today’s politics, so writing an argumentative essay on this topic is sure to be engaging.

The question of video games’ effects on the psyche of children and adults alike is more pressing than ever. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced many students around the world to stay home, screen time has surged. A significant part of that time is dedicated to video games, as evidenced by the double-digit increase in the global game company revenue in 2020.

Likewise, can this pastime be blamed for violent behavior in the real world? Some US politicians have tried to pin tragic events, such as school shootings on shooter-type video games. However, scientists are yet to find a link between engaging in virtual killing sprees and real-life ones. As one researcher put it, “The data on bananas causing suicide is about as conclusive. Literally. The numbers work out about the same.”

It’s worth noting that recent research pointed to a connection between violent video games and aggression, but these studies were retracted, and their authors were accused of manipulating data.

Is this controversy even warranted? Most probably not, but, unfortunately, public sphere debates are usually as tied to scientific evidence as bananas are to suicide. That’s why exploring this in your persuasive essay is a great effort to bring awareness to this issue and nail your assignment at the same time!

The large majority of people own smartphones nowadays and use them for much more than calls. As comedian Gary Gulman puts it, “To me, the phone is this seldom-used app on my phone.”

We’re so used to having this multifunctional device at our disposal 24/7 that most of us shudder at the idea of going out without it. In fact, there’s a condition called nomophobia that describes the fear of being without your phone.

So are we addicted to those things? That’s a difficult question to answer definitively, because we first need to define addiction. Most experts agree that excessive cell-phone use has some detrimental effect on our mental health, but there is some disagreement on whether it fits the description of addiction or if it’s just an issue of poor impulse control.

Whatever the formal definition is, there’s growing concern about cell-phone use among teenagers and its effect on their development, so this is definitely a strong topic for a persuasive speech or essay.

There’s little doubt that gaining fluency in a second language has benefits, some more palpable than others. Learning another language usually comes with an increased knowledge of other cultures and an appreciation for different communication styles. It helps students gain perspective and understand the value of diversity.

Fortunately, there are also practical benefits. A 2005 study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics found that being fluent in a second language is associated with a higher salary. This makes sense since knowing a foreign language opens doors in areas related to international business relations.

However, the question in the title of this section still stands: should learning a second language be required? That’s where some disagreements emerge. Opponents argue that although having foreign language requirements has its benefits, the time spent on it could be better used if students are given the option to focus on more relevant skills for the current job market, such as computer programming or statistics.

This is just one of many good persuasive topics related to education.

According to a report by the Institute for College Access & Success, the average graduate in the USA leaves college with a student debt of almost $30,000. This cost prompts many young people to wonder if attending university is even worth it.

A survey by Merrill Lynch and Age Wave asked recent graduates who took out a student loan if they think the degree was worth going into debt for. Thirty-six percent said it wasn’t. On top of that, a growing number of people, including successful entrepreneurs who dropped out of college, are joining the chorus of those calling for a reassessment of college degrees and their usefulness.

Is that the whole story? Most probably not. The majority of experts still agree that a college education is worth the cost, even if you have to take out a student debt. They urge people to think of it as a long-term, low-interest investment in their future, as a degree pays off more and more as time goes by.

Personal finance advisor Ramit Sethi argues college is definitely worth it: “I want to encourage everyone here to not just take advice from a bunch of people on Twitter who are telling you, ‘Drop out of college—student loans are bad.’”

This is an important question for young adults and a great persuasive essay idea, especially for college-level assignments.

It seems like common sense that a successful academic career leads to a similarly successful professional one. After all, why else do we need to put in the effort to get high marks? It turns out the relationship between a high GPA and future success is more complicated than that.

Good grades throughout school and college do have a predictive quality in some respects. That’s because GPA encompasses more than just obtained knowledge—attendance and on-time homework submission are just some of the factors that usually go into an evaluation. These components give an indication of a student’s personality traits, such as discipline and motivation, which are actually a good predictor of future success.

However,it gets even more complicated when we introduce the element of creativity. Research shows that successful entrepreneurs who are innovators in their field often did poorly in school, especially in classes where their imagination could not flourish. So standardized testing is probably not a good way to measure innovation potential.

High grades are, of course, still preferable, and writing a good persuasive essay on this topic can get you one.

As the COVID-19 pandemic prompted school closures, many are asking if online schools can replace traditional learning. Some argue that the time out of school is causing irreversible damage to a whole generation, while others maintain it’s the lesser of two evils and say Internet-based learning is a viable alternative to in-school instruction.

There’s supporting evidence for both camps. Traditional school is more than just a place to learn—it’s where young people connect with their peers, improve social skills, and develop a sense of purpose. Studies show that the isolation caused by the pandemic is taking a toll on teenager’s mental health. Anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts are on the rise among teens, as they are physically removed from part of their social support network.

Experts also argue that Internet-based schools present purely academic challenges. Professor of education Susanna Loeb from Brown University says online learning can demotivate students: “In the online setting, students may have more distractions and less oversight, which can reduce their motivation.”

This issue touches on economic inequality as well. Many are concerned that students from poorer families are at a disadvantage because of their limited access to computers or the Internet and online learning only exacerbates existing inequality.

Proponents of online learning note that it’s a temporary and necessary measure or argue that its shortcomings are the wrinkles that will be ironed out as we get used to the new reality.

Whichever side you pick to base your thesis statement on, you’re bound to find more than one good argument and counterargument.

The topic of sex education usually conjures up an image of “the talk”—the conversation between a parent and a child (usually at the start of puberty) that takes the form of a lecture on the biological aspects of sex. However, it’s a lot more than that.

Sex education is concerned with relationships, boundaries, respect, and identity, among other things. It’s an opportunity to instill values in your child that set them up to become a healthy and functioning adult.

So how young is too young for sex education? Some experts argue it’s never too soon to start the conversation and that puberty is already too late. As Dr. Eva Goldfarb of Montclair State University puts it, “When your child starts talking, you can start talking.” When parents establish a rapport with their child on topics that are often considered taboo, the child is more likely to turn to the parents for answers instead of seeking them elsewhere.

