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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
In the fall of 2018, we launched a dual-enrollment program with our partner, Suffolk University. This course serves as an opportunity to get a group of committed students – those whose potential often isn’t always obvious from their report cards, but who are dedicated and persistent – to connect the work they’re doing in debate to the work they’ll eventually do in college. Check out the video below to hear two students, Joselyn Carvalho and Rebecca Francois, share more about their experience in this course.