New Highlights and Milestones for Boston’s Urban Debaters
Momentum from the fall 2011 semester expected to continue in 2012
Throughout Boston and Boston Public Schools (BPS), a cohort of talented, young students and supporting teachers have been making the 2011-2012 debate season the Boston Debate League’s most successful yet. Rapid team expansion, knockout tournament performances, and growing enthusiasm are making debate an integral part of the academic experience in BPS.
In the first tournament of the year, the Boston Debate League (BDL) more than doubled participation numbers from last year’s season opener, hosting more than 400 student debaters this past October. To date, over 500 students have participated in at least one tournament, another number that has nearly doubled since last year, despite it being so early in the season.
With high school debate teams averaging 33 students, up from 22 last year, schools have been excited to engage more students in this rigorous academic activity – the standard size of a debate team nationally is between 8 and 10 participants. The movement has even grown to middle schools as well. In this first year including middle schools in the league, the BDL welcomed over 100 young debaters, enough to demand the addition of a junior varsity division for the 2012 tournaments.
“The students who do participate in debate are going to be those students who do better on our MCAS state exams, they’re going to be the students who stay in schools, they are going to be the students who are more engaged, and they are going to be the students who complete their post-secondary education,” commented Dr. Carol Johnson, BPS Superintendent.
In the middle school division, Timilty remains the undefeated champion so far. In the high school division, East Boston High School and Boston Latin Academy have each taken home the tournament champion award twice, and Brighton High School has won the honor once. Sibling teammates Ted and Gena White of New Mission High School have been the undefeated varsity champions all year. The largest team of competitors represents Boston Latin Academy, which brought 54 students to the season opener. Most importantly, every one of the 17 participating teams has taken home trophies and medals throughout the season.
“It is so uplifting to see hundreds of students spend their Friday and Saturday engaging in these debates,” said Steve Stein, Executive Director of the BDL. “They go back to their schools and are treated like rock stars. So many of our students and teachers are telling us that debate is having a positive impact on the academic culture of their schools.”
All of these accomplishments would not be possible without the committed volunteers who dedicate a few hours out of their weekends to judge debate rounds. Without volunteer judges debates simply cannot happen. This year the BDL has trained over 250 new volunteers. Becoming a judge is easy and no debate experience is required. To learn more about this fun and rewarding opportunity visithttp://www.bostondebate.org/get-involved/volunteer-to-judge or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Boston Debate League (BDL) is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the Boston Public Schools (BPS), supporting academic debate teams in high schools and middle schools and training teachers to make debate a regular classroom practice. It currently works in 15 schools to provide our Evidence-Based Argumentation curriculum and support 17 school debate teams. Peer-reviewed research demonstrates that students who join their debate team are 42% more likely to graduate high school, a number that jumps to 70% for African-American males, a demographic that is very difficult to reach. The BDL brings together an active community of students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders devoted to improving the education and life skills of disadvantaged urban youth in Boston.