Speech and debate plays an integral role in advancing The Meadows school mission by teaching students the benefits of civic engagement and empowering them to be critical advocates in the classroom and community. By exposing students to a diversity of perspectives and issues, debate fosters critical thinking, empathic listening, and public speaking skills through an activity that is competitive, fun, and student driven. At The Meadows School, debate is a co-curricular activity that gives students the opportunity to compete locally, regionally, and nationally. Meadows debate frequently competes against some of the finest academic schools in the country.
Debate can also be a cornerstone of student applications to prestigious colleges and universities.
“In my opinion, there is no better activity that will develop essential academic, professional, and life skills than dedicated involvement in speech and debate.” Minh Luong, professor of Ethics, Politics, & Economics and former Yale admissions officer.
Many elite colleges and universities offer debate scholarships and preferential admissions consideration to top-flight high school debaters. Studies have also shown that colleges and universities rank speech and debate as among the most valued experiences a student can have when applying for college.
Learn more about our award winning speech and debate program by exploring the information in this section or contact us to find out more.
Speech and debate teaches and sharpens every skill that is important to academic and professional careers. It emphasizes exactly the type of education that employers and college admissions officers look for.
Students must learn to use internet and library resources to compose their arguments. Students who attend summer debate institutes become familiar with college library collections and are exposed to top college faculty.
Debate requires student to present their arguments persuasively and to adapt to different audiences. Students gain the poise and confidence to speak fluently and to voice their opinions articulately.
Debate sharpens your ability to research and analyze problems, think and listen critically, and better engage political questions. Students begin to direct their own educational direction. Students are taught to identify logical fallacies and to examine the social and political context from which arguments are made.
Debate helps a student organize their note taking and writing skills. Debaters must structure their arguments to address and respond to their opponents’ positions, and must organize their speeches in a logical and persuasive fashion.
When students compete at the highest level of speech and debate, they also learn time management techniques that allow them to have an advantage over other new college students. They must learn to balance their activities, and must learn how to write and speak under the time pressure of competition.
The Middle School Speech & Debate Class is a repeatable elective open to 7th and 8th graders. The class focuses on presentation, research and critical thinking skills by using a variety of speech activities. Each quarter will focus on one or two events in rotation–Congress, Debate, Oratory, Extemp, Interp and Expository speaking. The majority of class time will be spent on practice speeches and in-class competitions. Forensics tournament participation is not part of the class for Middle School students.
Beginners, usually 9th graders, take the Speech & Debate I class and participate on the Novice team. Novices learn about all of the events, prepare the basic skills for the activity, and compete primarily at local and regional tournaments. They interact with varsity members of the team during preparation sessions and at tournaments. Novices learn research, critical thinking, note taking and organizational skills, along with persuasive public speaking skills. A student who only takes debate for that first year is well prepared academically for the rest of their high school career.
Varsity division competition can challenge even the brightest, best-prepared, most experienced competitor. Students who choose to continue after their novice year take the advanced level classes that focus on the events that they have chosen. Varsity debaters travel locally and regionally, but also national level tournaments where they compete against the best students from all over the country. Varsity debaters do college level research preparing for their topics, and are motivated to construct and engage sophisticated strategies to win debates.
Lincoln-Douglas (LD) debate is modeled on the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. LD is a one-on-one event that focuses on the philosophical values behind social issues. LD has multiple resolutions each year, as a new topic is introduced every two months. Students choose a framework to evaluate the topic, research both sides of the issue, and write cases to present their position. The event focuses on critical thinking, analysis of evidence, and comparing values and philosophies.
Policy debate is a two-on-two format that centers on a year long resolution and focuses on changes to federal policy. Using research and evidence to support their arguments, students debate the costs and benefits of a particular courses of action. Students are required to debate both sides of the issue, which often opens them to unique perspectives that often fall outside their own worldviews. Common areas of focus include: history, economics, government, politics, and philosophy.
Student Congress is modeled after the procedure for floor debate in a legislature. Bills and resolutions to be debated have been determined in advance, and students have had time to prepare to speak on these issues. It is designed to test a student’s ability to speak to an issue in both an extemporaneous and impromptu manner and to reveal the individual’s knowledge of parliamentary procedure. Each session of Congress is one hour and twenty minutes long.
Dramatic interpretation is a dramatic selection representing one or more characters from a play or plays of literary merit. This material may be drawn from stage, screen or radio. Maximum time limit is 10 minutes, including transitions and the delivery of an original introduction.
In Expository, speakers choose a topic that interests them and write and perform a 10 minute informative speech on that subject. Students may use demonstrations and visual aids. The key element is how informative the speech is.
Contestants will be given three topics in the general area of current events, choose one, and have 30 minutes to prepare a speech that is the original work of the student. Maximum time limit for the speech is 7 minutes. Limited notes are permitted. Students will speak in listed order. Posting of topics will be staggered.
Humorous interpretation is a humorous cutting which represents one or more characters from a play or plays of literary merit. This material may be drawn from stage, screen or radio. Maximum time limit is 10 minutes, including transitions and the delivery of an original introduction.
In original oratory, speakers choose a topic that interests them and develop a 10 minute persuasive speech on that subject. They address current problems and propose solutions. The key element in original oratory is the persuasiveness of the work.
Any student in good academic standing is eligible to participate. The only requirement is interest. No previous experience or training is necessary.
Will speech and debate take all of a student’s time?
For varsity level debaters who compete at the national level, debate is a rigorous activity where students spend many hours preparing to compete at the highest levels. For those who have chosen to make forensics “Their” activity, it hardly seems like “work,” since the debaters are participating in an activity that they love and the work pays off in competitive success.
By contrast, the majority of students enjoy debate and want to participate, but also have other priorities. For these students, the time commitment is substantially less. Novice debaters do the vast majority of their work in class, in practices and drills. They typically attend mostly local tournaments, with only a few overnight tournaments, so they rarely miss school.
Will a student miss school for debate?
Debate tournaments usually require missing some school because of travel, but travel for Speech & Debate classes is an excused absence. Students are required to inform their teachers that they will be missing a day, and arrange to make up for missed work.
How much do debate tournaments cost?
The only cost to debaters at tournaments is for meals. The Meadows School pays entry fees, judging expenses, airfare, car rental, and hotel expenses for tournaments.
May parents attend tournaments?
Absolutely. Students will tell their parents that parents are not allowed to watch rounds–that it is against the rules, that it will make them nervous, or that no one does it. All of that is false–we encourage it and many parents watch their children debate.
Our Speech & Debate Mission
The Meadows Speech and Debate team seeks to embody the values of citizenship, ethics, excellence, and sportsmanship.
"The only way to reach your potential is to continually strive to do your best. The Meadows Speech and Debate team pursues excellence in competition to promote the values of hard work and discipline throughout a student’s career."