Around 300 students, parents and teachers from across the city gathered at the Garden School in Jackson Heights this past weekend to watch lively middle school students debate a range of topics during the Metropolitan Debate League’s most recent competition.
The debate league, which draws participating teams from all types of schools in the Metropolitan area, had not previously held a competition in Queens.
“We aim to give students the tools to analyze their own world, engage with peers they might not otherwise meet, and, through friendly competition, allow them to survey and level their own playing field,” said Rhiannon Bettivia, president and co-founder of the Metropolitan Debate League.
Garden School coaches Kevin Burgoyne and Rich Kruczek said that the goal of hosting the event was to show appreciation for the Metropolitan Debate League and the opportunities it has given their students. The school provided refreshments throughout the day, sandwiches for lunch, and coffee, tea, and Wi-Fi access for all. “Even though we are only in our first year with the Metropolitan Debate League, we wanted to respond to the warm welcome that we had received by providing a host site for the group,” said the Garden School’s Headmaster, Richard Marotta, Ph.D. “It was very exciting for us to host, since it allowed more of our own families and teachers to attend and get a flavor of what debate is and what it means to the students.”
The students spent the day debating five topics, including financial literacy classes in public schools, organ donations, state primary election participation, debate league gender quotas, and United States trade regulations. The teams were given 15 minutes to prepare speeches on the topics before each debate. The day culminated in an awards ceremony honoring the top 30 speakers and the top 10 teams.
Among those awards, Garden School won two Top 10 Individual Speaker awards out of about 100 debaters, one Top 10 Team Award out of about 30 teams, and two Top 30 Individual Speaker Awards.
“We don’t just argue in a room. When we debate, we are learning valuable life skills,” said Garden School debate team member Daphne Davis.