There’s more than one angle you can approach this from for your persuasive essay. You can explore the school’s role in sex education or focus on the topics that parents should discuss with kids of different ages.

This question stirs up a lot of emotions in both parents and children. There are two separate campaigns related to drug testing and middle-school students.

One is trying to push the introduction of testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs for students involved in competitive sports, arguing that it shouldn’t be any different from what large sports organizations do, such as the Olympics or Tour de France.

The other campaign calls for introducing random drug testing in middle school to prevent drug abuse. Supporters say this could help address addiction among young people at the roots.

However, opponents of both drives claim this is not only unnecessary but invasive, going as far as to call it a civil liberties violation. Many students argue it’s also humiliating and overbearing, while some parents say it shouldn’t be the school’s responsibility to deal with such issues.

Whichever side you want to persuade readers of, you’ll find enough ideas to build a strong argument.

This is another moral dilemma that’s nearly impossible to answer conclusively because it depends on what value we place on animal welfare. 

Surely, few would argue that animal experimentation is harmful to the creatures involved. Proponents usually frame it as a necessary evil that allows the development of new medical technologies that save human lives. However, who’s to say that human lives are more valuable than those of animals? As people, we take this to be true at face value.

What’s more, we now know for a fact that other creatures have emotions—an idea that was not widely accepted in the past. In previous centuries, philosophers such as Descartes argued that animals are little more than automatons that react in predictable ways and don’t have a consciousness of their own.

Calls for the ban on lab testing on animals also cite evidence that drugs that cured diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes in mice proved ineffective in humans, questioning the usefulness of such experiments. Whichever side you pick, you’ll have the chance to make a strong case.

There’s a certain allure to owning an exotic animal such as a possum, a squirrel monkey, or even an eagle. That’s especially true after the wildly popular Netflix show Tiger King pulled back the curtain on the bizarre world of the illegal exotic animal trade. Some conservationists and animal rights activists insist the show brought awareness to a serious issue, while others argue it downplayed the animal abuse involved in this trade.

Whatever the case, we now know that there’s a huge demand for exotic animals as pets worldwide. Many are asking, though, if most of these creatures can function in a domestic environment or bring up other legal, ethical, and even health concerns.

For one thing, large mammals such as apes and big cats are often resistant to training and can seriously hurt or even kill humans. The exotic animal trade is also blamed for driving some species close to extinction or promoting the spread of zoonotic diseases—infectious pathogens that jump from wild animals to humans.

Whatever you choose to focus on, this issue is a great way to improve your persuasive essay writing skills.

460 Intriguing Debate Topics for High School and Middle School Students

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best College Essay Topics

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The 30 Most Controversial Topics for Your Position Paper

controversial essay issues

What are the most controversial topics today? What are the most hotly debated controversial issues in politics, culture and public life? Which are the controversial topics that most sharply divide us. Which public debates actually define us? We answer these questions with our ranking of The 30 Most Controversial Topics Today. We also provide an objective overview of these controversial issues, which makes this a great source for finding controversial essay topics!

The Top 30 Controversial Topics

Affirmative action, artificial intelligence, black lives matter, censorship and freedom of speech, charter schools, civil rights, climate change, covid vaccine mandates, critical race theory, death penalty/capital punishment, electoral college, foreign aid, gun control, health insurance, labor unions, marijuana legalization, minimum wage, nuclear energy, outsourcing, police brutality, religious freedom, reparations, social security.

  • Trump and the Big Lie

Women’s Rights

If you visit each debate topic’s page, you will find a study guide that includes:

  • A breakdown of the leading positions in the controversial topic;
  • A brief history of the controversial topic in American life;
  • A list of the most influential people and most influential books in the recent history of the controversy;
  • A glimpse at the current status of the controversial topic; and
  • A vetted selection of key people on all sides of the debate topic today.

Any one of these controversial essay topics could be a strong starting point for your next research project or argumentative essay. You will learn how to study successfully for your research assignments. Read on for examples of controversial topics for your next position paper, persuasive essay, or even for a starting point on your graduate thesis...

Controversy is everywhere. It’s up to each of us to decide our level of involvement in the public debate. College offers an amazing opportunity to explore these controversial issues, and to determine where you fit into the conversation.

The university is a place where we are taught to question our own assumptions, challenged to defend our ideas, and trained to probe for a more complete understanding of the controversial issues defining our times. College is also an environment where free speech, open discourse, and informed debate are meant to flourish. Of course, as human beings, we are bound to disagree, and sometimes quite passionately.

That’s why controversial topics will play such an important role in your higher education. Indeed, controversy is everywhere. Whether you want to learn more about a few interesting controversial topics, you’ve been assigned a research paper on a controversial essay topic, or you plan to build a career based on the ideas you’re learning to defend today , you will encounter controversy in your education and in your life.

That’s why we’ve decided to take the most important controversial topics by the horns. Wherever you are in your educational journey , you should not only anticipate, but embrace, the opportunity to explore some of the most important controversial debate topics of our times. This includes prospective college essay topics like drug abuse, the opioid crisis, freedom of speech, freedom of religious belief, global warming, laws concerning illegal immigrants, brutality by police officers, and much more.

College students studying foreign affairs, criminal justice, economics, political science, sociology and countless other subjects are sure to find a controversial topic worthy of their next argumentative essay.

Our spotlight on each controversial topic includes an overview of the subject matter, key points of disagreement, and a look at the impact of major influencers. Use these controversial issues as a way to begin your argumentative essay, formulate your own position, and even connect personally with professors, activists, and thought leaders who hold influence over the subject matter.

What is a controversial topic?

A controversial topic is a prolonged public dispute or debate. Controversial topics are typically played out through public channels like news media, electoral politics, and social media. What perhaps most distinguishes a controversial topic from mere disagreement is the heated, sometimes emotional, and often diametrically opposed viewpoints that frame a given issue. People often bring religious beliefs, personal ethics, business interests and countless other deeply held feelings into controversial debate topics.

And of course, many controversial political topics also carry very really consequences, as shown by the very current public debates over abortion rights, the call for stricter gun control laws, global climate change and other high-stakes issues. That why many of these controversial issues engender strong enough disagreement to inspire organization, political action, protest, and policy development.

