Curtis Debate Program Develops Sound Minds

The 2021-2022 school year marks the 19th year that Curtis is offering a debate program for our 6th graders.
The 2021-2022 school year marks the 19th year that Curtis is offering a debate program for our 6th graders. The Curtis Debate Program is a fabulous opportunity for students to develop skills, compete, and have fun. Debate is a learning experience, an intellectual exercise, and a competitive sport. Over the course of the year, students hone their research skills, learn that most arguments have two sides, improve speaking abilities, and become more experienced and nuanced debaters. Each year, we are impressed by students’ enthusiasm and commitment, and we are thrilled with the overall success seen by Curtis debaters over the years. 

Curtis is a member of the Golden West Debate League, the only league designated solely for 5th and 6th grade students. The GWDL is the founding league in the Youth Public Debate Program, an offshoot of the Middle School Public Debate Program, a debate outreach initiative of Claremont McKenna College. The format of middle school debate is parliamentary, consisting of three members on each team. The first two speakers are known as the "constructive" speakers, and the last speaker is known as the "rebuttalist." This year, Curtis has 26 debaters on its team—3 students on each of 8 teams and two alternates.

The first Golden West Debate League debate tournament of the year was held on Zoom on November 13, 2021, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Seven schools (Curtis, Center for Early Education, Carlthorp, Crestview, John Thomas Dye, Laurence, and Stephen S. Wise) represented by 123 debaters on 43 teams participated. There were about 270 people (debaters, coaches, judges, and observers) on the Zoom. Topics debated were (1) The United States should eliminate the sale and use of gas-powered cars by 2030; (2) The United States’s use of drone warfare does more good than harm; and (3) Standardized tests should not be considered for school admissions.

Five of our 8 teams won trophies (given to the top 16 teams at this tournament). Curtis School earned the 2nd place Tournament Award and the 1st place Overall Award. In addition, 5 of our debaters earned individual speaker awards (speaker awards are given to the top 26 speakers). After 4 rounds of debate, one of our teams was the only 4-0 team of the day and earned the 1st place trophy! 

The goal of the Curtis Debate Program is an educational one. We want to see our students learn valuable skills. Among those are teamwork, research, speech writing, time management, thinking about two sides of an argument, note-taking/flowing, active listening, public speaking, argumentation, refutation, thinking “on one’s feet,” seeing the big picture, and understanding impact. The desired outcome of our program is not to bring home trophies (although that certainly happens as a natural outcome of our preparation), but rather, to develop in our students a passion for critical thinking, respectful dialogue, and argumentation on a wide range of topical and relevant issues.

Debate is one of the many opportunities that Curtis offers its students as part of its mission to develop, in every child, a sound mind. We congratulate our debaters for such a strong start to their year of debate—for their individual growth and victories as well as their contributions to the team. Most of all, we are so proud of them for taking the initiative to augment their learning and grow their intellectual skills by participating in the long Curtis tradition of debate.

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Curtis School

15871 Mulholland Drive  ·  Los Angeles CA 90049