If you’ve never been to a middle school debate tournament, it should be on your list of one of the 1000 things you should do before you die. I mean, you show up at a tournament and kids between the ages of eleven and thirteen are all abuzz dressed in their miniature suits and ties and first high heels. About a month before a tournament, debaters are given four topics/resolutions to research. They are required to research both the proposition and opposition sides for each of the topics. Hours and hours of research is completed on topics that range from, “Facebook does more good than harm” to “The North American Free Trade Agreement has done more harm than good” to “The driving age should be lowered to 18 in the U.S.” to “The Constitution should be amended to limit Congressional terms.” Middle school debate is a 3-on-3 affair and pairings get posted so students know that they’ll argue the proposition or opposition side and the team from another school that they’ll be debating, but they do not know which of the 4 topics they’ll be debating for the round. Twenty minutes before the first debate, an official announces the topic which is followed by a LOT of screaming and panic and miniature sized suits, ties, and high heels clacking along the pavement in a mad rush to get to the rooms where they’ll debate. Kids have twenty minutes to transfer notes from their researched outlines to specially colored pieces of paper–a little trick is meant to insure that mommies and daddies with Harvard Law or Princeton Law degrees don’t write their 7th graders’ debate speeches.
Today was our first tournament of the year. Our team of quite inexperience debaters acquitted themselves extremely well going 19-9 overall and finishing second for overall wins and for winning percentage.
More importantly, nobody cried. Everyone had something to be happy and proud about. And … Nobody cried! In the eyes of a middle school debate coach, a day when nobody cries is a successful day indeed!