Club Spotlight: Debate
For over three decades, Edgemont Debate has remained one of the nation’s most storied and successful high school debate programs. The team has grown, in both size and scope, as more students participate each year.
At its core, competitive debate is an informative and enriching activity that develops critical thinking, argumentation, and public speaking skills—but the benefits reach far beyond the classroom! Competitors are able to visit an array of college campuses, earn national honors and scholarship opportunities, and network with their peers.
Year after year, Edgemont debaters are accepted at top universities and go on to distinguished professional careers. Their rewarding experiences on the team lead many to return in a mentorship role or to volunteer as a tournament adjudicator, a trend that fosters beneficial intergenerational relationships.
We are lucky to be a full-service program that prepares students for multiple debate styles. These range from research-intensive, year-long topics to limited-prep formats that emphasize persuasion and thinking on your feet—and everything in between. They all encourage broadening knowledge of politics, economics, and other salient issues at home and abroad.
Any and all students are welcome to join; no experience needed! Assistant coach NP Polanco explains, “Debate is a unique educational experience that we are happy to share!”
Each school year, Edgemont competes in 20 to 30 debate tournaments between September and June in which the school has won championships and speaker awards. Tournaments are constantly running, most of them online or local since the start of the pandemic. For the New York Parliamentary Debate League (NYPDL), the tournaments are online and run through the app. Discord; there’s even a #memes channel to share our thoughts through other means. Other tournaments use Tabroom.com and/or Zoom to randomly select pairings and start the debate rounds promptly, although it’s an ongoing joke that the debate rounds always run late. Last season, we had the #1 ranked high-school Public Forum Debate team in the nation and took the 2022 NDCA Season-Long Excellence Award (AKA the Timothy Averill Cup).
“I would say it definitely has helped me think on the fly while making class presentations and speaking in class!”
Additionally, I interviewed a few members of the debate team on their experiences thus far. I particularly wanted to discover why they joined and continue to stay dedicated to it.
Iris Liang (‘24) has been doing Parliamentary Debate for the past year and a half. She said that she originally joined debate to face her fear of public speaking. She added, “I would say it definitely has helped me think on the fly while making class presentations and speaking in class!” When asked about her favorite thing about debate, she answered, “[It is] that there are so many ways to creatively approach and craft an argument. Even without extensive factual knowledge about a topic (which does help), persuasive speaking techniques and sound reasoning can still make a winning case.” She gave a strong endorsement for the team, while mentioning how tournaments are “super helpful” and, although intimidating, beneficial to attend.
Another second year member of Parliamentary Debate is Sophie Xie (‘26), who joined to see how people could argue a resolution with 15-20 minutes to prepare. As mentioned previously, parliamentary debate does teach quick-thinking and a well-rounded understanding of government, politics, and logic, all of which Sophie appreciates.
“My favorite thing about debate is that you can learn more about how to organize your ideas, make your speech sound more interesting and convincing, have fun with your peers, and participate in tournaments and competitions!”
As a 7th grader, Aanya Goenka (‘28) is experiencing her first year with Lincoln-Douglas debate. She was encouraged by a friend to join and followed through because she wanted to work on her public speaking skills. She mentioned, “My favorite thing about debate is that you can learn more about how to organize your ideas, make your speech sound more interesting and convincing, have fun with your peers, and participate in tournaments and competitions!”
Another novice is Anya Pathak (‘28), a part of the Policy Debate team. She said that her motivation for joining was “to develop excellent oral and written communication skills, and learn more about events that are happening in the world currently.” Her favorite part of debate is refuting her opponents. She recommends people to join because it develops critical thinking and public speaking skills.
Perhaps Brian Manuel, Edgemont’s longtime Director of Debate, says it best: “Debate is, by far, the most exciting and impactful activity a high-school student can take part in. It will make you a more successful student, a more mature adult, and a better person.”