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 Parliamentary Debate, teams of two debate against each other on real or hypothetical current world events. The particular topic of debate is not announced until only 20 minutes before each debate round. Thus, Parliamentary Debate tests students ability to quickly research relevant information and exhibit strong debate skills without much advance preparation on the topic. Parliamentary Debate is limited to students who are 16 years or older as of the beginning of the academic year. (Special exceptions can be made upon the advisment of a students' parents.) Parliamentary Debate is an advanced form of high school debate that provides an opportunity for advanced high school debaters to hone their skills.
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 teams. (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 teams are invited to complete in Stoa's national championship tournament, the National Invitational Tournament of Champions ("NITOC").