Now that you understand what controversial topics are, read on for a look at the 30 controversial debate topics most directly shaping public discourse, and indeed, shaping public life in American today.

The 30 Most Controversial Topics Over the Last 25 Years

The Civil Rights Movement refers to one of the most consequential struggles in American history, one that continues to present date. Civil Rights refer to the freedoms, liberties, and protections under the law that are meant to be accorded to all people. But civil rights advocates argue that racial inequality is ingrained in American life through realities like economic disenfranchisement, police brutality, and mass incarceration. The Civil Rights controversy pits groups, organizations, and communities who advocate for greater racial equality against those who work to maintain or advance a white racial hierarchy.

Learn more about the Civil Rights Controversy.

The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights protects the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religious expression, and the right to a free press against government restriction. As a key component in the very first article of the Bill of Rights, free speech is among the most cherished and frequently-cited protections built into the U.S. Constitution. However, because the content of that speech and expression may itself provoke sharp disagreement, the true controversy in this issue extends from differing ideas about what constitutes “protected speech” as well as the methods that should or shouldn’t be used to limit free speech. This underscores the debate around Freedom of Speech and Censorship.

Learn more about the Censorship and Freedom of Speech Controversy.

The climate change debate concerns the impact of human activity on the earth’s temperature, as well as its impact on weather patterns, plant-life, wildlife, and human health. On one side of the debate, most in the scientific community believe that human activity is responsible for climate change. On the other side, some journalists, political leaders, and industry advocates argue either that global climate change is not actually occurring, or that climate change is the result of natural meteorological patterns unrelated to human activity. Some also argue that economic imperatives should be prioritized over environmental concerns.

Learn more about the Climate Change Controversy.

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Capital punishment refers to the use of the death penalty as a form of legal punishment administered by the state. Capital punishment in the U.S. has long been the subject of constitutional, philosophical and practical disagreement, and as such, has been subject to legal fluctuation. As of the time of writing, the United States is one of 56 nations worldwide, and one of just four developed democracies (alongside Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore) which uses death penalty. The U.S. is also the only developed Western nation to employ capital punishment.

Learn more about the Death Penalty and Capital Punishment Controversy.

Abortion refers to the act of terminating a pregnancy before it can be carried to term. The abortion controversy concerns the ongoing debate and battle over the legal status of abortion in the U.S., both at the state and national levels. Abortion is among the most divisive issues in American public discourse. Views on abortion often carry religious, political, and cultural overtones. The debate is largely framed by two competing views: The Pro-Choice view, that abortion is a woman’s constitutionally-protected right; and the Pro-Life view, that abortion is immoral, and that the government should have the right to restrict and/or punish abortion.

Learn more about the Abortion Controversy.

Social Security refers to the federal social insurance program in the United States, which provides financial and medical benefits to older Americans, as well as the disabled and some who have been widowed or orphaned by working age adults. All working Americans contribute to Social Security through a dedicated payroll tax. The Social Security controversy refers to a complex economic and philosophical debate over how Social Security should be funded, dispersed, and managed. Some advocate for its continuity as a federal program while others argue that social security should be privatized and removed from government control.

Learn more about the Social Security Controversy.

Artificial intelligence (AI), in the simplest terms, refers to computing which aims to mimic human cognitive functions like learning, problem solving, and adaptation to environmental conditions. With the evolution of computer science, computing machines have accelerated in their capacity to demonstrate “intelligence” in areas such as reasoning, planning, natural language processing, perception, and much more.

Learn more about the Artificial Intelligence Controversy.

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Health Insurance refers to financial coverage for healthcare expenses. Health coverage is among the most intensely debated subjects in American life, both because of the generally high cost of healthcare expenses, and because access to coverage varies significantly based on employment and socioeconomic status. Some Americans believe the government should take greater responsibility for the millions who are uninsured or underinsured, with many arguing that the United States should provide universal medical and mental health coverage for all Americans. By contrast, others believe that paying for health coverage should be the individual responsibility of every American, and argue that universal healthcare coverage is a socialist policy.

Learn more about the Health Insurance Controversy.

Women’s Rights refers to the ongoing movement in the U.S. to improve gender equity through legislation, activism, public service, political participation, and more. The United States was founded as a patriarchy, restricting women from owning property, voting, or enjoying the rights of citizenship. The women’s rights movement uses activism, policy advocacy, and non-profit organization to improve gender equality and close the gender pay gap, whereas the opponents of this movement may argue that gender equality already exists, or that women are biologically unequal to men and therefore deserving of secondary status.

Learn more about the Women’s Rights Controversy.

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On its surface, the controversy over religious freedom in the U.S. concerns the right of individuals to practice their religion freely and without infringement by individuals, groups, or the government. But since the dawn of American history, the debate over religious liberty has been clouded by conflicts between different groups and belief systems, especially when the belief system of one group risks discrimination against another group. While the right to practice one’s religion is a core Constitutional protection, debate persists over the meaning of religious freedom and whether this freedom can be used to exempt groups from certain laws, including anti-discrimination laws.

Learn more about the Religious Freedom Controversy.

Minimum wage refers to the lowest hourly wage that an employer may legally pay an employee under state and federal law. The controversy over the minimum wage concerns the belief that a living wage should be a fundamental right for all American workers and is opposed by the belief that regulatory control over wage thresholds risk imposing undue economic burdens on employers with potentially deleterious effects on the economy as a whole.

Learn more about the Minimum Wage Controversy.

Atheism is defined as the absence of a belief in deities, or the rejection of a belief in deities, or the belief that no deities exist. These nuances underscore the complexity of individual views on religion and theology, and by extension, the complexity of this debate. The controversy over atheism concerns disagreement between those who believe in the existence of deities and those who do not believe in the existence of deities, and more specifically, how these divergent beliefs should be treated in public spaces. As a result, this controversy touches closely on issues of religious freedom, the separation of church and state, and freedom of expression.

Learn more about the Atheism Controversy.

