Thank you for your interest in Debate at JMHS. Our team is run very similar to a competitive sport team, and we are governed by VHSL rules. We have weekly practices and monthly tournament competitions. The regular season is September – March, with post-season competition running until June. Debate is with a partner, so we encourage you to speak with a friend to join with you. If you do not have a partner, that is ok too – we will work to match you with a partner before your first tournament. We typically have 40-50 students on the team. Topics change throughout the season. The team for the season is formed during the middle of September each year.
Why join debate at JMHS?
First – Debate helps with college admissions (and fosters success once there). As admissions decisions move away from standardized test scores, activities become a more important part of a student’s resume. Admissions officers are always looking for students who show a commitment to working hard for something they are passionate about. Debate is an excellent way to show this commitment and passion because admissions officers know how much hard work goes into debate and how much it can prepare a student for college. A study conducted by The Wall Street Journal concluded that competing as a successful debater dramatically increased the chances for college admissions. An admissions officer at the University of Michigan explained that debate was the second-best extracurricular activity to put on your resume. Minh Luong, a professor in the Ethics, Politics, & Economics program who served as an admissions officer at Yale University wrote, “In my opinion, there is no better activity that will develop essential academic, professional, and life skills than dedicated involvement in speech and debate.” Colleges often recruit debaters, and there are many scholarships available for programs at Harvard, Northwestern, Emory and USC, to name a few.
Second – Debate teaches 21st century skills. Debate helps students to learn skills that will benefit them in every aspect of life. Debate teaches decision making students are asked to evaluate the pros and cons of a course of action and to come to a conclusion. Debate teaches critical thinking: debaters are required to examine their opponents’ arguments for weaknesses, and to evaluate their own arguments to strengthen them. Debate forces students to see an issue from multiple perspectives. Debate teaches communication and presentation skills: each student will give dozens, if not hundreds, of speeches each year, through practices or competitions, and the ability to speak comfortably and confidently will help them in every aspect of their career. Debate teaches research and preparation skills: students learn to discern between quality sources and evidence that is not credible, which has become a necessary skill in dealing with the internet. Debate allows students to take ownership of their education, as it is their argument, their opinion, and their voice being expressed. Debate teaches teamwork, organization, notetaking, active listening skills, and many more–it is simply the most comprehensive, educational co-curricular activity a student can engage in.
Third – Debate prepares a student to engage in a democratic society. Students study a wide range of issues, which helps them become informed about society and the world around them. They learn how to engage in a civil, organized discussion that looks for solutions. Learning to debate properly emphasizes engaging opposing viewpoints in a productive discussion. Students are required to listen to and understand their opponents' arguments to respond to them. Far more than just training future senators or presidents, debate teaches a skill necessary for every citizen to participate constructively in the democratic process.