Boston Debate League

After-School Debate

After-School Debate in Boston

The flagship program of the BDL, After-School Debate (ASD) engages hundreds of public school students in Boston, Chelsea, and Somerville each year in debate. The BDL partners with schools and teacher-coaches to launch and grow debate teams, and hosts city-wide debate tournaments, a summer camp, and additional programs designed to spark students’ critical thinking, agency, and engagement with the world around them.

ASD encompasses 40 English- and Spanish-language teams in public middle schools and high schools in Boston, Chelsea, and Somerville. Debate team practices are held on-site at member schools and led by teachers who serve as coaches. In some cases, BDL alumni also serve as coaches. The debate season spans October through March each school year, and students attend local and national tournaments throughout the season where they compete against other schools in various divisions based on experience and skill level. At tournaments, debaters use college-level texts to argue about the intricacies of government policies, the economy, philosophy, critical race theory, and everything in between. For more information about ASD, please contact marisa@bostondebate.org.

“I remain involved with the BDL because of the life-lasting experience it taught me about not only myself but my community. The organization provides students a platform as well as the materials they need to advocate for change and fight injustice in our daily lives.”

– GeMeisha James, former debater from TechBoston Academy

Over the last decade, the After-School Debate program has grown into one of the largest extracurricular opportunities in the city of Boston. Only 25 students competed in the first year, but now over 5,000 students have completed over the past 15 years.

The BDL has worked with the Boston Public Schools’ Office of English Language Learners and schools with the highest percentages of ELLs in Boston to ensure that all students have access to debate. The BDL purposefully makes IEP-based accommodations in competition and works with BPS schools dedicated to inclusive learning in order to make sure debate is accessible to students with special needs.