Reparations for slavery refers to the idea of compensating the victims of African slavery and their descendants for the abuses suffered under U.S. law. The idea of reparations for the victims of African slavery in America emerged as early as the colonial era, but took on particular relevance after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation. While some individual former slaves and their descendants have received reparations of some type, the vast majority have not, owing to the absence of any lasting or comprehensive federal policy. This absence keeps the reparations controversy relevant, as advocates, activists, and public leaders continue to call for the adoption of some form of reparations, both in compensation for slavery, and for the injustices visited upon succeeding generations of Black Americans.

Learn more about the Reparations Controversy.

Hacking refers to the use of computing skills to penetrate, disrupt, or interfere with a computer system by non-standard avenues. Hacking is a controversial issue because this skill can be used for many different purposes both lawful and unlawful; ethical and unethical. Some hackers use their skills for criminal activities while others may use their skills to create cybersecurity defenses against malicious actors. Activists may use hacking to undermine dictatorship just as dictators might use hacking to suppress individual liberties.

Learn more about the Hacking Controversy.

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A labor union refers to an organized alliance of workers, often joined by a shared industry or trade, but also frequently joined across different labor industries. Labor unions use a tactic referred to as collective bargaining to improve worker conditions, advance wages, and secure benefits, as well as supporting members in disputes with management, and engaging in political action and lobbying. The controversy over labor unions concerns the historical and ongoing conflict of ideals, methods and goals between labor leaders, organizers and union members on one side, and business management, ownership, and industry lobby groups on the other side.

Learn more about the Labor Unions Controversy.

Extremism refers to beliefs and actions that are of an extreme or fanatical nature. Extremism is often connected to political, religious or racialist ideologies that fall far outside of the mainstream. Extremism is often associated with fringe groups such as white supremacists, jihadist terrorists, or religious fundamentalists, and is distinguished from traditional activism for its radical and sometimes violent methods. The controversy over extremism centers on the disagreement between those who subscribe to extremist views and extremist actions, and those who reject the views or methods of extremism, as well as those who work actively to prevent extremism.

Learn more about the Extremism Controversy.

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The United States Electoral College is a group of 538 delegates-representing the 50 United States and the District of Columbia-who meet every four years to elect the President and Vice President of the United States. Though the Electoral College is written into the U.S. Constitution, it is also a source of ongoing controversy. This is because the outcome of the electoral vote is the sole determinant of the presidency. Critics argue that this model renders the national popular vote meaningless, undermines the principle of “one-person, one vote,” and results in widespread voter disenfranchisement. Debate over the Electoral College has been magnified by recent elections in which the winner of the national popular vote did not win the electoral vote and thus, did not win the presidency.

Learn more about the Electoral College Controversy.

The term vaccine refers to a form of medical treatment which may be used to preemptively inoculate individuals and populations against infectious diseases. The controversy over vaccines stems from a social phenomenon called vaccine hesitancy, as well as an organized anti-vaccination, or anti-vax, movement. Those who support the use of vaccines point to extensive scientific evidence that vaccines are both safe and effective, whereas those who oppose vaccines believe that vaccines are either unnecessary or unsafe.

Learn more about the Vaccines Controversy.

Outsourcing refers to the business practice of hiring outside consultants, freelance workers, or third-party agencies to complete work that might otherwise be handled in-house. The practice of outsourcing is also highly connected to the rise of globalization, free-trade, and the practice of “offshoring,” in which American companies will open facilities and employ laborers in other countries where wage standards, environmental restrictions, and costs of operation are lower. The outsourcing controversy centers on the conflicting interests of corporate profitability and free market capitalism on one side, and, on the other side, concerns over heightened American unemployment and the exploitation of low-wage workers in the developing sphere.

Learn more about the Outsourcing Controversy.

Gun Control refers to legislation aimed at curbing gun violence in America. The gun control controversy centers on disagreement between sectors of the American public, as well as their political representatives, over the legal implications of the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which grants Americans the right to bear arms. Some argue that the ongoing public health crisis of gun violence necessitates more restrictions around gun manufacturing, sales and ownership while others argue that such regulation is unconstitutional, disagree that stricter gun control laws would lower the occurrence of gun violence, and often point to underlying issues such as mental illness and the need for better training of police officers.

Learn more about the Gun Control Controversy.

United States foreign aid, also referred to as foreign assistance or international aid, is “aid given by the United States to other countries to support global peace, security, and development efforts, and provide humanitarian relief during times of crisis,” according to ForeignAssistance.gov. The controversy over foreign aid divides those who believe there are strategic, economic, and moral imperatives justifying this use of American resources for foreign aid versus those who believe this is a misappropriation of funding that should instead be spent on domestic priorities.

Learn more about the Foreign Aid Controversy.

Nuclear energy refers to the use of nuclear reactions such as nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, and nuclear decay in order to produce power. The controversy over nuclear energy concerns both its perceived impact on the environment and its capacity for weaponization. This history of nuclear energy centers on the expansion of war-making capabilities and, specifically, the creation of weapons capable of mass casualty and mass destruction. But over time, nuclear energy has also become at once an ingrained part of the power grid in the United States and the world. Today, the global debate over nuclear energy concerns its safety, environmental impact, capacity for civil energy production, and its global proliferation as a source of potentially catastrophic weaponry.

Learn more about the Nuclear Energy Controversy.

Police brutality refers to the use of excessive or unnecessary force by law enforcement officers, but may also refer to excessive force used by corrections officers and prison officials. The controversy over police brutality centers on disagreement over the extent of force that law enforcement should be entitled to use while engaging suspects, perpetrators, prisoners, and other members of the general public. Those who believe that police brutality is a problem would argue that the current system of law enforcement gives officers too much discretion and impunity in using violent methods of engagement while those who don’t believe police brutality is a problem would argue that the dangerous nature of law enforcement requires that officers have far-reaching discretion in carrying out their duty, including the use of potentially violent confrontational tactics.

Learn more about the Police Brutality Controversy.

Help bring an end to police brutality with a degree in criminal justice .

