New York City Urban Debate League

Guy Dion on the NYCUDL’s Pilot Online Tournament

Guy Dion is a second year debate coach at Brownsville Collaborative, and Title 1 middle school in Brooklyn.  He recently participated in the digital debate pilot with the NYC Urban Debate League. Tyler Beattier, the NYCUDL’s Parli Director, interviewed Guy.

What was your experience like last weekend at our digital debate tournament?

It was an amazing experience. At first, when I heard about the idea, I wasn’t sure it would work.  But we had a coaches’ meeting the day before the tournament, and everything was carefully planned out.  We had rounds, judging, competition, and even a cafeteria online for the whole community to be together.  It was just like a real tournament~

Ashera Miller, Brownsville Collaborative

How did your students benefit from the experience?

It was so wonderful for them to see other students from other schools.  At Brownsville, we are all about giving kids that competitive edge.  You can’t get that unless you put yourself out there and see the personalities from other parts of the city.  Especially now, when kids can’t leave home, this was especially important.  Their families came and were very impressed.  We even had our principal, AP and a few guidance counselors click into the tournament to check out the action. The principal was so taken with it that he is recommending the Urban Debate League to other principals in the neighborhood.


Do you see your school participating in more digital debate programming?

Absolutely.  And we’d love to continue through the summer as well.  Tournaments, camps, workshops — we want to get more kids involved in this great activity.

And what did the kids think of the whole experience on Saturday?

I think kids are better at technology than adults.  They loved it.  And it really wasn’t very hard for them to get online and click into their rounds.  No one missed anything.  By the end of the day, they were laughing with each other and grumbling about wins and losses — it felt good to for it to feel just like normal.  

How are your kids doing with remote learning?  What other types of activities is your school doing?

The school has given their laptops to the kids. We have an online town hall every single morning and the whole school logs on.  Once a week I lead Motivational Mondays to get everyone excited for the week.  It’s a challenge, but activities like debate make all the difference.

How has your debate program developed, and what does it mean to your school?

Debate has been amazing for my kids.  We’re still starting out, in our second year, but we are definitely growing and improving as a team.  I’ll never forget at my first tournament as a coach, some of the middle schoolers in the round I was judging started talking about Utilitarianism, and I thought, “I’m going to have to look that up.”  I’ve grown so much personally as a debate coach working with the NYC Urban Debate League.

As for what it means, well– my students come from a low income background, and so it is especially important that they learn the skills to think critically and speak passionately. Debate teaches that.  One of my students spoke at the National Black Caucus in Albany, and it was the debate skills that made her shine.  Whether we win or lose we can always be proud to be a part of this experience. 


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