The Great Debaters of Brooklyn Tech

Fort Greene Patch

Brooklyn Tech's powerhouse debate team is on the verge of its biggest challenge yet: a tournament that will be the biggest war of words since Abraham Lincoln laid the smack down on Stephen Douglas.

The showdown begins Friday at Brooklyn Tech, and the team of 35 students from grades 9-12 is frantically brushing up on foreign policy in preparation for debate over whether the US should withdraw troops from foreign countries.

“We've been winning a few of our recent debates pretty convincingly, to the point that we made some of the players on one team cry aftewards," said sophomore Mohammed Hussain.

The students have been practicing three days per week since October, covering every angle on the US' military presence abroad, and even learning how to effectively sidestep questions from the opposing team.

"I guess you could say sidestepping questions is somewhat Palin-esque, but I think they do a better job at it," said Adam Stevens, coach for the Brooklyn Tech debate team.

In addition, the team has traveled to 15 debate tournaments throughout the city since the season began on October 30, with several pairs racking up first and second place finishes.

“It’s gotten to the point that I literally can’t go with them to every single one that they want to enter,” said Stevens. “They want to compete and they want to do the work it takes to compete at that level. Their work ethic is truly incredible to me.”

The debate team at Brooklyn Tech have also taken their skills in argument outside of the tournament realm, sparring with a slightly easier foe: parishioners from theradical, Kansas-based, Westboro Baptist Church, who staged an anti-gay rally outside of the school in September 2009. According to Stevens, the students bested the hate-mongers, who claim — among other nonsense — that September 11 and the Iraq War are a direct result of the tolerance of homosexuality.

“The bulk of the work that my students do revolves around imaginary advocacy and not actual public advocacy,” said Stevens. “For them to be so critical in galvanizing the public response to the Westboro Baptist Church made me incredibly proud. No matter what happens in the tournament, accomplishments like that are the real victory for me.” 

Over 35 schools will be participating in the tournament this weekend, which all qualified by finishing in the top 15 percent of at least one previous tournament.

The New York State Debate Coaches Association tournament starts at 3:00 p.m. on Friday and will run all day on Saturday. A schedule of debates for each day can be found in the Brooklyn Tech cafeteria.

Click the photos to the right to learn more about a few of our Great Debaters.

About The New York City Urban Debate League

Our mission is that every school should have a debate team and every student should have the opportunity to the best debate education opportunities. One of the most critical problems in education today is the academic and civic achievement gaps. Our solution is to provide the best college, career, civic, communication and community opportunities through year round academic debate. Each month we work with thousands of students and hundreds of schools. We support debate practices every day, debate centers every week, tournaments every weekend, workshops every month, debate camps all summer, and year round support for any student and teacher. We are one of the the city’s most award winning curricular and extracurricular programs. We have received awards from the White House, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Presidential Commission on the Arts and Humanities, National Institute for Museum and Library Services, The Social Index of Top 100 Nonprofits, BoardSource, Points of Light’s Civic Accelerator, Teach for America, and by the First Lady as “one of the top arts and humanities based programs in the country.” Why Debate? Debate teaches every academic skill and every academic subject. A Great Debater means a person who has the skills and confidence to lead, to speak up, to argue, to question, to read and write to right the wrongs, to know about the world around you, and to change the world around you.

The New York City Urban Debate League
25 Broadway, 12th Floor