Affirmative action refers to an array of policies and practices aimed at redressing historical and ingrained inequalities, especially those experienced by people of color and women as a consequence of systemic discrimination. Affirmative action usually takes the form of education and employment initiatives aimed at creating access and opportunities for individuals from groups that have faced such discrimination. The controversy over affirmative action divides those who believe this is an effective way to push back against the sociological impact of systemic discrimination versus those who believe affirmative action is either ineffective or is, itself, a discriminatory policy.

Learn more about the Affirmative Action Controversy.

A charter school is an educational institution that provides free and uniquely structured educational opportunities to students and families seeking an alternative to traditional public school. Charter schools are a product of the demand for greater school choice, especially in cities where public schools often struggle to provide a high quality educational experience. The controversy over charter schools concerns the belief that charter schools are a valuable alternative to traditional public schooling, especially for disadvantaged or at-risk student populations versus the belief that charter schools divert funding and resources from traditional public schools.

Learn more about the Charter Schools Controversy.

Trump and the “Big Lie”

The controversy over Trump and the “Big Lie” centers on the results of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election and Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn these results. In the months leading up to the November election, sitting President Donald Trump and his supporters and allies made widespread preemptive allegations that the outcome of the election would be rigged, and that a massive conspiracy was already underway involving crooked Democratic operatives, corrupt state voting commissions, preprogrammed voting machines, foreign Communist interference, and more.

Learn more about the Trump and the “Big Lie”.

Black Lives Matter is a modern protest movement centered around civil rights causes impacting Black Americans, especially as they relate to police brutality, vigilante violence, and institutional inequality in the American legal system. Black Lives Matter is at once a multi-chapter organization with concentrated leadership and a decentralized global movement engaged in widespread activism.

Learn more about the Black Lives Matter Movement .

A new surge in cases is gripping the United States. Schools all over the country are adopting vaccine mandates. Vaccine skeptics argue these mandates are a violation of individual liberties. A prominent anti-vaccination activist writes “Vaccination is the putting of an impure thing into the blood – a virus or poison – often resulting in serious evil effects. In vogue for more than one hundred years, it has been received by most persons without question. Yet the time is passing when people will accept a medical dogma on blind faith; they now demand to know something about the practices to which they are called on to submit.”

Learn more about the COVID Vaccine Mandates Controversy .

The controversy over Critical Race Theory (CRT) centers on whether or not this subject should be taught in schools. And to an extent, the Critical Race Theory controversy also extends from differing views on exactly what defines Critical Race Theory. To supporters, Critical Race Theory refers to a university-level subject that addresses the intersection between race, law, and systemic inequality. To opponents, Critical Race Theory refers to any effort to inject discourse over race, gender, diversity, or discrimination into public school curricuclum at any level of education. The result of these differing views–both on what defines CRT, and whether it should be taught in schools–is a heated public debate being placed out in city council chambers, school board meetings, and the halls of Congress.

Learn more about the Critical Race Theory Controversy:

  • Controversial Topic: Critical Race Theory
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The cannabis industry is in a state of steady growth. For students already with a background in subjects like business, law, chemistry, and plant biology, this growth represents great professional opportunity. And for students interested in taking a more direct route, a number of fully accredited colleges and universities now offer courses, certifications, minors, and even four-year bachelor’s degrees in cannabis studies. We’ve highlighted the top schools for studying marijuana—and as a bonus, we’ve included a ranking of the Top Cannabis Influencers and the Most Influential Books About Cannabis from the last half-century.

Learn more about the Marijuana Legalization Controversy .

How Did We Choose these Controversies?

We wanted to know exactly which controversial topics were actually the “most controversial.”

Our machine-learning algorithm measures influence based on Wikipedia pageviews and links. This provides a point-based way of scoring the permeation, visibility, frequency, and quality of mentions. At AcademicInfluence, Influence Rankings are used to identify and rank academics and thought leaders for their relative influence.

Using our behind-the-scenes Ranking Analytics tool, we applied the same standard to measuring the breadth of a given controversy. Those topics which scored the most “influence points,” based on page views and links, could therefore be identified as the “most” controversial for the sheer breadth of coverage they have received in the public forum.

It should be noted that the breadth of topical coverage is not necessarily reflective of the intensity or emotional disagreement surrounding a given controversy so much as the degree to which it has been publicly discussed, debated, written on, and read about. In essence, “most controversial” is a measure of how widely a topic is covered and how widely people actually read the Wikipedia articles covering it.

What’s Missing and Why?

There is no limit to the number of topics that could be used to spark a spirited debate. Certainly, countless worthy topics have fallen just short of our decidedly exclusive list of 30. A topic which is close to your heart may not be here. Be assured, this is not because we overlooked these important topics, but because our Ranking Analytics revealed fewer page-views and links in connection with these topics than with those which did make our list.

Time frame also played a big role in our findings. Our search parameters were bound between the years 2000 and 2020. A different time frame would likely have revealed a different landscape of controversies.

Evolutionary theory, for instance, ranked #36 on our list, and therefore fell short of the Top 30. However, it is entirely likely that this topic would have ranked far higher on the same list had it been compiled to coincide with the Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920s.


Among the limitations to our method, our algorithm doesn’t provide a comprehensive measure of how related terms might rank for page views and links. However, it is our goal over time to refine our machine-learning engine to identify and account for more sweeping views of a given topic.

We should also note that discussions are largely focused on controversial debte topics in American public life. Far too many cultural, social, geographic, and political realities shape the different ways in which various national publics perceive and approach controversial topics. Such subject matter demands focus and context. Therefore, while some of the influencers and historical notes included may touch on controversy in countries other than the U.S., this is, by design, an ethnocentric list of controversial topics revolving around American controversies.

Digging Into Controversy: How We Do It

Now that you know how we’ve identified the most controversial topics, be aware that we have no intention of taking sides. Our goal is to identify these topics, and point colleges students and other readers in the direction of those who have helped to define the issue. Historical influencers and books have, like our list of controversial topics, been drawn directly from our Ranking Analytics. More current influencers have been drawn from a vetted selection of findings using our Academic Influence engine.

You will agree with some of the figures on each list. You will disagree with some of them. You may even be offended by the inclusion of some influencer in our discussion . But inclusion is not endorsement. It is merely acknowledgment of influence, for better or worse.

