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Introducing the HW Debate Program

By Joie ’22

Harvard-Westlake’s nationally-ranked debate program features three full-time coaches, 85-100 debaters competing in at least one tournament every school year, and a heart-warming sense of community even amid the pandemic with online tournaments. It’s one of the main reasons I applied for HW, and it continues to be my favorite part of the high school experience. The HW Debate Team primarily competes in two types of debate events: the Middle School Public Debate Program and Lincoln-Douglas Debate.

The Middle School Public Debate Program (MSPDP) is available for 7th grade students. Debating in teams of three, this event is similar to Parliamentary Debate in its particular emphasis on collaboration between teammates and public speaking. Topics are released a few weeks before each tournament, and students draft their speech outlines 20 minutes before each debate to create an educational balance of in-depth research and spontaneity. Students usually attend 3 to 4 MSPDP tournaments per year, with each separated by one month. Practices are usually held on Mondays after school with occasional Thursday practices as needed. 

Lincoln-Douglas Debate (LD) is offered for 8th grade through 12th grade students. Compared to MSPDP, this 1-on-1 debate event is more research intensive and has tournaments centered around three topics each year, released every August, October, and December by the National Speech and Debate Association. Common research areas include US foreign and domestic policy, critical theory, and philosophy. As a team, HW attends 25 LD tournaments a year. In their first year of LD, also known as “Novice” year, students are recommended to attend 4 to 6 tournaments, while more experienced “Varsity” debaters usually compete in anywhere from 6 to 12 tournaments per year depending on personal interest. Varsity practices are held Tuesdays through Thursdays after school, with Novice practices held on Wednesdays. 

I’ve found that attending debate camp at HW Summer’s own debateLA has been very rewarding. Learning about intricate societal issues in an immersive environment alongside other students who are passionately dedicated to debate has built lasting friendships and helped me gain so much more debate experience. 

I can unequivocally say that pursuing Speech & Debate has been one of the best decisions I have made so far in my academic career; not only for training me to think on my feet, but also for giving me the research and public speaking skills to give presentations confidently. If you’re the type of student who is interested in the intellectual challenge, then you’d really enjoy joining the HW debate family! 

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Tags: , Last modified: August 30, 2021