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Why Debate Matters for My Students

Success Academy Charter Schools

In the fight for educational equality, Success Academy is doing something transformative: Our schools are changing the face of competitive debate in New York City.

For the past three years, Success Academy has been sending middle school students to compete in local and national debate tournaments that were once exclusively dominated by elite schools.

Thanks to a rich and varied curriculum that allows our middle school students to choose debate as an elective class, our scholars have developed the skills to compete and win against debate teams from a variety of schools, including private schools such as The Dalton School and The Hackley School and schools with gifted and talented programs.

Debate teaches students the art of argumentation through rigorous preparation and teamwork. Its academic benefits are well established and some of our country’s top leaders were skilled speakers and debaters in school, including CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and former U.S. presidents.

My students love to debate one another and push each other’s thinking especially on issues that are pertinent to their lives. This past April, one of our eighth graders whose family has struggled financially, took home the New York Debate League’s top award – the Golden Gavel – after giving a speech asserting that the country’s war on poverty has not failed. If it had, he said, “It would mean that no matter how hard I try, how well I do in school, or how much I practice debate, I can’t overcome the world I was born into.”

Their enthusiasm and preparation was on full display again this past weekend at a highly competitive debate tournament in Westchester. Harlem West had a strong showing, including winning a debate round about the merits of police wearing body cameras against a team from the Hackley school.


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