Our goal is to reach beyond the traditional point-counterpoint approach to controversial essay topics. Subjects usually generate controversy because they are complex, and because a wide spectrum of parties may be impacted in very different ways by these issues. This is why we do our best to provide a panoramic view of each controversy (as opposed to an approach which merely pits one side in competition with the other). The result, we hope, is the kind of nuanced discussion required to take on subjects of such complexity.

Therefore, we’ll lay out the subject matter, point you to the experts and thought leaders, and let you do the intellectual footwork. Like we said, learning is all about inquiry. Question everything, and don’t be afraid to lean into a little controversy.

Find additional study resources with a look at our study guides for students at every stage of the educational journey.

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Controversial Issues/Argument Essays

What is an argument essay.

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An argument essay is one which explores a controversial topic and takes a particular standpoint. It is important to pick a topic which has two conflicting points of view and one which you are passionate about. Read background information about the topic and find enough information for and against the topic in order to make sound arguments about your position.

How is an argumentative essay different from an expository essay? An expository essay merely describes the topic and provides information. An argument essay examines the pros and cons of a debatable issue and provides sound evidence to support your claim. So it is necessary that the information you gather is current, detailed, and accurate.

Your initial paragraph should give a brief description of the topic, state why the topic is important, and must present your thesis statement. The body of the essay should discuss the pros and cons with supporting evidence for each. The conclusion must restate your claim and say why you think your standpoint is correct based on the evidence you have gathered.

Fore more information on the argument essay consult Purdue's Online Writing Lab 

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40+ Most Controversial Argumentative Essay Topics

controversial argumentative essay topics

Table of Contents

Argumentative essay writing.

In a nutshell, argumentative essay writing is about convincing the readers by formulating strong arguments and then providing empirical evidence to back those claims. Like other essay types, argumentative essays follow a rigid structure so that readers find it easy to follow and understand the theme or central idea.

The hallmarks of argumentative essays include an unbiased tone and voice, an objective approach toward the subject matter, and structured information. The same around found in expository essays, but they can have multiple arguments and postulates regarding the thesis statement. Whereas an argumentative essay has only one.

Writers need to carry it throughout the essay by providing both logical explanations as well as references and citations from other publications. 

It has three common types, including research papers, analysis papers, and persuasive essays.

What is A Controversial Argumentative Essay?

Controversy can stem from anywhere. It is defined as prolonged debate or public displeasure over any idea or its manifestation. Throughout history, there were many controversial publications, including essays and dissertations, that charged the public against the writers.

When a writer supports an argument that is against general public perception, the essay becomes controversial because many disagree with its contents. Argumentative essays have the potential to become controversial because they are neither subjective nor speculative. When a writer provides proof and evidence for his “controversial”, it enhances its potency as well as controversy.

Students in schools and colleges enjoy some artistic freedom as they can explore controversial topics. But they have to be careful and highly detail-oriented to ensure quality and acceptance.

Why Controversy And Disagreement Is Important

Many people believe that controversy and disagreement are bad for academia and society as a whole. Since people have opposing views of the same thing, they become hostile to one another. The reality is quite contradictory to these views.

For the advancement of society, controversy and disagreement are important. The established ideas and norms should be challenged, intellectually, to gauge their worth in both academic and practical matters. People come to believe certain things without peeking much under the hood. Argumentative essays with their far reach and strong command of the facts can help readers and writers uncover new truths about the things that have been established for millennia. To do that, controversy and disagreement should be welcomed.

Controversial Argumentative Essay Topics

We have encouraged students to take up controversial ideas and treat them academically to uncover truths. But they could be at odds as to what ideas or things to explore in these areas. We understand this and that’s why we have dedicated this whole section to providing 40+ controversial argumentative essay topics for students.

These topics range from social issues, politics, culture, academics, and more. If students cannot come up with one, they are welcome to pick one as it is or modifies it to meet their criteria.

Controversial Argumentative Essay Ideas On Social Issues

Society was formed before the political and economic institutions. Both social structure and the underlying issues were born when two human beings decided to depend on each other for survival. Argumentative essays cover different social issues and provide clear insight into their causes and effects. For a controversial topic, this list will help students to base their argumentative essay on social issues that are not easy to take and treat because of public outcry.

  • Is global warming a myth pedaled by naysayers to scare us off?
  • What can be the suitable course of action to decelerate global warming?
  • Can governments enforce measures on people to improve the environment?
  • Is the death penalty effective in eradicating crimes in society?
  • Should it be banned permanently?
  • What kind of offenses warrant as severe punishment as the death penalty?
  • Do common causes of war stem from our nature as killing machines?
  • Can non-combatants justify war?
  • Is there a way to outcast war as a solution to social issues?
  • Should tobacco products be banned for good?
  • Why society will be a better place without tobacco products?
  • What will happen to the people who are addicted to tobacco if it is eradicated?
  • Is it controversial to employ animals for scientific research?
  • Will it be practical to ban animals from scientific research?
  • Is it morally acceptable to have coitus before getting married? 

Controversial Argumentative Essay Topics On Politics

Politics is still one of the most unifying and polarizing phenomena in the world. People often flock to one side and contest and detest others, mostly visible during public debates and elections. Controversial political topics can be perfect for students who want to unearth underlying issues and factors behind the force and potency of politics. In that spirit, here are some topic suggestions for argumentative essays that can be controversial.

  • What are the deepening effects of the current state of gun laws?
  • Should there be a mechanism to provide guns to only eligible people?
  • Is globalization a good idea for nation-states?
  • What are the effects of globalization on major and regional powers?
  • Can we foresee the effects of globalization ten years from now?
  • Should abortion get a green light around the world?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of legalizing abortion?
  • Is there a way to de-stigmatize abortion in conservative societies?
  • Is torture an acceptable form of interrogation?
  • Is torture more effective than other humane methods?
  • What are the moral grounds that are against torture?
  • The interconnection of religion and politics
  • Should the church be more active in politics?
  • How can we separate the church and the state in public affairs?
  • Is universal peace a dream?

