There probably is no better single skill to prepare middle school and high school students for academic success in college, as well as professional success in life, than debate. Studying debate develops and accelerates myriad skills in students, such as critical thinking, research, oral and written communication, public speaking and team work. And if done well, it also tends to develop intellectual curisosity and a love of learning in the student.
Debate has a long and noble history in Western Civilization, going all the way back to ancient Greece. One of the core values of traditional Western Civilization is that ideas matter, and the best ideas should have preeminence in civilization. But, as anyone with a good idea knows, it takes much more than coming up with a good idea to see that good idea have fruition and make an impact on the world. The idea must be communicated to others. Audiences must be persuaded of the goodness and value of the idea. Teams must be motivated to act upon the idea to make the world a better place. And, as anyone who has tried to implement a good idea can verify, opposition to a new idea - even a very good one - invariably arises! Thus, the one who would bring a good idea to fruition in society must be able to put forth a sound and convincing argument as to why his or her idea should be embraced, despite the opposition.
Factual evidence demonstrates that middle school and high school students who participate in debate have higher rates of graduation, higher rates of college attendance, higher grades in college, and greater career success. But life is more than diplomas and dollars. Learning debate enhances life skills and will provide life-long benefits and rewards to the student.
In Lincoln Douglas Debate, individual debaters compete against each other, one-on-one, on a designated topic for the entire academic year. Lincoln Douglas Debate is significantly different from Team Policy Debate and Parliamentary Debate, in that Lincoln Douglas is a debate about values. Whereas Team Policy Debate is about whether or not a particular policy should be implemented, eliminated or changed by the U.S. federal government; and Parliamentary Debate is about whether or not a specific action should be taken by a government or some other authoritative organization; Lincoln Douglas Debate is about which value should have preeminence, when two values are in conflict, espcially in a situation imposing a moral or ethical dilemma. For example, during the 2019-2020 academic year, students will be studying and debating about the competing values of cultural assimilation vs. multiculturalism. The prior year's topic was the tension between law enforcement agencies' need to obtain information in a criminal investigation and citizens' Constitutional right to privacy, especially related to the Fourth Amendment to the Constiution. Lincoln Douglas Values Debate helps students develop complex and nuanced thinking skills, as it requires students to consider a complex topic, with competing values, from different perspectives.
During the academic school year, students will have opportunties to compete in debate tournaments all over California, and all over the United States, if desired, to test their skills and knowledge against other debaters on the designated topic. (Participation in tournaments, including out-of-town travel, is voluntary, and this decision is left up to each family.) At the end of the academic year, top debaters are invited to compete in Stoa's national championship tournament, the National Invitational Tournament of Champions ("NITOC").