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Debate Society Hosting High School Summer Camps

The national champion John R. Park Debate Society is hosting its annual summer camps for high school students from across the country starting July 9.

Along with faculty and staff from the U., members of the John R. Park Debate Society will help participants learn to become better debaters, critical thinkers and members of a global community. Many of the participants will conclude their experience in a full-day tournament on July 22.

“Our goal is to provide students with strategies that will prepare them for success, not only in competitive speech and debate, but also in their high school and college careers,” said Michael Middleton, assistant professor of Communication and director of the Debate Society. “As the most successful debate team in the state, we’re excited to help future collegiate debaters gain new skills and maybe welcome them to our team one day.”

During the camp, students will participate in instructional sessions, application labs and practice debates that focus on a range of competitive events offered at the high school level, including policy debate, Lincoln-Douglas debate, public forum debate, extemporaneous speaking and congressional debate. In general, topics focus on political science, economics, political philosophy, argumentation theory, research skills, public speaking skills and more.

Students will spend their days in elective courses, discussion groups, labs and one-on-one coaching sessions. Each evening, they will participate in one to two debate practice rounds, featuring constructive feedback from faculty, staff and guest judges with expertise in argumentation and debate. Students who attend and complete the curriculum at the camp will receive three hours of college credit from the U.

The Debate Society prioritizes high school outreach and support as a key element of the program because of the transformational educational outcomes that forensics training supports. According to a recent study by the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues (, a leading high school debate outreach organization, training in forensics supports a windfall of benefits for students. Among their findings, they conclude that students who debate in high school:

  • Are 70% more likely to graduate than non-debating peers
  • Are 3 times less likely to drop out than their non-debating peers
  • Are 70% more likely to reach the ACT CollegeReady reading benchmark
  • Score 25% higher on college-level literacy tests
  • Are likely to attend a four year college or university (75% of debate participants will attend a four year institution of higher education)


Similarly, other research by Dr. Gordon Mitchell, Director of Forensics at the University of Pittsburgh, concludes that debate provides a pivotal means through which students: gain confidence in their ability to participate as active, civic-minded citizens; learn the principles of open and fair debate that are critical to a healthy democracy; and, develop the abilities to evaluate political discourse encountered in everyday life. The National Forensics League confirms the role of debate in training effective political leaders noting that a majority of members of U.S. Congress have participated in forensics training.

For more about the Debate Society, see their website here.

Last Updated: 9/20/21