Controversial Argumentative Essay Ideas On Culture

Culture is hard to define but you can tell when you see one. Apart from social issues and politics, culture is another thing that is a hot topic that people explore or refrain from it due to personal reasons. As an academic, you can explore different things about culture including the controversial aspects. The best thing to do is to look at the topics for argumentative essays that we have covered in this section for a quick start.

  • Should prostitution be legalized in every country?
  • Should the laws be amended to accommodate commercial sex workers?
  • Do interracial marriages improve tolerance?
  • Should interracial marriages be encouraged?
  • Should controlled substances be legalized?
  • What is the condition of the black market because of the banning of controlled substances?
  • Are people paying too much taxes or too less?
  • Should the rich pay more taxes to alleviate the condition of the poor?
  • Are school homework and assignment affecting students’ mental welfare?
  • Should home assignments be scrapped from the system?
  • Are college tuition fees too high?
  • What will happen to the job market if the college fee is zero?
  • Should human beings be masters of their lives to end them?
  • Should euthanasia be legalized to give rights to people?
  • What happens to the professionals who are found guilty in euthanasia cases?

Choosing A Controversial Argumentative Essay Topic

It takes guts to make up your mind about writing a controversial argumentative essay. Still, this part is easy. The hardest part is choosing a topic that is controversial but provides true value to the discourse. Students often find it hard to pick and polish a topic for their argumentative essays that can set the direction and scope for the essay. This section is dedicated to helping students to choose and work on the best topics.

Brainstorm Ideas

It all starts with brainstorming. Students need to explore more than one idea in depth before settling on one. Often one idea comes as an epiphany and it seems perfect. But further scrutiny can only determine whether it is worth it to explore or not. That’s why brainstorming can help students to have multiple ideas to explore and test. All of them should be written and dissected properly before settling on one.

Do Research

Research is the key to argumentative essay writing, especially when it is on a controversial topic. Sometimes students do not even know that their essay would create controversy. They have to conduct extensive research and ensure that their arguments and evidence are based on sound foundations. If that is not the case, it will not take much time for the opposition to discredit the essay and the writer.

Develop A Thesis

A thesis is the essence of the argument that a writer is putting forward in the essay. It is a distillation of the thought and the postulates that will make rounds in controversial argumentative essays. Developing a thesis requires the exploration of possibilities and testing assumptions against established norms. It will not be an overstatement to say that an argumentative essay is as good as the thesis it depends on.

Test Validity of The Idea

Before moving forward with an idea, either explored through the body of the essay or done so succinctly through the thesis statement, testing its depth and endurance is a must. To do so, writers should go through multiple credible sources to rally support for the idea. If they can find enough support from established literature, it will help them in explaining and establishing the supremacy of their ideas.

What makes a good argumentative essay topic?

Following are some of the attributes that make a good argumentative essay topic:

  • It should have novel elements
  • The premise should not be readily accepted by the majority
  • It should not reveal everything nor hold everything back
  • It should grad readers’ attention and make them read the whole essay

What are some good argumentative essay topics?

Good argumentative essays are thought-provoking and cover the ground that the essay itself cannot. Many instances have proved that they can add much more value to the essay than merely covering space for the heading. Good argumentative essays can be about society, culture, sports, politics, and so on.

What is an argumentative research essay?

An argumentative research essay is a type of argumentative essay in which writers rely on extensive research to base their arguments. They are more like definition essays where they have to reveal certain qualities or characters of the subject through reliable references and citations from already accepted sources.

How do you write a strong argumentative essay?

To write a strong argumentative essay that can garner support for the writer, here are the steps to follow:

  • Brainstorm multiple ideas
  • Develop a strong thesis
  • Test your thesis against logical and evidential information
  • Find validation through further scrutiny

How should an argumentative essay start?

An argumentative essay should start with a hook to get readers invested in the essay. It can be a question, a statistic, or a bold or shocking statement. Whatever you do, it needs to connect the dots with the topic and make readers care for the essay.

What is the importance of structure in an argumentative essay?

Since writers want to convince and persuade readers about their side of the argument, structure is a must. It will help the writers to present their arguments in an easy-to-follow manner. Readers will understand it better and decide easily whether they want to endorse that thought or not.

Learning Through Controversy

The controversy should not be considered a bad thing as it helps us to learn more and question the established norms. Argumentative essays can be controversial, especially when writers determine to explore topics and areas that are not welcomed by both academics and people. In this post, we have shared multiple threads on topic suggestions for your argumentative essays that can be controversial to many. We have also shed ample light on how to choose the perfect topic for your essay .

Other things were covered by frequently asked questions.

So, if you are going to write a controversial argumentative essay , this is the resource to start your journey by picking the right topic!

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ENG 111: Controversial Issues Essay (Argument)

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Includes viewpoint articles, topic overviews, statistics, primary documents, and more on various controversial topics.

Contains more than 380 core topics, each with an overview (objective background / description), point (argument) and counterpoint (opposing argument).

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SIRS Issues Researcher provides authoritative insight into the most-studied social issues by delivering the pros and cons from relevant, credible documents, and graphics selected by trained editors and curated from over 2,000 global sources.

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Covers contemporary social issues with pro & con and background information. Also allows searching of the collection Global Issues.

Covers contemporary social issues, from Offshore Drilling to Climate Change, Health Care to Immigration. Helps students research, analyze and organize a broad variety of data for conducting research, completing writing assignments, preparing for debates, creating presentations, and more. This resource helps students explore issues from all perspectives, and includes: pro/con viewpoint essays, topic overviews, primary source documents, biographies of social activists and reformers, court-case overviews, periodical articles, statistical tables, charts and graphs, images and a link to Google Image Search, podcasts (including weekly presidential addresses and premier NPR programs), and a national and state curriculum standards search correlated to the content that allows educators to quickly identify material by grade and discipline. Keyword(s): United States

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Top 70 Controversial Debate Topics For Critical Thinkers in 2023

Top 70 Controversial Debate Topics For Critical Thinkers in 2023

Jane Ng • 05 Oct 2023 • 6 min read

Whether you love or hate them, controversial debate topics are an inescapable part of our lives. They challenge our beliefs and push us out of our comfort zones, forcing us to examine our assumptions and biases. With so many controversial issues, you needn’t go far if you’re looking for a compelling debate. This blog post will provide you with a list of controversial debate topics to inspire your next discussion.

