High school debate returns to Oakland

I don’t know about the history of the fast-talking extracurricular in Oakland — or, for that matter, how anyone can utter 2,000 words in just 30 seconds. All I know is that debate is back.

Next week, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, Oakland teens will be learning the art of debate at Castlemont’s Leadership High School. Anyone is welcome to come. I guess a new league is forming in the school district.

Sounds like a feel-good story, if I’ve ever heard one.

Here’s some more detail, written up by Dmitri Seals, the organizer of the Bay Area Urban Debate League’s first summer institute:

We are proud to announce the first ever summer institute of the Bay Area Urban Debate League, running from August 11-15 at Leadership Prep (Castlemont). Debate is a competitive team sport that prepares students to critically read, research, and speak their mind; the broader goal of this league is to point our young people toward college scholarships and successful careers with positive social impact. For next week’s institute, we have gathered some of the top debaters – and teachers – in the nation to help Oakland students get a taste of what debate is all about. Workshops at the institute will cover debate theory, research techniques, and a wide range of political issues.

The Bay Area Urban Debate League is part of a national movement to bring debate where it is needed most, with established leagues in 18 cities across the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, St. Louis, and Kansas City.

Dates: Monday, August 11 to Friday, August 15
Times: 9AM to 3PM each day
Place: Leadership Preparatory High School
8601 Macarthur Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94605

The founding schools of the Bay Area Urban Debate League:

  • Skyline High
  • Oakland High
  • Street Academy
  • Dewey Academy
  • Media College Prep at Fremont
  • CBITS and Leadership Prep at Castlemont
  • BEST and EXCEL at McClymonds
  • California College Prep (Cal Prep) Lionel Wilson Prep
  • Lionel Wilson College Prep

Christopher Scheer, who will co-coach the Skyline debate team, says students and parents are welcome to e-mail him with questions at chris@5lies.com.

P.S. I’m going camping this weekend, starting today, so I apologize to any brand new commenters about the moderation delay…

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Sue

    My current Skyline student won’t be interested – people with autism could probably really benefit from this, IF they want it and the coaches have the time, patience, and some training or understanding of the special challenges.

    On the other hand, my soon-to-be middle schooler would likely be awesome at debate. He and DH can argue/debate for hours, like no one I have ever seen. And DH is very verbally skilled, but our 11-y-o has been getting in an occasional point for a couple of years, and DH has never held back or *let* the kid win.

    If this gets going successfully in the high schools, is there any possibility it might expand to middle school? Or should I just be hoping that it really takes off with the high schools, and that my younger son will have lots of accomplished teammates in three years?

  • Jesse Dutton-Kenny

    I took debate last year at Skyline, and Mr. Scheer was my teacher so we heard quite a lot about the Urban Debate League. I have no room in my schedule this coming school year to fit debate in, but I wish them all the best of luck!

  • Dmitri Seals

    I can tell you from the thick of this summer institute that Oakland students have plenty to say – given the talent assembled at the institute, it’ll be fun to watch as these teams develop varsity programs and start taking on the established programs of the bay.

    Not all speed-talking, of course – some very competitive teams at the national level debate slow and empassioned, and we’ll have a diversity of styles in the Oakland league.

    Sue, many urban debate leagues have started up middle school programs once their high school league is well-established… not sure *when* that will happen in the bay, but it most likely will at some point.

  • Sharon

    Years ago I learned about Tommie Lindsey, the James Logan High School (Union City) Forensics team coach, and what he has accomplished at that school. I am looking forward to seeing what Oakland can do!

    Go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Logan_High_School and scroll down to “The Forensics Speech and Debate Program” entry. This program is a big deal.

  • http://baudl.org Dmitri Seals

    For those coming late to this article, it’s worth noting that the Bay Area Urban Debate League now has a website: it’s at http://baudl.org.