This year, Saint Mark’s Episcopal School’s debate team celebrates its 13th anniversary. Students in Grades 6, 7, and 8, who show an interest and meet certain criteria, are eligible to join. Students in the program develop important skills such as research techniques, argument construction and preparation, active listening, critical thinking, and response articulation. In addition, students gain important knowledge about current events and issues that surround us every day.
Part of the excitement of debate is the opportunity to participate in tournaments. In addition to giving the students practical debate experience, these tournaments help build confidence and poise in public speaking.
Saint Mark’s is a member of the Middle School Public Debate Program, Inland Valley League, which is overseen by the Debate Outreach Department of Claremont McKenna College. There are six tournaments throughout the season at schools in the Inland Empire, and students are encouraged to participate in as many tournaments as possible.
This league utilizes a debate style known as Modified Parliamentary Debate. Three person teams compete on a wide variety of debate topics which are researched three to four weeks prior to each tournament. The participants do not know which side of the issue they will articulate, until 30 minutes prior to the debate. Therefore, students must be thoroughly versed and rehearsed on all aspects of the issues.
The topics can be very challenging for the students, as many already possess strong, personal opinions about certain issues. A notable aspect of Debate is the need to consider and appreciate more than just one perspective of a given issue or topic. Learning to broaden one’s consideration of issues helps establish the framework for making informed decisions later in life.
In addition to the Saint Mark’s Debate Team, we offer an after-school Debate Club for 4th and 5th graders. 5th grade students who demonstrate readiness may be invited to league tournaments.