Why I Debate

Teacher Testimonials

Debate helps students who have had problems focusing academically or behaviorally because debate provides structure. When students become a debater, they become more aware about the problems that exist. Not only in their city and their state but the world. And what they learn about argumentation they will not learn typically in high school. They will learn feminism. They will learn Heidegger. They will learn Freire. As competitive as it is, some of the longest standing friends have come from debate. My first graduating students have become advocates at campuses across the country. They learned so much about themselves. And physically and and mentally they have grown. And as a teacher that is what you value most in term of any activity. – Ms. Bryce, ACORN High School (https://vimeo.com/album/4105649/video/151687778)

A year ago I thought debate was only for presidential hopefuls and students from the most exclusive schools. I never imagined I would become involved in coaching debate nor that 5th to 7th graders from the inner city school where I teach would be debating on sophisticated topics such as the U.S. federal government decreasing military presence in Afghanistan! With the unwavering support of Erik Fogel and his dedicated students from Bronx Law, the Family Life Academy Charter School began its first debate program for its middle school. We now have 26 students who are motivated and excited to be participating in this program.  Initially, I was unsure about student’s ability to comprehend the challenging material however students have far surpassed my expectations. Despite a wide range of learning abilities, all students have benefited from participating in debate in one way or another. Some students are thriving from the new and challenging content and work hard at practicing debate skills. Others have improved their presentation and reading ability. All have learned something they would not normally have learned through standard instruction… As a teacher, coaching debate has been hugely rewarding because it has taught me that students are highly capable regardless of their ethnic background or learning ability. My students have proved there are no topics too complex or debate skills too challenging for them. I know that my students have grown in ways that will benefit them now and in the future.  – Sue Chan, Middle School Teacher, Family Life Academy Charter School

I wanted to drop you a line to first thank you so much for everything that you do for my kids.  They enjoy debating so much; they want to stay after school every day to research and practice.  Their reading scores continue to increase, and their writing shows phenomenal growth, much higher than the average growth of other scholars in their class who are not in debate.  Their engagement is insanely amazing and the rate at which they are digesting challenging current events topics and articles is astounding.  Their parents are thrilled and also send their thanks. So this gets me thinking, what if school could be like this every second of every day for every scholar?  – Katie Vitale, Frederick Douglas Academy

PS 161 is a K-8 school in Harlem with a vibrant elementary and middle school debate program. In partnership with the NYC Urban Debate League, the 161 Debaters participate in year round debate tournaments, workshops and practices hosted at PS 161 and around the city. For our students, the NYCUDL has provided transformative educational experiences. – Tyler Beattie, PS 161 Teacher

Our school is a partner of the New York City Urban Debate League (NYCUDL) and we highly recommend the NYCUDL for this opportunity to bring debate to more schools in the Bronx.   The NYCUDL provides free debate opportunities for all our students.  The NYCUDL also hosts special events for our students such as a televised debate at BronxNet television studio.  The NYCUDL also supports travel opportunities for our students to travel and compete beyond the Bronx and New York City.  This year we were able to host a Bronx debate tournament at our school because the NYCUDL provided everything for free including staff, meals, awards and everything else to host a successful debate tournament for our Bronx students. So we recommend Mr. Fogel and the New York City Urban Debate League for this grant so that more schools can have debate teams. – Samantha Katz, Teacher, One World Middle School (Bronx)

The New York City Urban Debate League provides free debate tournaments throughout the year for our school.  We would not have a debate team without the New York City Urban Debate League and so we highly recommend the NYCUDL for this grant to continue and expand its work in the Bronx.  Our students and entire school community have benefited immensely from debate.  While most students are home on weekends, our debaters are busy on Saturdays all day reading, writing, researching, notetaking, questioning, and speaking on different current events each and every month!   Again, we highly recommend the NYCUDLQ Thanks! –  Fran Rossillo, Debate Coach and Teacher, Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (Bronx)

My name is Aylin Kuzucan and I was a NYC high school teacher and debate coach in the South Bronx.  From my experience as a debate coach, I have found that it gives students an outlet to voice their frustrations with critical issues in society and to engage in an academic setting that is not present in their current classrooms. On my team, I had special education students, students with a history in the juvenile criminal system, and many other students that were trying to break the continued cycle of poverty. These students dedicated their weekends to debate tournaments and stayed after school for hours to finish researching their topics. Because of the NYC Urban Debate League, I was able to take my students to tournaments across the country, had access to free debate tournaments and camps in the city, and exposed students to academic resources outside of their school’s text books. The organizations is growing rapidly which means our funds that initially supported five schools must now support over 50. In most title I schools there are NO legal or civic education opportunities for low income schools and students.  The vast majority of schools either have a basketball team for the boys and a Step/dance team for the girls.  The majority of our youth experience with the law is not positive – family members in jail, negative relationships with members of law enforcement, and many of our youth incarcerated myself.  So after school programs in law like debate, mock trial, moot court, public speaking – are unheard of. For further reading this is one of the many memories I have of my debaters: “Andy stood behind the podium passionately listing the reasons China would take the place of the United States as the world’s next superpower. The opposing team stood to ask questions, and Andy responded with vigor and enthusiasm, convincing the audience of his position. Andy’s partner, Sabrina, delivered the final remarks and led the room in tears as she recounted her family’s struggle to escape poverty: “without an increased concern in the lives of those in poverty, America will lose a large population of people who could help rebuild it to be the leader that it once was.”