The Boston Debate League offers a host of after-school, weekend and summer programs to help Boston students become advocates and intellectuals. All of these initiative operate from the basic premise that debate offers a powerful entry point into practicing fundamental academic skills and developing future leaders.
After-School Debate League: The flagship program of the BDL, the after-school league hosts monthly competitions at local schools for hundreds of students in the city.
Leadership Empowerment and Action Program (LEAP): Student representatives from member schools meet regularly throughout the school year to visit with guest speakers and explore strategies for developing as leaders on their teams and in the community.
Summer Institute: Middle and high school students are invited to attend a day camp in August where they get a jump start on the upcoming year’s debate topic.
HCMUD: Harvard College Mentors for Urban Debate (HCMUD) is a community service organization of Harvard undergraduates dedicated to mentoring Boston public high school students in public speaking and debate. HCMUD volunteers work with small groups of BDL students over eight sessions in the debate season.
The After-School Debate League operates English-language teams and Spanish-language teams in middle schools and high schools with the Boston Public Schools (BPS).
Debate team practices are held on-site at member schools and led by BPS teachers who serve as coaches. In some cases, BDL alumni also serve as lead or assistant coaches. Debate season spans October through March each school year, and students attend up to 8 tournaments throughout the season where they compete against other schools in the Novice, JV, Varsity or Open divisions.
History & Details
Over the last decade, the ASDL has grown into one of the largest academic competitions in the city of Boston. Only 25 students competed in the first year, and by 2016, over 750 BPS students had attended tournaments during the 2015-2016 season. The hard work of debaters and coaches throughout the city has made all of this possible.
At tournaments, debaters use college-level texts to argue about the intricacies of government policies, the economy, philosophy, and everything in between. Peer-review research indicates debaters are more likely to graduate from high school than their similarly-performing counterparts. This effect is even more pronounced among students of color. Likewise, grades and standardized test scores tend to improve with participation in debate.
The Boston Debate League has also had great success working with ELL and Special Education populations. The dedicated opportunity to practice reading and the competitive incentive to improve language skills mean that these students often make greater academic strides than more traditional learners.
The Boston Debate League’s Summer Institute is a chance for the city’s debaters to attend a day camp—one week for middle schoolers and two weeks for high schoolers—that prepares students for the upcoming year’s debate season. Participants in the Summer Institute have access to numerous outlets for improvement, from practice rounds to topic lectures to skill drills, and their increased success at tournaments the following year is a testament to the hard work they put in during the summer.
History & Details
For several Augusts running, the Summer Institute has eased debaters back into the school year and debate season. Whether seasoned Champ debaters or newcomers with no debate background, the camp has proven effective in building enthusiasm for debate and helping students reach higher levels of debate prowess.
Local volunteers, nationally-recognized debate instructors, and BDL coaches and staff work together to plan and execute each seven-hour day, mixing in rigorous study with fun community and skill-building activities. Both Boston University and Suffolk University have graciously hosted in the past, giving the Institute the added bonus of exposing students to local college campuses.
From the HCMUD website, “Harvard College Mentors for Urban Debate (HCMUD) is a community service organization dedicated to educating Boston public high school students in public speaking and debate. In partnership with the Boston Debate League (BDL), we host mentorship sessions at the Harvard campus every other week and volunteer as judges at Boston Debate League tournaments throughout the school year.
We also work with the National High School Debate League of China (NHSDLC), hosting workshops at Harvard for debate students from China and teaching at a summer debate institute in Beijing.
If you’re a high school debater in the Boston area, you can learn from experienced mentors in a small group tailored to your specific needs. Whether you’re looking to move up a division, practice advanced skills, or just learn the basics, HCMUD has something for you. Sign up here: http://www.hcmudebate.org/ to be assigned to a mentorship group!