New Debate Season… and New Debate Class!


Erin Hong, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Debate season is starting again at Tenafly High School, and debaters are back and better than ever. Tenafly is part of the National Speech and Debate Association, meaning that every single high school policy debater in America who is part of this association debates the same resolved each year.

This year’s resolved is: 

Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its protection of water resources in the United States.

Debates are still being conducted online for now, but students are hoping to go back in person by 2022. “I have great expectations since it’s a new start to debate,” Co-President of the Debate club Grace Lee (’22) said. “Maybe in the near future, I anticipate having in-person debates. I’m excited to get on my feet and physically debate in front of real-life people. I also think that this year’s topic is probably not as controversial as the years before, but there are still a lot of different outlooks and aspects I would not have thought about in regards to water in the United States. There truly are different outlets of water resources in the United States that aren’t accounted for nor presented daily even if it’s something that Americans have to face every day.” 

In addition, the honors program for debate has been created this year. Debate CPA and Debate Honors are combined, with students from both levels in one single class. The prerequisite for Debate Honors is simply taking Debate CPA. 

“Debate class is an introduction to competitive debate focusing on four different debate styles: Policy, Public Forum, Lincoln Douglas, and Parliamentary,” Mr. Barrett, who teaches Debate CPA and Debate Honors, said. “The class seeks to equip students in the art of argumentation and public speaking.” 

The honor students, though there are only three of them, take the time to help CPA students understand debate better and to help teach the class. Because the honors students already built experience in Debate CPA, they are able to provide advice and examples to underclassmen. 

“I like the class because it teaches you skills that you can never learn elsewhere,” Ethan Dicturel (’23), a student taking Debate Honors, said. “For example, the honors students sometimes go up and teach the class ourselves. I think that this is a very useful skill to have because everyone will have to teach others one day, whether it’s in a professional setting or not. I also took Debate CPA last year, and the difference between the two levels is clear. In CPA, you learn that debate is not simply reading a speech and talking to a crowd, which differs from public speaking. You learn the basics of debate, you’re all nervous and you mess up. But now, you have a deeper understanding of how to think critically and on the spot. With this understanding, you’re able to extend your knowledge to others.”

Personally, I strongly advise you to join debate, whether it’s the debate class or the debate team. I believe that the primary reason why many people avoid debating is due to fear of public speaking and thinking on the spot as well as an aversion to intense competition. I was once that person, but joining debate was possibly one of the best decisions I’ve made in my academic career. Not only have I tremendously built public-speaking skills, I’ve learned how to rapidly think in a calculative and critical manner that extended to all of my other classes as well. Plus, it’s super fun!