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Frequently Asked Questions

controversial essay issues

Controversial debate topics are subjects – that can spark strong opinions and disagreements among people with different beliefs and values. These topics can cover various subjects, such as social issues, politics, ethics, and culture, and may challenge traditional beliefs or established norms.

One thing that makes these topics controversial is that there is often no clear consensus or agreement among people, which can lead to debates and disagreements. Each person may have their own interpretation of the facts or values that influence their perspective. It’s difficult for all to reach a resolution or agreement.

Despite the potential for heated discussions, controversial debate topics can be a great way to explore different viewpoints, challenge assumptions, and promote critical thinking and open dialogue. 

However, it is crucial to distinguish controversial topics from controversial opinions – statements or actions that cause disagreement or conflict. 

  • For example, climate change can be controversial, but a politician’s comment denying the existence of climate change can be controversial.
  • Is social media harming society more than it helps?
  • Is it appropriate to make marijuana legal for recreational use?
  • Should college be provided for free?
  • Should schools teach comprehensive sex education?
  • Is it ethical to use animals for scientific research?
  • Does human activity account for the majority of climate change?
  • Should beauty pageants be stopped?
  • Are credit cards doing more harm than good?
  • Should diet pills be banned?
  • Should human cloning be permitted?
  • Should there be stricter laws on gun ownership or fewer restrictions?
  • Is climate change a serious issue that requires urgent action, or is it overblown and exaggerated?
  • Should individuals have the right to end their own lives in certain circumstances?
  • Should certain types of speech or expression be censored or restricted?
  • Is eating animal meat unethical?
  • Should there be more or less strict regulations on immigration and refugee policies?
  • Is job security the biggest motivation rather than money?
  • Are zoos doing more harm than good?
  • Are parents legally responsible for their children’s actions?
  • Does peer pressure have a net positive or negative impact?

Controversial debate topics

  • Is it better to have a small group of close friends or a large group of acquaintances?
  • Should you brush your teeth before or after breakfast?
  • Should you put mayo or ketchup on the fries?
  • Is it acceptable to dip fries in a milkshake?
  • Should you brush your teeth before or after breakfast? 
  • Is it better to use a bar of soap or liquid soap? 
  • Is waking early or staying up late better?
  • Should you make your bed every day?
  • Should you wear a mask in public places?

Controversial Debate Topics For Teens 

  • Should teenagers access birth control without parental consent?
  • Should the voting age be lowered to 16?
  • Should parents have access to their children’s social media accounts?
  • Should cell phone use be allowed during school hours?
  • Is homeschooling a better option than traditional schooling?
  • Should the school day start later to allow for more sleep for students?
  • Is studying should be voluntary?
  • Should schools be allowed to discipline students for social media use outside of school?
  • Should school hours be reduced?
  • Should drivers be banned from using mobile phones while driving?
  • Should the legal driving age be raised to 19 in some countries?
  • Should students take classes on parenting?
  • Should teenagers be allowed to work part-time jobs during the school year?
  • Should social media platforms be held responsible for the spread of misinformation?
  • Should schools make drug testing mandatory for students?
  • Should cyberbullying be considered to be an offense?
  • Should teens be allowed to have relationships with significant age differences?
  • Should schools allow students to carry concealed weapons for self-defense?
  • Should teens be allowed to get tattoos and piercings without parental consent?
  • Is online learning as effective as in-person learning?

controversial essay issues

  • Should hate speech be protected under freedom of speech laws?
  • Should the government provide a guaranteed basic income for all citizens?
  • Is affirmative action necessary to address systemic inequalities in society?
  • Should Violence/Sex on TV be abolished?
  • Should illegal immigrants be allowed to receive social welfare benefits?
  • Is the pay discrepancy between men and women the result of discrimination?
  • Should the government regulate the use of artificial intelligence?
  • Should healthcare be a universal human right?
  • Should the assault weapons ban be extended?
  • Should billionaires be taxed at a higher rate than the average citizen?
  • Is it necessary to legalize and regulate prostitution?
  • Who is more important in the family, father or mother?
  • Is GPA an outdated way of assessing a student’s knowledge?
  • Is the war on drugs a failure?
  • Should vaccinations be mandatory for all children?

Controversial Debate Topics On Current Events 

  • Is the use of social media algorithms to spread misinformation a threat to democracy?
  • Should COVID-19 vaccine mandates be implemented?
  • Is the use of artificial intelligence ethical in the workplace?
  • Should AI be used instead of humans?
  • Should companies be required to provide advance notice of lay-offs to employees?
  • Is it ethical for companies to lay off employees while CEOs and other executives receive large bonuses?

controversial essay issues

Key Takeaways

Hopefully, with 70 controversial debate topics, you can expand your knowledge and gain new perspectives. 

However, it is essential to approach these topics with respect, an open mind, and a willingness to listen and learn from others. Engaging in respectful and meaningful debates on controversial topics with AhaSlides’ template library and interactive features can help us broaden our understanding of the world and each other, and possibly even lead to progress in finding solutions to some of the most pressing issues of our time.

1/ What are good topics to debate about? 

Good topics to debate can vary widely depending on the interests and perspectives of the individuals involved. Here are some examples of good debate topics:

2/ What are some controversial debates? 

Controversial debates are those that involve topics that can generate strong and opposing viewpoints and opinions. These topics are often contentious and can provoke heated arguments and debates among individuals or groups who hold different beliefs and values. 

Here are some examples:

3/ What is an emotional and controversial topic? 

An emotional and controversial topic can provoke strong emotional reactions and divides people based on their personal experiences, values, and beliefs. 

For example:

Do you still want to be more explicit about an excellent debater portrait? Here, we’ll give a practical and convincing example of a good debater for you to learn and hone your debate skills.

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A writer who wants to create practical and valuable content for the audience

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