There’s No Debate About Debate at Middle Schools

Student holding notes at debate tournament

All DMPS middle schools now have debate programs, and kicked off 2017 with a tournament hosted at Roosevelt High School.

The middle school debate season began with a tournament hosted by high school powerhouse Roosevelt on Tuesday afternoon and a milestone was achieved.

“We are excited to announce that for the first time in DMPS history, all ten middle schools have active debate programs,” said Student Activity Specialist Ben Tilus.

Teams from Harding and Hoyt were observers on Tuesday but expect to compete later in the season.

The cafeteria at Roosevelt was abuzz in “pregame” warmups before the competition began.

The official question was whether or not the United States Federal Government ought to subsidize the production of renewable energy. The pros and the cons slugged it out in match after match.

But another question was: “Does it really matter if (pro football star) Antonio Brown cares too much about stats?” That’s what was plastered on the big TV screen that drew the attention of a couple of the novice debaters so they sparred back and forth about that to get their juices flowing.

When the first round matchups were posted by the tournament director, Roosevelt Coach Lauren McCool, the competitors flocked to them to learn their forensic fate. McCool announced that there were enough contestants this year to also judge in the categories of Original Oratory and Prose & Poetry, as well as debate.

“Raise your hand if you want to speak and be judged,” she boomed and hands shot up in eager response.

When the teams fanned out to their assigned arenas the library was the site of multiple bouts at a time, like a gymnastics competition where there’s one apparatus over here and another over there. While Weeks and McCombs went back and forth on the renewal energy issue in one corner, an expressive 8th grader from Merrill read some Ray Bradbury fiction with a bank of reference books like encyclopedias and codes of law for a backdrop. His bowtie was tightly knotted but his face was not as he threw himself into the dialogue he quoted from various characters.

Middle school is that sometimes clumsy stage of life when voices change. Giggles and high speed speaking often betray nervousness. But it can also be a time of discovery when voices find their true range and gain confidence despite nerves.

Speech and debate are accelerators of that mysterious process. Anyone looking for proof of that had only to take a left out of the Roosevelt library after all was said and done on Tuesday. Just down the hall a trophy case was cluttered, yes cluttered, with a treasure trove of hardware brought home by the school’s topnotch forensics program.

In middle school right now are more where all of those distinctions came from. So make room, at all of the district high schools. Because now they all have feeder programs finding their voices.

Here are the remaining middle school debate tournament dates and sites:

  • March 21st – North
  • April 11th – Lincoln
  • May 6th – East

Photos from the Middle School Debate Tournament

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